For many, this week is just like any other, but for mega-fans of pop culture, comics, gaming, TV, and film, these next few days are the biggest event of the year: San Diego Comic-Con. Getting tickets is a spectacle comparable to the Hamilton lottery, while travel as a non-local can get very pricey, very fast. This leaves many Philly geeks out of the action, but you don’t need to be in San Diego to have a good time this weekend.
If you’re looking for ways to celebrate the latest news out of Comic-Con or to take your mind off of what you’re missing, here are eight events around Philadelphia:
Hear the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire score performed live
The full power of the Philadelphia Orchestra will bring the magic of the fourth installment in J.K. Rowling’s beloved series to life during this live concert event at the Mann Center. Experience Hogwarts’ love triangles, dragons, Quidditch, Voldemort, and the Triwizard Tournament a whole new way as Justin Freer conducts songs from the score of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. A picnic and a blanket are encouraged, or sit in a lawn chair to watch the film as it plays in high-definition on a 40-foot screen.
8 p.m., Saturday, Mann Center, 5201 Parkside Ave., $25-$75 (+$5 at the door), 215-546-7900, manncenter.org
Glimpse a ghost at Eastern State Penitentiary
This isn’t like playing Resident Evil in Virtual Reality on the convention floor — it’s better. Fulfill your ghost-hunting dream at the historic and allegedly haunted Eastern State Penitentiary this Saturday on a guided tour with Ghost Hunts USA. You’ll visit some of the 190-year-old former prison’s most “active” areas normally restricted to the public, such as the medical wing. Guests will be provided with the tools (and the jargon) of the trade: electromagnetic field detectors, spirit boxes, and rem-pods. Previous attendees have reported seeing shadows, hearing whispers, and being touched while on their tour, so this event isn’t for the light of heart.
7:45 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday, 2027 Fairmount Ave., $129 per person, ghosthuntsusa.com
See your favorite superheroes (and space heroes) at a free public screening
You may not be able to see all of SDCC’s great Captain Marvel cosplay, but you can still catch the intergalactic superhero flying on the big screen at a Pictures in the Park summer event Friday night at Dilworth Park. The first 100 visitors will get a free bag of popcorn, but you can also stop by the Dilworth Café to buy snacks before watching the film from your own blanket or chair. Before the screening, participate in Marvel-themed trivia organized by the Philadelphia Film Society for a chance to win some Marvel merchandise. Seats are first come, first served.
Or head to Bartram’s Garden for a free 8:30 p.m. outdoor screening — also Friday — of the Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny-led Space Jam. The screening will be proceeded by a 7:30 p.m. bike ride along the Bartram’s Mile trail.
Write and draw about your favorite graphic novel titles at Barnes & Noble
Bring young readers to any of the bookseller’s regional locations this Saturday for a convention-weekend celebration of early- and middle-grade graphic novels. Burgeoning graphic novelists can draw characters from popular titles like Smile, Dog Man, and Amulet or write out their own ideas for a graphic novel. During the three-hour event in the kid’s department, the store will have giveaways and titles will be available for 20 percent off.
2 to 5 p.m., Saturday, 1805 Walnut St and other locations., free, 215-665-0716, barnesandnoble.com
Experience the Halo universe up-close at this immersive touring event
Launched in 2001, the Halo franchise has gone from a single game to an extensive universe full of music, books, and now a live touring experience. At this three-day comic-meets-gaming convention, fans can experience the world of their favorite supersoldier, Master Chief, in 11 immersive experiences and encounters. Team up with friends for an escape-room style challenge on a reclaimed part of the Covenant ship, explore locations like The Ring, try your hand at the first-ever competitive Halo VR experience, and snap a photo with a to-scale Warthog vehicle.
1 to 9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, 1101 Arch St., $60-$140, 215-418-4700, halooutpostdiscovery.com
Play board games, VR games, and arcade classics at gamer bars and restaurants
You don’t need a special weekend to eat, drink, and game at Mad Rex (1000 Frankford Ave.), where you can enjoy a menu of modern American cuisine cooked on a pre-heated lava rock then visit the virtual-reality lounge for a seated or fully immersive experience. If board games are more your thing, stop by Thirsty Dice (17th & Fairmount Ave.) to play everything from Catan to Clue while enjoying local craft beers, cocktails, milkshakes, and sandwiches. Old-school arcade fans may find themselves more at home at Barcade (1114 Frankford Ave.), which features more than 50 classic and pinball arcade games, a full menu of bar eats and several exclusive beers.
Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing
Explore this monumental moment in American space history at the Franklin Institute through a variety of interactive and educational activities. See an hourly live show about the creation of the world’s cheapest spacesuit and learn how to code (and guide) a ping-pong-ball-size robot. Uncover the untold stories of the people, events, and obstacles surrounding the moon landing at 90-minute screenings of The Apollo Chronicles or watch footage of the 1969 landing outside. At Science Park, learn about the lunar lander and launch rockets.
And don’t forget to check out the Marvel: Universe of Super Heroes exhibit, which features never-before-seen comics and drawings, iconic costumes, props, and more. The exhibit is not included with general admission.
10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, 222 N. 20th St., activities included with general museum admission ($23 adults, $19 ages 3-11, free under age 3), fi.edu
Party under the stars at the Rail Park
The parties out at Comic-Con are legendary, but you don’t need to be in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter to have an astronomically good time. There’s a space-themed party under the stars at the Rail Park this Saturday evening that culminates in an out-of-this-world dance party. Campfire instructors will teach you the basics of outdoor and camping survival skills, or make “moon balloons" with Mural Arts Philadelphia using sponge paint and an LED light. End the night stargazing or dancing with Deejay Sylo. The family- and dog-friendly event is BYO blanket.
6 to 10 p.m., Saturday, 1300 Noble St., free, therailpark.org/events