C2E2 Survival Guide

C2E2 Survival Guide

How to maximize your fun and stretch your dollar

It’s that time of year again. The comic book and entertainment masses are set to descend upon the great city of Chicago! It’s C2E2 one of the best cons in the nation and it’s right here in our hometown. After 3 years of attending, I’ve gotten a little savvy at attending this convention. For the benefit of those who haven’t attended, I give you this survival guide. Make no mistake about it. C2E2 is a great con, but it’s full of perils, dangers and pitfalls that any con of this size might have. But if you follow my rules carefully, you’ll make it out alive and you might even have enough cash left over for a Pop-Tart.

Preparing for the Convention

You may think it’s OK to just wake up the day of the con, walk outside your hotel and be magically whisked away to the land comic nirvana. But only suckers and people that complain about their feet do this. A real warrior recognizes the battle before him and prepares accordingly. Below are the tools you’ll need for your convention adventurer’s kit.

Tools for Getting to the Con

This may be less important if you live in Chicago, but if you’re from out of town, you’ll find these below apps incredibly useful.

Public Transit Applications

Google Maps – Chicago has some of the best public transportation in the nation. As a result, Google has taken notice and has built in transit directions for using public transportation. If you use Google Maps on your phone or laptop, you can ask Google how to take buses and trains to get to your destination. I know some of you Chicago folks are rolling your eyes, but hey, not everyone uses public transportation. This YouTube video has a pretty good tutorial on how to use it.

Buster – In Chicago, all of our buses and trains are tracked by GPS satellite. That data is made available via an API that is managed by the Transit Authority. I’m not sure if Google Maps utilizes this data or not, but Buster does. Buster allows you too look up a bus number and a stop to see when the next bus will be arriving. It does not give you directions, it simply tells you when the next 2-3 buses or trains will be arriving. You can find Buster in the Apple App Store for $1.99

Chicago Transit Tracker Lite – Calm down Android fans, I didn’t forget about you. This app is the Android equivilant of Buster, but free. It’s available on the Google Play Store

Transit Chicago – If you’re a Windows Phone user, this is Buster for you. Download it at the Windows App Store

If none of these appeal to you, the CTA has an app center with other options. I’ve listed the apps I’ve had the most positive experience with.

Cab Applications

Uber – I’ve heard great things about Uber, but alas, I haven’t used it myself. The basic premise is that Uber is kind of like a car service, but cheaper. (But still more expensive than a standard cab.) With Uber you don’t exchange any money with the driver, the fare (I believe) is predetermiend. When you make a reservation, you’ll get a photo of the driver. It’s a nice way to show up to the convention center in style.

Flash Cab – It’s just a typical cab service. You’re in the big city, so really you can just walk outside and hail a cab. But if you’re a planner, you may want to have a bit more structure to your pick up. They do have a web-hail service online. Check them out http://www.flashcab.com

Things to Pack

I’m going to gloss over the basic things you need, like pants. These are some essential things.

  1. A large over the shoulder bag. — You just don’t know how many times you buy something you didn’t expect to at the convention. Having a large over-the-shoulder bag keeps you prepared for these instances. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s not like an empty bag is going to ruin your mojo or anything. But if you DO end up needing it, you’ll be praising the heavens that you have it. The loot at C2E2 is plentiful.

  2. Comnfortable Shoes — If you intend to cosplay, you’ll be cursing those wretched boots by the 4th hour. Make sure you have a tested pair of comfortable shoes with you at all times. You’ll be amazed how tiring standing around and doing nothing can be. Don’t worry, your Darth Vader costume will still look awesome if you’re wearing a pair of Nike. You can throw them in your shoulder bag when you’re not wearing them.

  3. Phone Charger — C2E2 has very spotty cell phone coverage. As a result, your phone spends a lot more time searching for a signal. As a result of that, your phone drains power faster than normal. Don’t count on previous battery life performance. Pack a charger just in case. You’d be surprised how many places there are to get a little charge.

  4. Something to Read — Sounds nuts right? Bringing a book with you to a comic book convention. Just trust me on this one for now. Bring something to read.

At the Convention

Once you’re at the convention, there are a few rules that you have to live by. Always keep these 3 rules in mind. If you do, you’ll rock the pants off this con.

Rule #1C2E2 is a dungeon

This rule sounds pretty simple at first, but it’s easy to forget because the layout of C2E2 is deceptively complex. Just when you think you know where you’re at, you realize the guy you thought was William Shatner is actually a steam punk Abe Lincoln. Always keep an eye out for the overhead aisle signs. They do a great job of telling you where you’re at, but if you’re like me, you still can’t use them to get to where you’re going.

Rule #2You don’t have a cellphone

This rule is also difficult to remember. You have this rectangular box in your pocket that you probably spent $200 dollars on. You only use it for texting, Facebook and Twitter, but the guy at the counter assured you it could operate in “talkie” mode too. Well C2E2 is bombarded with so much awesome, sometimes it traps cell phone signals inside. I really feel like it’s a matter of network capacity more so than actual coverage in the convention center. Sometimes you’re walking around and making a call is easy. Other times, it takes you forever to get a text message. So when you’re making plans, assume that you won’t be able to get in touch with anyone via phone if either party is inside the convention center.

