(DM) – This is a guide to attending New York Comic-Con (NYCC). This primer is assembled from years of actual attendance and experience. Let’s jump right in.
Have you bought your tickets? Download the Comic-Con app. It’s a huge help in planning what you want to see and do at the event. Seriously. Get it. You can use it year-after-year. What can it do? Think of it as a planner, it knows when all the events take place AND can remind you of events at Comic-Con as they approach so you don't miss them. It does much more, just consider it a must have.
COSTS - A COMPREHENSIVE RUNDOWN
- COMIC-CON: Passes will run $50 per day ($10 kids) to $115 for the full four.
- TRAIN: Average $90 each way depending on distance.
- CAB: Run a $2.50 base fare and .40 cents every 1/5 mile. During peak hours add another $1 surcharge and .50 cents every 1/5 mile. However Taxi's actually charge by the mile when moving and by the minute when idling. It can get complicated. Think $15 a trip on average if you are lucky.
- UBER: Uber's charge by mile and minute regardless of if they are idle so don't figure on an Uber saving you money. Research shows Uber's in NYC cost more.
- BUSES: Are prone to many time sinks, so unless you need one east to west only, and know the route, they don't fit most comic-con visitors needs. Still the rate is friendly, just $2.75 per fare (ride). Children ride free. Single ride tickets are available. The Metrocard (think pre-paid card) is used for bus rides. To use it, just dip it into the fare box and remove it. Don't drop it in! Dip and remove! It will deduct money from your card and display what remains.
- SUBWAY: The subway doesn't run anywhere near the Javits, but in general it's a single fare rate (trip) of $2.50. You can buy Metrocards within the subways outside the gates and the minimum you can put on a card is $5. When you swipe your Metrocard at the turnstile, the balance is displayed.
- HOTEL: Hotels average $330 per night.
- AIRBNB: AirBnB's are anywhere from $120 to $400.
- FOOD: Food inside Comic-Con is usually $10 for a food and drink item on average.
- STORAGE: There is super limited storage on site for bags.
- METROCARD: Used for both Bus and Subway. Cost to own one, $1. Available at ATM style vending machines in subways outside the gates. A minimum purchase is $5. You can add more as needed. Once on the subway you can transfer from train-to-train for free. Once you exit the station (leave through the stalls), you must pay again to enter. Metrocards also allow you a free transfer between bus and subway within a two hour period. Do NOT confuse a metrocard with a New York Pass. If you don't know how much is left on a Metrocard, remember using it display's what is left but you can check the balance at any Metrocard vending machine.
DAY PASS VISITOR OR MULTI-DAY PASS
Will you be doing cosplay (dressing up in costume), will you be attending one day or more than one? Each angle changes how you dress and what you can carry.
Have you been to New York Before? Sure it’s a big place but unless you intend to participate in activities away from the Con, you don’t need to worry about too much as long as you get a hotel or airBNB near the Con.
LOCATION AND TRAVEL TO NEW YORK COMIC-CON
WHERE IS NEW YORK COMIC-CON?
The Javits Center plays home annually to the New York Comic-Con which is located just off the Hudson River, west of Mid-Town (Times Square) Manhattan.
Why the Javits Center each year? It’s the only convention center which can house such an enormous event. And the Javits truly is sizeable. We’ll get to that.
WHERE TO STAY FOR NEW YORK COMIC-CON
A Hotel near the Javits makes the most sense if you want to save additional money on travel. The Javits convention center straddles Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen.
It is also very close to the Port Authority if you take a bus. The walk is inside 10 minutes from the bus terminal. When Hotel searching, use Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and West Mid-Town in your search. The Javits is a good long twenty minute walk from Times Square if you can’t find a hotel near the Javits. Yes, Mid-town (Times Square area) will due but again it’s a long walk. Cheaper hotels are all over the city, so if you can afford cab fare, that is an option.
Even the hotels near the Javits are a few blocks walk, add that to walking the show floor all day and you can appreciate the need to ‘get close’ to the event. AirBNB is often used but be advised with Comic-Con held each year in early October, that’s a high time and in demand. The locals are also somewhat prejudiced against renting to Comic-Con attendees too as the geek aroma is something they don’t care to deal with. If you have good hygiene, make a point of it in your contact with AirBnB hosts. Your author here also experienced some backlash when announcing a car was being brought into the city and inquired about parking local to any host.
