Whether it’s your first time, or your eighth, here are some suggestions on how to survive what is a mixture of Times Square on New Years Eve crossed with the West Village Halloween Parade. Last year saw 116,000 attendees making the pilgrimage to the Javits Center, and while a similar number is expected this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if it feels crazier.
So, some suggestions, from a veteran of conventions and trade shows of all sorts of sizes (including NYCC, BEA, and Toy Fare at Javits). (Been there, done that, got the lanyard.)
Something Every New Yorker Knows Implicitly
Make sure you are in the right line before you get in line. Have something to preoccupy yourself so you can ignore everyone around you. (Why do you think people read so much on the subway, hmmm?)
The Queue Hall (Hall Q?) opens at 7 AM, and the Exhibit Hall opens at 10. Or wait about an hour after opening, and saunter into the Exhibit Hall without dealing with the crowds. I suggest attending a panel downstairs, or wandering Artists Alley. If you are entering after the lines clear, I recommend the Blue entrance above, with leads to 3B and 3E. You won’t have to deal with the escalators over near 3A, which will bottleneck instantly with people trying to move between 3A, 1A, and Artists Alley. You may wish to exit that way as well, since it offers convenient access to the first and second floors as well as an exit to Eleventh Avenue.
Given that there is a new system with the badge tapping, you may wish to get there early on Thursday, just in case there are processing snafus.
If you cosplay, ignore the following. Everyone else:
Wear sensible shoes. ReedPOP says there are four miles of exhibitor aisles. The building complex is six blocks long. You might be walking from the subway. And you’ll be on your feet a lot.
Bags. You’ll be in a crowded room. If you plan to do some power shopping, then bring and check empty luggage at the coat checks. I use a tote bag, which hangs over my shoulder and which doesn’t bang into anyone. How big should your bag be? At home, fill it full with books. Lug that around the house for thirty minutes. Too heavy? Try a smaller bag.
Backpacks might sound like a good solution, but imagine lugging around ten pounds of books on your back, then turning and hitting someone. Now hit yourself with that backpack to see how it feels.
If you’re really hardcore, fold up those cheap $0.99 recycled totes you get at the grocery store (or buy at pharmacies). Fill one up, then check it. At the end of the day, claim them all, fill up the luggage, and schlep it home.
Javits can get cold. I ended up buying a Superman sweatshirt one year. Dress in layers is my suggestion. The forecast is in the 50-70 degree range,with a good chance of precipitation on Thursday and Friday.
There are two permanent ATMs in Javits, both operated by Chase Manhattan bank. One is located on the Third Level, next to the Concierge Desk and the FedEx store. (Right next the big staircase which leads down to the concourse.)
The second is on the first floor, around the corner from the entrance to 1-C.
There will be six ATMs on or near the show floor. If you have a VIP badge, there will be a private ATM available in the lounge.
Since it is uncertain how often they will be refilled, or how long the lines will be, I recommend you visit your local bank branch before heading to Javits. If there is a teller available at that bank, get your change in Fives and Tens, to make it easier on retailers to make change. (Retailers with pricier items will most likely take credit cards.)
If you plan to be at Javits on multiple days, budget an amount for each day. Any money left over at the end of the day gets applied to the budget for your last day, when you’ve seen everything, and can celebrate by purchasing that Neil Gaiman combination fulchau/sonic screwdriver. If that last day is Sunday, you can probably haggle a bit with the retailers.
Food and Drink
On the way to the convention center, grab a plastic bottle of whatever. I wouldn’t recommend a water bottle, as they can be heavy when filled. Get a 20 oz. bottle, and sip on that during the day. When empty, find a water fountain and refill it.
Eat a huge breakfast. I don’t know if you should carb up like marathon runners do the night before, but fill up in the morning. That should get you through the day until a late lunch, when you can either delve into your snacks, or hit the shorter lines at the food court. Don’t worry about the calories… you’ll be walking miles during the day, and burning them off. A bottle of soda runs about $2-3 at Javits. There is a Starbucks, but the lines… I suggest chocolate-covered coffee beans for a quick-picker-upper.
