Weather in Indy in August can also be uncomfortable. It is often 85+ with high humidity and possible rain showers in the late afternoon. Those temps also bring out an unpleasant aroma from the underground utilities, so the bridges will be more pleasant on the nose.
Also, we have panhandlers. If you're not the type who can walk on by, they may make make you uncomfortable. They are not allowed inside the buildings or bridges.
All that said, there are some great restaurants you'll miss if you just stick to the bridges, at least on the east side of the complex. I know there are people who just go from the hotel to ICC to the mall food court, skipping everything else in the city.
Regarding the stadium, last year you could only access via the hallway & tunnel that runs alongside the east side of the dealer hall. I don't know with the expanded presence whether any of the main gates will be opened for access.
While you may encounter some smelly sewer grate action outside it's easy to move along past it. If you're in a hamster tube there's no where to go or a breeze to take away the BO build up after day 2 :)
I just wanted to thank everyone for posting all this helpful information!! This is my first Gen Con and my first large scale convention and I admit that I have been nervous about navigating the buildings and events. This has been so helpful!
Wow. I have been pretty busy this week, and kept an eye on a couple replies the first day, but seeing this large response I'm floored by your helpfulness. I really appreciate it. I'm feeling a lot more confident, especially with the understanding that there aren't really lines, as such, and in the location of Will Call (and the ease of getting a badge the 24h timing helps with). Thank you all very much.
I do have a followup to a few of the comments, specifically about the vendor hall on Thursday. What part of the mass influx of people is fun? There are a couple of vendors I wouldn't mind getting first crack at, for sure, so in that sense, is it worth it? And then, how bad is it? Like if I showed up a couple hours before the doors open would I be able to pass the time chatting with a couple friends, or playing some games together (let's say standing, on Vita, for ease in line-keeping)? Or is it really a crush?
It is fun in and of itself, it's the experience of being surrounded by so many people with similar interests and getting to see the impressive and imposing exhibit hall for the first time with so many others who are just as excited you are in that moment. By 9:30 or so it'll be PACKED, people standing shoulder to shoulder with a small area in the back carved out for back and forth traffic. If you get there early enough you might be able to play a small game, but do not take up any floor space, that wouldn't well for anybody. And there really isn't a line that forms, just a sea of gamers all itching to get in the doors as soon as possible.
The first day, the owners of Gen Con will do a little opening ceremony in the 20 minutes or so before the doors open that you might be interested in watching. It'll be on the stage between the two main entry doors.
If you like hype and crowds, it's a great time for both. If neither of those things appeal to you and you're not dying to get to a limited-quantity item, you can safely and happily go do something else for a little while and then come in and browse at your leisure.
Odd question here. My first time going and is there any designated smoking areas outside? I don't want to bother nonsmoker's with my bad habit.
If the past few years are any indication, though, that is where you will find the congregation of people who enjoy your particular vice.
It's 8 feet, and non-smokers really appreciate it when the law is abided!
If you don't want to stand in the crowds waiting to enter the dealer hall, I'd recommend going up to the second floor where the balcony sticks out over the masses. Kind of fun to watch everyone enter the hall. Also, on Saturday afternoon, there is a costume contest parade that will start down by Hall A (JW Marriott end). They altered the route last year so that it doesn't annoy *quite* as many people now. Instead of winding through all the hallways, it goes into Hall A and actually goes outside near the Will Call area. It then follows around the outside of the ICC and ends around Georgia St. The parade is also fun to watch. Tons of cosplayers walking along. It's just something to keep in mind if you have an event you need to get to around that time.