Rule #3Always have a rally point

Even the best laid plans don’t survive first contact with the enemy. This goes hand-in-hand with Rule #2. (And #1 really) You should always have a very specific time and a very specific place to meet with friends. Even if you don’t plan on splitting up, decide on a specific meeting place. Saying “Let’s meet at Artist Alley around 12pm” isn’t sufficient. Artist Alley is huge and everyone has a different definition of around. You’ll be amazed by how many times you’ll overhear “Dude, I’ve been looking for you for like 3 hours!” All it takes is for you both to look away from each other at the same time for a second before you are swept away into the sea of humanity.

Tips for the Convention

Go to artist alley first

Remember that C2E2 is a gauntlet of financial endurance. Assuming your last name isn’t Kardashian or Hilton, you’re probably working on a budget. Artist Alley always has a surprising number of talented artists, with incredible portfolios. You’ll want to buy something, but having gone through the Valley of Vendors, chances are you’ve spent a good chunk of change. Go see the artist first! If you don’t find anything, no biggie, but at least you won’t be surprised. Chances are you can get that trade paperback of the Dark Phoenix Saga online at Amazon. But it’s not often you’ll run into this artist you’ve never heard of who has a portfolio that sends you into a nerd frenzy.

Always make a complete sweet of the vendors before purchasing

If you don’t see what the show has to offer, I guarantee you you’ll wish you had spent your money on something else. Now understand that you still won’t have enough cash for all the good stuff at the show, but at least now you’ll be making battlefield triage decisions as opposed to dumping all the morphine into the guy with a flesh wound. I might have taken the war metaphor too far that time. Bottom line is to survey the field of battle before deploying your resources. (i.e. your dollars)

Line up early for big panels

This is a tough one to really gauge. Early is a subjective term. It also varies tremendously, even amongst people you think would be in a similar tier. The line for The Walking Dead cast and the line for a Bruce Campbell panel might be on two totally different ends of the spectrum. Your best bet is to view the area where the panel you’re looking for will be and get an idea of how many people are lined up and how early. If 2 Wolverines, a Stormtrooper and a Black Cat are already lined up and the panels not for another 2 hours, you’re in trouble. Remember that book I told you to bring with you? You’re welcome.

Save money for the Sunday fire sales

The truth is that by Sunday, retailers are exhausted. They’re really not in the mood to lug all of these books back to their store locations. If they can sell it to you, they’d rather be weighted down by the extra cash than by more inventory. So Sunday has historically been fire sale day. You get some awesome deals on graphic novels, statues, etc. One year I remember Archaia had an insane buy 1 get the second half off, buy 2 get 1 free deal. If you’ve never seen an Archaia book, they’re usually beautifully put together. (I’d never buy an Archaia book digitally) So I’d definitely recommend saving a few bucks to make sure you can take advantage of the sales.

After the Convention

The awesome thing about C2E2 is that when the panels are done, the floor is closed for the night, you’re still in an kick-ass city! There’s plenty of things going on in the city.

There’s so much to do, we figured we’d just throw it all into a map. So here’s a link to a series of locations that might be of interest to a nerd new to the city. It’s by no means exhaustive, but points you in the right direction.

View Nerd’s C2E2 Guide to Chicago in a larger map

Questions? I want your C2E2 visit to be great! I love my city and I think you will too. If you have any questions on what to do, how to survive or where to celebrate your survival, feel free to email me

Happy Hunting


Jeff serves as the President of the Chicago Nerd Social Club

5 Responses to C2E2 Survival Guide

  1. Michi Trota says:

    I’d also advise bringing the following: snacks (nuts, granola bars, fruit, crackers, even a sandwich) and a water bottle. Aside from the fact that you’re surrounded by junk food, it’s horribly overpriced. Staying hydrated is the main thing – refilling your water bottle is easy and free. Fruit and healthy snacks will keep your energy up better than what you’re likely to find at the food vendors (and if you’re on a restricted diet – gluten-free, vegan, etc – you won’t have to worry about where to find sustenance). Plus, what would you rather spend $10 on: a slice of pizza and a can of pop, or something from artist’s alley?

  2. Dave says:

    What Michi said. Seriously. I blew over $20 getting lunch for me and my wife last year and it consisted of something they claimed was a burger (jury’s still deliberating on that one) and a soda. Messy as hell, but under the grease, I’m still not sure it was food.

    Show up assuming that food does not exist outside your apartment/hotel room, because it sure as hell doesn’t exist outside the convention center. And inside the convention center? You’ll find movie theaters with more forgiving price schemes than the resident food shops.

  3. Ryan says:

    Does C2E2 give out a Welcome bag like Wizard World Con does. I’ve been to a few of the Wizard World Cons in Chicago and they give you a welcome bag (even if you aren’t a VIP) and it usually contains some advertisements, a map, and a variant comic only given away at the Con, sometimes two comic books.

    Does C2E2 do this or no, I am hoping they do.

  4. Mike says:

    I purchased tickets for Saturday and I am taking my son to meet Hayley Atwell for the photo-op and autograph.

    We attended last year’s Wizard event in August at the Rosemont Convention Center and I purchased the photo and autograph package for Stan Lee. The tickets could be purchased in advance on their website, but I do not see that option for C2E2.

    Do you need to wait in line to buy them at the event?

    Any advice for a fellow nerd on making this less painful?

    Your feedback is appreciated.

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