Like a movie franchise that gets better with every sequel, Comic-Con International returns to San Diego July 19–22 for a whole new round of all things superhero, sorcery, and sci-fi.

Whether it's your first time attending the convention or you've been before, there are plenty of ways to make the most of the Comic-Con experience with or without a ticket. Every year brings something new to the annual event—which now ranks among the biggest conventions of its kind in the world.

The pop-up attractions around the San Diego Convention Center and throughout the downtown Gaslamp Quarter have become nearly as popular—and plentiful—as the events held within panel rooms in recent years. That isn't likely to change this year, as there are a wide range of events scheduled around the Comic-Con main hub—many of which don't require an official badge.

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Here are some tips to get the most out of this year's Comic-Con.

No matter where your fandom is focused, there's bound to be pop-up attractions you'll want to check out around the convention center. Some popular, returning attractions include an immersive museum that brings you inside the films of Oscar-nominated stop-motion animation studio LAIKA, and a “State Park” attraction with chainsaw-wielding wood carvers and camp-themed contests hosted by Rick & Morty from the Adult Swim network. The Walking Dead and the FX network will also return with interactive attractions outside the convention center.

As for the convention itself, the usual tips and tricks apply for attending the major movie and television panels in Hall H (arrive early and expect to wait in line for a seat), as they are always the most in-demand events at the show. Some rules regarding entrance to Hall H have changed in recent years, so it's probably a good idea to look over the official Hall H line rules.

One of the convention's hottest tickets the last three years is the free, live taping of Conan O'Brien's talk show Conan, filmed at the Spreckels Theatre each day of Comic-Con. Tickets are sold out for 2018, but there are still standby tickets available the day of and you don’t need a badge to attend.  

New this year will be a Gaslamp attraction offering visitors a tour of the fictional town of Castle Rock, based on Hulu's upcoming series inspired by the works of Stephen King. There will also be an offsite, superhero-themed attraction offering a preview of the DC Universe streaming video service.

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Of course, there's more than just panels and pop-ups to be found in San Diego during Comic-Con. There's also a foodie's paradise.

The official Comic-Con website has released its own restaurant guide to the region that lists some of the best places to grab a bite to eat, either to dine in or take out on your way to the next event. Many of restaurants appearing in the guide offer special discounts or promotions for guests wearing a Comic-Con badge, so make sure to keep your ticket visible when you go out to eat.

As always, there's a wealth of information available online about this year's Comic-Con programming schedule, special guests, and travel and lodging options. Even more tips, guides, and news about this year's show can be found at Toucan, the official Comic-Con blog, as well as the informative Unofficial SDCC blog.

And if you’re looking for more ideas of what to do while you’re in Southern California, check out our San Diego guides to the best beaches, resorts, and what to do in Balboa Park.