Photo via lizswezey2/Flickr (CC-BY)
Every October thousands of geeks descend into the Javits Center in Manhattan for one of its most eccentric and magical weekends of the year: New York Comic Con.
Launched in 2006, it hasn’t had the notability or the longevity of San Diego Comic-Con, which has been around since the 1970, and it might not get the volume of talent that heads to California annually. But in those 10 years NYCC has grown significantly. It’s already surpassed SDCC’s attendance numbers—which is capped at a max of 130,000—with totals reaching 151,000 and 167,000 in the past two years, and it has bigger treats for its fans like the surprise premiere of Jessica Jones more than a month before it debuted on Netflix. NYCC has already outgrown the Javits Center, expanding panels and screenings to the Hammerstein Theater last year, but now it’s adding an even bigger venue: Madison Square Garden.
There's a lot to unpack, and between the three venues and the layout of Javits itself, it may be overwhelming for some fans. But whether it’s your first convention, your first NYCC, or your first time in New York, we’ve got you covered to have a happy and fun convention. (Some of it may also be common sense.)
Wear comfy shoes
The majority of one’s time at a convention, no matter the size, is usually spent doing one thing: waiting in line. You’ll have to wait for panels (sometimes for hours if you want to grab a wristband for one of the more anticipated ones), wait to grab food, wait to purchase something in the Exhibition Hall or Artist Alley, wait for autographs and photo ops, and even wait for the bathroom.
For some of these, sitting in the queue is perfectly fine, but for others it’s not really much of an option. Plus when you're not waiting, you're walking between panel rooms and potentially convention venues. Your feet may still hurt at the end of the day, but going out the door with a supportive pair of shoes will make all the difference.
And if your cosplay includes uncomfortable footwear after a certain period, pack an extra pair just in case.
Purchase a smartphone external battery and charger
Given the lines, the sometimes-spotty Wi-fi in Javits, social media sharing and communication with your friends, and the likelihood of playing Pokémon Go, your phone's gonna get an even bigger workout than it usually does. While you can try to grab a spot near a wall plug, you'll be much more flexible if you have your own backup power source on hand.
Plan your schedule ahead of time—and factor in your commute
Over the course of four days, you’ll have hundreds of panels, signings, meetups, and events to choose from, and with attendance at an all-time high, it’s more difficult than ever to be able to pick and choose what you want to see on the fly. (Also, you should download the NYCC app so you can keep tabs on any last-minute updates.)
Some rooms only let a small number of people in, some require queuing for wristbands hours beforehand, and even those that seem like sure bets might already have a line halfway down the hallway by the time you get there. And that doesn’t even count for the events you need to travel to another building to see.
At some point before you attend the convention, you should come up with a game plan. Look at what’s being offered on the day (or days) that you’re attending and mark what you want to see. Rank them, and then try to calculate how long it may take you to be there. (If you’ve never attended NYCC, planning to arrive to a (non-major) Javits panel at least 30-45 minutes early is a good benchmark.)
If you’re traveling from Javits to Madison Square Garden or the Hammerstein Ballroom (or vice versa), it’s a little trickier. It’s about a 16-minute walk from Javits to the Hammerstein Ballroom, and you need an 21 minutes or so to get to Madison Square Garden. If you want to take public transportation, you’ll need more time to account for possible traffic delays (bus) or transfers (subway) and should research which lines you might need (hint: the 7, the closest subway stop to Javits, is your friend). If you want to wait in line for wristbands to one of the bigger panels, you should get there at least two to three hours before doors open at Javits; it officially opens at 10am, but you can often wait in line inside before that.
And for those who couldn’t get tickets this year? New York still has plenty of events around the city that you won’t need badges for.
Stay hydrated and carve out time to take care of yourself
This one comes in two-fold. Stocking your bag with a water bottle or two and snacks can save you money from purchasing food at the convention center, which can be expensive. If you don’t have time to eat in the midst of running around, or if you arrive to wait in line before you can eat breakfast, these items can serve as something to hold you over until you can properly eat.
You may only get to see one big panel a day
Pretty much any panel you go to will have long lines, but that’s even more of a factor when it comes to panels in NYCC’s biggest venues: Main Stage 1-D, the Hammerstein Ballroom, and Madison Square Garden. And they all require lining up early to receive a pass.
Those halls aren’t like SDCC’s Hall H, which doesn't clear the room between panels. These do, so given the popularity of those panels, you will probably only get to attend one of them. When you’re looking at which panels to attend, plan for that. Early morning queues are also a factor for some NYCC exclusives, so you’ll have to weigh that as well.
Conventions are expensive and exhausting. But they can also be some of the most memorable weekends you have. You can meet your favorite creators, see incredible costume work, and even make new friends. Not everything will go right, but a lot of it will.
And besides, it’s right in the middle of the greatest city in the world.