Every year over 100,000 people from all over the world descend upon San Diego like geeky locusts to attend Comic-Con. Over the course of four jam-packed days, attendees are (over)exposed to all manner of TV, movie and comic goodness – at least, that’s what those fortunate enough to actually acquire tickets to the mega-event will experience.

Over the years, SDCC has grown so large that many events have overflowed to Petco Park and the surrounding areas. Most of these events are free and don’t require an attendee badge to participate in, making them perfect for the broke and/or badge-less comic/TV/movie enthusiast.

With dozens of events happening daily, and most often simultaneously, it can be tough to filter through which ones are worth waiting in line to experience. We’ve compiled a list of the events we think will be the most fun, and I’m personally going to visit and experience them all (hopefully on camera).

Let’s get started…

Nerd HQ


Where: Outside Petco Park

When: 7/23 – 7/27

This might be the biggest and greatest off-site event available to everyone at Comic Con. The Nerd Machine (who sponsors Nerd HQ) was founded by actor Zachery Levi (Chuck) – along with prop masters David and Courtney Coleman – as a way for nerds all over the world to gather and share in all things nerdy.

In addition to having free areas inside the HQ – which are sponsored by Sega, Intel and Catan Anywhere – anyone can purchase a ticket for $22 to attend the various panels that happen at the HQ throughout the Con. All the proceeds go to Operation Smile (a worthy cause indeed). The informal panels give fans a chance to personally interact with some of their favorite celebrities in a way not even available to them during the often limited time constraints inside the Con.

Here are just a few of the big names attending the panels this year: Jeff Bridges, Norman Reedus, Andrew Lincoln and various cast members from The Walking Dead, The Giver and other popular TV shows.

And if that wasn’t enough, Nerd HQ is holding a free dance party outside of Petco Park Thursday night the 24th – so put on your dancing shoes and join the fun, because no one puts Baby in the corner!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Interactive


Where: Petco Park Interactive Zone

When: 7/23 – 7/27

While Paramount Studios will almost certainly be holding a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles panel this year, it won’t be the only display of Turtle Power at the Con. Just cross over the Harbor Drive Pedestrian Bridge and visit the interactive zone staged in the parking lot outside of Petco Park.

Once there, visitors can hang out in the Turtle Lair, watch the latest movie trailer, receive a “Turtle-style” photo souvenir of themselves or play an interactive game sponsored by Pizza Hut. Pizza Hut will also be giving away free pizza and there will be a pizza launcher flinging foam discs up to 20 feet away for people to catch and keep. Cowabunga, dude!

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Interactive


Where: Petco Park Interactive Zone

When: 7/23-7/27 (Unofficial)

Other than a trailer and some images, promotional material for director Robert Rodriguez’s highly anticipated sequel Sin City: A Dame to Kill For has been oddly scarce. However, Aldamisa Entertainment isn’t leaving fans of the Frank Miller comic series with nothing to wet their whistle at the Con this year.

At the exhibit, visitors can listen to DJs spin music from the Sin City soundtrack while watching the trailer and clips from the movie. They can go one step further by photographing themselves directly into a scene from the film. The standard giveaways of branded t-shirts and other promotional material will be present, but the two coolest things to see here should be the wall around the exhibit featuring graffiti from local street artists and the group of six classic cars driven in the movie.

The Boxtrolls Food Truck


Where: Petco Park Interactive Zone 

When: 7/25 @ 1 PM

Anyone who has ever endured the food inside the Con knows that sometimes there’s nothing better than chowing down on a good banana, granola bar or … deep fried tarantula?

Focus Features has partnered with the world famous Bug Chef David George Gordon (author of The Eat-A-Bug Cook Book) to bring his edible insect delicacies to the starving Comic-Con masses, all in an effort to promote their upcoming stop-motion animated film, The Boxtrolls.

The food truck should be there throughout the Con, but Chef Gordon will be on hand at 1 PM Friday to give a live demonstration of his famous bug cooking skills. If you’re brave enough to munch down on a skewered grasshopper, then come hungry and possibly bring some ketchup – everything tastes better with ketchup.

Pixels Electric Dreams Factory Arcade


Where: Hard Rock Hotel

When: 7/24 – 7/27

When 1980s-era video game baddies come to life and attack New York City, the government turns to a group of video game experts to save them – because who else are they gonna call, Wreck-It Ralph? He’s busy making a sequel. Such is the plot to Adam Sandler and Kevin James’ new comedy, Pixels, due out in May 2015.

