Hi all, a first-time attendee here. I'm looking at the interactive map, and trying to plot out a few things, and thought I'd ask for advice. I'm a pretty visual person, so I'm hoping to get some map-oriented advice, specific to the convention area and walking about. For most of my location questions I have a trivia query as well.
In relation to the streets, and halls ideally, where are the lines for the Will Call badge pickups (Wednesday and on)? And how early should I aim to be there/what kind of wait should I be expecting?
For the convention-proper, which entrances are available for entering (I've seen a number of cons with exit-only areas, for example)? Should I expect lines, especially in the mornings? If so, how substantive are they, and how early do people show up for them (like if I show up at opening, is it a crazy long wait compared to arriving an hour early, or do so many people show up hours before, or even the night before, that arriving an hour early is pretty much irrelevant compared with just showing up when the doors open)?
Are the internals laid out with clear signage and/or maps, or should I bring my own map and use landmarks for navigation?
Is there ever any advantage in going up a floor to get past popular places to stop or other congestion?
What areas, especially in relation to (I'm sure) busy hot spots like the vendor hall, are usually a bit quieter, and can be used for downtime?
Finally, is there food on-site anywhere, even on the streets just outside say, or is wandering a block or two a more reliable method for getting a quick lunch?
Thanks to anyone who takes the time to answer these, I didn't actually think I had so many questions, but the ideas kept propagating as I went. I'm really looking forward to this Con, and am trying to have a good time, but it's only my second one in a place I've never visited, so I'm a bit anxious about getting around, particularly to events in good time.
I am going to take the food one... because Im a chubby guy...lol On the left hand side of the map.. the entrances where Paizo publishing is... Outside of the center in this area is Georgia St... Massive Food truck area during the Con... But long lines at times. There is also a Catwalk that will take you to the Circle City Mall (My Fav. venue.. as food is almost normal pricing) for the food court. And there are the typical cardboard pizza snack booths in the con area itself. Of course you are also downtown so there are tons of restaurants within walking distance.
There are some advantages to going upstairs at times... but it is hard to discern what times... If I see a large crowd.. I head Upstairs if close enough.. if not.. I just brave it lol
2nd Floor is much Quieter... There is also a quiet room upstairs that is a wonderful sanctuary when needed to just de-compress. Most Con Goers are respectful of this area. It took me several years before I made my first trek upstairs... I never miss it now... There is an art show.... gaming areas, miniature painting and contests.. etc up there.
1. Will Call. If it's the same as all the other years, Will Call will be in the Wabash East Concourse hall way, on the bottom left of the convention center map. On Wednesday, the line has been about 30 ish minutes, depending on the time of day. I've never waited through the line on Thursday, but I've heard that it could be over an hour. I'd recommend getting your stuff mailed if you can, it's been accurate all the times we've gotten them shipped. Attendance is expected to increase this year for the 50th so the lines will probably be longer.
2. Entrances. All public doors into the ICC are open 24 hours a day for people entering and exiting. There are no lines or check in/security to go through in order to enter the convention. I know there are LOTS of entrances along the bottom and left side (looking at the official map) of the ICC. I've never used any doors on along the top or right sides and I'm not sure they are accessible. There will be a swarm of people waiting in a mob outside the Exhbit hall doors (Inside the ICC) for when they open at 10:00AM. Those people are wanting to rush in to get limited goodies/games. Unless you are wanting something limited, or just want the experience, I'd suggest you avoid that rush. I've never done it, so I'm not sure what time people start camping out, but it's probably at least an hour before 10AM.
3. Your badge will get you a swag bag, which you can pick up in the Wabash East Concourse, It will have a event catalog that will also have a map of the convention, showing where different gaming groups are running their events. The catalog itself is quite heavy, so i'd suggest just taking a picture of the map and leaving the catalog behind if you are in for a long day. As for actual signage throughout the convention, I've found it to be quite adequate. There are large stickers on the carpet with arrows to different near by gaming rooms and the hall letters are marked with large signs. Other GenCon attendees are pretty helpful, and a lot of them have been coming for quite a while, so asking someone passing by for directions is always an option.
4. The 1st floor hall ways are quite wide and I've never found them to be congested (except for outside the exhibit hall doors before they open at 10AM), so going up to the second floor to shave off some travel time is pointless.
