Every summer, Comic-Con International brings one of the world's biggest celebrations of comic book, movie, and TV fandom to San Diego. The annual event has a long history of delivering the most exciting previews of what's to come, and this year's show is shaping up to be another must-see Comic-Con.

The event begins with a preview night July 17 at the San Diego Convention Center and runs through Sunday, July 21. Even if you don't have a ticket to the sold-out show, there are still plenty of Comic-Con adventures to be had around the San Diego area. Read below for both the must-see highlights inside this year’s Comic-Con as well as the opportunities outside the convention center. And if you can't make it to the show this year, don't worry: You have at least three more years to experience Comic-Con in San Diego, thanks to a recent agreement that will keep the West Coast's biggest pop-culture convention in the city through 2024.

No pass required

For the fourth year, the San Diego Public Library will host a free five-day conference (July 17–21) that will explore the role comics play in promoting education and literacy (passes are free but space is limited—register in advance). Debuting this year, the Artists’ Loft, BarrioHaus will serve as a new Comic-Con venue and host panels such as “Embracing Your Inner Geek: An Interactive Self-Care Workshop” and “The New Wave of Latin America Horror Cinema.”

Also new for 2019, the Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park will be open temporarily to honor Batman's 80th anniversary throughout the show (the museum is scheduled to open in 2021). On July 17, the museum will induct the Dark Knight into its Character Hall of Fame at The Gathering (tickets for the event are $250; the after-party is $50). In the following days, the museum invites guests to enjoy its free, four-day interactive exhibit that features panels, various galleries of movie props and other Bat-mementoes, as well as a virtual reality experience that lets participants skydive into Gotham City.

 

In the surrounding Gaslamp Quarter neighborhood, a multitude of shops and restaurants typically offer themed specials for Comic-Con crowds, while local landmarks Kansas City Barbecue (where the famous “You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'” scene from Top Gun was filmed) and Tin Fish Gaslamp—famous for its fish tacos— offer prime people-watching opportunities.

Keep an eye out near the convention center for pop-up attractions themed around various TV shows. Interactive experiences tied to Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place, American Horror Story, The Expanse, and other projects make it worthwhile to do a bit of wandering if you don't have a ticket or just want some fresh air.

There are also plenty of parties and other events scheduled for each evening of the show, , many which don’t require a badge. Find more information at the Unofficial SDCC Blog.

Must-sees inside the show

Comic-Con shifts into high gear Thursday with sneak peeks at upcoming projects like the sci-fi sequel Terminator: Dark Fate and HBO's His Dark Materials, an adaptation of author Philip Pullman's popular fantasy series. As always, Friday and Saturday offer some of the convention's biggest panels. Previews of popular returning programs The Walking Dead and Rick and Morty are among the Friday highlights, as well as two new Netflix shows with lots of buzz: Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, based on Jim Henson's landmark 1982 film; and The Witcher, based on the acclaimed video game series of the same name.

The day's biggest event, however, is a 5:30 p.m. panel for HBO's Game of Thrones series, which concluded its eight-season run earlier this year.With a prequel series already in production, many of the original show's cast and creators are expected to be in attendance, and a question-and-answer session will likely generate some passionate (to put it mildly) discourse.

Saturday is typically the show's busiest day, with panels for some of Hollywood's most high-profile franchises drawing huge crowds. The day kicks off with a 90-minute panel dedicated to all things Star Trek, with a special focus on three current and upcoming projects set within the sci-fi series' universe. The panel will highlight the ongoing Star Trek: Discovery series as well as the upcoming Star Trek: Lower Decks and Star Trek: Picard shows in the works.

One of the most surprising additions to the 2019 Comic-Con schedule is Saturday's Marvel Studios panel. Marvel returns to San Diego after skipping the show last year. The studio's 5:15 p.m. panel will almost certainly be the biggest event of Comic-Con, as Marvel is expected to outline its plans for the studio's interconnected superhero universe in the aftermath of its blockbuster films Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige will be in attendance to deliver whatever news and previews the studio brings to the Marvel Studios presentation, which has historically been the show's most popular panel each year the studio has attended Comic-Con. You'll need to plan ahead for this one—way ahead, in fact—as fans often queue up hours (or even a full day) in advance to make it in the door.

The final day of the convention usually offers a relatively calmer environment (by Comic-Con standards). This is the day to get some shopping done and make your last tour of the show floor before the doors close Sunday evening.