By Kohleun Adamson, on October 17, 2019

A Superfan’s Guide to Comic-Con in San Diego

It goes by many names: San Diego Comic-Con, the San Diego Comic Convention, Comic-Con International, and the San Diego Comic Book Convention. But to its hundreds of thousands of fans, it has a short, sweet name: Comic-Con. Started in 1970, this annual celebration of comic books and sci-fi/fantasy films and literature has grown into one of the most renowned and beloved celebrations of entertainment, pop culture, and nerd lore in the world.

Things You Need to Know

Thousands of people gathered under sponsor brand banners at the San Diego Convention Center during Comic-Com.
Via Kevin Dooley/

Where is Comic-Con?

Comic-Con is held in San Diego, California, at the San Diego Convention Center, a 615,700 square foot structure in San Diego’s Marina district.


When does Comic-Con take place?

Comic-Con takes place annually over four days in July. In 2020, Comic Con will run from July 23-26, with a preview night taking place on July 22.


How much does it cost to go to Comic-Con in San Diego?

Admission to Comic-Con is gained through the purchase of badges. Comic-Con badges can be purchased during one of two badge sales, Returning Registration and Open Registration. The Returning Registration badge sale is available to individuals who were paid attendees the previous year, while first-time attendees may purchase badges during Open Registration. Buyers be warned: Anyone wishing to purchase a badge must have a valid and confirmed Comic-Con Member ID, which can be created online. The Member ID system closes without notice before badge sale events, and every person for whom a badge is purchased must have their own Member ID account.

In 2019, badges for Preview Night were $48 for adults and $24 for juniors (age 13-17), seniors (age 60+), and military members. Badges for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were $66 for adults and $33 for juniors, seniors, and military. Sunday badges were $45 for adults and $22 for juniors, seniors, and military. There is also a $7.50 handling fee per member for all badge purchases.

Good news for parents with little superheroes in tow: Children 12 and under have free admission to Comic-Con with a paying adult!


Can you buy Comic-Con tickets at the door?

 San Diego Comic-Con tickets, which are actually badges rather than paper tickets, cannot be purchased at the door. Badges can only be purchased during online badge sale events, and badges are non-transferable.


How many people attend Comic-Con?

 The precursor to the modern Comic-Con, a one-day event in 1970 called San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Minicon, was attended by 100 people. The following month, the first full-fledged convention weekend drew 300 attendees. In recent years, attendance has reached more than 130,000 participants a year!


Do you dress up for Comic-Con?

 One of the most beloved SD Comic-Con traditions is cosplaying, or dressing up to look like a specific character. Attendants are allowed into the convention in civilian clothes, of course—but it’s so much fun to dress up! For Comic-Con costume ideas, look to your favorite characters from sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, or cult-classic movies, TV shows, manga series, or comic books. Your costume can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose. Just keep in mind that there are some safety restrictions on costume pieces and accessories—for instance, no operable projectile weapons are allowed, and all costume swords (no matter how awesome!) must be secured in such a way that they can’t be drawn.


Anything else I need to know?

A few helpful things to keep in mind as you plan your Comic-Con visit:

  • Can you leave Comic-Con and come back in? Yes, but make sure to tap your badge on the “SCAN HERE” indicators on your way out to ensure re-entry.
  • Who will be on the Comic-Con panels in 2020? Comic-Con always hosts filmmakers, actors, artists, illustrators, and other professionals as special guest speakers or panel discussion members. Keep your eyes open for the upcoming Comic-Con schedule. Past San Diego Comic-Con guests or panel members have included the filmmakers and actors of popular shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Stranger Things,” and films such as “Black Panther.”
  • What should I bring to Comic-Con? Make sure you have your badge! Other items you’ll want to bring include food and water (though you can also purchase food onsite), portable chargers for your devices, and comfy walking shoes.

Closest Airport and Transportation

The tarmac at San Diego International Airport with the welcoming sight of the downtown skyline in the background and a Southwest Airlines plane at the gate.
Via redlegsfan21/

The closest airport to the San Diego Convention Center is San Diego International Airport, where Comic Con attendees arrive on flights to San Diego from all over the country and the world. The San Diego Convention Center is extremely close to the airport—in fact, it’s just under 4 miles away, a drive that can be made in 25 minutes with traffic and as few as 10 minutes without. Whether you go straight from the airport to Comic-Con or detour at your hotel for a costume change first, there are many ways to get to the Con:

  • Driving: Because Comic-Con is attended by hundreds of thousands of people, a number of parking lots around the Convention Center are available to attendees. Lots around the convention center have sold daily parking passes for as little as $10 and as much as $50.
  • Shuttle bus: Comic-Con operates a free shuttle to transport attendees to the San Diego Convention Center. The shuttle follows several designated routes, each of which picks up and drops off attendees at specified locales around San Diego.
  • Public transportation: San Diego’s MTS trolley service makes two stops at the Convention Center, and they even have commemorative Comic Con trolley passes.
  • Ridesharing: Taking a Lyft or Uber is one of the simplest ways to get from your hotel to the Convention Center, but remember that surge pricing may be in effect during the event.

Where to Stay

The ornate neighborhood sign for the Gaslamp Quarter: Historic Heart of San Diego, a great place to stay for San Diego Comic-Con
Via Ian D. Keating/

San Diego is a scenic and vibrant city of distinctive neighborhoods. Comic Con attendees will find comfortable hotels in San Diego situated in many of the city’s most interesting locales:

  • The Gaslamp Quarter’s historic architecture, boisterous pubs, craft cocktail bars, and restaurants make it an exciting place to stay for nightlife lovers. But if that’s not enough of a draw, it’s also walking distance from the San Diego Convention Center.
  • Pacific Beach is where you’ll find everything San Diego is known for: surfers, fish tacos, and a ton of open-air cantinas. If you have some time between Comic Con events, consider taking up a surfing lesson or stretch out on the warm sand for an afternoon nap.
  • Old Town San Diego is, well, old! Dating to the 18th century, Old Town is the site of California’s first settlement. Today, Old Town is home to museums, historical sites, and plenty of Mexican food.

Other Things to Do in San Diego

A group of people riding the roller coaster at Belmont Park—a great thing to do in San Diego during Comic-Con
Via chrisinphilly5448/

A destination as visually striking and packed with fun things to do as San Diego is worth a few days of exploration. While you’re in town for Comic-Con, set aside some time outside the Convention Center to get to know the city of San Diego:

  • Balboa Park: This cultural park is a complex of museums, theaters, gardens, and other recreational diversions that’s vast and diverse enough to keep you fascinated for days. Check out the Japanese Friendship Garden, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Zoo, or dozens of other attractions in Balboa Park. Individual tickets can be purchased for each museum or attraction, and multi-attraction Explorer Passes good for as short as one day or as long as one week are also available.
  • Belmont Park: An amusement park and boardwalk on San Diego’s Mission Bay, Belmont Park is home to the Giant Dipper rollercoaster, a wooden structure built in 1925. In addition to thrill rides, Belmont Park also has shops, restaurants, miniature golf, and laser tag.
  • Coronado Island: Coronado Island sits in San Diego Bay right across from the city and is accessible by bridge. On the island, you’ll find wide white sand beaches, a dog park, and the beautiful and historic Hotel del Coronado.

San Diego Comic-Con is many things—a meetup, an exhibition, a festival, and a media event. But more than anything else, Comic-Con is a celebration. It’s a celebration of fandom, of creativity, and of self-expression. So create your Member ID right away, keep an eye on those badge sales, and prepare to set out on a magical quest for San Diego’s Comic-Con.