- Family friendly
- Wide variety of activities
- Great use of venue/space
- No Comic-Con badge required
- Better than Nerd HQ for activities & lounging
- Small panels lack intimacy
- Not as community-oriented as Nerd HQ
- Unticketed panels can make venue very crowded
- Nerd HQ still reigns supreme on offsite panels
The Nerdist Conival is an offsite event that coincides with San Diego Comic-Con. It’s free to enter for anyone, with or without an SDCC badge. Since 2015, it’s been held at Petco Park. The entrance is at 7th Avenue and K Street.
Technically, this is the Legendary Digital Networks Conival, since it features Nerdist, Geek & Sundry, and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls – but considering Nerdist was the first, it functions as the umbrella here.
Nerdist has hosted various Comic-Con offsite events for a few years, but really raised the stakes in 2015 by starting the Conival. They slid into the concourse space at Petco Park formerly occupied by another popular offsite, Nerd HQ.
Without question, Nerdist has made better use of the second-floor concourse space than Nerd HQ did in their previous two-year tenure. It’s no wonder: Nerd HQ is more of a small upstart, with event profits going to charity. Nerdist is a massive media company owned by Legendary Picture’s digital division. Basically, money talks.
Nerdist Conival’s first year was a great success. It was popular, but the space and design helped it avoid feeling too crowded. There were plenty of activities and lounges with a wide range of options catering to adults and families. Their panel schedule continues to grow and present big names after they appear inside the convention center. With 2016’s announcement, it looks like Nerdist has no plans to let the Conival momentum slow down.
Carried over from their inital foray into SDCC offsites, laser tag is a big draw at Conival. In their space at Petco, they’ve set up a great viewing area for friends or parents to view the games as well. The wait time for laser tag can be long, but avoiding overlap with the crowds brought in by popular panels will lessen your wait. The good news is that Conival laser tag is pretty well run, with the line moving steadily.
In the entry area are video gaming demos and displays, a typical feature of many offsite events these days.
In other areas, Geek & Sundry hosts tabletop gaming sessions featuring many of the games reviewed on their webseries “Tabletop.” In 2015, they had an inflatable wrestling/sparring ring; in 2016, they’ll have an archery setup.
Smart Girls offers up robotics demonstrations and a nice lounge. Espionage Cosmetics is also posted up doing demonstrations and giveaways of their geek cosmetics.
Behind this area is a great kids zone hosted by Crayola. Yes, there’s plenty of crayons, but also interactive light & sound boards and other colorful things for young ones to play with. Most offsite events are squarely adult-oriented, and it’s nice to see Nerdist include a really nice family space.
Obviously, the activity lineup is more diversified than many other offsite events can offer. This is a great one for the whole family!
Following in the Nerd HQ tradition, Conival has a full stage and seating area for daily panels with big names that are already in town for Comic-Con.
Unlike Nerd HQ, panels at Conival are free with open first-come, first-serve seating. Seating is limited – maybe a couple hundred people could find a seat, with a little room in the back for standing room only. However, the panel stage and seating is open to the rest of the event: it lacks the intimacy of Nerd HQ as a result, and noise carrying over from the surrounding activities can be troublesome.
As mentioned above, the panel schedule is good to know even if you don’t plan on watching any. Panels for popular shows often bring their cast & crew, and you can expect a large crowd to follow. In 2016, Agents of SHIELD, Fear the Walking Dead, Rick & Morty, and American Gods are just some of the shows that will basically pack up their whole panel and bring it over to Conival after they wrap in the convention center.
If you’re just interested in experiencing laser tag and the other activities, be sure to avoid these popular panel times.
What’s an offsite without giveaways? In 2015, Conival offered up free Google Cardboard, those cheap-but-effective VR glasses with space for you to insert your smartphone. Kudos for being well-prepared and bringing plenty – so many that by Sunday afternoon, they were allowing people to take as many as they could carry.
They’ve also done custom printed T-shirts, which are a nice perk with a long wait. The shirts have a limited number of designs to choose from and are then printed on-site while you wait.
Conival also has digital photo booths and photo backdrops for all your Instagramable opportunities.
It’s not free, but it is very on-brand: an “Enjoy Your Burrito” booth sells burritos and margaritas. You’ll get your choice of meat and other fillings in the burrito for about $10. It’s a touch pricey for burritos, but not a bad deal if you’re hungry and tired of walking around the Gaslamp.
In short, the Nerdist Conival has plenty of things for you to do, whatever you’re into and however old you are. If you’ve got some free time outside of the convention center, Conival is a great spot to check out!