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Nerd, Geeks: lend me your ears! C2E2 is just around the corner!
The Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) is the Midwest’s biggest pop culture convention and a place many nerds in Chicago call home. Whether you’re a fan of comic books, TV, movies, video games, anime, cosplay, or anything else, you’ll find something to geek out about here. We’re Nerds with a capital N here at Secret Chicago, so we can’t wait to put on our cosplay best and strut into the McCormick Place Feb 28 – March 1. Here’s everything you need to know to have an epic experience at C2E2 this year.
You can purchase badges (your entrance to the con) for individual days or the full weekend on C2E2’s website or day-of at the convention center for $10 more. We recommend getting the full C2E2 experience by purchasing a 3-Day pass ($85), but if you can only make it to one day, Saturday ($45) is usually the biggest. Children ages 6-12 can also get discounted tickets while supplies last ($10-$20), but must be accompanied by an adult badge-holder.
If you’re just now buying your badge, you’ll need to pick it up at Will Call, which starts the day before the convention. Just so you know for next year, you can have your badge mailed to you if purchased before the mailing deadline. That way, you won’t have to wait in line!
Will Call Hours
Thursday, February 27: 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Friday, February 28: 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 29: 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 a.m.
Sunday, March 1: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 a.m.
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C2E2 is in the South Building of McCormick Place located in Downtown Chicago. We highly suggest taking public transit to the convention center (Green Line Cermak-McCormick station), but if your cosplay or props aren’t CTA-friendly, there are parking options onsite. You probably want to secure parking in advance to avoid circling for hours or reparking partway through the day. C2E2 attendees can receive 50% off SpotHero parking by booking through C2E2. There is also limited parking at McCormick Place and Marriot Marquis both for $36/day.
C2E2 also offers a complimentary shuttle from Millennium Station, Union & Ogilvie Station, and the McCormick Place Green Line station. The shuttle runs 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Sunday. Ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber are also great options and can drop you off right in front of the main entrance.
C2E2 prides itself on the variety of activities for all ages and interests. Spread throughout the convention are engaging panels on specific subjects, hangout areas for cosplayers, family-friendly programming, an incredible Artist Alley, and much more! You can find a full map of the convention here.
Looking for a piece of nerdy artwork or print from your favorite comic artists? You’ll find it in the Artist Alley located next to the food court on the show floor. Some of the world’s most talented artists can be found selling their work there! You can find the full artist list here.
Located on the show floor in aisles 300-500 is Cosplay Central, an area of C2E2 devoted entirely to the art of costumes, crafts, and characters. Enjoy a full weekend of programming at the Cosplay Central Stage, fix wardrobe malfunctions (or find a crucial safety pin) at the Cosplay Repair area, switch from day to evening wear in the Cosplay Changing Area, or take epic photos of your group in front of awesome photo ops and backdrops. This is also where the Cosplay Masquerade will take place where you can show off your best costume and stage performance for over $1500 in prize money! More information.
C2E2 is a fantastic place for children and families. Enjoy a full weekend of family-friendly programming and events at Family HQ. Kids can learn Quidditch in the Interactive Zone, hang out with their favorite Star Wars villains, learn to build droid replicas, draw their next comic superhero, and more! More information.
Whether you prefer console or tabletop, the Gaming Zone is the perfect place for an IRL LARP party. Take part in tournaments, enjoy free console gaming, get a first look at games that haven’t been released yet, or take a breather during the weekend. There’s even a whole room devoted to Dungeons & Dragons! It’s a gamer’s dream! More information.
A new addition to C2E2, Pop Asia is an area dedicated to all things anime, manga, KPOP, and Asian culture. Play famous Japanese arcade games, shop from exciting exhibitors like Squishable, Noms, and Tasty Peach Studios, and take photos against backdrops from your favorite animes. All that excitement make you hungry? Enjoy a feast of sushi, bubble tea, spring rolls and more from Asian-themed food vendors! More information.
The Yard (21+)
Take a break from running around the show floor in The Yard, a 21+ only area where you can relax with a cold beer, listen to nerdy music, and play yard games and trivia. It’s also a great place to socialize and make new, nerdy friends! C2E2’s new beer garden is sponsored by Revolution Brewing and located right on the show floor. More information.
One thing that makes C2E2 so popular is its list of incredible celebrity and industry guests. Some of the biggest names in entertainment, comic books, anime, gaming, and literature are featured guests. This year’s big names include Mark Ruffalo (Marvel’s Avengers Infinity Saga), Karl Urban (The Boys, Star Trek, Thor Ragnarok), William Shatner (Star Trek), Stephen Amell (Arrow), Adam Savage (Mythbusters), Rainbow Rowell (Author of Fangirl, Eleanor and Park, Carry On), AEW wrestlers, and the cast of Critical Role. You can find the full list of featured guests here.
