Comic-Con International survival guide

June 11, 2009 | 8:46 p.m.


Emily Christianson is gearing up for Comic-Con International and she wrote this guide to help any of you out there who are first-timers.–G.B.

Heading to the sold-out Comic-Con International for the first time? Make sure you’ve got all your bases covered July 23 to 26 with our newbie guide to the annual comic-book-palooza.

1. How to get there?
Don’t like sitting in traffic? For those of you in the L.A. area, try taking the train down to San Diego. For just under $70 you could be sailing south on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner and bypassing all the madness. Last year, stars and their fans missed out on Thursday’s panels when a meat truck exploded on the I-5 Freeway. Don’t let that be you.

2. Where to stay?
Uh, if you don’t have a hotel room by now, you might want to stay home. In a bind you could pay upward of $400 at a local hotel (if you’re lucky), commute to the convention from Tijuana or beg to crash on a friend’s hotel room floor. We recommend the last option.

3. What to wear?
Layers, layers, layers. If you’re not planning to dress up like your favorite comic book character, be prepared for the hot summer weather outdoors and the air conditioning indoors.  Comfy shoes are a must for getting around, and avoid wearing flip-flops if you value your piggies in the slightest…

 4. Where to eat?
Good question. Assuming there will be food at the Con is a rookie mistake. Beyond Mrs. Fields cookies and pretzel dogs, the options are limited. Sure there’s a Starbucks, if you want to waste an hour or more in line. Your best bet is to pack food on your person such as snacks, sandwiches and bottles of water too.

5. How to get into the good panels?
The easiest way to get into any panel in Hall H is to arrive as soon as it opens. Plan to be the first in line in the morning and sit through several other panels before seeing your favorite cast. Why? The hall fills up and the audience isn’t required to exit after each talk. That leaves a lot of people waiting in line for hours without much luck of getting inside.

6. What’s the best way to nab autographs?
Check the Comic Con website for autograph schedules and make sure you have head shots, posters or a blank book for signatures. There is an expansive autograph area with many paid opportunities; be sure to check on the exhibitors’ floor for even more.  Don’t forget that stars are comic book fans too, so keep your eye out for photo and autograph opportunities on the floor.

 7. How do I score the best freebies?
If you want the best chance at giveaways, be sure to stop by your favorite booths as soon as you get to the Con and get a ticket for any freebies. The ticket will tell you the date and time to return for pickup. Here’s the kicker: You need to get in line early in order to get the best freebie. The ticket guarantees you get something, but if you want the coolest gift you probably need to be one of the first in line. Also be sure to head upstairs (near the autograph area) to browse the freebie table for posters and other goodies.   

Got tips for Comic Con newbies? Leave them in the comments section below.

And for a tongue-in-cheek Girls Guide to Comic-Con done by the staff, click on the gallery below.



— Emily Christianson


Photo: Comic Con 2008. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

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7 Responses to Comic-Con International survival guide

  1. Sara says:

    Thanks for this! I'm a Comic Con virgin and live down here in Houston, so I've been worried about getting a good place in line (flying in the day before) since I won't be able to camp out for days like some people… that's just unfair & dangerous if you ask me.
    I really was hoping to see the New Moon panel and maybe Iron Man 2 etc. Wish me luck, it should be crazy fun!

  2. Kristin says:

    Good luck Sara! it is going to be crazy! and amazing!! I hope you are staying close to the convention center :-D

  3. Kelson says:

    Food options are FAR from limited if you're willing to step outside the convention center!
    It's across the street from San Diego's Gaslamp District, which is chock full of restaurants. If you just want cheap you can grab a footlong sandwich at one of three Subways in the morning and pack it in. There's also a food court in the Horton Plaza mall, which is a short walk from the north end of the center. There are chain restaurants along 4th and 5th like TGI Friday's and Sam Woo, fast food places like Wendy's, several coffee chains including multiple Starbucks, It's a Grind, and Coffee Bean, plus local coffee shops.
    If you want nicer food, there are plenty of places where a meal will cost you anywhere from $10 on up.
    A few places I'd recommend:
    The Field (Irish pub)
    Cafe 222 (breakfast & brunch)
    Chopahn (Afghan)
    Star of India (Indian)
    Royal India (Indian)
    Dussini (Mediterranean)
    Dakota (steakhouse)
    There's a reservation counter in the lobby with menus and prices, and the staff has always been helpful whenever I've gone.

  4. Tom Galloway says:

    For Con newbies: It's bigger than you think. Yes, bigger than that. My favorite stat for just how big it is starts with looking up in the Convention Center online blueprints just how long the aisles in the Dealer/Exhibit Floor are. About 100 yards. There are 52 of those aisles. So, just to walk down the center of each aisle, no going from side to side to get a closer look, is about a 5200 yard walk. And since a yard is 3 feet, and there are 5280 feet in a mile, that means to get even a casual look at every thing on the floor requires a three mile walk.
    Other key food options: The Ralphs grocery store at 1st Ave. and G St, across from the side of Horton Plaza nearest the convention center is great as an open 24 hour spot to pick up munchies. A little bit further up 1st Ave at the entrance to Horton Plaza is Beach City Market, with excellent prepared sandwiches, smoothies, and other food. At the other end of the convention center, up 5th and a left at K St. is CineCafe, a combo convenience store and deli. If I'm looking for a sandwich or somesuch to take with me for lunch at the convention center, these are my three choices for reasonably priced and good food.
    Panels you may not realize how great they are from the program description: In addition to the Hollywood hype panels, there are some in the still large Room 6 complex that are just plain fun. In particular, I recommend the Mark Evanier hosted Quick Draw and Cartoon Voices panels. The first features artists Sergio Aragones, Scott Shaw, and a third to be named later doing various improv-type drawing games. You *will* be amazed at both how quick and funny Sergio in particular is. Cartoon Voices is a bunch of voice actors, with a highlight of Mark giving them an old-time radio drama script and having them read the roles in their various signature voices. Very fun.
    Finally, for about as comprehensive list of Comic-Con tips as I've ever seen, covering everything from getting there to things to do other than just the con, there's Tom Spurgeon's 100 Tips For Attending Comic-Con at

  5. Mariel says:

    Thanks so much for this, this will be my first-time going and I am pumped. I am trying to as much information as possible. I really want to see the Heroes Panel, Iron Man 2, get autographs and meet the guy who created Fables. Also thank you Tom for the link to the website, it was most helpful

  6. Actors from the series Safety Geeks: SVI will be at Comic Con in San Diego Autograph Booth Thursday at AA14 and Friday AA11 3 to 7pm come see us watch the series online

  7. Teri Nguyen says:

    this is my first time going & i am so excited but very much confuse on the map and things.
    i am just so hype to see all the booth

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