Every year in July, what seems like all of humanity descends upon downtown San Diego for the annual Comic Con International, one of the biggest media circuses anywhere. As a long time San Diego resident and Comic Con attendee, I am intimately familiar with the insanity that ensues annually, and I’m here to share the reality of it with all of you.
Ten years ago, San Diego Comic Con was a much different event. Yes, it was absurdly popular, and yes, there were celebrities and large crowds in the downtown area, but it all seemed somehow more manageable than it has become today.
Sometime between now and then, it ballooned in to an event that draws around 150,000 people to the relatively small downtown area each year. The city gets literally overwhelmed with absurdly large crowds of people, hotels as far away as Carlsbad are full to the brim, the entire county turns into a traffic nightmare, and good luck finding parking downtown for the day that you’ll pay less than $40 a day for (I’ve even seen $100 per day in prime spots near the convention center). Think you’re going to skip the traffic and take the train instead? Well, that will be full to the brim as well. Don’t think you’re going to go out after the convention and have dinner, because there’s a good chance you’re going to miss that last train and be stuck searching for a $300 cab ride back to North County instead. Oh, and good luck finding a cab or Uber during the con.
The event itself, while featuring an impressive array of panels, shows, artists, booths, and celebrity appearances, is so crowded and difficult to navigate that it can be overwhelming. Think just having a badge is going to get you in to see those widely publicized celebrity appearances? Yeah, good luck with that. You better start lining up and camping out for Hall H at least 3 days before the convention even begins, because otherwise you’re not getting in. Tough luck.
Let’s talk about obtaining the badge itself. A lot of people who have never been to the convention seem to think they can just sign up for a badge any time or even walk up to the convention while it’s happening and purchase a ticket to get in. Yeah…that’s not going to happen. Badges usually go on sale months before the convention, and the competition to snag one is fierce. Only dedicated people who are ready to hammer refresh repeatedly on their computer the moment the sale is announced to open even have a shot of scoring badges, and even then they are lucky if they get one. Industry professionals have it slightly easier (I’m talking about people who work in media, animation, video games, comics, or movies). They do have ‘Professional’ and ‘Professional Guest’ badges available, but even those are getting tough to obtain. (That’s how I’ve gone so many years, by the way, as my husband is a video game industry professional). This year, I didn’t get in even though my husband diligently attempted to get a badge for me the day they opened professional registration.
Honestly, I’m not too upset about not getting a badge. I’ve been to Comic Con at least 10 times and it’s getting so crowded I kind of freak out and panic when I get stuck in large crowds, so it was a bit of a relief, though I do like to be involved in big, fun events.
Yes…Comic Con is cool. It’s a spectacle unlike any you’ve ever seen before. And yes…it’s an exclusive, hot ticket item, but I’m getting older and starting to get to the point in my life when I wonder if I should just leave the Comic Con attending to younger and more energetic people than myself.
This Comic Con, I’ll be sipping cocktails at the beach, thank you very much.
Two things you should know:
- If you want to go to Comic Con International, you need to be dedicated to the cause.
- If you’re planning a trip to San Diego in July that doesn’t have anything to do with Comic Con, DO NOT schedule your visit during Comic Con weekend. Look it up and make SURE. There’s nothing that will ruin a nice little vacation to our city than scheduling it on the most ridiculously crowded weekend of the year.