Conquering the Ultimate Comic-Con
Tips to Making Your San Diego Comic-Con International Experience the Best
By MJ Wilke
Congratulations, you emerged victorious from the online gauntlet and gained entry to the world’s greatest pop culture event, San Diego Comic-Con International. Here, Wayward Nerd contributors share with you their secret tips developed over the decades of going to The Con.
SDCC has expanded more then ever into a campus convention with official programming now occurring at the convention center, meeting space at Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt and Omni hotels, San Diego Central Library, Horton Theatre, Children’s Museum, and the Comic-Con Museum space in Balboa Park. Making a plan of action or at least an outline has become more essential to take advantage of all the exciting new programming tracks. Whether you are walking or jumping on one of the shuttle buses, plan extra time to go between the convention center and all of the other meeting spaces.
Before You Go
Badges. Remember that badges were mailed, double check that you packed yours.
WN Tip: Print your email confirmation badge bar code and bring it with you, even though you already have your badge. Just in case.
Luggage Locks. Bring luggage locks for Sunday checkout. Many hotels designate a room for holding SDCC’ers luggage. By 10 am the sea of bags looks like the final scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Like the sign at the airport says, many bags do look alike, so lock your bags, just in case.
Sunscreen. You’ll need it standing outside in line for a panel. And remember that SDCC is a campus-style event with programming occurring at other venues around the convention center. You may, for example, have a noon-time walk to the San Diego Central Library for a panel.
Before the Con
Stock Your Room. Water, soda, and snacks are more cost effective when purchased at a grocery or convenience store rather than at a hotel. Either bring a cooler or buy a cheap disposable one to cool your goods. (Hotel refrigerators are in high demand, you may not get one.) You may not have time to stand in line to buy a lunch during the convention, so plan to pack some snacks each day. Dried fruit is easy to throw in a bag and doesn’t crunch and disturb others during panels. The same goes for peanut butter sandwiches.
Map Out Off-Site Events. The streets are very crowded and finding your location may be tricky if pressed for time. If you have time, do a dry run of the area beforehand. Keep in mind that some of the off-site events require pre-purchased tickets.
Transportation. If you drive, avoid downtown by exiting Cesar Chavez Parkway off I-5, and going north on Harbor. There is public parking at Liberty Station, and then you can catch the comic-con bus. If you take the trolley, avoid highly crowded stops like Fashion Valley or Old Town. Instead, get on before those stops to get a seat and prevent having to wait for several trollies because they are full.
At the Con
Road Closures and Badge only access. Harbor Drive, in front of the convention center, will be closed to all traffic except for Comic-Con shuttle buses and emergency vehicles during the day for the duration of the convention. The front drive area, along with the sidewalks and stairs in front of the convention center will be only accessible to badged attendees only.
Outside Events. Take advantage of any outside events at the convention center on Thursday. By Saturday, the local news media will have broadcast all the free things to do downtown without a badge and the lines will become epic.
Lines. Lines can be deceptive; don't assume you won't get in just because the line goes outside (and down the stairs, around the building, and out onto the island). The line breaks several times to allow for the flow of traffic so it often looks longer than it is.
The Most Important Tip
Manage Your Tech. Take a few minutes before you arrive to download the SDCC app.
Don’t forget to bring a backup power supply for your cellphone each day. It will run out of juice when you need it most.
Program Guides. Don’t skip picking up your souvenir program guide. SDCC program cover art are exclusive and thematic. They make great keepsakes and are free. The printed souvenir programs, bags and lanyards can be picked up in the Sails Pavilion.
Seaport Village. Walk down the sidewalk along the marina side of the Hyatt Hotel and you will find a plethora of restaurants and shops that aren’t swamped with con-goers. You can enjoy a lovely quiet lunch overlooking the water.
THANK YOU to Wayward Nerd contributors Chris Gore, Terry Wilke, Tracey Maye, Kimberly Meyer, Jim Snyder, and Laura Snyder.