But…avoid the convention food. It’s not bad, it’s just expensive. Instead, on the way to Javits, stop at the nearest pharmacy (Duane Reade, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, CVS…) and buy a box of breakfast bars. Avoid anything covered in chocolate. For about $4, you can buy6-10 individually wrapped bars. They are nutritious, not messy, and you can snack on them while wandering the building or sitting in on a panel. My experience is that I never finish the box in one day, and it gets me through to dinner, where I can eat more sensibly and leisurely.
If you do need to grab something during the day, head up Eleventh Avenue to 42nd Street. There’s a 7-Eleven on the corner. Also a Subway restaurant. And quite a few eateries in the new development north of Artists Alley!
And… by saving money on food, you have more to spend at the bizarre bazaar!
Avoid the M34 select bus service to Javits. It’s an extra fare, and the dedicated bus lanes are usually blocked by parked cars. It’s almost faster to walk.
If the weather is good, walk from the subway. Get off at 42nd and walk west to Eleventh Street, then south to Javits. Or 34th, although you’ll have to deal with traffic coming from the Lincoln Tunnel. Or 37th. After the show, take one of the shuttle buses to a suitable subway station.
If you plan to take a taxi from the subway (about $7), catch one at Times Square. 34th, you’ll have to fight with all of the commuters from Penn Station. If you arrive at Penn Station, then walk UP Seventh Avenue a few blocks to catch a taxi before it reaches Penn. In my experience, the ride and traffic is less congested from 42nd. If you’re clever, talk a few people waiting for the bus if they would like to share a taxi.
The NY Waterways Midtown/39th ferry terminal is directly behind the convention center. Seven different routes are available.
Next year, the 7-line extension will be ready, and you’ll be able to take the subway directly to Javits.
NYCC has a great show planner where you can tag exhibitors and save them to the show app. My suggestion: try and hit the big booths early in the day, before anything is scheduled, and before the crowds get really packed. When those aisles get too crowded, head downstairs and visit the panels on the first floor and the artists alley in the north pavilion.
You may want to avoid the worst of it by leaving the building for lunch. Take an hour to eat, relax, read.
The restrooms outside 1-D seem to be the least dire. Otherwise, on the third floor, you have to walk to the front or back, and they are not as spacious. Also, due to the traffic, they’ll be overused. 1-E has bathrooms, but since this will be one big “Hall H” room, I suspect they will be also be somewhat questionable. Halls 1-B and 1-C, which will be somewhat vacant, should have restrooms towards the front. If you don’t mind the trek, you might find accommodations in the back, far from the crowds. (Hall 1-B is also a good place to escape from crowds. Last year, it had a few autographing sessions, a cool LEGO display, and banquet tables.
If you find yourself in the North Pavilion, use those restrooms! The building is almost brand new, and those facilities are spacious and not as shop worn. Where the old Javits restrooms seem to be too small, these are too big. I don’t think I even saw a line at the women’s restrooms. (That might be due to better architectural standards.)
Not that easy. The few outlets you’ll find in public areas are industrial. If you are in a panel room situated along the east side (numbered 1-5), you might find an outlet. It will probably be occupied, so if you really want to be prepared, pack a small power strip.
First bit of advice: turn your phone to “airplane mode”. Walking around the convention center, your phone will be constantly searching for a signal, and that will waste lots of juice. Besides, getting either a wi-fi or 3G/4G signal inside will be nigh impossible. Turn your phone into an organizer/camera, downloading the mobile app if you need organization. Or you can download your show planner info to whatever calendar your phone uses. Or go old school and use the dead-tree program. You might want to turn your signal back on periodically, to check for messages from friends. But keep it off otherwise.
Second bit of advice: bring along a second battery or a battery pack for your phone. Like a cigarette lighter of yore, you can use it to break the ice with that cute sexy geek sitting next to you! Just like sharing a malted!
(How soon before someone sets up a power pack rental service at Javits? Leave a deposit plus rental fee, and get free “refills” if you empty your pack before the end of the day. Just trade it in for a full battery!)
You tell us. I’m exhausted just thinking about what lies ahead! What tips and tricks do you have to share?
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!