5. The exhibit hall is probably the most noisy congested, information overload area of the convention. The second floor tenders to be a bit less busy, and the smaller gaming rooms up there tend to be pretty chill, unless there is a particularly routy event going on. Every year there has been a "quite room" for people to go into if they just need to relax and take a break from all the noise and congestion, I remember that being some where on the second floor.
6. Food. There is convention food, which is sold in various vendors throughout the con. It's expensive and not that good. They say that you aren't allowed to bring any outside food or drinks, but in the 8 years that I've gone, I've brought about 2 meals with me every day, and never been, or see any one else given any resistance to them bringing in food. To the left of the convention center, in between S Capitol Ave and S Illinois St there is a side street with that grey strip down the middle of it. There are probably about 20 food trucks lined up along that street every day, so you could pop outside the convention and grab something to eat from one of them. There are also many good places within walking distance if you want to get a sit down meal, I specifically recommend the Spaghetti Factory, we eat Wednesday dinner there every year. There is also a Stake and Shake just down W Maryland St. A burger and shake tastes pretty good after a long day walking around the convention. It is usually pretty packed though, even at 1 in the morning. The various down town pubs are pretty packed throughout the con.
Hope that answers your questions!
There are maps posted and there are helpers wearing blue and yellow shirts everywhere that can assist with general info such as where is the gaming hall, bathroom, Georgia st, will call etc. I learned by just walking my first year. There are no exit only doors that I have seen. It is a very good venue (IMHO) as the flow of people is usually smooth (sans opening time at the vendor hall doors on day 1 lol).
Will Call, tickets, badges..etc.. is located on the Wabash East Concourse inside of the doorway off of Maryland St. I don't know of lines there as I pre-order all my stuff, but when I pass by there it always seems full.. but once again... the flow is always moving.
All good answers above.
Don't worry too much though, if you don't have an exact layout. There are lots of Gen Con staffers walking around and the attendees themselves (all of us!) are really helpful.
IF you come in Wednesday take the time to walk the halls and learn where things are and to get a lay of the land and landmarks.
"3. Your badge will get you a swag bag, which you can pick up in the Wabash East Concourse, It will have a event catalog that will also have a map of the convention, showing where different gaming groups are running their events. The catalog itself is quite heavy, so i'd suggest just taking a picture of the map and leaving the catalog behind if you are in for a long day. As for actual signage throughout the convention, I've found it to be quite adequate. There are large stickers on the carpet with arrows to different near by gaming rooms and the hall letters are marked with large signs. Other GenCon attendees are pretty helpful, and a lot of them have been coming for quite a while, so asking someone passing by for directions is always an option."
What is this about a swag bag?
There hasn't been swag bags for some years. (in 2014 and 2015 they gave out a tote bag, but they were empty) You have to get your program guide from a volunteer or the little kiosks you'll see scattered around, and your coupon book from the booth near the will call booths.
But, if you want to avoid it, the crowd clears out in less than 5 minutes. Really. So, if you arrive by 10:05, you can walk right in.
Alec Usticke, Unofficial Gen Con Indy Facebook Discussion Group
Check out icclos.com for their interactive floor plan. Just note that the map goatboy posted a link to is upside down compared the map at icclos.com. The map at icclos.com is oriented in the proper North - South directionality. I also like to print off the non-interactive exhibit hall map.
Watch out for congestion Saturday afternoon, especially in the Crossroads Corridor, when the costume contest participants roll through (3p?). Many people stop to watch, which is great, but it brings traffic to a near stand still.
I tend to get a little claustrophobic on Saturday when there are SOOO many people there, it'll be even worse this year. I have therefore scheduled an almost full day of events to stay away from the crowds.
Maybe they will do a swag bag for the 50th! (Hopeful thinking!) If they don't, be sure to grab your coupon book before going into the exhibit hall and grab a program too. The last year they did a swag bag they gave every attendee a copy of Rift and it didn't go over very well. I wonder if that's the reason they don't do them anymore. Many vendors will be giving out promos, which is what you would have gotten in the bag anyways.
