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.
At a certain point the day before, the Next Day Line (NDL) will be allowed to form once the green flag has been dropped. It will start out by the marina, and eventually once the last panel for that day has been let into Hall H, will move to under the tents.
From here, 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. Here’s the location, which is basically just further around back of the convention center from the previous location of the line. Again, look for the green flag marker, and you may not begin to line-up here until the green flag has been placed:
And here are the times for distribution for 2023:
Wednesday, July 19: Wristband distribution for Thursday panels in Hall H will begin at 8:00 PM in the general Hall H line in Plaza Park.
Thursday, July 20: Wristband distribution for Friday panels in Hall H will begin at 7:30 PM at the front of the Next Day Line.
Friday, July 21: Wristband distribution for Saturday panels in Hall H will begin at 7:30 PM at the front of the Next Day Line.
Wristband distribution will continue until 7:30AM, or until all wristbands have been given out, whichever comes first.
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 “Everything Else Line” line outside the convention center. 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, 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.
This line starts over by Hall H before doors, on the outside of that line, near the street, under the first tent (the one closest to the street).
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 the show floor (or the other show floor line). 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 has happened. Instead, early in the morning you’ll initially start your line outside the back of the Bayfront, by the Marina — and for the last several years, they’ve filtered attendees in about ten at a time up the escalator and through a metal detector, in what is officially the slowest load-in procedure at Comic-Con.
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
As we already explained, prior to doors opening, everyone that isn’t there for Hall H (or Indigo) will be camped outside, starting under the first tent.
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 (which are still happening for a few autographs), then you’re going to head into Sails and proceed directly to your individual autograph line. If you don’t know where your line is, be sure to ask a volunteer.
We also want to stress that the autograph lines here are only for certain 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 (and skip this one, because it’s always exhibitors who fill up the line first!). Good Omens has an autograph signing, but their autographs are now a lottery in the Online Exclusives Portal. There will be other autograph drawings in the morning in Sails, in the Autograph Area, starting at roughly 9AM. Here is the verbiage from the past:
“To participate in the drawing, please go to the indicated line and pick a ticket out of a container. The winning tickets will have a distinct stamp on the back. Once a winning ticket has been drawn, either:
- The ticket will be kept by the winner to be exchanged for access into the designated autograph line at the specified location and time.
- The ticket will be exchanged for a wristband that will admit the wearer into the designated autograph line at the specified location and time.”
If you do not draw a winning ticket, you may return to the end of the line to try again until all winning tickets have been drawn. One winning ticket per person, per signing.
Prior to the start of the ticket drawings, an area will be designated for those who wish to wait for the drawings to begin. You may line up for that day’s drawings each morning as soon as you enter the building. No other lines will be recognized other than those in this officially designated area. When space becomes available, each line will be escorted to the proper queue for the drawings to be done that morning.”
Here’s a look at where the Sails Pavilion is located, for anyone who doesn’t know. It’s at the very top of the escalators, and then you’ll simply go straight to find the entrance.
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 booth or anything on the right side of the convention center map:
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, Funko, 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:
What lines did we forget? Let us know in the comments.