21 Fun Activities Outside San Diego Comic Con

Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images
Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

As someone who lives in San Diego, I constantly hear how much it stinks to live in the city hosting Comic Con without actually getting to attend it. While I am sympathetic to the problem, I also know that most people are ignorant of how much Comic Con fun they can have without ever once stepping foot inside the convention.

1. Psych: The Musical Screening


Neilson Barnard / Getty Images

There's never much going on at Comic Con during preview night—most attendees are trying to save their energy for the long weekend ahead. But this year, Psych held a free screening of their musical episode (set to premiere in December). Fans had to RSVP online in advance and wait in line to get in on a first-come-first-served basis, but hey, it's pretty awesome to get to see a screening of a great show early and for free.

2. Gam3rCon


Heather Paul, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Tired of competing to get into Comic Con when you're only interested in gaming anyway? Then skip SDCC and head to the nearby Gam3rCon, which lasted Thursday through Saturday and offered video game and board game demos along with live bands and more. From the pictures I could find, it looks like the event was pretty darn tiny, but hey, some people prefer their conventions that way.

3. Schick Hydro Shaves

Throughout the convention, Schick Hydro was offering anyone a free Schick Hydro razor if they boarded the Assassin's Creed pirate ship behind the convention center and got a shave from a pirate.

4. Regular Show Regular Zone

For the second year in a row, Cartoon Network partnered up with the San Diego Children's Museum to present a cool interactive experience with one of their shows. Last year focused on Adventure Time and this year, it was Regular Show. I heard great things about both, but there is constantly a wait of about two hours to get in, so I didn't get a chance to  go inside to check it out.

5. The Adult Swim Fun House

Similarly, Adult Swim had an attraction outside the convention as well. You had to line up to get tickets at four and then come back with your tickets at the designated hour to enter the Fun House. There was still a bit of a wait, but it was totally worth it. The inflatable Fun House had all the weirdness you'd expect from Adult Swim, including a grown man in a diaper drinking a bottle, flashing blacklight responsive colors everywhere, and Robot Chicken's famous robot. And those are just the things we saw—since it was a maze, everyone had a different experience. There were a number of exits, including a slide and a jail that you could only leave after singing karaoke. No matter what exit you went through, you got a free t-shirt to take home.

If you think this sounds like fun, keep an eye out for listings in your area, because it is traveling throughout the U.S. right now and might just be stopping in a town near you soon.

6. Fox's Animation Domination Station

To promote their new Sunday night cartoon lineup, Fox put up a miniature golf course, a painting area where guests were given tiny figures from the shows to paint, a food truck offering free pizza, and photo opps with Axe Cops.

7. The Vikings Experience

Sure, you might not be a real viking, but at Comic Con, you could still test your rowing skills against competitors in miniature viking ships. The Vikings Experience also featured lovely shield maidens standing guard and a photo area so you could remember your short time as a viking.

8. Comixology's Tr!ckst3r

To help publicize their online software that has made self-publishing comic books easier than ever, Comixology organized an event called Tr!ckster, where they invited artists to come by every night of the convention to have a drink, listen to music and draw live models posing in a variety of comic-styled outfits and poses. It might not have been the most lively event (artists tend to be pretty quiet while they work), but it might have been one of the most appropriately comic-inspired evening events out there.

9. Elder Scrolls Food Truck

While there are plenty of food trucks, trailers with mini movie theaters for trailer premieres, and even a mobile Hello Kitty shop in the Petco Park parking lot by the convention center, none of these attractions were entertaining enough to keep you distracted for more than a few minutes. On the other hand, on Thursday afternoon, a food truck arrived to help promote the Elder Scrolls online and handed out free lunch (Pressed Eidarmelt sandwiches with your choice of Fire Petal Dip, Emperor's Garden Sauce or Tomato-Mammoth Sauce) and free ice cream (frozen sweet cream with Khajiiti sweetbites) to anyone willing to wait in line.

