Otakon Survival Guide

I thought I would put together a little survival guide for individuals thinking of attending Otakon. I haven been attending this convention for 9 years now (please, no snickers old timers) and I'd like to think I've learned a few things that might help others improve their experience. So, below follows my guide to surviving and ultimately improving your convention experience.


View Otakon convention hall and registration line in a larger map

Monday
Jul202009

1. Arrive Thursday night if you can

The badge registration line Friday morning is always hellish and if you can avoid it, you will do yourself a huge favor. Getting the schedule/Book Thursday night allows you to better plan for Friday. Also, there are sometimes events Thursday night (such as concerts).

Monday
Jul202009

2. Bring a camera

There are many thousands of people dressing up in costume at this event and if you have any interest in photography YOU MUST BRING YOUR CAMERA. At the same time though, try to be courteous and ask people before you snap their picture, most of the time they'll pose for you.

PLEASE ...PLEASE DO NOT BLOCK BUSY HALLWAYS.  People have a bad habit of stopping in the hallway to take a picture and stopping traffic.  Not only is it discourteous to the rest of the attendees around you, but it also sucks for the Otakon staffers that have to tell you not to do something you already know you shouldn't.  Staffers have more important things to do at the convention than yell at attendees doing stupid things.  If you see someone you absolutely have to get a picture of in a busy hallway, simply ask them if you can get their picture on the other side where there is a clearing.  Most folks don't mind and if you are in such a hurry that you can't wait 2 minutes, then you really didn't need that photo anyway.

Monday
Jul202009

3. Shower

I know, sounds like common sense right, but many people do not regularly bathe and it really sucks when you get stuck near some of those individuals in a row of seating. So please, for the sake of all those around you, make sure to use that bar of soap.

Monday
Jul202009

4. Carry a large bag for purchases

If you anticipate buying anything at all in the dealers hall, you should take a large bag with you (such as a huge messenger bag or backpack). Trust me when I say those bags can get really damn heavy after a while when you are trying to tote 5+ seperate plastic bags of stuff. Plus, you can be more environmentally friendly as a perk ;)

Monday
Jul202009

5. Bring a bottle of water

Baltimore in July usually ends up being damn hot and you will get very thirsty when you are outside. This is especially true if you can't follow suggestion #1 and you have to wait in line Friday or Saturday. Keep hydrated, your fellow attendees get rather alarmed when you pass out from dehydration.

Monday
Jul202009

6. Don't wear heavy costumes in the registration line

This goes back to point #5, heat stroke and dehydration are no fun and will ruin your convention experience. It gets really hot outside and that registration line can take hours to get through. During that time you really don't want to bake inside your costume (plus you probably won't smell too hot afterwards). There's plenty of time, once you get your badge, to go back to the hotel and put your costume on.

Monday
Jul202009

7. Get a hotel room as early as you can and as close the convention center as you can

Again, this sounds like common sense but you won't believe what difference a couple of blocks can make. Book your room as early as you can, the rooms fill up FAST! If you don't care about getting the convention discount (in which case I'd call you nuts), you can book it any time you like. Otherwise you need to wait till the convention housing program starts, at which time you should immediately book your room. In the even that you don't get a room quick enough, don't totally panic. If you are a social Otaku (yes they exist) then you can usually find individuals looking for a roomate to share a room and split the cost. I'm personally not that adventerous, but many are. This is also nice if you can't afford your own room for the whole stay.

Monday
Jul202009

8. Don't wait in lines (unless it's a panel line or registration ..you get the idea)

Most of the lines at Otakon are pointless. Concerts and the AMV contest at the convention hall almost never fill up that I've seen. Instead of standing in line for an hour, go check out some anime or panels, come back once the event is starting and happily walk in and snag a seat after everyone is already inside. The dealers hall line is the king of POINTLESS, don't line up, just don't do it! Once the hall opens the line moves like lightning, so unless you just want to stand there with the other lemings, go do something worthwhile. Panels are the exception, because many of these are in small rooms, also some of the really REALLY popular anime/movies will sometimes fill up a room (again because it's small). The HD Theatre and Video 1 however, are very very large, so don't worry about itEDIT: In recent years Otakon has hit capacity and these days many video rooms (even the HD theatre and Video 1), will often run out of seating.  So if it is something you desperately want to see and especially if it is popular, I recommend you line up (the earlier the better).  This also goes for the AMV (though there multiple chances for this) and ESPECIALLY concert tickets.

Monday
Jul202009

9. Attend at least one concert if you enjoy JRock/JPop

Otakon usually has one to four musical guests every year and if you enjoy their music, a concert is a great experience to add to your con! Many of the concerts are held inside the convention center with others occassionally being held at outside venues such as the First Mariner Arena. Unless you are just really driven to be as close as possible to the band, don't worry about standing in line, go get something to eat instead. These events never fill up as far as I've seen (except maybe at some of the outside venues) and you'll get a decent seat even if you come in late. Due to Otakon hitting capacity in recent years, concerts can often times actually fill up.  This isn't as likely with something like the First Mariner Arena, but if it is a room inside the convention center, I would definitely get in line.  You should still get your tickets as early as possible though for outside venues.