Want to get an autograph or a picture with your favorite star? You can purchase photo op and autograph tickets before or during the event. We recommend purchasing your ticket in advance because if they sell out online, they won’t be sold onsite. Be sure to check the photo op and autograph schedule online before purchasing to make sure there isn’t a panel you’re dying to see at the same time as photos with your favorite TV star.
Cosplay is the art of creating costumes, props, and character features from popular media. C2E2 is known for some of the most elaborate cosplay in the nation! Cosplayers from all over the world come to show off their newest work, hang out with each other, and compete in the Crown Championships of Cosplay, the winners of which go on to Nationals! These artists spend weeks, months, and even years putting together incredible pieces to wear to conventions like C2E2. Some people have even made a career out of cosplay!
If you’re cosplaying to C2E2, there are a few things to keep in mind, especially if this is your first time. Make sure none of your props or costume pieces violate C2E2’s security and safety policies. If you’re unsure whether your prop is allowed or not, it’s best to err on the side of caution and leave it at home. There’s nothing worse than making the biggest, baddest Harley Quinn mallet only to have it confiscated from you during check-in (not that that’s happened to us or anything…) Be sure to also bring something to carry water in– especially if you have a particularly warm cosplay– and a change of clothes in case of emergencies.
Even if you’re not cosplaying, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. First, and most importantly, cosplay is not consent. We shouldn’t have to say this, but unfortunately, harassment is something many cosplayers face. Always ask before taking a picture of or with a cosplayer and respect that person’s right to say no. Never touch a cosplayer or their costume/prop without asking. C2E2 has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment of any kind. Make sure you’re familiar with the policy and treat cosplayers and other attendees with dignity and respect.
What to Bring
If this is your first time attending a convention like C2E2, there are a few things you should know before heading to McCormick Place. C2E2 is a ton of fun but it can get exhausting if you don’t come prepared. Our editor has been going to conventions for over ten years. Here’s what they always make sure to bring with them for the best convention experience:
There’s not much else to say here. Make sure your badge is visible (even if it doesn’t match your cosplay) at all times. You can always take it off and on for pictures, but do not lose it.
A sturdy yet lightweight backpack or fanny pack
Make sure you have something to lug all your essentials as well as any merch you pick up from the show floor along the way. Also make sure to have Security check your bag when you enter.
A water bottle
Bring an empty water bottle that you can fill up throughout the day. There’s a ton of bodies running around the convention hall. It can get hot and with you running from panel to panel, it’s important to stay hydrated.
The C2E2 app is your best resource for navigating the convention. You can create a custom schedule of all the panels, autographs, artists, exhibitors, guests and more! It’s also your source of the most up to date information about any schedule or content changes.
A phone charger and battery pack
Don’t let yourself run out of juice. Keep your phone charged in case your group splits up, you need to check the C2E2 app, take a photo, etc.
With all the panels, workshops, guests appearances, and more you’re bound to learn something new at C2E2. Bring a notebook to jot down interesting facts, cosplay tips, or funny quotes from your favorite stars.
If you want to get into The Yard, attend one of the many C2E2 after-parties, or in case of emergencies, you’ll want to carry a photo ID with you.
Bandaids and Advil
These are particularly helpful on Sunday when blisters and con-fatigue headaches start to be a real bother.
Just trust us on this one. You will get sweaty and you will thank us for reminding you later.
While most exhibitors and vendors take card, there’s always that one artist that just hasn’t set up their Square account yet. Bring enough cash to get you through the weekend so you aren’t paying ATM fees over and over again.
C2E2 After Dark
Just because the show floor is closed doesn’t mean the fun stops. There are tons of nerdtastic events that happen after the lights go down. Below are a few of our favorites and you can find more official after parties here.
Drink and Draw
Thurs, 8 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Hyatt Regency Hotel Bar
Technically this is a pre-party, but we wanted to include it anyway. Mingle with fans, meet comic creators, and take home a custom drawing all in support of The Hero Initiative, a nonprofit that creates a financial safety net for comic creators in need.
C2E2 Late Night Karaoke
Fri, 7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Kick off C2E2 After Dark by belting your favorite tunes at the second annual C2E2 Late Night Karaoke provided by Blue Sky Entertainment.
Cosplay After Dark
Sat, 9:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Main Stage Lobby
Keep the party going after the Crown Championships of Cosplay contest at the official afterparty just outside the mainstage. Get a closer look at award-winning costumes and drink and dance with fellow cosplayers.
L.A.V.A. After Dark (18+)
Sat, 8:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Enjoy Loud, Annoying, and Very Annoying, a naughty improv variety show starring Ray Chase, Robbie Daymond and Max Mittleman. Have fun with naughty games, comedy, music, and win prizes at this racy romp into Anime & Pop Culture’s silly and sexy side.
See you at the con!
That’s just about everything you need to know to have an amazing time at C2E2. Keep an eye on Secret Chicago’s Facebook and Instagram stories for highlights of this year’s best events and breaking news. Don’t forget to tag us with your favorite parts of C2E2! We’d love to see your best cosplay, star meetups, and panel discussions.