10. Comedy Central Comedy-Con

Ever wanted to party with Comedy Central stars like Key and Peele, the guys from Workaholics? Well, this Thursday afternoon party was your chance, as it was totally open to the public. I wish I could have reported on this one in person, but we couldn't even get to the convention and find parking before it started.

11. 30 Minute Musicals Jurassic Park

This Thursday evening event was one of my favorite activities outside the convention, although it received very little promotion and had a very small audience. This LA theater troupe headed down to San Diego to perform their 30-minute-long musical extravaganza based on the events of Jurassic Park. If that sounds stupid, well, that's kind of the point.

The musical was utterly hilarious, recasting the T. rex as a misunderstood, slightly psychotic diva who desperately wants to make friends. In the end, she's the tragic hero who is left alone on the island after finally getting to show the humans that she only wanted their friendship.

If you're interested, 30 Minute Musicals is constantly performing new shows in Los Angeles, so if you happen to be in the area at some point, look them up and stop by for a show. Hey, even if you hate it, you only wasted 30 minutes of your time, right?

12. The Aquabats


Aaron Silvers, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Always showing the world a nerdy good time, the Aquabats were out celebrating the second season of their TV show with a live performance at the House of Blues on Thursday.

13. The World's End Party

To be fair, this event wasn't technically open to the public. That being said, it was possible for fans to win tickets to the event by attending the World's End Pub Crawl that took place earlier in the day. Since I wasn't able to get a plus one to cover this party, I immediately sat down at the table with the friendliest-looking people and as it turns out, they were all the winners of the pub crawl who became super close friends through the span of the afternoon while trying to win tickets to the event. I didn't stay at the party long, but I couldn't be happier to get to meet the winners of that contest.

14. The Chuck Jones Gallery


Bonnie Dean, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

After leaving The World's End Party, I headed over to the Chuck Jones gallery. While the event always features works by Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones and Dr. Suess, during Comic Con they always feature comic-inspired art as well. As if that weren't enough, while I stopped by, they were also hosting a trivia night with free shots of tequila.

There are plenty of other art galleries in Downtown San Diego and many of them have special comic-themed art during the convention—it's just that the Chuck Jones Gallery is one of the most famous and most central to the convention.

15. The Walking Dead Escape

Curious if you could survive a zombie apocalypse, or just want to attack people while pretending to be a zombie? Then be sure to check out the yearly Walking Dead Escape that allows survivors and zombies the chance to pair off against one another. If you're ready to take on the challenge, be ready to shell out some dough first—being a survivor costs $90, being a Walker will run you up to $149, and just sitting on the sidelines to watch the mayhem will take $15.

16. The Zombie Walk

If paying money to pretend to be a zombie just seems silly to you, there's a free zombie walk outside the convention every year. Just dress up in your favorite zombie gear, meet outside the convention and start shuffling down the street with the rest of the reanimated masses. This group wasn't technically part of the zombie walk, but I have a hard time resisting zombies coming from a luau with Jell-o brains.

17. Petco's Star Wars Yappy Hour

To celebrate the launch of their new Star Wars line of pet products, Petco hosted a "Yappy Hour" cocktail party. Dogs and their owners were invited to take photos with R2D2, get caricatures of themselves by Princess Leia and hang out with costumed characters from Star Wars. In fact, that's my friend's French bulldog with Darth Vader.

Humans were invited to enjoy cocktails, while pooches were provided with water, tennis balls, and dog treats. Those without a pooch to call their own were encouraged to adopt one of the pups on site courtesy of the Humane Society. While the event was open to all animals, only one cat was actually brave enough to drop in with his owner. Somehow I feel like his sweet Batman shirt helped him cope.

18. Nerd-A-Thon

If you dig hot girls and cool tunes, the Nerd-A-Thon was the ultimate destination for music-loving geeks this year. On Friday night, fans could enjoy the girls of the Devil's Playground Burlesque performing in comic-inspired ensembles beside nerdy rock groups like Nerf Herder, Kirby Krackle, and H2Awesome. While we didn't make it to the Friday show, here's one of the Devil's Burlesque girls performing at a similar event back in December.

