Comic-Con Veterans: heed my call!
July 18, 2011 1:43 PM   Subscribe

My wife bought me an all-expense-paid trip to Comic-Con for my 30th birthday, and while I've been to plenty of smaller cons (Wizard World, C2E2, Otakon, etc), this is my first time going to the big show. Extended nerdery inside:

So, my brother, my wife and I will be San Diego Thursday and Sunday because we couldn't get 4-day tickets, so we're trying to get the most out of our time there. We'll save all of the exhibits and video game demos and shopping for Sunday, as we don't really care about selling con exclusives on eBay, but our Thursday schedule is a little more... controversial.

All three of us are big Game of Thrones fans, and we'd loooove to go to the big GoT panel on thursday at 3 in ballroom 20, but there are definitely other things I'd like to see that day (thatgamecompany's Journey panel, Adrianne Curry's sexy geek panel, grant morrison's panel, etc.) and the other scheduled panels in ballroom 20 have basically zero interest to me.

So, my real question is, if we want to get seats for GoT, do we really have to line up at 6:00 in the morning and then sit through every other panel in that room? If I get out of the Captain America premiere at noon or the Grant Morrison panel at 1:45, will I have enough time to get a seat? Is there any hope of getting into the Arkham City panel at the San Diego Bayfront at 5 if the GoT panel gets out at 4?
posted by Oktober to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think you're looking at it the wrong way. The questions you should ask are "Is this panel providing something utterly unique that I will never get another chance to see? Is it worth the opportunity cost?" GoT is a huge hit and GoT content is flooding across the nerdscape. A sneak preview is something you will obviously be able to see when whatever is shown comes out. You are unlikely to be able to ask questions due to the size of the crowd. The time cost spent in line will cost you in other things you'd like to see. The more obscure panels are much more likely to be unique, easier to get into, and provide an opportunity to interact directly with the artists.

I've never been to SD Comic Con but I've been to many other cons up here in the Bay Area and I've never even bothered to hit the big ticket items. The crowds are a little crazy even at these smaller events.

It's just advice though. Do whatever makes you happy! It's your trip.
posted by chairface at 2:15 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To be quite honest, I largely share your perspective. My favorite con panel of all time was China Mieville in a small room at C2E2 because it was a small crowd, he answered a ton of questions, and he really gave us a lot of insight into his creative process.
posted by Oktober at 2:18 PM on July 18, 2011

The issue with the high-draw panels at SDCC is that they don't clear the rooms, and the die hard contingent show up first thing and never leave. So, something like GoT, yeah, you'll probably have to camp the panel room all day to have a hope of seeing the panel.

(We've almost entirely written off going to panels at SDCC because the crowds and security are generally too much hassle to deal with. There's almost always something better going on on the floor! The smaller panels that are more out of the way and at odd times tend to be more worth it than whatever Hall H insanity is being served up at any given time. The Sunday Matt Fraction and Bill Hader panel last year was fantastic, for example.)

Also, FWIW, it's been my experience that Sunday is now actually the most crowded day, given that it's the cheapest single day ticket price. I'd probably shoot for more floor time on Thursday, were it me. There are good deals to be had Sunday afternoon, though, when vendors start to think about the need to ship all their stock back home. Lots of 'buy one get n free' book deals were to be had last year.
posted by The Mysterious Mr. F at 2:31 PM on July 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Or, to be less negative, Go try to do what you want, but keep an open mind and stay flexible. SDCC is almost always a better time if you just roll with it and let things happen. Locking to a hard schedule usually just turns it into a death march.
posted by The Mysterious Mr. F at 2:34 PM on July 18, 2011

Response by poster: I'll confess I have a bit of an ulterior motive here: while this trip is my "birthday present", my brother and my wife are both diehard GoT fans. I loved the books and like the show, but I don't want to spend half of my time there sitting through panels on Burn Notice, Psych, Covert Affairs, Ringer, etc.

(Although seeing Bruce Campbell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Nestor Carbonell will be a small comfort)
posted by Oktober at 2:38 PM on July 18, 2011

Best advice is to play it by ear. But I can say with near certainty that No. You won't have to wait all day. I go every year and I never line up. The lines are for people who want to sit in the up front sections. If you don't care about your seat you can pretty much just waltz right in before the panel starts and find a seat somewhere in the back.

