Last year, more than a quarter-million people showed up to New York Comic Con. The Javits Center, where the con is held, has 840,000 square feet of exhibit space. That’s three and a third feet of space per person–not counting any booths or exhibits. The Javits Center’s design is less than intuitive, and that big of a crowd can be disorienting. This isn’t the time to “wing it” when it comes to attendance. You need a plan.
But let’s say that you don’t have a plan. For one reason or another, you find yourself standing–slightly disheveled–in line to enter the con, and you haven’t done any prep work. It’s a legitimate concern.
That’s why I have (quite selflessly) gone through the trouble of stumbling into NYCC without a clue and with less than an hour’s research into what I would find. I have done that for you. This way, I can share what I’ve learned.
Who are you anyway?
That’s right. It’s important to know what my Con Cluelessness Qualifications are. Maybe this is my fourth year at NYCC, so I didn’t have to look anything up. Maybe I live and breathe San Francisco Comic Con, a similarly-sized con by the other shining sea. If that were true, I might as well be a tour guide.
For starters, I have never been to NYCC. I’ve attended some cons in my home state of Delaware, and I did go to the NYCC Anime Expo last year, a semi-separate event in a separate location. But that’s about it. I hadn’t even entered the Javits Center’s main location until today.
There are two main ways to get into the convention center: one to the “front” of the center and another off to the side. The front entrance has a big sign for will-call, and archways telling you where to enter. Once you’re there, you’re on Level 2. There are a couple of exhibits on Level 2, including a Snowpiercer exhibit where you can get PB&J-flavored snack bars made with crickets. It makes sense if you saw the movie.
Level 1 is where you’ll find the main stage, as well as panels, screenings, artists, and all of the celebs that you can take pictures and get autographs with. Between this and the third floor, this one gives you more room to breathe. If you need a moment away from the crowd, you can hang out in the panels/screenings area after all of the lines file into their rooms.
Level 3, the Show Floor, is an experience somewhere between sardines in a can and moths to a flame. There isn’t room for anyone to slow down or stop, but everyone does anyway when they see that booth that they’ve been looking for: costume shops, video games, gorgeous art. If you’re even a little bit claustrophobic, this is the space where you’re going to feel it.
Level 4 is by far the smallest. It has a lounge, a great view of other parts of the con, a subway bench, and part of a classroom from My Hero Academia. Also, small clumps of people recuperating from the crowd.
Now that you’ve gotten the hang of things, you have to make up for lost planning time. If you haven’t already downloaded the app, do so now. They have a list of every activity available as part of the Con, as well as its location. You can even favorite them so you don’t have to search later.
There are also some maps. They’re helpful, but not as helpful as you’d think. There’s rarely enough room to reference them while you’re on the move, and I can’t even imagine trying to figure out a point of reference while lost on the show floor.
But they’re still there, and they’re better than nothing.
The Other Places
A big heads up: even if you did do some prep work before arriving, pay attention to the location. Some of the NYCC events are at other locations. Some of the coolest panels I saw were at the New York Public Library – Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, a 15-minute train ride away.
Don’t Get Lost
I mean, you will anyways. I’m usually pretty good about these things, and I misjudged everything. Check the map before you move and try to find some points of reference. Plan in some extra time for getting lost, or for excitement-fueled traffic jams. Or for checking out something cool that you definitely don’t have time to check out right now, but it’s right there. That will happen a lot.
Expensive. Two-small-empanadas-for-twelve-dollars expensive. There’s a food cart out front with some good deals. If you didn’t budget for food at all, that Snowpiercer exhibit lets you visit once daily and grab multiple bug bars, but that’s maybe a little bit too on the nose. Your best bet is to budget appropriately.
Storage and Travel
Bring a bag. Make it small. The number of people who had to carry their purchases in both hands was about equal to the number of people (myself included) who gummed things up with a big backpack. My side bag, where I carry my phone charger and a spare magazine, was perfect for smaller purchases and freebies. If you plan on getting something bigger, plan accordingly. Also, bring a portable charger. It weighs a few ounces and is a thousand times better than sitting on the floor by an outlet for 45 minutes watching everyone else have fun. That was the one thing I really got right.
Pack light, pack right, grab the app, and plan to get lost, at least for the first few hours.