San Diego Comic Con is unlike any other pop culture convention out there, which carries with it some fantastic advantages and a few disadvantages to having nearly 167,000 people in one place for one event for five crazy days. We’ve learned a lot through many years of attendance and we want to share with you how SDCC differs from smaller conventions.

As mentioned, the sheer number of people in attendance makes San Diego Comic Con a unique experience. While one of our Staff Writers was able to have a long and lovely conversation with Kelly Sue Deconnick at Rose City Comic Con about nothing in particular, it’s harder to spend so much time with your favorite creators at San Diego Comic Con simply because there are so many people just like you waiting to have a moment as well.

My suggestion would be to look for smaller fan gatherings or autograph signings where you’re guaranteed that few minutes with your favorite creator, actor, or talent. BOOM! Studios, for example, has a Thursday night mixer at the Hilton Bayfront Odysea Bar where you can mingle with the talent, fans, and pros. If nothing else, make friends with those in line with you! It’s not every day you find yourself completely surrounded by other die-hard fans!

Speaking of lines, and tying into the amount of attendees at SDCC, you’re going to find yourself making some difficult choices when it comes to the convention. For example, do you want to attend the panel or the signing session? Normally, SDCC doesn’t allow for fans to do both because they are scheduled one after the other and lines have already formed.

The best thing about San Diego Comic Con is the sheer number of things you can do – in fact, you never have to stand in a line at all if you don’t want! Make your game plan for every day, but make sure that you’re flexible with those plans. There is a lot to see and do, even when plans A, B, C, and D fall through. And that’s only considering the things going on inside the convention center. If Plan A (get a 4-Day Badge for SDCC) has fallen through already (that Thurs-Sun split!), look at the off-sites happening!

San Diego Comic Con has grown far outside of the convention center, to the Gaslamp and beyond, and affords people the chance to not only explore the convention, but get a smaller ‘convention inside of a convention’ with things like Nerd HQ. Last year, the FX off-site event was one of our favorite things to check out and gave away some awesome swag.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of the crowds and planned out your days, it’s time to keep your eyes peeled for what’s going on around you! Between the swag hand-outs and the talent in attendance, you may walk right past your favorite celebrity on the convention floor without even realizing it. True story: I almost walked right into Bryan Cranston in that mask without knowing it was him.

But not only can you maybe spot celebrities hiding in plain sight at San Diego Comic Con, if you’ve got a downtown hotel like the Hard Rock or the Hilton Bayfront, you might run into them in the elevators! Where else but SDCC is Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, the upcoming American Gods) going to go striding past you on his way out of the hotel? Spoiler: he’s really tall and I was too pre-occupied by this fact to actually say hello.

I also inevitably bump into Robert Kirkman every year (except last, when he couldn’t make it to the convention). All of the Nerdophiles Staff that goes to SDCC has similar stories of bumping into talent and it’s always a lot of fun!

The differences between San Diego Comic Con and other smaller conventions can feel overwhelming – after all, the party definitely doesn’t stop when the convention center closes! – but the amount of people, the things to do, and the opportunity to bump into talent makes it one of the most fun conventions you’ll ever attend.

What unique things have you experienced (or are hoping to experience) only at San Diego Comic Con? Let us know in the comments!

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