Unless it has anything to do with TWILIGHT.
posted by ryecatcher at 3:05 PM on July 18, 2011

Best answer: I'm pretty sure you won't be able to line up at 6:00 am for Ballroom 20, as it's inside the Convention Center, in the upper level. Overnight lines are reserved for Hall H, which has a separate entrance, so people camp outside the Convention Center.

I want to get into that panel too. My plan is to line up about 2 hours before, at most, bring a good book and rest my feet for a while while in queue. If I get in, great, if not, that's ok. There will be panel playbacks from 8 to 11 pm everyday, so there's another chance to see it.

Is there any hope of getting into the Arkham City panel at the San Diego Bayfront at 5 if the GoT panel gets out at 4?

Hmm, that's a tough one. I'd try to do it, as I have the impression that many people are lazy about attending panels outside the Convention Center. However, I don't know if that panel will be too popular. Worst case scenario: you get there at 4:30, queue for half an hour, you don't get in.

In preview:
If you don't care about your seat you can pretty much just waltz right in before the panel starts and find a seat somewhere in the back.

That applies to most panels, but I'm not sure about this one. Hott TV stars + elderly, respected author = chaos.
posted by clearlydemon at 3:14 PM on July 18, 2011

SDCC was significantly more fun for me in the years I didn't even bother going to the large panels. My highlights were things like the Comic Arts Conference, running into/trying not to get pranked by Sala Baker and Andy Serkis at the TORn booth, Starship Smackdown, and the time I got to be in a room with twenty nerds, Forrest Ackerman, and Ray Bradbury (okay, okay, there were 23 nerds there.) No idea where everyone else was, but I had a lot of fun. I know I had friends who valued their freebie Star Wars spoiler shirts and chance to vaguely understand the questions shouted by people 200 feet away and answered by people 400 feet away more than an entire day out of their schedule in past years, but I'm not one of them. There's incidentally no such thing as a show that's easier to watch or listen to on an SDCC screen than at home: you're going to have to hunt down that preview footage from somewhere else afterwards if you want to actually enjoy it.

And yeah, if something's big enough, Hall 20 will actually be filled up to where you can't get in. There was a year when they had Sarah Michelle Gellar on in Hall 20 and also had a live video feed in other halls. Check to see what the programming is in other rooms that hour and the ones preceding and following it. You may get lucky with some stupid Twilight event or something.
posted by SMPA at 3:46 PM on July 18, 2011

That GoT panel is going to be a zoo.

What you DON'T want to do is spend a lot of time in line and then not get in. That's what leads to breakdowns in the hallway -- that particular sort of frustration that one only experiences when one has literally wasted their afternoon at a once-a-year event.

If I was going to try and see the GoT panel, I would be showing up four hours early and bringing a book, because I'd rather have to sit through one or two earlier panels than waste my afternoon. You might be a little less hardcore than me, but it's one of those cases where we each have to gauge our own tolerances -- if you can wait for a couple hours and shrug it off if you don't get in, then you know, plan your day accordingly.

You might just want to give this one a pass, honestly, if there are other things you want to do that afternoon. If you'll only be at the con two days, dedicating too much of your schedule to one panel is probably not a great idea. :/
posted by Narrative Priorities at 3:52 PM on July 18, 2011

*looks up the schedule*

...oh man, moderated by GRR? THAT many big actors?


Yeah, I'm not sure a couple hours will be sufficient, however big that room is....
posted by Narrative Priorities at 3:58 PM on July 18, 2011

Best answer: The line for Ballroom 20 isn't supposed to start until they officially open the doors in the morning. Last year there was some panel we wanted to get into that started first thing, and there were already a few hundred people in line when the doors officially opened. This was on Saturday, though, when there are traditionally a Simpsons panel and a Futurama panel that are always packed and which rabid Simpsons fans try to get into the room first thing to camp out for.

One thing you can try to do is game the re-entry door. Because there isn't a restroom inside Ballroom 20 like there is in Hall H (the REALLY crazy, giant room where all the big movie panels always are - stay away unless you feel you absolutely can't miss something), there's an exit in Ballroom 20 where they'll give you a re-entry ticket. The tickets change with every panel, but it's pretty easy to get into the room, leave with a ticket, come back right before that panel ends, wait for the room to change over, repeat until GoT starts. A friend and I did this last year to make sure we would be in the room for the Fringe panel, and we were able to catch several of the small panels as long as we didn't have to go too far from Room 20.

In general, the rule at SDCC is if something is really popular or really anticipated, get in line for the room early and be prepared to sit through something else if you really don't want to miss out.
posted by sbrollins at 4:17 PM on July 18, 2011

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