Photo: Daniel Knighton [Getty Images]
It’s that time of year again! Comic-Con officially begins today and if you’re anything like me, you’re starting to feel a little overwhelmed at venturing into the biggest pop culture event in the world (especially if it’s your first time).
Fear not, my fellow nerds: I’m here to offer you a few simple tips that will help you navigate the Comic-Con world a little easier.
By now, you hopefully have your schedule outlined. Some people map out every single second they can before even setting foot in the state, but from what I’ve heard leaving a little room for spontaneity is actually the way to go. Feel free to highlight which panels are most important to you, what booths sound the most interesting, what offsite events are worth exploring, and what exclusive merchandise you hope to get your hands on.
However, don’t let a strict schedule limit you from experiencing fun on a whim. With the sheer amount of stuff going on at SDCC, there are plenty of potential experiences you’re not yet aware of yet. Give yourself time to explore the exhibit hall, the historic Gaslamp Quarter just outside of the convention center, and anything else that might spring up on you. With so much to offer, the only way to fully experience the convention is to allow yourself to step outside of that perfectly curated schedule.
First and foremost, bring your badge. Keep the printed confirmation and receipt handy as well. Other suggested items include: ID, money (cash and card – you can’t assume every booth is high-tech), water, backpack, camera, portable chargers, sharpies, pens, autograph folder with plastic sheets, sketchbook, sunscreen, hand sanitizer, deodorant (please), poster tubes, rubber bands, and safety pins. If you think you’re going to be buying a bunch of merchandise, an extra suitcase wouldn’t hurt, but you can also mail your items home if that’s how you prefer to roll.
San Diego is smack in the middle of summer and things can get a little toasty, especially if you’re waiting in line outside for hours hoping to get into the elusive Hall H. As of right now, the weather forecast shows high 70’s, sunny skies, and heavy humidity throughout the week, so you might want to rethink any double layers. Panel rooms are said to be cold sometimes, though, so packing a jacket just in case isn’t a bad idea.
Comfortable shoes are also key since you will be standing or walking a majority of the time. Some veteran attendees suggest bringing two pairs that you can switch out during an extra long day.
Everyone knows by now that Hall H is the place to be at Comic-Con. Holding only 6,500 people at a convention that averages over 130,000 visitors doesn’t exactly give you the best odds of making it into the room, especially during the really popular panels. If you’re dedicated, however, you can camp out with a sleeping bag or chair with the rest of the crowd or try to grab one of those handy wristbands the night before that guarantee you a spot (though getting a wristband for bigger panels can be just as tricky).
Arrive early, stay patient, and be kind to everyone else waiting along with you. Most importantly, keep an eye out. Just how far back in line are you for Hall H? Is it realistic that you have a chance of getting inside? Time for Plan B. Circling back to the schedule, when figuring out which panels you want to check out, see if there are other panels or events happening at the same time you can attend instead if Hall H or Ballroom 20 fills up before you can get in.
Make sure you don’t blow your budget on the first booth you see. There are hundreds of exclusive pieces that you’ll come across that you will regret not being able to grab if you’ve spent your last penny on an Alex Ross art piece or realistic Boba Fett figure on the very first day. Some booths even give out free merchandise, so stay sharp. Also, avoid the mystery box offers. They may seem exciting, but chances are you’ll wish you had spent your money on merch you know you’re getting.
Comic-Con offers a variety of fan events offsite, and some don’t even require a badge. You can check out local breweries that celebrate the event, gaming events at Petco Park, the Her Universe Fashion Show, and certain immersive experiences such as The Good Place, the DC Universe Experience, Mr. Mercedes, Dead Quarters, Star Trek: Discovery, FXHibition, Adult Swim State Park, Nerdist House, and more.
Keep in mind that there are some eateries in places like the Gaslamp Quarter, East Village, Old Town, and Seaport Village that may offer discounts if they see you rocking an SDCC badge!
The official Comic-Con website is a great resource for detailed tips, maps, quick guides, and more. They do a good job of updating information on their social media, but they’re not the only ones who can keep you up-to-date on what’s happening at SDCC. Following official accounts like for the CW Network, Warner Bros., or Marvel is always a good idea. You should also follow specific accounts for series and movies that will be present, such as Castle Rock, Supernatural, The Walking Dead, Aquaman, and whatever else you’re traveling to Comic-Con for.
Will you be attending Comic-Con this year? Got any advice? Feel free to drop your own tips in the comments!