Advice for first-timers

10 JULY 2013

Repost from last summer. If you've been to Comic-Con before, you already know most of this.

To start with: don't bring a lot of stuff. You need room to bring your plunder home with you. Don't bring (as I used to) six pairs of shoes and elaborate outfits for every occasion. All you will care about after the first day is being comfortable.

What you should bring: ibuprofen/aspirin, comfortable shoes, bandaids for blisters, condoms, sunscreen, a bathing suit, business cards, batteries for your camera, a sketchbook, your chargers and your passport if you decide to hit up Tijuana. If you get cold easily, bring something warm to wear at night. If you get sick easily, bring echinacea or bee pollen or Emergen C, whatever you take to ward off illness in a crowd of thousands.

Organize in advance, because you will be overwhelmed, mind blown, upon arrival. Use the CCI tool or make notes on your phone so you have fast access to a list of the panels and booths you want to see. There's so much going on that even priorities will slip your mind otherwise.

Get in touch with your long-distance friends now and make solid, definite plans to hang out. The chaos that is Comic Con tends to tear vague plans asunder.

Make sure you have your picture ID and confirmation print-out ready when you pick up your badge. No, they can't scan your phone - this is Comic Con, they are not that technically savvy.  If you get up to bat and realize you forgot your print-out (truly a feeling of doom), you'll be sent to the Fedex counter and have to pay a fee to print it out there.

Make a list of the back issues you need now. 

If you are looking for a specific item - a Miyazaki box set, a Thundercats shirt, whatever - see what it's going for online so you know whether or not a vendor's price is fair. I don't know why, but there's a general belief that the Exhibit Hall is the place to get a deal. It is not. Maybe it is on Sunday, when vendors just want to sell off as much as possible, but I've seen everything from first edition books to action figures to movies priced significantly higher at the Con than on Ebay or Amazon.

If you're staying around the convention center, Ralph's at 101 G Street is where you want to buy groceries. Consider keeping stuff like fruit, muffins or granola bars in your room because going out for breakfast every morning can eat up a lot of valuable time.

If you're lucky enough to have a Preview Night badge, show up early (say around 1:30-2:00, as opposed to the 3:00 time they tell you) and you can usually breeze right in and get badged, no line.

If you have another kind of badge, do everything in your power to get in line early. If you have a 4-day or Thursday single day badge, you can pick it up at the Town and Country Wednesday - but this has caused epic traffic jams in the past, so get there early. If you want to pick up your badge at the convention center, be aware that people line up very early. As in, during the night hours.

I said this on my Restaurant page, but don't listen to the people who say eating at "Con classics" like Dick's Last Resort and other popular places is some kind of mandatory experience. They can be okay, but they're really crowded and you will get served faster at random places in the Gaslamp, down in Seaport Village or Little Italy. Places I almost never have to wait: McCormack and Schmick's in the Omni, Blue Point Coastal, de Medici. Con attendees always think those places are going to be expensive but the prices aren't that different from mediocre places like the SyFy Cafe (which does usually stay open till 2 or 3 a.m., so it has its uses.) The Fox Sports Grill at Hilton Bayfront is decent, not great, in terms of food, but they do a good job of getting you seated relatively quickly and you don't have to cross the street. If you're in the Gaslamp and you don't mind bar food, sometimes that is the fastest route to a full stomach.

Lastly - I'm going to show you the convention center again in this aerial viewThe big long facility in the middle is the convention center. You can see the Hilton Bayfront to your right, and that shiny mirrored-looking building to its left is the Marriott Marquis. So when you hear those hotels described as "adjacent," know that going from a panel in room 6BCF to the Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton is going to take a few minutes. Just something to keep in mind. If you want to get an idea of how far Ballroom 20 is from Hall H or room 3, look at this map. 

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