The Ultimate New York Comic-Con Guide
(DL) — It’s your first Comic-Con (New York Style) and we cover every small detail.
As the title suggests, this is a primer for attending a New York Comic-Con (NYCC), not the San Diego Comic-Con held each spring. New York Comic-Con has traditionally been held the first week of October annually. Being prepared starts months in advance. Many months!
This information is assembled multiple years of actual attendance. Use all this information from people who had to learn all the answers to these questions by experience. Can you See everything in one day? No. Can you get away with one day? Yes. Which is for you? It’s time you found out.
Let’s jump right in!
Have you bought your tickets? Really? Are you fan verified? Let’s assume that all that information is alien.
If you really are ahead of the game, then why not download the Comic-Con Mobile App. It’s a huge help in planning (and offers extras at the con!) what you want to see and do at the event. Seriously. Get it. You can use it year-to-year as well.
The First Rule of Comic-Con: Fan Verify
Even if you may NOT go to Comic-Con you need to Fan Verify. This is critical. Do this every year as a precaution. There is no charge to fan verify. Without completing the fan verification you can’t attend. All attendees complete this process, press, vendors, everyone. Do this.
Plan early. Comic-Con is in October. You MUST register in advance and before you can register you must FAN VERIFY.
This window is open in May. It can go on for a period of time. It’s based on demand. Visit:
What Type of Comic-Con Visitor Are You?
Decide what type of visitor you’ll be.
Will you be doing cosplay (dressing up in costume)? Will you be attending one day, two, three or all four? We have the answers on how to plan.
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.
Where is NY Comic-Con Hosted?
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 do 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 NY Comic-Con held each year in early October, that’s high time and in demand.
The locals are also somewhat prejudiced against renting to NY 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.
Is Street Parking An Option?
Do you think you are going to either drive in for the day and park on the street or drive from your hotel and park near the Javits Convention Center?
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 7 pm and you still need to find a spot.
You can park near the Javits Convention Center for NYCC but you’ll need this secret weapon below. This tip comes from years of experience. It’s full proof.
Your best bet is to plan ahead and pay ahead. You can do that with guaranteed spot the car park of choice using the Park Whiz App. If you drive up to any carpark the day of the event the odds are 90 percent the lots are full. Using Park Whiz and PAYING IN ADVANCE (that’s key), means you drive up to the lot and they will not dare tell you the lot’s full.
Traveling to New York Comic-Con
Drive or Bus
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.
As mentioned prior, we suggest the ParkWiz (an app). Plan ahead by pre-paying. You will ensure guaranteed parking.
Are you coming from the south of New York? You will arrive at Penn Station. Be advised that location is nestled equally between Time’s Square and Comic-Con. It’s 15 minutes of walking (almost to Times Square).
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. You’re nuts if you decide to walk from Grand Central to Comic-Con. It’s almost an hour walk.
Packing for Comic-Con
How to Pack for A Single Day Visit to Comic-Con
This can be tricky. Let’s go with the one day traveler first, and let’s plan this both as a cosplay attendee or as a party pooper who can’t get into the spirit of the con. That’s a jab of course because most people will wear something that offers up their character interest. Even if it’s just a Central City Track Team t-shirt, your look matters!
Cosplay – 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.
- Access to your wallet and phone. Don’t just make pockets, make them easily accessible.
- Plan ahead for when you are done. Will it fit in a locker which are few! Will you need to return to your care to store it? 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.
- It may be cold outside but all the body heat and gear will be hot. Plan ahead!
Multiple Days at New York Comic-Con
If cost is no concern in regards to taxi-cabs and travel from a hotel, get a hotel for less further from the Con. Many hotels go for a third less if you stay in the financial district. Anywhere outside of Mid-town will save you more, but you’ll pay for travel to the Con!
If you are like most and every penny counts, book hotel months in advance and get close to the venue. This helps a great deal with travel expenses from the hotel to the Javits. Especially if you cosplay. This becomes important if it rains.
Do You Need A Subway Pass for New York Comic-Con?
The Hudson Yards subway stop is a block away from the Javits Center. It’s located at 34th Street with one line; the 7 Line. The 7 is a crosstown line.
What does that mean?
It means that subway doesn’t take you up and down the city. It heads across town through midtown (Time’s Square) under the East River stopping in Queens and further out on Long Island to Flushing. If the Mets are in the playoffs – that is how far it will take you.
The good news is yes, a subway pass will come in handy if you decide to get a hotel out in Queens or beyond.
What’s the key to this plan? How can you save money?