Another option is don't stay on Manhattan at all. Many will get a hotel just across the Hudson in New Jersey for 1/3 the nightly cost of a hotel room in the city. Use that huge savings to either take a shuttle from a hotel over for as low as $8 one way, then pay for cab, Uber or Lyft back. If you must drive, you pay $16 for the tunnel (pay one way only) then another $35 for parking in a lot near the convention center. You still come out ahead on the hotel room.
Don’t even think about it. There is free parking on a Saturday and Sunday but the odds of anything within a five block radius is rare and hard to find. During the week it’s only free after 7pm and you still need to find a spot.
Driving? Hotels have a place to park but budget a good bit of money for parking daily. It can be around $35.00 daily which is the same as any parking facility. If you are going for one day, consider the Port Authority parking lot which is about a 5 block walk from the Javits. You can use ParkWhiz (an app) to plan ahead for pre-paid and guaranteed parking.
If you are taking a train, that’s cool but be advised that even if your train arrives at Penn Station, that location is 15 minutes of walking (almost to Times Square). Trains from the South will drop you at Penns Station. Trains from the north will arrive at Grand Central. That is many more blocks away and you’d need to take the subway from Grand Central to just near Times Square area then walk or take a cab to the Javits.
COSPLAYING AT NEW YORK COMIC-CON
This can be tricky. Let’s go with the one day traveler first. And let’s consider cosplay or no cosplay.
Did you know about a full 20 percent of attendees are in cosplay? Don't be shy about it. Go for it, but if you do – You’ve got a lot on your plate. If you a professional cosplayer, you don’t need any advice. But if it’s just you throwing something together or it’s your first time these are the considerations:
- Bathroom ready – Easy access is key. Prepare your costume in advance.
- Easy access to wallet and phone. Don’t just make pockets, make them easily accessible.
- Vision. Make sure your costume allows you to see. All the time. Or make it so taking your mask on and off isn't a chore. Think ahead!
- Plan ahead for when you are done. Will it fit in a locker which are few! Will you need to return to your car to store your costume? What if it rains? If you came by train, you really need to plan ahead for when you take it off.
- Remember you still need a ticket just to cosplay on the grounds.
- Don’t make something huge if you plan on wearing it while entering the show hall, otherwise no one really minds that you have dressed as Groot, Hulk Buster or anything immense. And yes, these costumes are regular showings. Often duplicated.
- It may be cold outside but all the body heat and gear will be hot. Plan ahead!
MULTIPLE DAYS AT NEW YORK COMIC-CON IN COSPLAY
Traveling in cosplay is rough. If cost is no concern in regards to taxi-cabs and travel from a hotel, get at cheaper hotel away from the convention center. The money you save on your hotel can be used for cab fare.
But if you are like most and every penny counts, you need to book a hotel months in advance and get close to the venue. This offsets travel expenses from the hotel to the Javits. Especially in you cosplay, but no hotel is any closer than a few blocks away. Is your costume okay for a long walk to the convention center? If It rains, this becomes even more important.
It comes down to striking a balance when you decide a hotel vs. local travel by cab or Uber etc…
DID YOU DRIVE TO NYC?
Still considering you are dressed in cosplay – if you got a cheap hotel across town but want to use your car, you won't incur another parking fee at the hotel because you can come and go and still pay the same daily rate, but you’ll also have to pay for a garage nearby the Javits.
If you plan on attending in costume, it is wise to plan a specific time just to cosplay, not cosplay and visit comic book booths – unless you have a minimalist costume.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO AT NEW YORK COMIC-CON?
The Con is essentially two to three experiences.
- Vendors – shopping toys, clothing, games, comics, and art. Visiting showcase booths.
- Attending events such as speakers, panels, instructional and demonstrations.
- Artist row. Here you can get autographs, selfies, and commission work.
You could call cosplaying an experience but that is something we’ve already made clear you can do along or outside the other experiences.
Remember the note about downloading the Comic-Con App for your smart phone? It lists all the panels, speakers and artists, when they are held and where they are located. A seasoned con attendee uses this without fail.
