San Diego Comic-Con is the fan convention that all other fan conventions hope to become some day. Or at least that’s what I’d heard. It seemed that everyone I knew had an epic story about their experiences at San Diego Comic-Con, except me. But that all changed this past weekend as I got to experience the con for my first time as a member of the media. With all of the warnings I received in advance about crowds and patience, I was a bit surprised by my experience.
Let me preface this by saying that I love conventions. I don’t go to a tremendous amount of them, but if there’s a convention related to Disney, horror, or theme parks, I’m always interested in checking them out. Having said that, I’m not a fan of super hero content for the most part, which is the reason why I’d never made Comic-Con a priority for myself. Yes, there’s a lot more to experience than just super heroes, but they are still a large part of the convention. As you read my thoughts, keep that in mind as well as the fact that I attended with a press pass and only went for one day, Saturday, July 23, 2022.
I visited the San Diego Convention Center from my home in Los Angeles. This drive is a bit over two hours each way with normal traffic. I had been warned by a lot of people that the traffic would be horrific the closer I got to the convention. My first pleasant surprise was that that was not the case. I arrived just a bit after the convention began for the day and left just a bit before it was wrapping up. In both cases, the drive to and from San Diego wasn’t bad at all.
I’d also been warned that parking would be a nightmare and good luck finding anything reasonable. A friend did tip me off to buying my parking in advance online. I did just that, and it was definitely beneficial. Numerous parking garages in the area offer this service and I would highly suggest using it. I found a parking garage directly next to the convention center costing just under $40.00 for the day. It was nice to know what it would cost in advance, but also, since I pre-purchased parking, I was able to drive directly into the garage and avoid a line of vehicles.
Once I parked, I needed to get my wristband showing proof that I had received the Covid vaccination. This was a fast process for me, and so was picking up my media badge inside the convention center. So far, everything went much smoother and faster than I had anticipated, given all of the warnings. Granted, I was arriving on day three. I’m sure it was more chaotic on the first day. Although there was a vaccination check point and check-in line, I was extremely surprised to find that there was no security checkpoint to go through. Perhaps they had some undercover security I was unaware of, but going into a convention space these days with no metal detectors to walk through felt a bit concerning.
Now that I had gone through all of the check-in requirements, it was time to start my Comic-Con day. Since I was only there for one day, my priority was seeing the show floor and checking out some installations. I knew in advance that I would not be attempting to attend any panels. From what I understand, waiting for those takes up the most time.
My strategy was to start at one end of the convention center and work my way down every aisle throughout the day. A few hours in, I realized this was not really doable, even if I moved at a fairly steady pace and only stopped to spend time at booths that interested me. I was very impressed by some of the booths showcasing new action figures. I don’t personally collect many of them, but I couldn’t resist the nostalgia of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Hocus Pocus,” “Jurassic Park,” and more.
Of course, many of the biggest companies in entertainment have large displays on the show floor showing off their newest products. I was a bit surprised that the Disney+ and Lucasfilm booths didn’t have more to offer. Perhaps they’re holding off until the D23 Expo in September. One of my favorite things to see was the Grogu animatronic recreation from “The Mandalorian.” Although the figure was made by Garner Holt Productions, who had a booth on the show floor, it was actually on display at the EFX Collectibles booth, since they commissioned it.
I did spend most of my day on the show floor, but I wanted to make sure that I got outdoors to check out some of the installations outside of the convention center. Many people attend Comic-Con without even purchasing a ticket to the convention. One of the great things is that a lot of the large companies produce some rather impressive marketing installations outside of the convention center that are accessible to anyone, with or without a ticket. I only had time to check out one of them, so I visited the FX walk-thru featuring “American Horror Stories,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” and more.
One thing that surprised me quite a bit was the number of cosplayers attending the convention. At most conventions I attend there seem to be a lot of guests dressed as their favorite characters. I was expecting a large amount of people to be in costume at San Diego Comic-Con. In reality, I see a lot more people in costume at D23 Expo. This was probably the most surprising part of the experience for me.
Overall, I’m very happy to have finally experienced San Diego Comic-Con, but a lot of it wasn’t what I expected. On the plus side, the stress and logistics of the convention weren’t nearly as intense as I had expected. It didn’t feel any worse than most other conventions. In fact, in a lot of ways it felt like a well-oiled machine. On the negative side, the convention may have been overhyped for me. I didn’t feel like it was the best pop-culture fan convention that exists. There are many others that are healthy competitors and even surpass it in my opinion. It seems the big draw is if you want to be in the room when certain movie and media announcements are made.
Jeff DePaoli is a producer and voiceover artist living in Los Angeles. He can be heard as the voice of Disney Trivia on Alexa as well as the host of “Dizney Coast to Coast,” the ultimate, unofficial Disney fan podcast. Get your FREE gifts of “America’s Hidden Mickeys,” “On the Rohde Again,” “Theme Park Comfort Kit” and more at DizneyCoastToCoast.com. DePaoli’s opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent Attractions Magazine.