Every year for the past five or six years my husband and I have attended Wizard World Chicago Comic Con. After attending that convention for a few years we began looking into other conventions in the Midwest within driving distance. Every time I looked up conventions online or spoke with friends who have similar interests one con seemed to continue to stand out from the rest, C2E2 otherwise known as The Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. So this year we finally sucked it up and hopped in the car for the two hour long journey to what is often referred to as one of the largest conventions in the Midwest.
Whenever my husband and I attend an event for the first time we call it our "test year." Basically we want to go into the event knowing we are trying to get the lay of the land while still having fun; so that the following year when we attend we can do so knowing what to expect, and then will able to maximize our time at the event. If you plan on attending this convention definitely go into it with a solid plan, but then expect a majority of your plan to be blown into a thousand pieces! Although most of your plan will not come to fruition it will mostly be for some pretty awesome reasons.
C2E2 is held at McCormick Place - a massive hotel and convention center located in downtown Chicago, Illinois. Let me tell you - the biggest challenge was getting there. Our drive should have been about 2 hours. We woke up at 7:30am with a detailed plan in place to leave by 8:00am and arrive at 10:00am. We had the high hopes of seeing Stan "the man" Lee himself on the conventions main stage at 11:00am followed by an Marvel's Agents of Shield panel at 12:15pm. We also hoped to be able to snag a pair of highly coveted wrist bands in order to attend the Crown Championships of Cosplay competition that night. The first hour and a half of our drive went smoothly and we were right on schedule until we got into Chicago and began closing in on the venue. The last half hour of our drive turned into a grueling stand still traffic jam that went on for an hour. By the time we finally parked I was getting a notification from my handy dandy C2E2 cell phone app saying that by 10:30am the Stan Lee panel was completely full. This brings me to the very first lesson I learned on this adventure - wake up early because there is always someone more hardcore and more prepared than you are who will be on time!
So with the first portion of our plan dashed we found a $15.00 parking spot in parking lot B and made the long trek to the convention center. Upon arrival we were greeted by a huge complex. C2E2 spans four floors. The first floor is just an entry point to meet up with friends, use the restroom, and get settled. When you hit the third floor is where shit gets real. The third floor contains registration, the famous C2E2 letters, the typical show banner to take photos, and the main show floor filled with exhibitors, gaming, autographs, and artist alley. Of course the first thing we did was take care of all the photo opportunities you have right when you get off the escalators. I also got extremely excited and momentarily distracted by seeing so many of my favorite characters not only being cosplayed, but cosplayed extremely well, all in one place. Everyone was super friendly and willing to pose for photos as well as show off their costumes to you by giving you details on how long it took to put the pieces together. Taking photos and asking people about their cosplays is a great way to break the socializing bubble and make a few friends!
After that we immediately got our lanyards (the badges were previously mailed to us after purchase) and headed up to level four of the building where the main stage was located. I figured we had enough time to still get in line for the Marvel's Agents of Shield panel since it was about 11:00am by the time we finished up on level three. When we arrived outside the main stage everything was very well organized. There was one person standing in front of where the lines for the panel were laid out in tape markers on the floor letting everyone know that the Stan Lee panel was closed, but that people were free to line up for the following panel. Then that first person would direct you to second person who was holding a hand held counter and would put you in one of the taped off lines marked 1-12 (I believe there could have been more or less lines). Then the waiting began. What should have been an hour and fifteen minute wait turned into almost two hours due to an issue with a projector inside the main stage area. That issue caused everyone inside the main stage area to be evacuated while the problem was solved by event staff. Luckily those of us standing outside did not lose our spots in line and were able to remain where we were. The issue was fixed and we were ushered into the panel through one open door. Each attendee in line had to wait their turn to enter through the single door and then were able to find their seats on a first come first serve basis. Overall the organization of the panel crowd was a great experience. I didn't feel like I was fighting for a seat like I have in the past at other conventions. It was also very nice that they kept everyone informed and gave each attendee a spot in line while keeping count. The whole process was very smooth!
While we were in the panel we got notification that the cosplay show wristbands were officially gone, but that there was an overflow streaming room that attendees were still able to view the show from. I decided that we would just skip the show since we wouldn't be allowed to enter the main stage area. You win some you lose some. By the time the panel was over we were absolutely starving. As per usual there were multiple food, beverage, and restroom areas all over the show floor, but luckily McCormick Place actually has its own mini food court on the second floor of the building including a McDonald's! A whole lot of starving, pumped up, and honestly impatient people slammed the McDonald's at the same time we did. This place had no organization whatsoever and it was basically a free for all of people trying to get ahead in line, attempting to get napkins, and trying to get their drinks. Most of the condiments, napkins, and ice were completely out and it seemed like none of the employees knew how to gain control of the situation. At one point a strange man literally hugged me in order to reach his arms around me to get to a soda machine. Needless to say lunch was not a good time.
This brings me to the show floor, which was amazing. The floor is nearly double the size of Wizard World with an autograph and photograph area where you can catch your favorite celebs, vendors, a gaming area, and artist alley. The floor also had points called towers where you were able to scan your badge. If you scanned your badge at each tower attendees could earn prizes and facts about a fictional adventure within the show floor that was all coordinated via the C2E2 app. This is where things got really fun. During my time on the floor I did some shopping, got to pet a huge lizard courtesy of a reptile rescue booth, took some more photos, and got to admire action figures, art, and more. This brings me to another lesson I learned - if you see something cool seize the moment. Pet that enormous lizard because you may never get another chance! Also the snack carts and stands moved much faster on the show floor than the food court did. We definitely should have went to a show floor stands first to get a bite to eat. Now we know for next time!
Overall I had a great time at C2E2 and would recommend the convention to anyone who enjoys pop culture. The con had a very inclusive and positive atmosphere with signs posted regarding discrimination, bullying, and noting that "cosplay is not consent." Being able to download the app and have the map, schedule, and information updates at your fingertips was also a big plus that really kept our day moving smoothly. I can definitely say that we will be attending C2E2 again in 2018, and of course will take the lessons we learned this year and apply them then.
Below are links to both conventions mentioned in this post. Also I would like to note I am not affiliated with either convention in anyway nor did I receive compensation for this post. I literally just enjoy conventions and wanted to share my experience with you!
To learn more about C2E2 click here
To learn more about Wizard World Chicago Comic Con click here