The Traveler's Guide To San Diego Comic-Con


Comic books! Movies! Video games! Toys! There’s so much to see and do at the San Diego Comic-Con, it can be a little overwhelming. Don’t worry, Kotaku is happy to help you survive the rigors of comic book convention attendance.

If this is your first time attending the San Diego Comic-Con, don’t go unprepared. Armed with the right gear, some helpful hints and a heaping dose of common sense, you’ll survive all four and a half days of pop culture’s biggest gathering easily.

And if you see a Kotaku editor you recognize at the Con, don’t be shy.

Gear Up

Shoes: Unless you’re cosplaying as the Scarlet Witch or Master Chief, wear the most comfortable shoes possible. The San Diego Convention Center is a massive facility, even if Comic-Con is outgrowing it. Plan on hoofing it from room to room if you’re interested in partaking in any of the panels and expect to wait in lines—obscenely long lines—for all but the least popular sessions. Stay comfy in a pair of Supernova Riot 2 Trail-Running shoes, Vans or Clarks Desert Boots, but bring some big boy shoes for classier restaurants and parties.

Clothes: Stay cool and comfortable in the Con. Temperatures should be pretty mild in San Diego and casual is key, so t-shirt and jeans is fine. I’d advise against wearing a kilt, but if you must ventilate down there, no one at Comic-Con will bat an eye. Bring a hoodie or windbreaker for evenings and the chillier rooms of the convention center. If you forget anything, there are plenty of retailers at the show ready and willing to sell you apparel.

Gear Bag: Bring roomy, mostly empty, reliable storage—tote bag, backpack, over-the-shoulder courier bag—to Comic-Con if you plan on purchasing any collectibles. Stuff it with the bare essentials, like your phone, camera and snacks, but leave yourself plenty of space. Mishka NYC’s Panzer rucksack and Gravis’ line of bags come highly recommended, as does Incase’s nylon series.

Electronics: Most important, bring a camera. You’ll see some wacky, extremely enthusiastic and incredibly talented people at Comic-Con which means great photo opportunities.

Water & Snacks: While you may find some deals on action figures, comic books and sundry collectibles, but expect to pay top dollar for bottom barrel food at the Con. Instead of waiting in long lines to pay good money for bad food, stock up on grub that can be easily transported and noshed on anytime. Clif Bars, bananas, and a bottle of water (I like the Thermos Intak) should tide you over and keep you hydrated, letting you save your dedicated meals for something finer.

Vitamins & Protection: The Comic-Con diet may wreak havoc on your eating patterns, so supplement with vitamins, especially since you’re going to be around tens of thousand of people handling money and merchandise. Keep some Purell around and wash those hands or you’ll come back from the Con with the Nerd Flu. Also, bring some sunblock and shades. Even though the Con’s mostly indoors, you may find yourself waiting in line outside for extended periods, especially if you’re plan on attending anything in Hall H or the big ballrooms on the convention center’s upper levels.

Eat, Drink, Sleep, Go

Eat: Avoid convention food and watch out for the crowds in the Gaslamp Quarter, which is lined with pubs, delis and sit down restaurants. The Tin Fish offers seafood nearby the convention center, but is unsurprisingly crowded. Others swear by the Gaslamp Strip Club and Donovan’s of Downtown for steak. Kotaku commenters say “Find a ‘bertos” (Robertos, Albertos, Jobertos, Filibertos, etc.) for authentic Mexican, PhoXpress for some soup or to head up to Little Italy and hit Filipi’s Pizza if you’d like to venture away from the Gaslamp. Again, if you’re coming to California from far away, visit any of our fine In ‘N Out Burger locations.

(Kotaku readers have some other suggestions about where to go and what to eat in this post.)

Drink: The Gaslamp is drowning in places to get sauced, but The FleetWood and Dublin Square Irish Pub have treated me well and the Basic Urban Kitchen and Bar looks cool. Stroll through downtown to see something that suits your mood or inquire with the hotel concierge for local advice. Just don’t waste money on paying a cover.

If you’re feeling bold, try to crash any of the parties being held by Activision, PlayStation, Xbox or Capcom. If you want to drink on a budget, hit the Ralph’s on G Street and party in your hotel room.

Sleep: At this point, if you don’t have a hotel room, consider sleeping in your car or staying awake for the entirety of the con, catching catnaps during boring panels. Check the Comic-Con travel agency for last minute cancellations.

Go: Driving into the convention center during the show is the fastest way to fail. To avoid sitting in hellish traffic, walk, take the trolley, or hitch a ride from your hotel on one of the many Comic-Con shuttles. Traffic is a bitch during the show, so stay out of a car if you can. If you choose to hop on a pedicab, make sure to get a clear and firm price from the driver before your ride.

The Big Show

Hours: Thursday through Sunday, the Con kicks off at 9:30 am. Wednesday night, the show floor opens up at 6 pm so early birds can scoop up their goods early. Show up early for everything or face disappointing lines, even to get through the doors of the convention center. Remember, there’s no special treatment at Comic-Con, so if you don’t get in line early, don’t expect to get into some of the more popular panels and talks.

San Diego Comic-Con: A Brief History

The San Diego Comic-Con International started out life as the Golden State Comic Book Convention in 1970, formed by Shel Dorf when he moved to the city from Detroit.

While it was held annually every year since it wasn’t known as the San Diego Comic-Con until 1973 when more than 1,000 people came to the Sheraton Hotel to hang with the likes of Neal Adams and June Foray. Since taking root at the convention center, the show has exploded, first doubling in size to 70,000 by 2003 and then nearly doubling again by 2010 when attendance was estimated at more than 130,000.

Comic-Con’s official iPhone app might be worth a download. It’s free and will keep you abreast of the show’s packed programming schedule.

You should also check out our handy-dandy guide of what to see and do at the show this year if you’re into gaming and Io9‘s guide to everything else worth seeing at the show.

Buy Early, Buy Late: If you’re hunting down some of those Comic-Con exclusive goodies, don’t sleep. Try to complete your must-have haul on Wednesday night, better known as Preview Night. But if you’re looking for deals, stick around until Sunday afternoon, when some retailers drop prices to unload extra merch.

Bring cash and plenty of it, because not every Comic-Con retailer accepts credit/debit cards and the line for an ATM at the show can be 20-minute wait or more.

After Show Events: Don’t miss the annual Comic-Con Masquerade, which happens on Saturday night at 8:30 pm. There are late night film screenings and parties galore, so either show up with the right person or pretend like you’re supposed to be there.

Out and About

Don’t take the time to travel all of the way to San Diego and then not look around. The city isn’t just host to the most important comic, movie, toy and video game show in the world, there’s also plenty of fun things to do in your down time. Schedule in a few days post show to see the sites.

Sea World is a must for those of you have haven’t checked it out. It’s also might be worth going to Legoland if you love those building bricks.

Of course it would be crazy to go to San Diego and not visit the beach. Other great outdoor sights to take in include Balboa Park or the relatively nearby seaside town of La Jolla.

If you have a bit more time make sure to swing by the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, San Diego Zoo or check out Coronado Island. If you’re into history or really big ships don’t forget to tour the U.S.S. Midway Aircraft Carrier.

Most importantly, don’t forget: It’s a show about comics, movies and video games. Have fun! And don’t worry if you miss something, we and I09 have you covered.


Have some Comic-Con survival tips to share with the group? Please leave them in the comments!

[ Image credits: ColorblindPicaso, Vissago, Nico, Howie Muzika ]

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