On Saturday night, the girls were in Star Wars clothing and the music acts were Nerdcore hip hop artists (think M.C. Front A Lot). While the L.A.-based burlesque troupe only had two performers at the show, they were both fantastic.

Plus, I couldn't be happier with the music acts, El Gun Legro, Wordburglar, Dual Core, MegaRan, and Danimal Cannon (although the last performer wasn't nerdcore, but a metal guitarist who played over sweet Gameboy tracks, he was still amazing).

19. Pretty Poison's Nerdy & Nice

The Nerd-A-Thon wasn't the only place where you could find music and burlesque on Saturday night. Pretty Poison Burlesque also had a show that night, and theirs featured the musical stylings of Ghost of the Robot, a band that features James Marsters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer

20. Heroes Brew Festival

Is Comic Con lacking too much in the hops department, in your opinion? Then you would have enjoyed the comic-themed craft brew festival that occurred right next door and featured live bands and all the beer you could handle.

21. Adult Swim Party Featuring Eric Andre


CleftClips, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Also on Saturday night, Adult Swim threw a party at the House of Blues featuring comedian Eric Andre and musical guest Yacht. This one sounded a lot of fun—but the burlesque show lasted all night and the party had a line forming when we left to go get dinner at 5. Considering the doors didn't even open for a few hours, I can't imagine the line to get in.

While the events change every year, these are a good sampling of the kinds of fun things that are available each year, even for non-attendees. So, if you live in the area, or if you're already planning on traveling to San Diego that time of year, but aren't sure you'll get a Comic Con pass, be sure to hit the Downtown area during the convention for all kinds of fun events.

It's worth noting that I originally intended to go to as many outside-the-convention events as possible, but that soon proved to be utterly impossible. In fact, I only made it to about half of the events that I planned to attend because there is just so much stuff going on. As long as this article is, I didn't even include every single event outside the convention that people could attend, and, of course, if you attended the convention and found other fun stuff to do outside the convention, please tell us about them in the comments.

On a final note, if you're one of the many people who absolutely loves to see all the great cosplay from the convention, don't miss my gallery featuring over 200 costumes.

10 Delicious Facts About McDonald's Shamrock Shake

McDonald's
McDonald's

Many people overdo it with the drinking on St. Patrick's Day, but it's not always Guinness or Jameson that gets them into trouble. Sometimes it's the Shamrock Shake, McDonald's uniquely green and often elusive seasonal treat. Here’s the skinny on the 660-calorie indulgence.

1. The Shamrock Shake wasn't originally known as The Shamrock Shake.

The original name of the cult classic milkshake was slightly less alliterative. It was called the St. Patrick’s Day Green Milkshake. Catchy, no?

2. The Shamrock Shake is a charitable endeavor.

What does the Shamrock Shake have to do with the Ronald McDonald House and the Philadelphia Eagles? Everything, according to the fast food giant. When Eagles tight end Fred Hill’s daughter was being treated for leukemia in 1974, Fred and his wife spent a lot of time in waiting rooms and noticed many other emotionally depleted families doing the same. He thought it would be healthier for families if they had a place to call home while their children were being treated, so he used his football connections to get in touch with a local advertising agency that did work for Mickey D’s. They agreed to give profits from the Shamrock Shake toward a home near the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, which ended up becoming the first-ever Ronald McDonald House.

3. Uncle O'Grimacey used to be the Shamrock Shake's ambassador.

Back in the early ‘80s, a fairly offensive character named Uncle O’Grimacey was used to promote the seasonal shake.

4. No McDonald's restaurant is required to offer the Shamrock Shake.

In 2012, it was announced that, for the first time, the Shamrock Shake would be available in all McDonald's nationwide—but not all restaurants have to carry them. Regional managers decide whether their stores will carry the shakes each year.

