One of the great attractions of Comic-Con is the great and wondrous exhibition hall! For those of you going for the first time, the exhibition hall is where all of the vendors, artists, and media booths are. Basically, this is where a lot of the magic happens: you can go shopping for great pop culture gear, meet some incredible artists and view their work (and purchase their work) and (!) this is where a lot of the signings/celebrity meet and greets/celebrity sightings occur. It’s as awesome as it sounds, but there are definitely some things that you need to know in order to be prepared.
Have A Plan
It’s tempting to say, “Oh, I’ll just wander through the exhibition hall because I want to see everything there is to see.” Yes, we all want to see everything there is to see. But you can still see everything if you have a plan. One of the key things to know about the exhibition hall is that IT’S HUGE (that’s what she said). Also, the place gets packed. Before you decide to tackle the exhibition hall, be sure to check out the map. The exhibition hall is usually organized pretty well; there will be a section with all of the artists (artist alley), the media networks, the toys companies, publishers etc. You can try tackling the exhibition hall a section at a time, or you can check out the exhibitors list and just figure out what you want to see and approach your plan that way. Check out SDCC’S Map, exhibitors list, and artist alley list here! Another thing to be aware of is scheduling! Certain booths schedule giveaways and celebrity signings, so be sure to check out when those are and plan accordingly. The lines can get pretty long, so you want to get there early as well. We’ve never actually done an exhibition hall signing, so my recommendation is to go extra early and ask the staff what time they think you should line up.
Have a Budget
There are so many pretty shiny things to buy at Comic-Con! We love to buy art, but there are so many other things that you can get at SDCC. The awesome thing is that a there are a ton SDCC exclusives too. Just be aware that many of these things can be pretty pricey. Make sure that you have a budget for your spending because you’ve probably already busted your budget getting there, so budget your spending if you don’t plan on declaring bankruptcy after the con. If you’re not like us, and you’re not worried about breaking the bank, then please shoot us a message and become our best friend immediately. Just kidding. Kind of.
Avoid the Center Aisles at all Costs
True Story: Our first year at Comic-Con, having a bag full of candy saved me from a panic attack. Many of you may not know this, but I used to have a fear of crowds. It is under control now, but I still occasionally get anxiety if I am too crowded for too long. Our first year exploring the exhibition hall, little did we know that the center aisles get the most crowded, and we got caught up in one of those crowds. I saved myself from said panic attack by neurotically stuffing my face with candy and clinging to my fellow nerdy chicks. Seriously, it’s like the freeway coming out of LA at 5pm on a weekday, except with hot, sweaty bodies instead of cars. The best way to navigate the exhibition hall is not by charging full steam ahead through the center, but by going around the outer perimeters. It seems counterintuitive to take the long way around, but it will also actually save you time. Sometimes your destination is on one of these center aisles, so it will be unavoidable; you’ll have to face that crowd. But take the outer walkways whenever you can.
Do Not Stop in Walkways
Sometimes common sense just isn’t that common. One of the reasons these huge crowds in the center aisles may form is because of people stopping in the middle of the walkways. I understand the need to stop and snap a photo, but if possible, try to move out of the main walkway. If you need to stop and regroup with your friends or stop to tie your shoe, look for a safer, less congested area to do so. Especially the tying your shoe bit… you don’t want to get trampled. Sometimes simply stepping towards the side of the walkway will suffice!
Costume or no Costume?
Please be advised; if you go to the exhibition hall in cosplay, people will ask to take your picture, especially if you’re in group cosplay. Perhaps this is your goal! If you do decide to check out the exhibition hall in cosplay, heed my previous paragraph. If someone asks to take a picture, and you are gracious enough to pose, move to a place where you will not be blocking traffic. Then again, sometimes when you’re in cosplay, you can get stuck in one spot with different people asking to take your picture, or you will get stopped frequently along the way. This may make traversing the exhibition hall tedious, so be sure to make your choice wisely. My fellow nerdy chicks and I usually like to have an exhibition hall day, where we check out the exhibition hall sans costume.
Get Commissions Done Early
One of the great attractions of the exhibition hall is the artists! If you have an artist you love, they may also be doing special commissions just for SDCC! If this is the case, make sure that you get your commissions requested early…like, on Thursday if possible. These artists get swamped, and if you wait too long, they may not be able to do it! Plus, you want to give them ample time to complete your commission as well.
Last but not least, be nice to people at SDCC. Most of us are usually suffering from lack of sleep or lack of food (or both). Everyone wants to have a positive experience, and having a negative encounter with other SDCC goers can not only be frustrating, it just may ruin someone’s trip! On the contrary, simply being nice to your fellow congoers may just take their experience over the top. You never know what kind of day somebody is having, so be kind to each other.
I certainly hope that these tips will prove to help make your exhibition hall and overall SDCC experience smooth and, well, less stressful (I can’t exactly say stress free because you will likely feel some stress at some point). If you have any more tips, feel free to drop us a comment here or follow us on the social medias and drop us a comment there! If you have any little exhibition hall stories, we’d also love to hear those!