Regarding coupon books: for the past 5 years or so, they were handed out to the far right of the Will call and ticket sales area. Make sure you get a coupon book. There will be a coupon for a free Gencon d6 from Crystal Caste. In the past, Crystal Caste has run out of di on a certain day but have more the next day. With this being the 50th, I imagine there will be a high demand. I would make it a point to get into the Vendor Hall on Thursday or Friday to make sure you get your di (or your set). Regarding food: bring a water bottle, plenty of water fountains. And if you are going to go to the local eateries, if you can get there at 5:30 (a 1/2 hour before the vendor hall closes) you will avoid long(er) lines. Regarding crowds: I really enjoy the quiet of the con early around 9AM and in the past Mayfair has a booth out on Georgia Street that serves free coffee and bottled water until they run out. Or after 11 PM. Great time to just walk around, its quiet and not as crowded.
IIRC the coupon book is handed out Wednesday as well, help you plan your attack the next day.
The will call lines are long *but* the staff keeps the line moving a healthy pace. I have never waited for more than 40 minutes on the line and last year I started the line outside the convention hall.
There are plenty of water bottle filling stations around the convention center so a water bottle is a must.
The bathrooms in high traffic areas (card hall, attached to the dealer hall) can get pretty ... ahem ... well used. I find it best to plan a bathroom break and get as far away from the main area as possible for a more pleasant experience.
There's tons of great restaurants downtown very close to the convention center. My group makes it a point of hitting up Bee Coffee Roasters (long lines but worth the wait if you dig great coffee) and at least one meal a day at Scotty's Brewhouse which requires a 2-3 minute walk.
Will Call - 1130 is a good time to queue up. If you have a line buddy and enjoy day drinking you can go later but the wait will be considerably longer (requiring more than 1 trip to a restroom). Will Call is a 24 hour deal starting at noon so if you absolutely must have your stuff early, go early otherwise you can go at 1AM and likely have no line.
Using alternate entrances to the dealer hall - Depending on your destination in the dealer hall this can greatly improve your speed. Last year I used hall D to get to the back side of the hall since I had to make a few trip there and it wasn't a good plan to push through the throng to get there. Opening morning I don't know if the entrances from the halls will be open so keep that in mind.
Food options in the hall consist of 2 food courts. Food trucks are located directly outside of the building (across the street) and there are usually options on the Georgia Street walk through area (right beside the food trucks).
Restrooms - one of the reasons to pay the high price for connected hotels. If you're not close enough to use your own you may want to through a travel package of your preferred toilet paper/wipe/etc. in your bag. By day 2 it can be pretty exciting (and not in a roller coaster way).
Using the upstairs corridors can help you move across the ICC during peak travel times (costume parade I'm looking at you) but it's even faster to move around the outside of the building. Depending on the weather it may actually be cooler as well.
The quiet room was located on the second floor last year and it's a great idea if you need some quiet time.
Swag bags and coupon books - The swag is a coupon book. While there are some nifty things in there YMMV on spending time getting it and then playing treasure hunt. If there's a bag it will likely be a basic canvas shopping bag which can come in handy if you don't have a bag already (or yours is full).
Navigation inside the ICC isn't to bad. There are large signs with the room numbers and names of the hallways to help steer you. Once inside the dealer hall LOOK UP. There are banners marking the aisle number so you can find that booth that has all the things. The booths themselves are normally not numbered so try to have an idea of what the landmarks are (3 booths down from the corner Paizo booth, etc.). Use the mobile app or carry a printed copy with you to help keep you oriented.
Not covered but very useful to know ahead of time--it's to the point where a LOT of events are NOT in the convention center proper any more, so it is crucial to know where your events are, and plan out when you need to head out. It takes a noticeably longer amount of time to trudge from the JW Marriott to Union Station, compared to say, Hyatt to the ICC. Especially if you're carrying heavy things. And get easily distracted by picture-taking opportunities.
There are not usually lines for specific events because events are ticketed. If you're wanting to get in with generics, usually each gaming group has a policy--Catalyst, for example, has a signup line and does their level best to get folks into a game. I believe Baldman Games also has a generic handling method, and I assume other large groups do too.
As for swag bags I /cannot/ imagine anyone ponying up enough product for the amount of people expected to be there this year.
For going between events (say the stadium to JW, for example) - is it better to use the indoor sky bridges or just go outside and take a little more direct route, maybe avoid the crowds?