To help promote the film, Columbus Pictures will set up a free arcade in the Hard Rock Hotel chock full of classic ’80s arcade games (no word on which ones yet). Players aren’t just having fun, though. The ones with the top five high scores across all eight games will be entered into both a daily drawing to win a Playstation 4 and the Grand Prize of a walk-on role in the Pixels movie.

Limber up your wrist, stretch out your jump button finger and practice blasting aliens because one day YOU might have to save the world with Mario’s hammer.

NEXT: Free Ziplining Through Gotham City…

Godzilla Interactive


Where: Lawn Behind Hall H

When: 7/23 – 7/27

At last year’s Comic-Con, Legendary brought out a very cool exhibit called the Godzilla Experience to promote Gareth Edwards’ monstrous reboot of the classic Japanese kaiju. It was slick, entertaining and gave visitors a brief glimpse of Godzilla. Even though the film has already left theaters, there’s no reason to think the interactive display this year will be any different – it’ll just be on a slightly smaller scale.

To promote the upcoming Blu-ray release of Godzilla, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will have a 24-foot-tall sculpture of the beast on display during the entire Con, along with a graffiti wall where people can draw their favorite Godzilla-inspired moments (there’s no way THAT could turn inappropriate, right?).

Adult Swim – Fun House


Where: Petco Park Interactive Zone

When: 7/24 – 7/26: 3 PM- 10 PM

The “animation after dark” portion of Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, is bringing back it’s very popular Fun House to Comic-Con for a second year. It’s essentially an inflatable bounce house/maze for adults with often inappropriate themes for children (much like the shows  aired on the network).

Because of its adult themes, the Fun House is only accessible to people over 18 in the evenings, and while it’s free, a ticket is required to go inside. Those tickets can be picked up at noon in front of the castle each day, and are first come, first serve – so get in line early if you want to bounce around like an adult.

Once you clear the maze, you’ll be given a free t-shirt and other Adult Swim branded goodies.

Adult Swim – Meatwad Dome


Where: Petco Park Interactive Zone

When: 7/24 – 7/26: 3 PM – 10 PM

Making his inaugural appearance at Comic-Con this year is Meatwad from Aqua Teen Hunger Force in his very own interactive dome, setup directly next to the Adult Swim Fun House.

Just like the Fun House, you have to be over 18 to enter the Dome to allow Meatwad to “tenderize your brain holes.” It’s only open in the evenings and requires a ticket to enter, which are given out at noon.

The same t-shirt/prize packs given out at the Fun House await those lucky enough to survive all that brain hole manipulation.

The Blacklist Experience


Where: Tin Fish Restaurant

When: 7/24 – 7/27 (Unofficial)

The Blacklist presence at the 2013 Comic-Con was in the form of the big glass cube jail cell used to hold “Red” Reddington (James Spader) on display across from the Convention Center. After its highly successful freshman season, The Blacklist returns to the Con and is taking over a local restaurant (a common occurrence during the week).

Much like the actual Blacklist, not many details have been released, but patrons of the Tin Fish can take a photo of themselves (presumably with cardboard cast members or props from the show), collect various Blacklist promotional items and get the opportunity to get their names on the Blacklist as well.

Gotham Zipline and Police Car “Taxis”


Where: Between the Convention Center and Hilton Bay Front

When: 7/24 – 7/27 (Times Unknown)

It’s safe to say that at one time or another just about every kid has daydreamed that they were Batman – fighting Joker, Catwoman and various other criminals while roaring around Gotham in the Batmobile and using all of the cool gadgets stored in the famous utility belt.

To promote their upcoming Gotham TV series, Fox is giving fans a chance to act like Batman – even if it’s just for a few seconds. During the Con, head over to the space between the Convention Center and the Hilton Bay Front hotel to take a thrilling ride on a zipline through the city of Gotham.

And the end of their journey, participants will receive a commemorative SDCC Gotham badge and a photo to remind them of the day they were Batman (or at least pretended to be).

If ziplines aren’t your thing, then be on the lookout for special taxis painted like Gotham City police cars. These “taxis” will take riders anywhere the Con is happening for free while they watch the Gotham trailer on special iPads.

NEXT: Free Laser Tag Wars!

Game of Thrones: Survive the Realm Experience


Where: Omni Hotel Gallery

When: 7/24-7/27: 11 AM – 5 PM

Did you watch the Red Wedding and think “Hey! I’d like to be part of that ‘Game of Thrones’ scene!”? Okay, maybe that’s not the best example, but there’s little argument that HBO’s adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novels is highly popular with Con attendees.

