Comic-Con 2015: A Rookie’s Guide To SDCC


When I went to pick up my press badge for my first ever day at Comic-Con on Thursday, I was gently chided by the folks at the press window. I pled rookie ignorance in forgetting my bar code, and while I can’t imagine there are too many events of any kind where it’s more intimidating to be a newbie than Comic-Con, the nice lady who helped me pointed out that there are plenty of “survival guides” out there to help you get the lay of the land.

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There’s no question that she’s right. I can’t pretend that I’ve got it all figured out after one day, and I’m not going to act like I do. Still, I think (hope?) that there’s some insight to be gleaned for people who have never made it to Comic-Con from someone whose initial impressions and discoveries are still fresh.

So to all of you who are ready to take “maybe next year” and actually make it out to San Diego next year, here are some tips for rookies, from a Comic-Con rookie.

Have a Game Plan

I’m sure it’s possible to have a lovely time just wandering around Comic-Con and taking it all in. Everything you’ll find at a smaller con is also in San Diego, like panels, dealer tables, autograph sessions and costly, but in greater quantities.

And therein lies part of the problem. There are so many people at SDCC and so many of the experiences are so popular that you need to prioritize. You might have to set one day aside strictly for hunting exclusives and another for trying to get into Hall H. Attempting to do it all in one day? Forget it, and even with a four-day pass, you’re going to need to be organized.

Comic-Con has a lot of tools for doing that on its website and its mobile app. All of the policies and procedures for different activities are spelled out for you too. That leads me right into …

Respect the Lines

You’ve no doubt heard all about the lines at Comic-Con, but let me assure you that everything you’ve been told still can’t prepare you. Every bit of space at the San Diego Convention Center, inside and outside, seems to be marked for a queue of some sort.

There are even lines that have breaks and resume across the hallway, as well as lines to have the privilege of lining up later. For instance, shopping at the Hasbro booth involves waiting in line in the morning for a ticket lottery, and if you win, it means you are allowed to get in the line at the booth later that day. I’m not making that up. Even most of the places attendees are plopped to rest or eat are merely queues that aren’t being used at that moment.

Some lines are obvious, like the one at the Funko booth this year that goes back into the corner of the show floor. Others seem to have magically sprung up in the middle of an aisle, purpose unknown. Happily, the Comic-Con staff is good at organizing lines, as they kind of have to be.

(As an aside, I always thought the person holding the “End of the line” sign has a thankless job.)

You might have to ask what a line is for, so don’t be timid. But definitely steel yourself for the incredible number and length of these lines.

Need Food? Look Out and Up

I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but San Diego has some really good restaurants, some of which are in the Gaslight Quarter within walking distance of the San Diego Convention Center. Some of them might even be something less than completely jammed during Comic-Con.

If you find yourself absolutely needing a bite to eat while on the show floor, you’re probably going to end up paying a lot for some pretty mediocre fare. Also, there’s that whole line thing again, particularly if you’re on the first floor. That won’t do.

Consider going to the upper level where the wait should be shorter. I managed to strike gold y scoring some grub at a non-prime lunch time and didn’t wait nearly as long as I would have on the ground level (and I ate it in an empty queue, naturally).

Even better, go right across the street and look for food trucks and street vendors. Some of these are cash only operations, which could be an issue for you, depending, but even with my one whole day of Comic-Con experience, I feel confident in saying those places will probably be more satisfying.

The Trolley is a Viable Option

Ideally, when you come to SDCC 2016, you’ll be blessed by the hotel block gods and end up in a room within walking distance of the convention center. If not, you’ll learn two truisms about Comic-Con parking: it’s scarce, and it’s expensive. Like $45 to $60 a day expensive.

There’s another option, and it’s extremely doable. The trolley system only costs $5 for an all-day pass, and it runs all over the city. Some places, like Qualcomm Stadium (home of the Chargers) offer free parking and a convenient place to hop on. They also sometimes have a One Direction concert playing at the same time, but that’s how it goes.

“Isn’t the trolley crowded?” you ask. It cane, yes. But you’re already used to crowds, because you’re at Comic-Con. Just trust me on this. I’m housed a bit up the coast in Solana Beach, and the trolley is already my friend.

Any other first-timers want to share some revelations? Hit us with a comment or holler at us on Twitter.

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