Since Wizard World Philadelphia was our first experience at a Comic Con, I thought I would briefly share how it went for our family in case anyone else in a similar situation wanted to look into going. Our two oldest daughters wanted to go to one for some time, and it just so happened that the Saturday, June 4, 2016, hours lined up with our schedule, although obviously the event ran from June 2 through June 5.
As stated, our two oldest daughters, 11 and 9, were quite interested in going. The nice thing is that with each paid adult admission you can bring up to two children, 10 and under, for free. We figured our 11-year-old was close enough for this year, although obviously not for next year when we’ll have to get her an adult admission. We were initially going to bring our youngest daughter as well, who’s only 20 months old, but we decided we’d rather pay for the babysitting, which, it turned out, was a good move. She would have never tolerated the lines or not being able to touch anything and everything. Interestingly, there were a handful of babies there, including some that were probably only three months old or so, so I guess your mileage may vary. In any case, we’ll re-evaluate whether she’ll be able to go to next year’s event, when she’ll be roughly two and a half, but I’m thinking she’ll miss out on that one too.
Being our first event, I wanted us to travel light and comfortable, so that meant no costumes. We did buy nifty t-shirts in advance, though, and my 9-year-old also had Wonder Woman socks and a Superman hat. Unfortunately, the t-shirts my wife bought at a Disney store got lost somehow in the days leading up to the event so she wore one of our old Captain America shirts.
The show hours were from 10am – 7pm, but from all that I read it looked like it was best to get there at least an hour early. We got to the Parking Panda Parking Garage recommended on the Website around 9am (we prepaid for that as well, right after I ordered the tickets online). It was supposed to be right next to the event, but the Pennsylvania Convention Center is a massive series of connected buildings, so we did have quite a bit of walking to do still. Nevertheless, even getting to the parking garage at that time we still had to park on the second to last upper level. Still, it could have been far worse.
Once we found the exact location and exchanged our self-printed tickets for wristbands (our kids didn’t need them), we queued up in one of a series of long lines. A little before 10am they let us all in and the lines were moving well. That was an early sign that this was a professionally run show and our opinion didn’t change as the day wore on.
As expected, the main show floor was filled with booths. Most booths (and spaces) were giving away stuff or selling items, but others were demonstrating things, both artist-related and various products. For the latter, for instance, there was a nice HP trailer set up that demoed their fascinating Sprout all-in-one computer system, along with 3D capture stage, and Dremel 3D printer. I have to say, I was skeptical having just read about this stuff, but in using it it really is a fascinating way of both playing and working, particularly with the 20″ touch mat that doubles as a second screen projection surface (the main unit has a built-in DLP projector). I do have to note though that, at least in the demonstration, the 3D scanning that required multiple long scans of a particular object needs some improvement.
Besides shopping and seeing, an event like this is also about celebrity meet-and-greets and autograph signings. That’s not our thing, although the list of celebrities was quite impressive, including the major cast members from Back to the Future and the Marvel Universe movies. There was definitely a nice type of general excitement (“electricity”) in the air, and again, everything was extremely well organized.
Videogames were also present, with nice playable displays and tournaments from the likes of Namco and Capcom. There was also a good showing for board games, with similar tournaments and a nice area to try out different games.
We were mostly there to take in the sights, but we did sit in on one artist drawing something in Photoshop on the spot, and also participated in what was an all-day miniatures painting activity. For only $5, you got a small plastic figure and were able to sit at a table with a brush and paint and get to coloring. It was actually a blast, and I must say that even though the metal figures of my youth were nicer, the paint they have these days is a million times better. The flesh and metallic colored paints are especially impressive.
As a side note, we didn’t want to eat at the event. Fortunately, since this is in a city, there were plenty of options for food. We initially tried a pizza place, but it was too hot inside, so we tried the Reading Terminal Market. Unfortunately, even on a good day it’s overcrowded, so we gave up on that as well. We ended up at a place called BurgerFi, which ended up not being too crowded – although it did fill up as we were finishing up – and was quite delicious. After we left the show around 5pm, for dinner, we kept it simple, walked a few blocks, and ate at the Hard Rock Cafe, which has a kid friendly menu (which is mostly why we didn’t have something more interesting for dinner). That too ended up being pretty good.
The cosplay at the event was fascinating. I’d say maybe 10% of the visitors dressed up, with some obviously in more elaborate get-ups than others. The most popular female costumes seemed to be Harley Quinn and Scarlet Witch (Avengers movie version), while there seemed to be lots of Captain America‘s on the male side. Of course, there were some nifty gender-swapped costumes as well, and some gender swaps in general. In any case, dressed up or not, there was a wonderful sense of camaraderie throughout the event. As contrasted to when I was growing up in the 1980s, now is truly a golden age for geeks, i.e., we’re among more friends than ever and can be proud and vocal about what we love.
Leaving was just as easy as arriving, with minimal traffic. I think it helped immensely that the whole event took place over so many days and over so many hours. It helps spread out the tens of thousands of people that would otherwise be in conflict with each other. It’s a great family event. Just expect lots of walking and of course have extra cash on hand for goodies (although most places do take credit cards).
Now that we know better what to expect, next year we may dress up in costumes. I’m sure that will further change the experience for us, as will participating in more of the seminars/events. Overall, I highly recommend the experience.