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The Annual San Diego Comic-Con

From its tiny beginnings as the Golden State Comic Book Convention in 1970, San Diego Comic-Con International has grown into the largest and most popular entertainment convention in the world. Fans of movies, television, celebrities, and of course, comics, gather at the San Diego Convention Center every year to celebrate pop culture and find out what artists of every genre have in store for the fans in the year to come. Comic-Con 2014 will take place July 24-27, 2014. Guests can experience everything from small independent comic book companies to Marvel and DC offerings, plus panels from major film studios. If you are planning to attend this event for the first time, here are some tips and tricks you need to know.

Getting to the Con

Comic-Con partners with ACE parking to sell daily parking spots during the convention's Thursday through Sunday run, usually for between $15 and $30. The price is not outrageous, but the traffic might be. If you have never been in San Diego during con weekend before, you probably can't imagine how huge it is! There are other, easier options for reaching the convention center besides a car. Comic-Con offers free 24-hour shuttle service to and from hotels in many neighborhoods. A map of all the stops is available on their website. An even simpler option may be riding the Metropolitan Transit System's trolley line, which begins at 6am and has two stops right outside the convention center. Opportunities to park and ride are located all over the city. 

Dining Options

Whether you've come to Comic-Con to buy comics, attend panels to learn about movies and entertainment, or simply check out the displays at the convention booths for DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Warner Brothers, Fox, and others, you will probably find yourself with plenty to do every single day. So what about meals? There are places to buy food at the con. There's a Starbucks on the ground floor plus many locations for coffee and snacks, and you can purchase pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, and more in designated areas. However, many regulars avoid this because the choices can be pretty pricey, and the neighborhood surrounding the convention center is filled with a variety of restaurant options. If you want to know where to find Mexican in the Gas Lamp district or sandwiches around the corner, the official website offers a great restaurant guide that you can download before you go. Still, bringing your own snacks and especially your own water bottle is a great idea.

Going to Panels

Plenty of people love Comic-Con because it's a place to see celebrities and the best of pop culture come together in exciting guest panels that often pop up on YouTube and get discussed around the world. If you are planning to attend panels in the convention center's largest hall, Hall H, or its second-largest, Ballroom 20, be prepared for many hours waiting in line. Depending on which movies and which celebrities are in attendance, con-goers sometimes camp out overnight, and the doors don't open until 9:30am. You're not the only Marvel or DC fan wanting to hear about the next blockbuster fiilm! There's no requirement to leave the hall after the panel you want to see, so the usual trick is to get inside, get a seat as soon as possible, and sit through a few panels on the day's schedule. Some people would rather spend that time on the convention floor, and that's great. But if you want to be a part of pop culture history, you might find even waiting in line can be an event. 

Walking the Convention Floor

It's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of exhibitors at Comic-Con, and chances are you will find yourself introduced to comics and web series you never heard of, as well as all of your favorites. It's good to go in with a map and a strategy, so whether you are interested in comics or collectibles, you will know which end of the floor to start at. Normally, the layout is divided into sections. Booths for movies and autograph signings from celebrities are gathered toward the middle, while there are designated areas for artists, toys, and other specialties. Most of all, be prepared for the crowds. Those elaborate costumes, the Marvel versus DC fanboys, the big families, and the Lord of the Rings faithful will all come together in various tight spaces, so be prepared to say excuse me a lot and have patience. 

San Diego Comic-Con is an event you have to experience at least once in life if you're at all passionate about pop culture. Bring your walking shoes and be prepared to be amazed. With a little bit of preparation, this iconic weekend in a beautiful San Diego July will be everything even a casual fan could ask for. You'll end up wanting to come back year after year.