View Otakon Concert Venues in a larger map

Monday
Jul202009

10. Attend the AMV Contest if you have any interest in music videos at all

Have you ever watched MTV in your life? Do you enjoy music videos? I'd ask if you enjoy anime but that would be stupid .....right? So if you enjoy these things, you very well might enjoy the AMV contest. You get to watch music videos put together by your peers and vote on them, sounds like fun right? Plus I've been introduced to new anime shows as well as new musical artists thanks to some of these videos. I generally find this a fun "must attend" event at Otakon and they run multiple sessions of it. Just to clarify though, if it says "AMV Overflow" those ballots will not be counted and the Sunday session is never counted because they are already being counted by Saturday afternoon so that the winners can be announced at closing ceremonies. However if you don't care about voting then the overflow sessions might be perfect for you. If you don't like music videos, then just ignore this event.

Monday
Jul202009

11. Know the locations of the local eateries

Food is important, Otaku need fuel, so with that in mind you should find out where all the local eateries are. There are various vendors in the convention center and the Einstein Bagel place on the second floor isn't bad (or whatever it is currently called), but if you want real food you have to leave the convention center. There is a food court in the mall along the harbor not far from the convention center. I recommend that if you have a group of friends with diverse tastes. There's also a couple of new restaurants across from the Center called "The Nest" and "The Wharf Rat", both have good food, with prices that aren't too horrible. There's also a time honored Otaku eatery diagonally across from the center called "California Tortilla". Since it's a franchise I doubt I need to explain that one to you.  Another con favorite in recent years is Jimmy John's sandwiches (really fast and really good sandwhiches, one of my favorites).  There are also a couple of chineese places in the area, a mcdonalds and many many other places. Locating them in advance can save you time :)

My map below is somewhat out of date, so I simply suggest clicking the "View Larger Map" link which will take you to the current google map for the area with eateries marked.


View Places to eat around the BCC in a larger map
View Larger Map

Monday
Jul202009

12. If you plan on attending any 18+ events, get your wristband earlier in the day

As it nears time for the 18+ late night showings/panels to start, everyone rushes to get a wristband and suddenly there's is a crazy long line. During the rest of the day there is no line for wristbands at all, so why not get yours earlier in the afternoon, then you can shake your head at the poor bastards waiting in yet another pointless line as you stroll into the event.

Monday
Jul202009

13. Check out some panels

We all love anime and movies, but you can watch a lot of those 362 other days of the year, while some of the panels could be a once in a lifetime experience, certainly a once in a year experience. While there are some really bad panels, there are also some really great panels as well. Why not find out some of the history of anime, learn how to review it if you are into journalism. Maybe you want to learn more about mecha anime, or maybe you just want to laugh at REALLY REALLY BAD anime. It's almost a guarantee that you can find a panel that will appeal to you. I personally recommend anything being run by Frederick Schodt, or the Anime World Order crew. The old timers of anime are also a good group to check out.  I will add some references to groups/individuals that have run some good past panels.

Monday
Jul202009

14. Go see some anime you have never heard of

This is the best way to find some new anime you want to watch. Just pick some stuff and check it out, and if you don't like it, move on to another. Once you find shows you like, you can always watch the rest of it after the convention when you buy or rent it (you are buying anime and actually supporting the guys making this stuff right? ...right?)

Monday
Jul202009

15. Go to the Masquerade

I have yet to actually do this myself, but if you like taking pictures of some awesome cosplayers and seeing some whacky skits, this is probably something you should check out. It's usually held in the First Mariner Arena (yes there are that many people) and it runs for around 3 hours.

Monday
Jul202009

16. Check out the Rave

The rave isn't really my scene, but if you like dancing and rave music you should check this out Friday and Saturday night. Ever wanted to see a cat girl get crazy on the dance floor? Well this might be your event then.  More information about the rave can be found on Otakon's website here.

Monday
Jul202009

17. Plan on schedules changing

Schedules will change, it is inevitable, at some point you will go to watch something only to find it has been cancelled and something else put in its spot. With this in mind you should pay attention to the scheduling boards at the different video rooms when you pass them. The shcedule boards at each room's entrance are gosphel. Any edits to the board will be pretty obvious and you may save yourself some surprises later. Sometimes these changes are pleasant surprises, sometimes not. Just keep aware.

Monday
Jul202009

18. Visit the Charles Street lobby for picture taking

You can count on plenty of cosplayers being gathered here through most of the convention and thus it's an excellent place to take lots of pictures. If you have some time to kill and want to take some pics, wander over to here.

Tuesday
Aug172010

19. Do not have conversations inside viewing theatres!

For the love of god, do not talk inside the viewing rooms!  Other people are trying to actually watch what's on the screen.  Just don't be that rude jerk, people will thank you for it.  Every time someone pulls out their phone and starts texting or begins talking loudly to the person next to them, I want to punch them in their damn face.  Please, don't be the person that finally pushes me one step too far and instigates a face punching event.

Tuesday
Apr082014

20. Check out the Artist Alley

There are a lot of cool artists at Otakon with a lot of original and interesting art that may appeal to you.  These run the gambit of eveything from paintings to handmade crafts.  You never know what cool item you might find.  Do yourself a favor and at least give the artist alley a once over.