It’s been well over a month since SDCC 2014 and I feel like I’m just now recovering. For those of you who’ve never been to Comic-Con, the best way I can describe it is it’s like nerd Mardi Gras. There are parties every night, but you still want to get up by 6am to get in line for all the awesome stuff that’s about to happen! There are celebrities everywhere, entertainment from the cast & crews of your favorite shows, incredible cosplay to see and swag… swag as far as the eye can see. It’s insane and amazing and unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced.

I’ll post a First Timers Guide to Comic-Con soon, but in the meantime I just wanted to share some of the coolest things that happened to me at this years biggest nerd fest.

Skipping the Insane Hall H Line

I’ve been to SDCC twice now, and I’ve still never made it inside the infamous Hall H. On Thursday and Friday, I could’ve just walked in, but there were no panels I really wanted to see and there was so much cool stuff going on elsewhere! On Saturday, however, I really did want to get into that Marvel panel. But when I checked Twitter before dawn, it became clear that even people who had slept outside wouldn’t make it into the room by 5pm. (Yeah, the lines are that nuts.) So we called an audible and made straight for the Game of Thrones “Survive the Realm” experience in the Gaslamp district.

 

We were among the first 100 in line so we made the most of our morning checking out the beautiful costumes, playing with CGI dragons and going up The Wall courtesy of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. And let me tell you, even though the graphics were a bit 1990s, when the Wildlings started attacking me on top of 700 feet of ice, I felt the need to hold on to something. And when I, sadly but predictably, fell to my death, I really did feel like I was falling. Oculus Rift is amazing.

Dragon

As are CGI dragons.

For the rest of our not-in-Hall-H day, we walked the floor, caught a glimpse of Paul Rudd and the Ant-Man cast, thoroughly enjoyed John Barrowman’s hilarious one-man panel, caught up with new friends, saw some amazing cosplay AND we were able to be two of only 200 people lucky enough to watch the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer in the chic Samsung Galaxy Lounge.

Avengers Age of Ultron Trailer at SDCC

Best day ever!

All in all, I’d say skipping 24 hours of waiting in line was a smart decision. :)

Seeing Amazing Cosplay

From an Iron Man suit made entirely of bottle caps to a picture-perfect Korra and endless TARDISes, no fashion show can top the parade of amazing costumes at SDCC. My new friend The Nerdy Girlie even had a dress made out of an old SDCC swag bag! Cosplay is definitely of the best parts of Comic-Con. Walking the floor of the convention center (and around the Gaslamp), you never know who (or what) you’re going to find!

I definitely recommend dressing up if you can. I was a TARDIS/ninja on two days, which meant I was stopped a lot for pictures (which is awesome!), and I wore a Drogon-inspired outfit the rest of the time. It’s so much fun being able to instantly connect with people who have the same loves as you just because of what you’re wearing! And if you think you can’t fit a costume in your suitcase, think again.

Experiencing Nerd HQ

Nerd HQ launched back in 2011 as a small offsite event for fans and people without SDCC badges. It was a place you could come and relax away from the hectic atmosphere of the convention center and the Gaslamp District, and possibly get to see some celebrities. 2011 was my first con, but I didn’t hear about the awesomeness that was Nerd HQ until it was too late! So this year, during my second visit to SDCC, it was on top of my to-do list. Besides the nightly parties, free video games and comfy couches with charging stations (so important!), the most coveted part of a Nerd HQ experience is Conversations for a Cause. These “conversations” with various nerdy celebs are very different from the massive SDCC panels, and they cost money to attend – which all goes to a great cause: Operation Smile!

Only 300 fans get tickets to each event, so it’s a much more intimate and relaxed atmosphere. The stars, like Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, the cast of Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, answer fan questions for an hour and are known to get a little crazy. Just watch this video of Tom Hiddleston doing an impression of a velociraptor to see what I’m talking about.

We were lucky enough to score tickets to TWO conversations: Stephen Amell (aka the Arrow) and Nathan Fillion (aka the Captain). Not only were both absolutely split-your-sides hilarious, Fillion asked his friend (and pilot) Alan Tudyk to join him as they auctioned off tons of random things for charity. Everything from limited-edition serenity posters to a half-drunk bottle of water and some hand sanitizer, both signed of course. :)

Even better? After the show we were able to get photos with all of these guys as part of Smiles for Smiles. Basically, you give $20 to Operation Smile and you get a photo with the coolest nerds on the planet. It’s a bargain! Bonus: Stephen Amell told me I “looked great” (I was wearing my Drogon cosplay) which just made the day even more perfect than it already was!

 

One final Nerd HQ thing I want to leave you with… this is how the Thursday night dance part began, in true geek fashion, with Deadpool/Han Solo, Bane, Captain America and a bunch of Slave Leias getting down:

What’s your favorite part of Comic-Con? Do you plan on going in 2015?