Understanding the size of your SDCC world

 5 JULY 2024

We're less than a week out from panels and programming being published - IMO, the most exciting days of pre-SDCC July. And I know that plenty of first-timers will be meticulously plotting their moves: what panels at what time and with what length lines. But one thing they rarely give a thought to? Transit time.

Every SDCC attendee needs to realize how big the convention center is. The basic numbers - 615K sq feet of exhibit space and 201K sq feet of meeting and ballroom space - hardly convey the full scope of what can feel like walking through an airport. Just as you would calculate moving from one terminal to the next when booking connecting flights, you'll need to factor in your travel time when deciding if you have time to leave the convention center for lunch or if you can make back-to-back panels at opposite ends of the building. Plenty of places are listed as "adjacent" or "3 blocks away" or ".5 miles" but somehow demand more of a journey than you anticipated.

If you've never been to SDCC before, I recommend looking at arial photos. Yes, the Marriott Marquis is right next door - but only to one end of the convention center. Hilton Gaslamp and Hard Rock are "right across the street" but you still have to walk to a place where you can cross and deal with the crowds. If there's one sentiment most SDCC first-timers express, it's surprise over how much walking is involved at the Con. 

Your panel-to-panel travel

First, know that the center will be crowded in general. Attendees walking, groups of friends talking, people sitting and sprawled out and rubbing their aching feet, cosplayer photo shoots - it all creates an obstacle course in which you're dodging and weaving barriers as you try to reach your destination. So if you're plotting your course from room 3 to room 25ABC, you might want to look at these floor plans and get a rough idea of what it takes.

As far as remembering where rooms are once you're inside, the center is laid out in a fairly comprehensive fashion compared to others I've seen. It's unlikely you'll get hopelessly lost. But it is a good idea to check the maps online or in your program guide before you set out for a panel, just to make sure you're headed in the right direction.

Lines and room size

It's easy to be taken aback by the lines the first time you see them. Sometimes the smart thing is giving up and going to Plan B; but sometimes you need to remember the room you're targeting can seat thousands of people and you still have a good shot at getting in, even if the line looks horrendous. If you're trying to get into 6BCF, which holds over 2,000 people, a line stretching down the hall shouldn't intimidate you. But if you're trying to get into room 8, which doesn't even hold 500 people, then maybe that long line is telling you to go elsewhere.

You can read the full room capacity breakdown here but here are a few approximate counts for the big rooms:
  • Hall H holds 6,500 people
  • Ballroom 20 will hold about 4,908
  • Indigo Ballroom at the Hilton Bayfront holds about 2,660
  • Room 6BCF will hold about 2,160
  • Room 6A will hold about 1,040
  • Room 6DE will hold about 884
  • Room 11AB will hold about 504
  • Room 5AB will hold about 504
  • Room 25ABC will hold about 480

A final thought: spending your energy wisely should be a conscious decision. If you don't make some kind of plan on how you can kill 5 birds with one trip, rather than walking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, you may burn out quick. I don't care if you're Katie Ledecky and you've achieved a physical fitness level that laughs in the face of concepts like "tired." SDCC can wear you out, blister your feet, flare up an old knee injury, be the first chime that strikes on the clock of your mortality. So take it easy when you can and travel smart, not hard.

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