The Event:

Phoenix Comicon–the premiere comic book convention of the Southwest! Started in 2002 with 400 attendees, the event has ballooned to nearly 76,000 attendees in 2015 and looks to top that in 2016. It also happens to be one of the biggest geek conventions in the world. No big deal. (Kidding, this is a big deal!)

Getting Tickets:

Tickets for the event typically go on sale in December (for the following May/June) on the Phoenix Comicon website. You benefit greatly from buying them as early as possible since the price does goes up closer to the event. Full-event memberships are always the better buy but individual day tickets for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are available as well. Kids under 2 are free while discounted Sidekick memberships are available for kids ages 3-12. Phoenix Comicon also offers a “fast pass” that allows special access to photo ops and autograph lines. Get more ticket information here.

Travel Tips:

Every year Phoenix Comicon takes place at the Phoenix Convention Center located in the heart of downtown Phoenix. The city has a fairly useful transit system, so getting to and from the Convention Center is relatively painless via the city-wide lightrail. Driving is another story. Get there early enough each morning of the convention and traffic is manageable, but as the day goes on the traffic will get unbearable. Not to mention there are often multiple street closures due to the convention extending its hold on the city every year, so be prepared for alternate routes.

There’s no parking at the Convention Center itself but there are multiple lots around the downtown area to accommodate for the crowd. Again, getting to the parking lots early will make it easier when it comes to parking. I’ve actually witnessed pricing for certain lots go up as the day goes on, so that’s another incentive to park in the morning. There’s also Chase Field and Talking Stick Resort Arena nearby, so traffic can get particularly bad if there’s a sportsball event happening at the same time as the convention. Carpooling is highly suggested if you aren’t able to take public transit.

Protip:  check Phoenix Comicon’s website and/or Facebook page closer to the event to see if they are offering discount parking through a third-party vendor on any nearby lots. In previous years I’ve managed to get $5 a day parking at the Jefferson Street Lot close to the Convention Center, which is a real steal.

Hotel Arrangements:

Like most conventions, hotel accommodations are the most sought after commodity outside of the tickets themselves. Phoenix Comicon works with several of the hotels around town to offer a discounted nightly rate for attendees but naturally those reservations fill up quickly, so don’t dilly or dally when it comes to making hotel arrangements. Luckily, there are a ton of other hotels nearby (but for a slightly higher cost) or there are cheaper hotels available outside of the immediate area. Oftentimes these hotels are a less than 10 minutes drive to the Convention Center, so there’s no need to stay right near the event if you can’t afford to do so.

But if you’re an avid cosplayer and plan to dress up in Arizona’s wonderful 100 degree heat, having a room at one of Phoenix Comicon’s host hotels is worth the investment.

Food Options:

Given the location of the Phoenix Convention Center in downtown Phoenix, the food options are pretty abundant. Walking just a few blocks in any direction from the event can yield a host of different options, from something quick to a little more elegant. You’ll also find a lot of restaurants cater to the Phoenix Comicon crowd with drink and food specials. Over the last few years, the Convention Center has had food trucks waiting just outside the main doors if you’re looking to stay closer to the action. Inside the Convention Center itself are typical options like hot dogs, popcorn, and pizza but if you are able to leave to eat food, go experience some awesome Phoenix cuisine.

Protip:  Pizzeria Bianco usually has a lengthy wait on weekends (especially so during Phoenix Comicon) but it is so worth the wait. Best pizza in Arizona. Yeah, I said it.

Bonus protip:  Don’t feel like walking to a restaurant? There are always bike taxis waiting outside the Convention Center and usually the drivers cosplay to celebrate the occasion. My wife and I were once driven to dinner by Darth Vader while the “Imperial March” blared on the bicycle’s speaker system. It was awesome.

Ancillary Events:

Every year Phoenix Comicon adds to their ever-growing list of events outside of traditional panels and autograph sessions. In the past, they’ve had a Geek Prom, Comedy Show (featuring Brian Posehn!), and Steampunk Ball just to name a few. These events are usually a little extra (between $5-$10) depending on the event but there are plenty of free events that happen in and around the convention as well, including a Zombie Walk and a multitude of gaming tournaments of both the board and video variety. Phoenix Comicon almost always has some sort of event around charitable organizations like Kids Need to Read and the Red Cross for those inclined to help out others while having fun doing so. Many hotels are completely taken over during the convention so there’s almost something going on even after the main convention closes for the night.

Other Need to Know Info:

GO ON THURSDAY! Thursday might not be the most exciting day in terms of celebrity guests but there are plenty of benefits to going on Phoenix Comicon’s only less-hectic day. For one thing, picking up tickets is significantly easier than trying to manage the lines that Friday or Saturday bring. Speaking of lines, they are virtually nonexistent on Thursday for authors and artists, making it a breeze to get in on a favorite artists’ sketch queue or having a book signed by a geek author. But for first-timers to the event, Thursday also offers the ability to get the lay of the land. Phoenix Comicon has gotten HUGE in the last few years, so big in fact that they utilize multiple floors, buildings, and venues to house panels and events. Learning exactly where certain rooms are on Thursday will help significantly on busier days when time to figure out the layout of the convention is just not available.

Oh, and Phoenix is in the desert. It’s hot. Plan any and all cosplays accordingly. There’s a good chance that foam Halo armor might begin to fall apart under the extreme heat of the Arizona sun. Although the convention itself is indoors, there will be quite a few times you’ll need to walk outside, if only for a minute to get some fresh air. Be mindful of the heat when dressing up and for pete’s sake get plenty of water. Seriously. No excuses.

Phoenix Comicon also has an app that will help arranging plans for the weekend, and any other information will always be available on their website or Facebook page.

And if you still have questions after all of that, leave a comment below! No seriously. I’ve been to Phoenix Comicon every year since 2011, so I feel pretty comfortable answering any questions.

John Dubrawa

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