5. Jimmy Fallon once depleted a New York City restaurant's entire Shamrock Shake supply.

If you’re a New Yorker and you didn’t get a much-craved Shamrock Shake in 2011, it’s probably Jimmy Fallon’s fault. When he caught wind that a Union Square Mickey D's had the elusive dessert, he totally cleaned them out—purchasing more than 100 shakes for his audience. New Yorkers were not pleased with Fallon.

6. The Shamrock Shake got an ice cream offshoot (that didn't fare so well).

Despite the smashing success of the shake, the Shamrock Sundae was a dismal failure. Introduced in 1980, it was discontinued after just a year. Apparently people prefer their unnaturally green desserts in shake form as opposed to scoop form. Though this year, they're trying again: in honor of the Shamrock Shake's 50th anniversary, McDonald's is also introducing an Oreo Shamrock McFlurry.

7. There have been many super-sized versions of the Shamrock Shake.

For a few years, a giant shake was poured into the Chicago River to help contribute to the green hue it’s dyed every year. A donation was also made to the Ronald McDonald House.

8. The McDonald's app will help you track down a Shamrock Shake.

Are you one of those unfortunate souls who has to hunt the shake down every year? McDonald's official app can help. In 2020, for the first time in three years, the Shamrock Shake will be offered at all McDonald's locations. If you're not sure of the nearest one near you, the McDonald's app has a full directory to help.

9. You can make your own Shamrock Shake at home.

If you still can’t find a shake, you have one other option: make your own.

10. In 2017, McDonald's engineered a special Shamrock Shake straw.

In 2017, McDonald's unveiled an amazing innovation for Shamrock Shake lovers: the STRAW. Short for Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal, the STRAW was designed by real engineers at the aerospace and robotics engineering firms JACE and NK Labs—specifically with the Shamrock Shake in mind. What sets the device apart from conventional straws is the sharp bend in its shape and the three, eye-shaped holes in addition to the opening at the bottom end. The extra holes are positioned in a way that allows drinkers to take a sip of a new layered version of the frosty treat that’s equal parts top mint layer and bottom chocolate layer.

Why Are CVS Receipts So Incredibly Long?

cyano66/iStock via Getty Images
cyano66/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve ever conducted business at one of the nearly 10,000 CVS Pharmacy locations in the United States and count yourself among one of the estimated 62 million members of the store's ExtraCare discount incentive program, you’ve probably been handed a receipt that is more scroll than slip. These transactional documents, which have been known to literally be several feet of thermal paper long and full of merchandise coupons, are often wadded or folded up like a bath towel and handed off to the consumer.

Is this an environmentally mindful practice? And do these coupons really keep people coming back for more?

CVS has stated that the lengthy receipts are intended to demonstrate the value of being an ExtraCare member by offering ExtraCare Rewards, typically a dollar or percentage amount off of a single item or purchase. Some of the receipt's oversized real estate is also taken up by a solicitation to participate in a satisfaction survey. (Though it’s not likely that one of the questions is about the length of the receipt.)

A woman is pictured holding up a CVS receipt
stephen boisvert, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Simply put, the chain wants to vividly illustrate the benefits of being an ExtraCare member, which also helps the company by allowing them to track your purchase history. The idea is that the Russian novel-length receipt will excite consumers who feel as though a surplus of savings are being delivered right into their hands.

The problem is that the coupons are often quick to expire or can sometimes exclude sale items, registering disappointment when a returning customer presents a slip for $2 off a bar of soap.

You can, of course, opt out of receiving a paper receipt through your ExtraCare account online or via the app, though the process requires a few steps to complete. The coupons will then be sent digitally via your smartphone. Since introducing that paperless option in 2016, the company claims it has saved 3 billion inches of paper that would otherwise have been squeezed into a ball and stuffed into your glove compartment.

Alternately, you can always use it to replace a broken window blind.

Which brings us to the other and possibly most important motivation for those long receipts: Social media engagement. The more people express dismay at those long receipts, the more exposure CVS receives. Considering their 2018 merger with health insurance giant Aetna cost more than $70 billion, some free publicity could come in handy.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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