He Geek She Geek loves conventions. We actually began volunteering for MTAC and Geek Media Expo last year so we could get more involved. So we know that cons are an awesome time for grown-ups to act like kids. But what if you actually are a kid? We don’t personally have any geeklings running around our house so we never gave it much thought until we ran across this article at www.FamilyFans.com.
Comic Con…With Kids?
Your Insider’s Guide to a Family-Friendly Con
by Mike Nappa
If you want to see a nerd in its natural habitat…Or if you’re just a nerd longing for home, then any Comic Con event across the nation is the place for you.
After all, a Comic Con (short for “comic convention”) is a pop culture extravaganza—a large convention that celebrates movies, television, gaming, books and, of course, comics. These conventions are attended by tens of thousands of fans and filled with celebrity guests, interactive exhibits, pop-panel discussions, and activities galore.
There’s the King of all Cons in San Diego each summer, and dynamic regional shows all year long in places like Denver, Dallas, Chicago, Orlando, Portland, and more.
But… What if you’re a nerd with kids?
Is it OK to take your whole family to one of these great gatherings in pop-culture-paradise?
“Comic Con is popular,” says Dr. Christina Angel, convention director for Denver Comic Con, “because it’s fun and there’s something for everyone…movies, television, comic books, gaming, cosplay [dressing in costumes], kids’ books and novels—pretty much whatever you’re into, you can find.”
And yes, kids and families are welcome at the Con. “We pride ourselves on having a show where we would all take our own kids,” Dr. Angel says. In fact, one of her favorite moments at a recent Denver Comic Con was when Star Trek’s “William Shatner appeared in the Kids’ Corral to read Where the Wild Things Are to a packed floor of children…Many families were thrilled and had a great time!”
According to Dr. Angel, Comic Con is designed to be a “safe space” for anyone—kids and parents included. “We promote the welcoming of everyone to our show,” she says. “We have a strong anti-harassment policy, a dress code for cosplayers and strict policies about people who cannot behave themselves—either verbally or physically. Generally, though, experience tells me that the vast majority of con-goers are nice to each other, respectful and welcoming.”
It’s this sort of “kindness community” that frequently attracts families for return trips to Comic Con events. Cosplayers (people dressed in costumes) are almost always willing to pose for photos with your family. Celebrity guests often give a little extra attention to younger children. And people in line are usually friendly and respectful of all.
What About Bringing MY Kids?
What should you know before bringing your kids to a Comic Con? “Think of it like planning to go to any large event or theme park, like Disneyland,” Dr. Angel advises. “Bring snacks and water. Wear comfortable shoes. Plan to do a lot of walking and standing, and make plans to rest periodically when the kids get tired.”
She also recommends a little pre-convention prioritizing. Comic Cons like the one in Denver are filled with celebrity appearances, movie screenings, panel discussions, gaming, shopping, concerts, contests, and more. “Make sure when the schedule comes out you’re planning around the programming and appearances you want to see.” That way you’re not caught off-guard when you and your kids are onsite at the show.
Costuming is cool at Comic Con—so “Cosplayers” often dress up in realistic costumes to attend the show. Yep, your kids might meet a Storm Trooper from Star Wars, a pink-skinned alien from Star Trek, or The Joker and even a miniature Batman. Some parents worry, though, about outfits being frightening for their little ones.
“Some of the costumes we get are a bit scary,” Dr. Angel says, “and my best advice is to either avoid them if they are troublesome, or speak to the person wearing the costume. I know when my child was young, often going up and talking and finding out there is a real person in a frightening costume removes the fear and returns it to the arena of ‘fun.’ Most cosplayers are really approachable in this way.”
Will My Child Meet Her Favorite Celebrity?
“This is a large and popular event,” Dr. Angel says, “and one should approach it much like you would if you were going to a theme park for the day—lines, crowds, standing and walking are part of the experience… I think you prepare children for this by comparing it to other major outings—we have to be patient to see what we want, have fun doing what we’re doing, and understand that we can’t do everything.”
“Most, if not all, of the celebrities who appear at our show do so because they want to interact with their fans… Panels and most speaking events by famous people are free to attend and many celebrities (especially with regard to children) are quite happy to just ‘meet and greet’ (say hello without asking for an autograph fee).”
Even though pop culture icons are accessible at a Comic Con—they’re not always free. Dr. Angel points out, “It takes a lot of time and energy to travel and be available for long stints of signing and photography to be with fans, and some of these celebrities are not young people. They exhaust themselves to do this work…They deserve to be compensated for their tireless efforts, and therefore charge varying fees.”
Most comic book creators will sign your comics for free (yay!). On the other hand, movie and TV celebs typically charge significant amounts—up to $80 or so—for any autograph or staged photo with you. You’ll be wise to prepare your family, and your budget, for that.
Final Advice for My Comic Con…With Kids?
If you’re planning a family trip to Comic Con, start by making three lists:
1) BEFORE Comic Con: “Get tickets early,” Dr. Angel advises. “Take advantage of early opportunities to exchange those tickets for your badges (rather than day-of). And plan how to get there. We recommend things like light rail or being dropped off and picked up to decrease the cost of expensive and distant parking.”
2) DURING Comic Con: “Plan to walk/stand a lot. Bring snacks and water. Rest when you need to. And have fun!”
3) AFTER Comic Con: “I always make advance plans to
have a big dinner somewhere nice and nearby and refuel before heading home. Oh, and publish your pictures on social media!”
(This article is © 2014 Nappaland Communications Inc and was first published in FamilyFans.com “The Free E-Magazine for Parents.” All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission. Visit us on the web at: www.FamilyFans.com)
One thing to keep in mind, most of the information in this article is from the point of view of the Denver Comic Con. Be sure to do a little research into a convention before loading the kids up in the minivan and heading to the Horror and Tattoo Convention. The experience is sure to be somewhat unique at each show. But most conventions have a friendly staff waiting to answer your questions on Facebook, email, or phone. So we urge you to bring up those kids right by exposing them to the wonderful world of geek gatherings early. They’ll thank you for it!