Surviving San Diego Comic-Con 101

Comic-Con SurvivalIt’s that time of the year.  What a glorious time it is!  The excitement’s practically in the air!  Can you smell it yet?  The spotlight is once again on one of the most beautiful cities in the United States, San Diego, CA!  Like that Beastie Boys’ song, “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” the same can be said for your experience at Comic-Con International, the largest annual gathering of geeks like me in the world.  How sweet it is!  Movie stars, comic artists, cosplay, vendors, movie studios, exclusives and so much more all vying for your attention and awaiting you for five mind blowing days!  I have been going to Comic-Con ever since 2009 and each year it keeps getting bigger and better.  However, that doesn’t mean it gets less chaotic at all, quite the contrary.  Every year it seems more crowded and packed, and if you want to see anything in Hall H, at least Thursday through Saturday, be prepared to camp out overnight.  For these reasons and more I put together some tips below culled from my personal experiences that will hopefully get fellow Con goers this year the maximum bang for their buck.  Good luck!

If you’re lucky enough to have gotten Wednesday Preview Night passes, congratulations.  This allows you to accomplish the following tasks.  First off, you get to pick up your pass a day early, generally around 4 PM San Diego time, way before the hordes of people show up on Thursday morning.  This night, in my opinion, is key for two other reasons.  You get to go through the vendor convention floor with minimal, but still very heavy foot traffic.  This traffic will be intensified over the next three days so enjoy it while it lasts as you’ll want to pull your hair out Thursday through Saturday.  This night also serves as your opportune time to try and acquire all the convention exclusives you want before the droves of people show up Thursday morning in search of what you want.  Mark my words, get it Wednesday night if possible OR ELSE.  Finally, if you enjoy seeing television premiers and such, Wednesday night is a good night to take advantage of those, usually held in the upstairs ballrooms.

Hall H is always the big one each and every year for the movie studios and prime-time television series such as Game of Thrones, etc.  A six thousand plus body count may sound like the Hall can hold a lot, but trust me it’s not.  My advise to you is if you’re wanting to get into Hall H panels on Thursday, get in line as early as possible for it and even if what you want to see is three to four panels in, get into Hall H as soon as it opens and bite the bullet and suffer through the ones you don’t want to see.  Trust me.  You can thank me later.  This also gives you the ability to trade up on seats as people leave previous panels, thus allowing you to get as close to the stage as possible.  I don’t mean to sound mean about this, but if you are with a person in a wheelchair, you are golden.  My last bit of advice on Hall H is pay attention to the new rules this year.  Word is they will hand out passes each day for guaranteed access the following morning, but you still need to wait overnight in line or have someone hold your spot in the early twilight hours.  In other words, bring a sleeping bag and be prepared to sleep outside every night.  It’s the only sure fire way to guarantee access to the highly coveted Hall H.  Frustrating, huh?

Make sure you check social media sites like Twitter or Facebook often throughout the day.  Often times you can find information on where or what studio booths to go to in order to grab exclusive screening tickets for movies that have not premiered as of yet.  For example, the one year on Twitter they gave out information on how to attend an advance screening of Captain America: The First Avenger with Chris Evans in attendance.  How cool would that have been to be there?  Coincidentally, you would have only known if you checked Twitter, the right feeds obviously.  So in other words, just keep your eyes and ears open at all times.  It’s not like you’re going to be sleeping anyway.

This next tip should be labeled solely as practice common sense, but in all seriousness bring a buddy along with you for this adventure, providing he/she has a valid pass.  Going with friends serves two purposes.  First, it allows you time to leave lines to go to take bathroom breaks and/or save your seat for you and vice versa.  And second, it just makes sense to travel in groups as security/safety is always stronger in numbers.  Look out for each other.  Even though you are with a bunch of mouth breathing geeks, it doesn’t mean they’re all honest and not pocket picking thieves.  Like I said up above and I’ll repeat it here, always keep your eyes and ears open.  I would suggest closing your mouths and breathing through your nose whenever possible too.

If budgets and lodging allocations permit, always try to stay as close as possible to Comic-Con.  About four years ago it became very unpractical to drive in and park nearby.  It will cost you a fortune and most lots only allow 10-12 hours of parking before you need to ante up and re-pay.  That sucks!  I would say this started about three to four years ago.  prior to that parking was very reasonable.  Just remember there are a number of bus (http://www.sdmts.com/mtscr/BusRoutes.aspx) and trolley options (http://www.sdmts.com/trolley/trolley.asp) too.  If you want cheap hotel accommodations, I would suggest trying in the nearby city of Chula Vista, but I probably wouldn’t stay any further than that as you should budget plenty of excess travel time for awry, heavy traffic.  After all, having over one hundred thousand people destined for the same place you are going to is bound to be a recipe for some bottlenecks, right?  Right!  My advice to y’all…GET THERE AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE EVERY DAY.

There are a number of great places to eat downtown in the San Diego Gas lamp District (here’s a handy guide to them all http://sandiegorestaurants.com/downtown-restaurants/), but might I perhaps make a recommendation?  Do you like pizza and/or a good salad?  If the answer to that question is a resounding hell yes, then look no farther than Basic in downtown there at 10th and J Street.  I can’t recommend this place enough.  Every year I go there I make it a point to stop there at least once, sometimes twice.  Make sure you try the salad with goat cheese, pear slices and candy walnuts.  I The food here is out of this world.  You can find more information about Basic here: http://www.barbasic.com.  I recommend going in the afternoon if time permits as it gets a bit crazy in the evenings and space is prime real estate here.  Enjoy this mouth watering tip!  Say hello to Bahar if she’s there behind the bar!

This following tip should probably be filed under the practice common sense ones up above, but with today’s high tech world it makes sense to mention this one simply for basic survival.  You have no idea how fast your smart phone’s battery drains until you’re fighting for service amongst thousands others around you.  And when you’re waiting in line for over ten plus hours vying to get access into Hall H, your phone’s battery drains even faster out of boredom.  So here’s my thought on the matter.  You don’t know how much you need your cell phone until you need to send a simple text letting your buddy know where you’re at and you look down to a black phone screen with no power.  Invest in a portable phone charger (overnight this one now) you can pack in your bag and carry with you everywhere for whenever you need more juice for emergencies, moments of boredom, etc.  After further thought this tip should be thought of as a necessity.

Most importantly of all tips is the following.  Take deep breaths, relax as much as possible (appreciate those down moments) and really enjoy yourself.  Comic-Con is a lot of fun if you don’t mind the crowds, but also the annual event is like attending your own wedding.  The day goes by faster than you can blink and at the end of the day all you’re left with is memories (band and good) and hopefully some really good pictures too.  Either way, you have a leg up on the competition if you at least heed my simple tips up above.  I hope y’all enjoy yourself and don’t let the crowds overwhelm you.  Remember, the Comic-Con schedule (found here: http://www.comic-con.org/cci/programming-schedule) is your best friend.  If I had one final tip to you, it would be to study the schedule intently, decide on what you want to go to and always have backup options or else you’ll look like this guy down below who got shut out of The Walking Dead panel, living the moment in regret.

 Comic-Con 2015


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

1 Response to “Surviving San Diego Comic-Con 101”

  1. Kaitlin Grout

    Great advice! Excited!!!!