THE COMIC-CON EXPERIENCE
Each day the crowds grow more intense with Saturday being the big day for crowds. Unless your schedule just won’t allow it, don’t assume any one day is better than another. Thursday is great if you want to get rare items before they sell. After all, Comic-Con is about comics and there are loads of vendors from all over the country in attendance. They won’t be in the mood to barter on Thursday and they don’t wiggle too much on Sunday either. Better to just get there early if you can if you are looking for “must have” items to be added to your collection.
If you are on a budget, and need to pick one or two days to attend, consider your choices by the panels and speakers you want to experience. If they are on Saturday and Sunday, you know which days you can give up.
A CAMERA IS A MUST
Outside the convention center when weather allows, many cosplayers will gather under the main entrance. Down in the shadows many photographers have sessions planned with professional or up-and-coming cosplayers. You can be anyone, and if your costume is stunning, a professional photographer or blogger will take numerous photos of you. Of course cosplayers will mill about outside the main hall's cavernous entrance. They'll mug with anyone and everyone both posing for photos and being in selfies. As some cosplayers are sensitive to touching, don’t ever touch any cosplayer without permission. It takes little to no effort to get a cosplayer that's in your favorite costume to pose with you or pose the way you ask them – within good taste of course.
Amazing organic experiences pop-up too. Each year a parade of Deadpools (well over 30) marches. With Rob Liefeld in attendance they arrived at his booth calling him daddy. He was humbled and shot loads of selfies.
Yes all the vendors take plastic but cash often gets a discount. Keep some cash for those special bargains.
Some specialty vendors exist inside the convention hall. There are many inside the center, the prices are as expected higher than need be but average for New York standards. Seating is in limited supply and really only available on the lower level food court. Most people sit on the floor but that is part of the experience and lends to meeting new people much easier.
LAYOUT – WHERE ARE THINGS AT NEW YORK COMIC-CON?
From left to right, the convention center has vendors of toys and specialty merchandise.
Next over are small artist promoting books or art.
At the front of the main hall are huge booths for gaming companies and studios of various media. There are still more vendors of clothes, like T-shirts to cosplay coats from Assassin’s Creed, Anime toys, figurines and more.
The largest segment of vendors are thankfully comic book vendors. You can find entire print runs bound and ready for sale as lot, to $1.00 comics and rare finds.
You may spend the entire con just combing through each booth looking at comics in search of what you need.
Then to the farthest right of the convention center is artist alley. It’s no alley. It’s a full hall with hundreds of artist tables. Notable artist from Chris Claremont, (we mentioned Rob Liefeld) to obscure new artist you may be dying to shake hands with are there all weekend. They do charge for autographs and for this BRING CASH. Usually $5.00 and they do set lower prices for multiple book signings.
Think we covered it all? No. Below the entire convention center are the panel rooms. Here you need to be a professional waiter to get in line, sit down and wait to be sure end get into the most popular panels. Just because you paid for Comic-Con doesn’t guarantee you that you’ll get into all or any of the panels you want to attend. You need to line up early. Yes, sometimes the worst takes place. Panels get cancelled. It’s not often but it does happen. Just set up a mental model that things happen and you won’t be so salty when it does happen.
There is of course much more in the convention center to see. The halls connecting the halls have many more vendors and attractions. Each year something spectacular is showcased so just know you’ll find something special every year. Outside the convention center but inside the perimeter loads more vendors are set up. You just don’t run out of things to experience.
Remember what you buy you must carry for the day. If it's not a rare item, consider buying your item near the end of the day so you don't need to carry it around your entire day. Some vendors, (very few) will allow you to leave your purchased item with them for pick up later. If it rains, don't expect a place to leave your umbrella other than a box in which anyone can pick it up later. There is no coat check.
New York Comic-Con easily rivals San Diego Comic-Con in attendance, but it does lack the star power and reveals, such as new trailers or sneak-peaks. Don’t let that keep you from attending though. New York is special in its own way and holds up as something unique and fantastic you just don’t want to miss if you are a comic-book enthusiast.
Finally let's consider the final plan. Such as a checklist. Make sure to have it in your pocket and be sure if you are with a group or friend, you designate a meeting place if separated. Yes we all have smart phones but you just never know. Plan for the worst and you'll enjoy it at your best.