San Diego Comic-Con, more so than possibly any other convention, requires a certain time commitment for just about any activity. That time commitment may only be 20 minutes, or it may be 18 hours — but there are very few activities at Comic-Con where you can simply walk in and go.
If this is your first time at SDCC or your eighth, you’ve probably heard a lot about how many people camp out, or show up early in the morning, long before the convention center opens. But what isn’t covered a lot of the time is: Where do you line up?
There’s no one simple answer, as there are multiple lines, even once the convention center opens its doors. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but we’ll do our best to try to break down the biggest lines, and which one you need to be in.
Hall H is the easiest line to find, because it’s marked by the white tents, in the area between the convention center and the Hilton Bayfront. Seriously, it’s nearly impossible to miss.
Each line of tents forms a chute, and once all of the chutes are filled, the line will begin to extend back behind the convention center, and down to the marina. Don’t be discouraged if you’re camping out and the line already seems impossibly long — the line isn’t condensed until much closer to the time when they begin letting attendees in, and most attendees are taking up a lot of space as they sprawl out in sleeping bags.
Once the convention center is ready to begin letting attendees into Hall H, they’ll guide the front of the line to the front of the convention center, and inside, directly to Hall H. It’s not a mad rush – rather, each chute is led in separately, in the order they were filled. Once the room is filled, all remaining attendees in line will still stay under the tents, waiting for the next panel, and hoping that the room clears enough to let them in.
You’ll also need a wristband to get into the first panel of each day in Hall H – and you’ll either be getting that from the Hall H line itself, or from the “Next Day Line” (NDL). Here’s a breakdown of the distribution times for 2016:
- Wednesday, July 20: Wristband distribution for Thursday panels in Hall H will begin at 9:00 PM in the general Hall H line in Plaza Park.
- Thursday, July 21: Wristband distribution for Friday panels in Hall H will begin at 7:15 PM at the front of the Next Day Line.
- Friday, July 22: Wristband distribution for Saturday panels in Hall H will begin at 9:00 PM at the front of the Next Day Line.
- Saturday, July 23: Wristband distribution for Sunday panels in Hall H will begin at 9:00 PM at the front of the Next Day Line.
Please Note: Wristband distribution will continue throughout the night until all wristbands are distributed or until 7:30 AM the following day.
And here’s where the NDL will be located:
You can read more about the Hall H wristbands and the NDL on CCI’s site.
Ballroom 20 & Other Panel Lines
If you’re lining up prior to doors opening, you’ll join the “General” line outside the convention center, which starts outside near the Hall D sign. This line is sometimes referred to as the “Ballroom 20″ line, but it’s really a line for anything that isn’t Hall H — panels, the exhibit floor, autographs, and more. Everything goes into this line, so don’t panic if it seems very long. Not everyone is headed to the exact same place that you are. Here’s a look at that line at night:
However, beginning in 2014, we noticed that this line seemed to start forming earlier than ever before. Because the line was forming in the afternoon the day before, and they couldn’t have people sitting on the ground blocking the doors while people were entering and exiting the convention center, this line now temporarily starts over by Hall H, on the outside of that line, near the street. Once that day’s events end, the line gets moved to its normal place, over by the Hall D sign.
Once doors open (which the last few years, has been anywhere from 5:30AM-6:30AM), you’ll head up the escalator along with everyone else in that line.
And from here is where the line starts to splinter off. Most attendees will be veering off in two directions — either Ballroom 20 or Sails (for either the exhibit floor or autograph signings and exclusives tickets). Any other panel rooms will have their own lines, and you should just proceed directly to your panel room to join that individual line.
But let’s focus on Ballroom 20 first. Because this line is so long, and there’s a limited amount of space to work with, the line filters outside, through a twisty-turny turnstile. If you’re one of the first people in this line and are lucky, they won’t make you enter the twisty-turny part immediately — after about 100 immediate turns, you’re pretty over it. Eventually, this line loops back around inside, goes down past the windows, and finally, stops directly in front of Ballroom 20. Here’s a look at the very front of the line, and you can see the outside, tented turnstiles in the window behind:
The one exception for panel rooms is the Indigo Ballroom, over at the Hilton Bayfront. It’s pretty rare for there to be overnight campers for Indigo, but it did happen for the How I Met Your Mother panel a few years ago, and hey, it could happen again. Instead, early in the morning, attendees will begin to filter into the room next to the entrance for Indigo, in marked lines. Once those are filled, the rest of the line actually moves down a floor, to outside the Hilton Bayfront, near Vela. This line filters down the ramp located there, and then around the marina outside. Basically just look for the only line in or around the Bayfront, and you can also ask staff — since they only have one line to deal with, they’re usually very well informed.
The Exhibit Floor, Autographs & Exclusives Tickets
As we already explained, prior to doors opening, everyone that isn’t there for Hall H (or Indigo) will be camped outside, starting at Hall D.
Once doors open, you’ll make your way up the escalator, where you’ve got then several choices. If you’re going for ticketed autographs (WB, FOX, the limited signings happening in Sails, etc.), then you’re going to head into Sails and proceed directly to your individual autograph line. This general area is also where the tickets for Hasbro, Funko Bandai are (LEGO is on the Terrace just outside). Everything should be pretty well marked, so just make sure you’re jumping into the right line.
We also want to stress that the autograph lines here are only for certain ticketed and limited signings. Every booth does their autographs differently, so it’s very important to read up on that particular booth’s rules. For instance, Marvel also has ticketed autographs, but you have to draw your tickets at the booth itself. Warner Bros. has ticketed autographs, but they ticket upstairs in Sails. If you want more information about how the Sails autograph system works, you can check out our guide.
If your goal is to head straight to the exhibit floor, there are two lines prior to doors opening. The first is also in Sails, towards the back. This line is ideal for if you’re planning to head straight to the Marvel or DC booths, or Mondo.
The second exhibit floor line requires you to loop all the way around Ballroom 20, before you wind up at the other set of escalators, overhead of Hall H. This is the line that’s going to get you the closest to Artist Alley, Warner Bros., ABC, Lionsgate, etc. — so depending on what you’re after, this might be the line for you. In both instances, once doors open, you’re going to have to make your way down to ground level through escalators.
There are a lot of lines for Comic-Con — and the rules are always changing. If you think you’re in the wrong line, or if you think a line is forming somewhere and you’re not sure where to go, always ask. And ask multiple people — staff, security, attendees, social media. San Diego Comic-Con is a big place, and it may take a few tries before you get the answer you need.
We’ve tried to make it a little easier to understand with this graphic (click to view larger):
What lines did we forget? Let us know in the comments.