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7 Comic-Con experiences we can't wait to try

Next week isn't just about the panels (or the cosplay), it's also about the "activations."

Caitlin Petrakovitz Director of audience
Caitlin Petrakovitz studies the Marvel Cinematic Universe like it's a course in school, with an emphasis on the Infinity Saga years. As an audience expert, she rarely writes but when she does it's most certainly about Star Trek, Marvel, DC, Westworld, San Diego Comic-Con and great streaming properties. Or soccer, that's a thing she loves, too.
Caitlin Petrakovitz
5 min read
Comic Con In San Diego Draws Costumed Fans To Annual Convention
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Whether you call them experiences or activations, they might be the best part of Comic-Con.

Activations is a fancy term for the fun experiences that occur mainly outside the convention, and they're not always limited to badge holders. In years past, these experiences included major Netflix shows coming together for a fun walk-through in the world of certain shows, or even just a simple, visually arresting VR experience on the show floor and outside.

This year, we already know we'll see quite a few of these immersive experiences around the San Diego Convention Center, and these are the ones we're counting down to.

Star Trek: Discovery costume, concept art gallery

In a repeat of last year's gallery takeover, the CBS Star Trek: Discovery team is again bringing costumes and props to the Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts Gallery. This year, however, it sounds like we can expect the focus to be on the mysterious Mirror Universe and the Terran Empire, including a chance to lounge in Emperor Georgiou's throne. (Editors' note: CNET is owned by CBS.)

Last year we also glimpsed some beautiful concept art. Here's hoping we'll see more of the Mirror Universe in this form (past and future please, as long as we're wishing!). 

Up close and personal with Star Trek: Discovery props at Comic-Con

See all photos

The Taco Bell future Demolition Man predicted

Maybe I shouldn't be as excited about this one as I am, but my co-workers are too so I'm including TBell in San Diego on our wishlist. 

Why, you ask? For one, Taco Bell was of course named the best Mexican restaurant in America. And for another, it's the 25th anniversary of Demolition Man. That movie predicted a future where Taco Bell was the only restaurant to survive the Franchise Wars, hence the SDCC connection.

While we still have no idea what to expect of this delicious-sounding activation, we're so excited to check out the best possible future timeline, eat all the Nacho Fries and unlock the mystery of the three seashells.

Taco Bell's upscale dining experience will be at the corner of FIfth Avenue and G Street and opens at 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Hulu's Castle Rock house

Stephen King's psychological thriller on Hulu plans to link iconic characters and horrifying events to the mysterious Castle Rock, Maine. The J.J. Abrams-produced series stars Andre Holland, Melanie Lynskey, Bill Skarsgard, Jane Levy and Sissy Spacek.

And next week, Hulu is dropping one house in particular in the middle of San Diego at Front Street and Island Avenue. The immersive experience sounds like it's going to scare the bejeezus out of us even though it's a "bed and breakfast" and tbh not all of us are ready for that. 

The experience opens at 11 a.m. Thursday through Sunday (but the fear will probably never leave me, seriously I am a horror wuss y'all).


I am sure Castle Rock the show and the activation will scar my psyche.


Amazon's Jack Ryan training experience

We just want to best the super-spy. Based around Amazon's new Jack Ryan show, San Diego is now a training ground for spies. This "training field" uses Optitrack 4D and Oculus Rift technology to train you, putting you in the middle of the action, at 30 feet above the ground. According to the release, experiences in the experience include rappelling from a (parked) helicopter and zip-lining to the ground.

After your training is complete, you use these new skills in Dark Ops, an escape room based on the pilot episode where you help Jack Ryan himself. 

The experience will be at the corner of Martin Luther King Promenade and First, and opens Thursday through Sunday at 9 a.m.

The Experience at Petco Park

From Grandesign comes the mash of so many activations in one huge stadium.

Marvel's Cloak & Dagger wants you to know the full force of your powers with a bungee "ride" that propels you backward from the force and captures your shock and awe with a slow-motion recording.

Facebook Watch's Sacred Lies drops you into an escape room which mirrors the show but in reverse, according to the release. The show is based on the book of the same(ish) name, about Minnow Bly, her escape from and experiences in a cult, as well as the murder that begins and ends her story.

And we'll get a look at Ghostbusters World, a new mobile AR game complete with the original ECTO-1 and a huge Stay Puft Marshmallow Man to take photos with.

Plus, Shark Week celebrates its 30th anniversary with a 40-foot-long inflatable shark. And Samsung will have a truck outfitted with custom gaming pods and QLED TVs where you can compete in Forza Motorsport 7 on Xbox One X to win prizes.

World of Ready Player One

Dropping you into the heart of '80s nostalgia, this activation says it'll feature gaming stations (Adventure, anyone?), authentic costumes and props from the film, two rooms devoted to trivia about the movie and the '80s, and a glimpse at the OASIS (the VR world of the book and movie) complete with a haunted Room 237.

We already saw a similar totally VR exhibit at SXSW, but this one sounds like it will be more in-depth and expansive. And because this year's activation theme seems to be "escape rooms," it'll be interesting to see if our '80s knowledge is needed in very specific ways in the two trivia rooms.

Enter the OASIS at the Omni Hotel 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday. It opens at 10 a.m. Thursday through Sunday.

FXhibition: Legion, Archer, American Horror Story

FX is bringing a handful of mini-activations together in front of the Hilton Bayfront Hotel beginning Thursday at noon, and Friday through Sunday at 10 a.m.

Each is tailored to the show, so Legion features an art installation-slash-audiovisual experience where you are disconnected from the world. 

American Horror Story will show off a collection of art and oddities inspired by the show's lore and enhanced with AR to reveal their secrets and clues about the show's eighth season. The Archer activation puts you "inside the heads" of characters with sound boxes featuring bits from the show. There will also be a Mayans M.C., It's Alway Sunny in Philadelphia and a general FX activation.

Stay tuned for more of CNET at Comic-Con as we invade San Diego this week!

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