This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on March 18, 2016.
It may only be the middle of March, but if you’re looking to plan a vacation (or vacations) to visit comic conventions, the time to start planning is now. As comics and nerd culture have grown more and more popular, these festivals and exhibitions have continued to grow both in size and duration. This upcoming weekend “Convention Season” will begin in earnest in Chicago at C2E2. It is one of the biggest and best gatherings in North America all year and a great excuses to travel to the Windy City.
With so many conventions to choose from, it’s hard to know which ones are worth making the effort to attend. In order to help you plan your cons for 2016, we’ve assembled a list of seven of the absolute best comic conventions in North America to look into. This collection takes place all over the United States and Canada throughout the year, and present a very diverse set of atmospheres and priorities. If you’re planning a trip this year, it’s hard to go wrong with any of these destinations.
1. Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2)
March 18-20, 2016
Unless you’re already in the Midwest it may be too late to attend C2E2 in Chicago this year, but if you aren’t opposed to making last second weekend plans, this one comes highly recommended. Run by ReedPop (the same group behind two other events on this list) this show offers a great blend of comics talent and other pop culture attractions. While it’s a larger show, it isn’t overwhelming in its size giving attendees plenty of room to breathe while making their way between artist alley and the show floor. Perhaps the best reason to attend may still be the city itself. Posed right on the edge of St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago, C2E2 is set to kick off con season in style.
2. Emerald City Comicon (ECCC)
April 7-10, 2016
ECCC has received a lot of praise for keeping its focus on comics even as it has grown to be one of the largest comic cons in all of North America. Even as it prepares to break another attendance record, just one look at the guest list shows how true this sentiment is. There are a lot creators attending this meaning plenty of opportunities for autographs, sketches, and Q&As. The con also features the beautiful weather of springtime Seattle (assuming a break in the clouds) and everything else this Pacific Northwest city has to offer (mostly really great coffee).
3. Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF)
May 14-15, 2016
TCAF is the culmination of a week long celebration of comics in Toronto and taking place in a public library. It’s both a unique space and unique atmosphere. The focus of the festival lies on the exhibition and sharing of a diverse array of comics, and including special guests like Chip Zdarsky and Emi Lenox. It’s not your typical con without any cosplay or outside pop culture influences, but it is a great place to discover comics and meet some very talented creators. This Canadian celebration of the artform certainly makes for an engaging and eventful weekend for anyone who loves funny books.
4. Heroes Convention (HeroesCon)
June 17-19, 2016
No comic convention has a better reputation among the comics community than HeroesCon. No matter how hard you search, there’s not a negative thing to be heard. HeroesCon has grown substantially over the past decade, but resisted the urge to let large publishers in. The result has been the creation of a mid-size convention that’s entirely focused on creators and fans. Both during the convention and after hours, Charlotte is packed with passionate people swapping stories and chowing down on barbeque. This is the ultimate weekend long party for people who love comics, providing a classic comic con setting with all of the talent of today.
5. San Diego Comic-Con International (SDCC)
San Diego, CA
July 20-24, 2016
This is the big one. No matter how much NYCC and ECCC grow, it’s unlikely they’ll ever topple Comic-Con International’s size or reputation. If you’re not scared of crowds or sharing a hotel room though, then this show can be an absolute blast. There are loads of talented creators and lots of exclusive swag. The massive Hollywood presence at the show has helped make some of the comics talent more available while many fans wait in the snaking line for Hall H. Even if you can’t make it into the show every day, Comic-Con takes over all of downtown San Diego transforming the city into an experience in and of itself.
6. Small Press Expo (SPX)
North Bethesda, MD
September 17-18, 2016
It’s not hyperbole to say that there’s no comic con like SPX. This is the one for comics fans looking only for comics, and to expand the horizons of what they are reading. It’s the most diverse set of talent and books you’ll find throughout North America all year packed onto a single floor. The convention features bestsellers like Noelle Stevenson and Kate Beaton, rising stars like Michel Fiffe and Sophia Foster-Dimino, and plenty of great talents just waiting to be discovered. There’s no better place to get in touch with the artform, and it’s also a great excuse to check out Washington, D.C. which is only a quick Metro trip away.
7. New York Comic Con
New York City, NY
October 6-9, 2016
It’s no surprise that the “Greatest City On Earth” has one of the best comic cons on the planet too. NYCC’s set up at the Javits Center does an excellent job of making this enormous convention surprisingly easy to discover. Vendors are broken into multiple sections of the floor, while other attractions including a gigantic artist’s alley receive their own locales. You don’t even need to wander off during the day with loads of local food trucks serving up hot eats right outside. On top of all that, you can take in a show or explore the city at night. Of all the big cons, NYCC is best arranged to serve casual and hardcore fans with great experiences in and out of the convention.
What catches your eye when seeking out a comic convention: place, talent, atmosphere? Where do you most want to go this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below.