I recently had the privilege of attending WonderCon at the Anaheim Convention Center. After making the nerdy pilgrimage to Comic-Con International in San Diego for 5 years, I thought I’d relay some differences I noted between the two cons. Though both cons are produced by the same company and have the same vibe, SDCC’s little brother is a totally different experience.
WonderCon is held in the Anaheim Convention Center, a short drive from the chaos of Los Angeles. Because of this, I was able to drive in for the day and avoid spending the extra money on a hotel. Anaheim is of course home to Disneyland so the city was extra busy on the Saturday of the con. I stuck to the convention center during my time and didn’t venture out due to the insane amount of traffic and ridiculous crowd of Disney-goers mixed with convention attendees.
SDCC is always at the San Diego Convention Center right on the edge of the historic Gaslamp District in San Diego. I have been lucky a few times to snag a hotel in walking distance and this has made all the difference for me. While the area does get crowded, the restaurants, activities and events are spread out enough that the city itself becomes part of the con. This was the biggest difference in location between the two.
WonderCon certainly packed the schedule with a wide variety of panels, but you won’t find the epic celebrity count that you will at the Hall H sized panels of SDCC. I actually opted not to attend any panels during my trip even though I had favorited many of the events. Aside from an Agents of Shield panel promising cast commentary and exclusive footage, Saturday was fairly quiet in the panel department.
SDCC on the other hand beckons fans to camp out for days on end to enter the coveted Hall H panels. Aside from the sheer number of panels being greater in San Diego, the types of events are more desirable. There are plenty of “about the industry” style panels, but you’ll find far more celebrities, sneak-peeks and secret swag at SDCC.
I can’t even tell you how delightful it was to breath my own fresh air and not that of the B.O. smell wafting in the crowd. Wondercon was certainly busy, but at one point, I found myself in a pleasant state of bliss as I stood drinking coffee watching cosplayers go by without being bumped into or told to move.
The first time I attended SDCC, my friend (far more experienced at cons) found me sitting down next to a pillar a mere 2 hours after my arrival in a complete state of panic pleading to go home because I was too overwhelmed. That might just be me and my terrible relationship with crowds, but the idea is SDCC is always packed and you’re pretty much always in the way. Plus, there’s that smell that everyone knows while walking the convention floor that somehow lingers on everything you own even after you’ve gone home.
Anaheim has lots of restaurants within walking distance from the convention, but I wanted to maximize my time at the con and find food while I was still inside. Luckily, there were a surprising amount of food trucks with healthy, filling options available. I ended up eating a chicken wrap with avocado and fresh veggies for about $8. I split this with my husband and we both stayed full until we got home that evening.
San Diego also has lots of restaurants available in easy walking distance, but you’ll also find a few food options inside the convention center. I wouldn’t say these are good options, but there there. I’ve mostly found cafe style food offering an apple for $5 and your typical stadium bites like nachos, pizza and hotdogs. I usually end up bringing my own lunch and healthy snacks to keep me going and then find a cool place in the Gaslamp for dinner.
I don’t know why I didn’t expect to see many cosplayers at this one, but I was totally surprised to see practically EVERYONE dressed up. WonderCon, like Comic-Con, began as a convention for comics (originally called The Wonderful World of Comics Convention), but has embraced all aspects of pop culture in recent years. Because of this, and perhaps due to the close relation to Disneyland, I noticed a ton of Disney cosplays. There were also plenty of gamers decked out and those obscure references that I’ll never get, but a few times I found myself in a sea of superheroes, princesses, and a shocking amount of Captain Jack Sparrows.
SDCC is always filled with a ton of cosplayers though it really makes a difference on the day. Since I only attended WonderCon on Saturday, I was able to see a lot of costumes. Having attended SDCC on Thursday, I’ve seen the difference the day makes. SDCC cosplayers tend to really go all out on Friday and do it even bigger on Saturday.
Both of the conventions instantly filled me with that sense of belonging that only comes when you’re surrounded by “your people.” I don’t always fit in in L.A. with my weird graphic tees and Chucks, but I feel at home at cons. WonderCon was no different than SDCC there. I will say, if you have any interest in networking at these events, I think WonderCon would be a little easier for that. Because of the more laidback feel and the sparser crowds, I was able to talk to people at booths for just a little longer without being pushed out. You could easily slip your card to someone after a quick chat without feeling like you’re monopolizing their time.
WonderCon 2019 will be held March 29-31 at the Anaheim Convention Center, but in the meantime, get ready for San Diego Comic-Con held July 19-22!
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