Can’t attend SDCC this year? We have a list of alternative conventions!
San Diego Comic-Con is the standard in pop culture and geeky goodness, but not everyone has the opportunity, the cash, or the patience it takes to attend this massive four-and-a-half day event. Thankfully, there’s alternatives to California’s brilliantly produced mass of lined humanity.
While not as offering the grand gravitas of the great one, they’re also not as costly, nor as overwhelming as San Diego’s event, which may make them a little more to your liking, particularly if you are new to the convention scene, or looking for a particular genre of entertainment, a price range, or a location close to you.
These are not in any particular order and not every convention offers something for every fan. Research based upon what you are looking for and use the suggestions I offer at the end of the article to find what’s best for you.
Steel City Con
A growing convention, though it’s been around for years, is Steel City Con in Monroeville, PA. It’s held multiple times per year and has featured guests, an artist section, panels and dealer tables featuring toys, comics and collectibles. There are 3 day passes to the event, or single day tickets. There are gift bags and giveaways, usually minor, but of no cost, so it’s still a great deal. There is a Doubletree next door to the convention which gives a decent nightly rate discount, if you book in time. There is a very limited selection of food onsite and depending on your desire to walk, restaurants aren’t exactly close, but zombies are! Remember, this is the convention that takes pride on being the home of the original “Night Of The Living Dead!”
This convention has nearly doubled in size in recent years, adding big media guests, dealers, panels and quite a few options for varying geek outlets and there’s a lot of anime, cosplay and gaming at MegaCon. Lines tend to move a little slower than conventions of similar size, but there is more to do now than there was 5 years ago, which is drawing in a larger crowd. Parking is the biggest problem and if you go, I would recommend eating in advance, rather than relying on the choices available. Nothing is close.
PAX Prime, East, South, etc.
If you’re into gaming, the PAX events are held in various locations (listed on their site) at different times throughout the year. There’s a musical presence at the convention, unlike others, which gives PAX a different vibe than many. There’s a great deal of tabletop gaming, independent, console and retro gaming, in addition to being the largest gaming show of its kind. Ticket prices will vary and because of the location variance, your choice in food options and hotel accommodations will also be very different.
If SDCC is just slightly bigger than you can deal with, or if you just missed the opportunity to attend, then WonderCon is perfect for you. There is a large exhibit hall, artists, cosplay, anime, media guests and plenty of options for hotels and food around the area, because you’re in Anaheim, California. You’re also loaded with panels and events that will keep you busy then entire time you’re there. Like SDCC, you may not get into everything, due to time constraints and your lines are going to be longer than an event with a thousand people in attendance, but you’re going to have a lot more opportunities to take advantage of.
If your goal is just to go, have fun, enjoy some sci-fi, fantasy and cool cosplay, then DragonCon is going to be a great opportunity. Plenty of hotels and food in the area, you’re still going to have a lot of gaming and panels, with some cool photo opportunities you won’t get at small conventions, There’s an annual parade that is pretty neat, and a performance-or-two is usually in the mix, for instance, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and some live music, DJs and a professional wrestling event, along with reading sessions by authors and film sessions.
Chicago is the midwest’s dream! California and New York are an expensive trip, if you don’t live there, so Chicago is great for those who live in the “fly-over states.” C2E2 is Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. it has panels and screenings, similar to that of San Diego’s convention, cosplayers, anime, a lot of comic book guests and exhibitors, so you’ll have a great opportunity to shop. There’s also a great deal of manga and video games, so something for various genres of fandom. Artists are on hand, selling their work and autographs are also available from media guests and celebrities. Of course, it’s Chicago, so there’s tons of hotels and food within a reasonable distance. Ticket prices are also reasonable for a 3-day event.
D23 is a Disney-centric fandom experience, focused on bringing an interaction between the fans and the entertainment they love. It only takes place once every two years (odd number years), so 2017 will be a D23 year. It will present the Marvel movies, ABC television shows and other Disney related events, like the Star Wars franchise. This will probably mean bad news for San Diego Comic-Con in 2017, since it’s at the exact same time as the convention and Disney has been limiting their exposure in recent years. If you go, expect a Disney experience, as opposed to a traditional convention.
A final suggestion…
There are so many others, many are great and many are not. The thing to watch for is how many vendors are set up, are there hotels offering discounts nearby, is food readily available, is parking reasonably priced and close to the convention, is the celebrity you’re hoping to meet charging more than you’re willing to spend and is there enough to fill the days you’ll be there, so you’re not walking around the same room over-and-over with nothing to do.