Geek Fests – The Best Comic Cons on the Planet

By Susie Reese

With comic cons in major cities across the country, you don’t have to go far to geek out. Check out these highlights in America and beyond.



Comic-Con International: San Diego—Geek Champion

The undisputed winner of cons everywhere, SDCC draws more celebrities and creators than any other show and includes more than 600 events, screenings, and panels over a four-day, five-evening stretch in July. It also hosts the distinguished Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, which are the Academy Awards of comics. This year, badges (tickets) sold out within an hour and a half, and due to the popularity of the event, the San Diego Convention Center will be adding 719,300 square feet of exhibition space, including new meeting halls, a ballroom, and a rooftop park while the Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel (right next door) will be adding a new 500-room tower.

Comic-Con International

Comic-Con International is a beast in San Diego, drawing more than 160,000 fans.

Con Clue: Can’t get a room at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront? Then check out Coronado Island with great hotels including the historic Hotel Del Coronado with its turn-of-the-century flair, perfect for that time-travel fan. Coronado is only one bridge ride away, but make sure to get up early. With only one way on and off the island, it becomes jammed on con days.


New York Comic Con—The Geek of the East

The biggest gathering of the geek culture on the East Coast and the second biggest in America (following SDCC), NYCC boasts more than 133,000 attendees a year and rocks the entire Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. A four-day event, NYCC starts Thursday for press, professionals, and four-day pass holders, and runs until Sunday evening with the last day dedicated to children’s media, such as cartoons, young adult books, and costume contests. Scheduled in mid-October, NYCC ends the large comic convention season, but due to its intense popularity, the creators (ReedPOP) held the first Special Edition: NYC, a strictly comics-only con, this past June, also at the Javits Center.

New York Comic Con Artist Alley 2014

Artist Alley is one a place for fans to meet their favorite creators, a con tradition.

Con Clue: Mass transit will only get you so far. Take the subway to Penn Station, get to the surface, and follow the geeks. It’s a brisk ten-minute walk, but you can explore New York sights and stores as you go. If you want to stay close to the action, the Affinia Manhattan with its contemporary design but historic feel is adjacent to Penn and steps from the Empire State Building. The Element New York Times Square West offers breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline and is within walking distance of the convention center, too.

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Emerald City Comic Con—The Ultimate Comic Fest

Held at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, ECCC is one of the purest comic conventions with little influence from movies or TV shows. Held in March, this convention kicks off the comic con season with a star-studded party, drawing big-name editors and creators. It also hosts special events like Sci-Fi Speed Dating (yep, you heard that right!) and a cinema series showcasing classic movies/TV shows with a Q&A with the casts afterwards.

Con Clue: Stay at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel. It’s across the street from the convention center, and the hotel usually hosts the ECCC Kick-off Party.


Heroes Convention

Originally started as a one-day show in a mall, HeroesCon has grown in its more than 30 year history, but it’s still one of the most family friendly gatherings where fans, professionals, and indie creators can mingle and discuss the great industry. From its invite-only Indie Island with amazing talent to its up-and-coming artist alley, this incredible convention has a “laid-back” atmosphere you’ll never find at a monster convention.

Con Clue: While in Charlotte, don’t forget to stop by the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Related Story: Away We Go with Comic Writer and Novelist Marjorie Liu


Baltimore Comic Con

A three-day event for the first time in this con’s history, Baltimore Comic Con takes place in early September this year at the revitalized harborfront. Held in a convention center surrounded by more than a dozen hotels, this fan-friendly convention boasts amazing panels and a knock-out costume show. Baltimore Comic Con is also home to the Harvey Awards, which are the only industry awards that are both nominated and selected by the comic book professionals themselves.

Con Clue: Check out the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel, which is attached to the convention center by a land bridge and is only a block from the bay’s luxurious storefronts.


Thought Bubble

A creator favorite, this United Kingdom show runs for more than a week in November and offers free art-and writing-based workshops. It’s segmented with a two-day academic conference for industry professionals and film screenings as well as another two-day convention offering more than 300 tables filled with professionals. The Leeds’ show also hosts the British Comic Awards and a Comic Art Competition, in conjunction with Travelling Man, Image Comics, 2000AD, Marvel Comics, and Diamond Comics.

Con Clue: Stay in Leeds for the festival, but London is less than 200 miles away. Start your UK trip in London to see the bonfires of Guy Fawkes Day or the parade and pageantry of The Lord Mayor’s Show before heading up to see the show. If you go to Leeds first, head down to the capital for the new London Jazz Festival later in the month.

Related Story: Away We Go with Comic Writer Kyle Higgins


Honorable Mention:

MegaCon is the Con of Florida and takes up the West Building of the Orange County Convention Center. Held in early March/April and close to the major amusement parks, this convention grabs more than a few big names. Taking place steps from Universal, you’ll want to stay at the new Cabana Bay Beach Resort and check out the London section of Harry Potter!

Since 2010, Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) has invaded the South Building of McCormick Place, the largest convention center in North America. Run by the same folks who put on NYCC, C2E2 attracts more than 60,000 participants and a great number of professionals and celebrities. Thrillseekers, make sure to check out the revamped 360 Chicago, formerly the John Hancock Observatory. Here, you can see the “Best Views. All Around.” Soon, you’ll be able to strap-in for a wild ride on TILT, which will tip you toward the street—more than 1,000 feet below. You might not fly like Superman, but you’ll sure feel like you can!

In California, check out APE (Alternative Press Expo) in October which focuses on independent comic creators and distributors, and Comic-Con International Presents WonderCon Anaheim in April, which has many of the great aspects of SDCC but on a smaller scale. APE takes place in San Francisco, allowing you to check out the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. WonderCon, though normally set in San Francisco, has been hosted by Anaheim the last two years. Oh, don’t fight the urge. Stay at Disneyland.

Held in the same place as ECCC, Geek Girl Con “celebrates the female geek” and hopes to motivate all women to enjoy not just comics but also the arts and sciences. Geek Girl Con happens in mid-October.  Don’t forget to ride the monorail and hit the top of the Space Needle.


About the Author

Susie_ReeseSusie Reese is a copywriter for FC USA Artworks. She loves to travel (you know it!) and has ventured extensively across North America. She enjoys short walks on the beach and comic cons. She writes On the Go: A Magazine for Travelers and on her free-time, comics and short stories.