Research – look for hotels which are along on the (purple) IRT FLUSHING LINE or 7 Line. This is the line that stops at the 34th Street Station stop (Hudson Yards). It has two lines, a local and express line. The station itself is wheelchair accessible.
Should You Take Your Car From Your Hotel To The Javits?
No, unless money is no object, in which case you will pay each time you repark at your hotel. The cost would be astronomical.
It comes down to striking a balance when you decide a hotel vs. local travel by cab or Uber etc… Let’s face it, if you got a cheap hotel across town but want to use your car, that will now be rough because you paid your hotel fee to park which is great 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.
The Perfect Travel and Hotel Plan to New York Comic-Con
In a perfect Comic-Con setting, you get a hotel or Airbnb near within a couple of blocks of NY Comic-Con. If you drive into town, you park once and pay the least for each daily stay by not moving your car. If you take a train, you can walk to the Javits and pay zero for local travel. A walk to mid-town or Chelsea is long but not unrealistic. To pull this off, plan many months in advance.
Planning Your Time At New York Comic-Con
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.
The Con is essentially two experiences, perhaps – three.
- Vendors – shopping toys, clothing, games, comics, and art. Visiting showcase booths.
- Attending events such as speakers, panels, instructional and demonstrations.
- Artist Alley. Here you can get (pay for) autographs, selfies, and commission work.
Is Cosplay an Experience at Comic-Con?
You could call cosplay an experience but isn’t really a part of the overall experience? We’ve already made clear that you can cosplay along with or outside the other experiences. Cosplay is everywhere at Comic-Con, you can’t avoid it!
Remember the note about downloading the Comic-Con App for your smartphone? 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
What is it like at Comic-con?
Each day the crowds grow larger. 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!
There are loads of vendors from all over the country in attendance. Vendors won’t be in the mood to barter on Thursday and they don’t wiggle too much on Sunday either. If you are looking for “must have” items to be added to your collection, get there early.
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.
Be Prepared To Take Photos
Are we suggesting you take a camera?
We are advising you have back-up storage space for all the photos you will take on your smartphone or camera.
Attaching your phone to a battery back-up is also a great secret weapon against the ever-dwindling battery life on your phone during the show. WiFI, GPS, maybe even Bluetooth and more. You need to be prepared with your recording devices.
The Cosplay Secret Photo Area
It’s not a secret really. Go downstairs to the very ground level and a tunnel-like overhang allows for cosplayers to mingle, set up photo walls and do as they please away from the general public. Even when it rains, this area stays dry.
To be clear this area is outside the convention center but still in an area you are required to have paid for entry (have a badge). Many photographers have sessions planned with professional or up-and-coming cosplayers.
Can Anyone Cosplay?
Cosplay is all-inclusive. You can dress like anyone, and if your costume is stunning, a professional photographer or blogger will take numerous photos of you. Of course, the main hall outside the cavernous entrances cosplayers will mill about with anyone and everyone taking photos. Cosplay is not segregated, but most will stay out of the main vendor area if they have bulky or immense costumes such as Hulk Buster.
As some cosplayers are sensitive to touch, don’t ever touch any cosplayer without permission.
It takes little to no effort to get a cosplayer in your favorite costume to pose with you or pose the way you ask them. Be sure to ask with respect and they are happy to make your day with a selfie or pose just for you.
You don’t tip or pay cosplayers.
Amazing organic experiences pop-up too. In 2016 a parade of Deadpools’ (well over 30) marched up to artist Rob Liefeld 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.
Where is Everything Located at New York Comic-Con?
Facing the Hudson River, 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 comic book vendors. You can find entire print runs bound and ready for sale as a lot, to $1.00 comics and rare finds. You can 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 Liefield) to an obscure new artist you may be dying to shake hands with are there all weekend.
Artist Are At Comic-Con to Make Money
Artist at Comic-Con charge for autographs and for this BRING CASH. Usually, $5.00 and they do set lower prices for multiple book signings. It’s not uncommon to get caught in a line at an artist booth where the person ahead of you has a stack of comics to be signed. They brought a lot of cash. Plan in advance if you think this may be you. You should also plan for safe transport after signing. Many booths sell comic book protective cases.
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 canceled. It’s not often but it can occur.
Set up a mental model that things happen! Mentally prepare for strange things and you won’t be so salty when it does happen. If you are fortunate that no trouble occurs, be sure to prepare yourself for crowds. Patience with fellow humans can only do you good at Comic-Con.
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.
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. We don’t have a lock on great information. If you still want more research materials, the NY Public Library has it’s own How to Con planner, check it out.