Little has been released regarding HBO’s exhibit this year, but it’s thought to be a free event for anyone wishing to participate. However, the event held last year – which included the Iron Throne – was for badge-holding attendees only, so it’s entirely possible this year turns out to be a Con-exclusive as well.

Expect to see the standard giveaways of commemorative photos, t-shirts, buttons and other various swag. Now if Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) was there handing out free dragons, that would be something…

Sleepy Hollow Virtual Reality Bridge Escape


Where: Petco Park Interactive Zone

When: 7/24 – 7/27

Before Sleepy Hollow premiered last Fall, Fox brought in a slew of Headless Horsemen to Comic-Con 2013 and they were a big hit with fans. Anyone brave enough could walk right about to the noggin-deprived character dressed in Colonial-era British clothing and snap a picture with him.

After a successful first season, Fox is bringing the infamous Horseman back to the Con and is one-upping their game. This time, fans of the show will be able to experience the same terror as Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) by crossing a mockup of the iconic covered wooden bridge made famous from the story.

Along with appearances by the cast and crew of Sleepy Hollow, visitors will also wear a pair of Oculus Rift Virtual Reality headsets (which you can see showrunner Mark Goffman wearing HERE) as they try to cross the bridge without losing their heads.

On the Set with Vikings


Where: 450 2nd Avenue

When: 7/24 – 7/26

Most of the off-site experiences being offered to fans at the Con involve having them feel immersed within the world of their favorite show. However, History Channel is taking it one step further by treating guests as if they actually ARE characters on the show.

Fans of the hit History Channel show Vikings will definitely want to head over to 2nd Avenue at some point as hair and makeup artists will be on hand to transform them into battle-weary Nordic Vikings. The transformation doesn’t stop there, though, as visitors will also have the opportunity to pick a profile and weapon for their new character, then be placed into three scenes featuring Vikings ships, a raging battle and plundered villages.

Once the experience is over, they’ll be given a 30-second video to share with all their social media friends.

Assassin’s Creed Obstacle Course


Where: Martin Luther King Promenade Park

When: 7/24 – 7/27: 10 AM – 6 PM

Assassin’s Creed is not only an award-winning video game, but next year it’ll also become a movie starring Michael Fassbender as Desmond Miles. The most talked about part of Assassin’s Creed is its unique gameplay, which gives the player exceptional parkour abilities.

Ubisoft is giving everyone who’s in good enough shape (read: not me) the chance to show off said parkour skills (read: still not me) on an obstacle course that includes the following activities: Rope Climb, Degree Swing, Venice Rings, a Rolling Tube, a Tic Tac Climb Down and a 25-Foot Leap of Faith. Those who are fit enough to finish the entire course (read: will never be me) will earn a limited edition t-shirt.

If bruising your body for a piece of clothing isn’t your thing, then swing by the attached Schick demo station for a free shave instead. We’re assuming it’s not gender exclusive, but I’m getting my legs done anyway, so it doesn’t matter.

Borderlands Prequel Laser Tag


Where: Top Floor of Petco Park

When: 7/24 – 7/26: 11 AM – 5 PM

A few years back, 2K Games released its breakthrough video game Borderlands for just about every console imaginable (except the Atari Jaguar, which still bums me out). It became an instant hit with gamers for its unique coop game play.

For Comic-Con this year, 2K Games and Gearbox have partnered with Nerdist to give visitors a unique chance to play Borderlands in a massive laser tag arena set up on top of Petco Park. They’ll be running three 10-minute games an hour, consisting of two 25-person teams blasting the crap out of each other (with light) each day – so there’s plenty of opportunity to give it a go.

While the event is free for anyone, attendees with SDCC badges will be given priority access. So go and have fun, but remember – don’t aim for the eyes.

Conclusion


As you can see, even if you never set foot inside the Comic-Con convention center this week, you could still have a wonderful – and more importantly FREE – time while hanging out in San Diego.

So go ahead and dress up like Kira from Xanadu, Batman, Thor (the male or female version), Walter White or just come as yourself. We promise that you’ll have a great time during San Diego Comic Con 2014.

Also, the SDCC Unofficial Blog has a great CALENDAR of almost every event taking place from Wednesday to Sunday, including cosplay meet-ups, fan films premieres and for-pay events, so be sure to check that out.

Follow me on Twitter – @MoviePaul – and watch as I haplessly experience each of these free activities.