How To Survive New York Comic Con

If you’re confused by the word “survive” when talking about New York Comic Con, perhaps you’ve never been. Which means it’s your lucky day, because I’m about to share some great tips for making the most of your inaugural visit.

Don’t get me wrong – New York Comic Con is an amazing experience, and one I would definitely recommend. But the entire event – from ticket sales to closing day – is hard-wired to drive you mad with frustration, exhaustion, or both.

tips for new york comic con

Tickets

This year, tickets went on sale Wednesday, June 18th. I logged on right at 9am Pacific, saw that two 4-day passes for my daughter and I would be $190 (within our budget), so I went ahead and purchased them. I discovered later that day – when everyone was freaking out on the NYCC Facebook page – that the 4-day passes had sold out in minutes. I was incredibly lucky!

What I learned about tickets is this: be ready to buy as soon as the ticket package you want is available, and if at all possible, go with a multi-day pass. The size and scope of NYCC is so immense that it’s really hard to accomplish much in one day. And they wait for so long to announce various guests, events, and panels, that it’s a real gamble to buy a 1-day pass when you’re not sure you’ll even enjoy the programming.

The Facility

The Javitz Center is huge, and in it’s own way, quite lovely. But the location is wretched when it comes to being on foot. We took the bus every day from New Jersey to the Port Authority Terminal at Times Square and walked over to NYCC. Because of its proximity to the Lincoln Tunnel, the area around the Javitz has awful traffic and pretty terrible intersections to cross. And there’s nowhere around it to grab a bite to eat. When you go in the Javitz Center for NYCC, you pretty much stay there until you’re done with your day – which often ends up being 8-10 hours.

The trick is to come prepared – with food (or plenty of money to buy food), a phone charger, a change of clothes or shoes if needed, and tons of patience. There are people ev-er-y-where at NYCC. This year they passed the 150,000 mark for attendees, beating San Diego as the world’s largest Con. That’s a LOT of people!

day one of new york comic con

My daughter and I on Day One of New York Comic Con (before the crowd got really crazy).

a view of the Queue Hall, from New York Comic Con’s Facebook page:

New York Comic Con Queue Hall

We were hardly ever able to find a seat between activities, so spent a lot of time with others sitting on the floor, against the wall. And everything you want to do requires standing in a line – getting food, going to the bathroom, buying merchandise, waiting for a panel.

If you go in expecting a certain amount of discomfort and are ready to invest in a long-haul vision for Comic Con, you’ll be set.

The Programming

I get the sense that NYCC organizers enjoy creating a frenzy – whether it results in a disgruntled mob or swooning fans. They take their own sweet time announcing guests and panels – this year, some guests weren’t even announced until the week of the event. Try as you might to stalk their website, app, or social media pages, you’re bound to miss something huge. Just go in knowing that and make peace with it.

Also, just because you’re in a line at NYCC doesn’t mean you’ll get to see what you’ve been waiting 90 minutes to see. In every venue but the Main Stage, squatters were able to secure a seat long before their desired panel and basically max out the capacity of the room.

There are also many last-minutes changes with talent canceling or rescheduling without notice, leaving attendees with nothing to show for all the time they waited. Lets just say that you learn to get friendly with disappointment at NYCC.

Having said that, I highly recommend attending panels you have even a passing interest in, even if it appears no “big names” will be there. Because NYCC is all about good surprises, too, and superstar moments.

We had the great fortune to be in Disney’s Big Hero 6/Tomorrowland panel at the Main Stage when George Clooney surprised the audience by showing up. It was awesome! And Stephen Amell jumping in on the LEGO Batman 3 panel was a huge treat. I screamed my head off when Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) surprised us at the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D panel. His energy was infectious!

george clooney at new york comic con

They insisted we not take photos during this panel, so my daughter tried to be discreet and grabbed a photo of George Clooney on the screen to our right. Though you can’t tell here, we actually had great seats only about 7 rows back from the stage.

stephen amell at new york comic con

We were also asked not to take photos during this panel, but I’m a huge fan of Stephen Amell (and loved seeing Kevin Smith!), so I snapped this picture.

Clark Gregg New York Comic Con

The programming and logistics at NYCC are a roller-coaster ride, highlighting the advantage of a multi-day pass. Because if things go bust on one day, you hopefully have another day to make up for it.

The People

NYCC echoes the attitude of the city itself: DO YOUR THING. Want to dress up? Great! chances are, you’ll make fast friends among people who appreciate your costume, are wearing the same costume themselves, or belong to whatever fandom you’re representing. Cosplay not your thing? Great! wear whatever is comfortable and you’ll fit in with 75% of the people there. Are you a total introvert? No problem! strangely, even among a crowd of 150,000 people, there’s no need to talk to any of them. Are you a social butterfly? Super! start chatting with someone, anyone, and you’re likely to have an awesome conversation.

I had no idea what to expect from attendees at NYCC, and I have to say – it was just incredible to be there. Everyone we saw or encountered was good-natured, friendly, excited to be there, and just a lot of fun. There is zero reason to be anxious or self-conscious about “fitting in” at Comic Con – come as you are, or as you want to be, and you’re set!

some of my daughter’s favorite cosplayers:

cosplayers at New York Comic Con

flapper Marvel DC Avengers at New York Comic Con

These “flapper style” Marvel & DC costumes were amazing!!

star lord guardians of the galaxy cosplayer at New York Comic Con

My daughter could not stop talking about how authentic this guy was in looks and mannerisms.

fun surprise: my daughter’s photo and tumblr post of the Star Lord was
linked to in this Business Insider post 

We also thought the artists in Artists Alley and the exhibitors on the Showroom Floor were generally very nice. Of course, maybe it was because they were happy to take our money, but honestly, we also found that artists and exhibitors were open to chatting, answering questions, even giving artistic advice to my daughter. We felt a real spirit of good will, even as we had to push and shove our way through crowds, and it helped to keep our moods and energy up throughout the day.

a highlight: Tiny Fish Printing, who was selling $5 t-shirts
that were screen printed right in front of us. This shirt remains
one of my favorite souvenirs of New York Comic Con 2014.

Tiny Fish Printing at New York Comic Con

tiny fish printing new york comic con tshirt

Bottom Line:

  • Jump on the chance to buy tickets, and go for multiple days if possible.
  • Plan ahead by following programming announcements through NYCC’s social accounts, signing up for email alerts, and downloading the app, but be prepared to be flexible and probably disappointed by last-minute changes or room caps.
  • Control what you can about your own comfort (because there’s lots you won’t be able to control) – wear what you want, bring plenty of water and snacks to stave off hunger, be as social (or anti-social) as your temperament requires.
  • HAVE FUN! There is truly no place else like New York Comic Con. Dive into the energy and spirit of this event and make it a great time!

Here’s a great 2014 recap produced by New York Comic Con. We were fortunate to see nearly all of the panels highlighted in the video, and were definitely a part of the crowds and line and even fans in Artists Alley. This is a real taste of what you can expect at New York Comic Con!

  • Jenn_FiveDollarShake

    I LOVE this post. Best mother/daughter trip! We enjoy the Motor City Comic con every year, and are really hoping to one day make it one of the bigger cities.

    • Thanks, Jenn! I have no idea how I’m going to “top” this when my other kids are looking for “big trip” ideas. 🙂

  • So glad you had a great time! And OMG GEORGE CLOONEY!!!

    • Thanks, Melisa! And you know, I’ve always been a little “whatever” about George Clooney, and then his darned magnetism in person totally won me over. 🙂 He was fantastic!