I haven’t been to a ton of conventions in my lifetime. Sure, I did attend San Diego Comic-Con about a decade ago — back when it was just mega-super-huge and not ultra-gigantic-mega-super-huge — and have been to every iteration of the D23 Expo so far, but haven’t really sought out others. In my mind, there are large conventions that attract big stars and big reveals but also require you to wait overnight in lines if you’d like to see said panels (that’s you, SDCC) and then there are smaller gatherings that are easy to navigate but might also be awkwardly small and yield little outside of the community aspect.
Well, as it turns out, the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo — or C2E2 as it’s better known — is somewhere in the middle. In fact, I’d say it’s actually a perfect-sized convention, boasting both an impressive line-up of events and a welcoming, stress-free experience (and not to mention affordable). So what was it about C2E2 that I enjoyed so much? Here are four big reasons I loved my experience:
When we arrived at C2E2 for our first day, I was slightly concerned that we were arriving only about 30 minutes before the start and that we’d have to join a big line in hopes of getting in. Furthermore, with C2E2 not sweeping the halls in between panels, I expected that securing a place in line might not even translate to having a seat in the hall at showtime. So imagine my surprise when i not only turned up to find less than a dozen people in line but that the room was also currently empty since they had yet to start seating for this, the first panel of the day.
Once we did take our seats, the room did begin to fill but, as far as I could tell, no one was turned away. Also, while I see the merits of clearing the halls at D23 and some other expos, I loved being able to keep my seat for the back-to-back-to-back Marvel panels that took place that morning.
On that note, I was impressed with the quality of panels that C2E2 brought. From live taping of Marvel shows like This Week in Marvel and Women of Marvel to sneak peeks of the FX series Devs, there was more than enough for, say, a Disney fan site to cover. And while I was sad to see that an announced premiere of Disney+’s Marvel’s Storyboards was cancelled, at least the company whipped up a panel on the upcoming Empyre event to fill the hole. By the way, after sitting through many of these comic-centric Marvel panels, I really want to start reading more books — particularly the Strange Academy series from Skottie Young looks great.
Of course, the highlight of the weeknd in terms of panels was the Sunday morning Q&A with none other than Mark Ruffalo. While the Hulk actor is notorious for being leak-prone, I was still taken aback when he revealed he had indeed talked to Marvel about appearing in the MCU’s She-Hulk series while also confirming his potential involvement in the Parasite TV series in the works for HBO. On a personal/professional note, the deceptive size of C2E2 worked to our advantage here as well as it seemed we were only among a few other sites covering the event, allowing our post about the announcement to get traction among other entertainment outlets. Pretty darn cool if you ask me.
Show floor and exclusives
While panels are an important part of the con experience, it’s the show floor that often serves as the true heart of a convention. That was certainly true of C2E2 as the floor was always lively, filled with great cosplay, and had plenty for guests of all ages to enjoy.
Personally, as a non-frequent con-goer, I loved how many open “escape” areas there were along the floor. Sure, some areas got a bit tight but, if you needed a breather, a place to sit and eat, or just chill, you had plenty of options. Speaking of eating, while I didn’t personally partake in any of the food or beverage available, the prices and menu options I did see looked surprisingly strong.
Something I really liked about the show floor was the mix between big and small exhibitors. When you entered, there was a decently-sized Marvel booth and some other large features but, as you walked around, you found all kinds of cool things on display or for sale. On that note, one thing I couldn’t resist was an Avengers-themed mug from Amourable Art.
If it’s exclusive merch your after, C2E2 has that too. Although I did consider buying a convention shirt with Spidey (complete with the Chicago flag, of course), we decided to purchase the Black Widow Spirit Jersey available at the Marvel booth instead. Even as someone who thinks that most of the Spirit Jerseys Disney pumps out are ugly as sin, I 100% see the appeal in this one.
For those who don’t want to spend money, there were plenty of free activities as well. Over in the family area, there were crafts to be built, Star Wars droids to be met, and even a Quidditch match or two to be played. Overall, I thought the C2E2 show floor had a great vibe that made it a truly awesome place to hang out in between panels.
Transportation and lodging
One of the awesome things about SDCC is that the event really takes over the entire city of San Diego. As cool as that is, that also means that getting around town, finding a hotel, and parking can all be tricky. Well, that’s not nearly as much of a problem for C2E2.
First, if you want to make the convention your main focus of the weekend, there are several hotels within walking distance or literally attached to McCormick Place. Yet, we decided to stay more downtown so we’d be able to see a bit more of Chicago during our stay (and we got a great room rate). At first it seemed like the 2.5-mile distance we put between ourselves and show might have been a mistake, but it turns out that C2E2 offered a complimentary shuttle that stopped just a block or two from where we were staying.
Even with this shuttle, I was worried that we’d end up spending a lot of time in line and perhaps miss events as a result. Wrong again! I don’t think we even had to wait more than 15 minutes for a shuttle to or from the event and the drop-off point at McCormick Place put us literal steps away from the show floor. They also started running as early as 8 a.m., allowing us to hop aboard the first shuttle and still score good seats in the popular Mark Ruffalo panel that started a couple hours later.
As I mentioned, we had no problem finding a hotel at a reasonable rate for C2E2. On top of that, the three-day badges we purchased for the show were less than $100 each! Add in the fact that Chicago is only an eight-hour drive for us (short by our standards as we’re used to the 16-hour haul to Walt Disney World) and you can see why C2E2 is now a no-brainer for us.
Needless to say, I had a great time at C2E2 this past weekend. While I’d love to see this annual event grow and be successful, I also hope it retains the intimate “hometown” feel that it currently enjoys. With that, perhaps we’ll see you at C2E2 2021.
This post originally appeared on LaughingPlace.com.