Each year, thousands of geeks will pack up their cosplay outfits, snacks, cameras, and cash as they head out to geek conventions across America. But, this year’s con season will be totally different. Why? Because you will be among the attendees. You’ve finally decided that you’ve had enough of scrolling through Twitter hashtags and wishing you were experiencing a convention in person. Now, you are on the hunt for the perfect place to get your first taste of con life.
While most people dream about making it to the big leagues of San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) and New York Comic Con (NYCC), you may feel like you want to get your feet wet before you dare to dive into the “Big Two.” Even if you score a pass to one of those cons, the sheer size and astronomical costs of attending them might freak you the hell out. So, your goal might be to find a cool con that packs an awesome punch but with a slightly (or much) smaller crowd and price tag.
These seven “starter” cons are certainly not exhaustive (there are thousands), but they will help you jumpstart your search for the perfect 1st convention:
March 18-20, 2016
Since Doctor Who’s return to TV in 2005, the sci-fi series has exploded across America and inspired hundreds of new conventions. Maryland-based (Re)Generation Who is still pretty new—we covered their inaugural event in 2015 the convention has already pulled in lots of major players from the TV show, books, comics and beyond. The crowd size is small enough that you can comfortably wander around the hotel and get into the panels you want to attend, yet there are enough people to meet a few new friends and enjoy music performances. This year, expect to see more in-depth panels about the show and its place in pop culture, a few Classic Who Doctors (and companions), workshops, geek comedy, epic cosplay, and other Whovian centric entertainment. (Re)Generation Who is coming up soon, so get more information here and take a look at a few of the Doctor’s foes with Jack Harkness above.
August 26-28, 2016
Image Credit: FantaliaEPGC/deviantART
If you’re looking for a con that celebrates a little bit of everything, then Geek.Kon may be your kind of thing. The Madison, Wisconsin convention celebrates all things anime, sci-fi, and gaming as well as steampunk. Geek.Kon keeps con-goers entertained with Masquerades, Masked Balls, Kon.Quest Challenges, live rock entertainment, and an extensive gaming area. Of course cosplay art is a huge part of Geek.Kon and it is an excellent place to get your first-time cosplay jitters out of the way. Like larger conventions, there are plenty of vendors on-hand to score cool gear and a diverse set of late-night panels. But, because this con is much smaller than SDCC and NYCC, you will be able to learn how to plan your con days without the pressure of being shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people. Check out Geek.Kon’s website and prepare yourself for an incredible weekend!
June 17th-19th, 2016
If you’re an unapologetic comic book fanatic, you need to make your way to the Queen City for this family-friendly con. HeroesCon has been a staple in Charlotte, NC since 1982 and is known for its laser focus on all things comics. This comes as no surprise since its creator, Shelton Drum, is also the owner of Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find comic shop in Charlotte. Picture yourself wandering through long rows of comics to add to your extensive collection, and attending panels/workshops about comic books. You can also try your skills at their popular QuickDraw competition, where you have a few pencils, a Bristol board and 20 minutes to create a quick masterpiece. Even though HeroesCon is not into the TV and movie scene, you will still find quite a few noteworthy guests (mainly comic book creators) in attendance. As a matter of fact, a pretty cool guy named Stan Lee keeps popping up in the crowd…
March 25-27, 2016
WonderCon is a great stepping stone to the almighty SDCC. The con falls under the same management umbrella and is also based in California. With a crowd of over 60K people, this con is much larger than the others on this list, but the attendance is still half the size of the SDCC and less costly ($65 for a 3-day adult pass). The Los Angeles convention has roots in the comic world, but has since extended its reach to TV, movies, and other forms of geek pop culture. Like SDCC, WonderCon is a prime place to go for previews of upcoming films (known as the “Trailer Park”) and to meet lots of stars who are willing to sign autographs and answer fan questions. Of course, cosplay, performances, and all the other staples of typical con life are in abundance, as well as unique offerings like delicious food trucks.
Tucson Comic-Con is yet another con with a primary focus on all things comic book related. The Arizona convention, which typically takes place during the first weekend of November, boasts activities like their Pop Culture Cosplay Fashion show and Geeks Who Drink Pub Quiz session. If you make the trip to TCC, expect to see a few guests from comic industry as well as lots of devoted cosplay artists from all age groups. The 2016 event details are not yet determined, but if you are interested, keep a close eye on their Twitter page. For a nice visual of the Tucson Comic-Con experience, check out the video compilation from the 2015 event.
June 17-19, 2016
Everything is bigger in Texas, so it’s no surprise that Houston, Texas is the home of Comicpalooza, a convention to celebrate sci-fi, comics, anime, gaming, and other aspects of geek culture. With an attendance of about 40K in 2015, the con has become a four-day event filled with TV and film guests from both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Universe. Last year’s guests included Agent Carter’s Hayley Atwell, Stan Lee, and Jeremy Renner (Agents of Shield), among many others so you can expect 2016’s event to be equally awesome. Comicpalooza has also consisted of other events like laser tag, roller derby, and card game matches in previous years, so you can still find plenty to do outside of celeb watching. This 2012 recap video of the con is a great example of what you can expect from Comicpalooza.
September 2-5, 2016
If SDCC and NYCC are considered to be the “Big Two” of geek conventions in the USA, then Dragon Con is surely on its way to taking one of their spots. Like the other cons, Atlanta’s Dragon Con celebrates ALL things geek-related, and is the place to be if you are looking to party with a crowd of geeks who feel like family. The event stretches over five downtown hotels and is well-known for cosplayers who bring their A++ game, their iconic cosplay parade, live music performances, celebrities, and a wide range of fan panels that last late into the night. If you like to dance, the parties start a day before the official con kicks off and they don’t stop until it’s all over! And, if you are into things off the mainstream path (like puppetry), Dragon Con offers a ton of panel tracks to pique your interests. Head to their website and lock in your tickets early for this year’s con.