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Photo: Parka81 via Flickr.com

If you happen to find yourself near San Diego this weekend, you should drop by the San Diego Convention Center. Comic-Con, one of the largest and most original conventions of the year, starts today and lasts through Sunday.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that everyone has to dress up as superheroes, and that going in with “normal” clothes would put you out of place. That may have been true in the past, but Comic-Con has evolved into more of a meet-n-greet between comic aficionados, movie fans, and A-list celebrities.

Don’t expect a stuffy experience like other typical conventions either. Comic-Con is all about interaction, such as Q&As with the stars from summer blockbusters like “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Expendables 2.”

Not an avid moviegoer? There’s still plenty to see at the hundreds of booths and smaller events for popular book series like George R.R. Martin‘s “A Song of Ice and Fire” or Seth Grahame-Smith’s popular novel “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”.

Photo: Parka81 via Flickr.com

But if you’re one of those aforementioned comic-book nerds, and you’re concerned that Comic-Con has lost its roots and become another glamorous, red-carpet Hollywood affair, you need not worry. Comic-Con is still a haven for those who avidly follow Spider-man, Batman, and even Aquaman. Whichever do-gooder (or evil nemesis) is your favorite, there will likely be a plethora of merchandise devoted to the classic comic book character. If you feel like going the extra mile to finally make your public appearance as Wonder Woman or Superman, this would be the place to do it. In fact, you’ll blend right in.

So whether out of simple curiosity, or because you love movies, books, shows, or just plain “nerding out” as the obscure Storm Trooper mentioned in issue #12 of “Star Wars“, you’re almost guaranteed to find something to enjoy—and interesting stories to tell your family and friends—at this one-of-a-kind gathering of unique-minded people.

Anne Baye Ericksen is a professional writer who has contributed to Healthcare Traveler since 1996. She resides with her family in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Photo: Michelle Meiklejohn

What began as a group of friends playing music and eating potluck suppers on Friday nights, soon evolved into the Tucson Kitchen Musician’s Association. Now with more than 300 members, the nonprofit organization sponsors the annual Tucson Folk Festival. Celebrating its 27th year in 2012, the festival will be held May 5 and 6.

About the Festival

Drawing more than 10,000 viewers annually, the free festival attracts people from all walks of life with the promise of live acoustic music performed on five stages. Other activities include a song writing contest, and workshops ranging in topics from native flute making to Hootenanny.

Headlining the festival on Saturday, May 5, is BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, a band that has received 11 Grammy nominations during its 30+ year career. In 2009, the band won a Grammy for Best Zydeco or Cajun Music Album for “Live at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.”

Where to Stay

In celebration of Arizona’s Centennial, the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa is offering guests a two-night stay at the best available rate, and a third night for $19.12, in recognition of the year Arizona became a state.

Guests can also receive 25% off the following resort amenities:

  • All resort and food beverage outlets including: AZUL, Janos, and J BAR
  • Red Door Spa products, an Ultimate Facial, and any 80-minute body treatment
  • Green fees for golfers
  • Regular priced items at La Paloma Country Club and Racquets
  • The Essentials Gift Shop and the Sunsations Shop

Reservations can be made online or by calling 866.716.8137. For the above discounts, use promotion code ANW (valid through Dec. 31, 2012).

Other Tucson Tourism 

Receive two-for-one admissions and discounts at popular attractions when you purchase a Tucson Attractions Passport for $18. The Passport can be bought online, and is good for 45 attractions including the Biosphere 2, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Fox Tucson Theatre, International Wildlife Museum, Colossal Cave Mountain Park, Titan Missile Museum, Tucson Museum of Art, and more.

Jim Twardowski, RN, is a travel writer based in New Orleans.

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