So you’re thinking about attending Anime Expo for the first time, huh? While it can seem a bit overwhelming first, especially if you’ve never been to any other conventions, it’s actually not too bad. The goal of this guide is largely to give new attendees tips for their journey to the Los Angeles Convention Center over the 4th of July weekend, but veterans might find some use with this guide as well. So, let’s get into it.

The Basics

anime-expoWhat is Anime Expo?

Anime Expo is the largest anime convention in the United States, having reached 100,000 attendees in 2016. The convention typically takes place in Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Convention Center outside of LA Live during the 4th of July weekend, and is currently set to stay there until at least 2019.

Sounds great, how can I attend?

If you’ve never been to Anime Expo, there are a few types of badges that you can purchase for the event ranging from a one day pass to a four day pass, and if you don’t mind spending a bit extra, premiere pass. You can find a link to check out the current badge prices in the section of this guide labeled resources.

Premiere sounds fancy, what is it?

Premiere is essentially the best tier of badge you can purchase for Anime Expo, and it comes with a number of perks that normal four day passes don’t have access to. As I mentioned above, those perks will also cost you a premium, but it might be worth it for those of you that value your time over money.

Those perks include a four day pass, a premiere fan lounge with access to charging stations, comfortable seating, and complimentary beverages, early access to the exhibit hall, early access to the entertainment hall, early entry to panels, one ticket for a ticked event, and an exclusive pre-sale period of 48 hours to pick up tickets to other ticketed events.

As you can see, it’s sort of like a VIP pass, and it comes with a VIP price. To put the difference in price into perspective, tickets to Anime Expo 2017 are currently sitting at $65 for a four day pass, while premiere passes will run you $375. Additionally, premiere passes tend to be sold in limited quantities throughout the year leading up to the event.

It’s worth noting that Premiere passes are very high priority when it comes to panels. They’ve got their own line inside the hall, whereas general attendees typically have to wait outside in the heat. When deciding which pass to pick up, make sure to take this into consideration, as the time saved may be worth the additional cost.

For more information on premiere passes, see the resources section of this guide.

So I purchased a badge, now what?

Assuming you’re early, now you’ve got time to plan. If you’re flying into Los Angeles, you’ll want to take that into consideration and look at flight costs for the weekend as well as hotel costs. Every year Anime Expo opens up the hotel block, which offers a list of recommended local hotels for a decent price. Typically this list goes up a few months ahead of the convention, so that’s when you’ll want to look. Of course, it’s also possible to book outside of the hotel block, but the hotel block comes with a number of advantages.

Should I get a hotel from the hotel block, or one somewhere else?

It’s entirely possible to get a hotel outside of the hotel block, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re absolutely serious about saving money at the cost of potentially losing time. No matter what, you’ll never have time to do everything you want to do at Anime Expo because of the size and scope of the event, so I’ve found that it’s best to save time rather than money. However, if you’re trying to attend the convention on a budget, it might be cheaper to get a hotel in another part of LA and rely on transportation or rent a vehicle.

Beyond the cost of the room itself, there are also quite a few perks to booking through the hotel block. The biggest perk is probably the ability to take shuttles, which Anime Expo provides free of charge. As far as I’m aware, anyone with a badge can use these shuttles, but they only go to and from select hotels. So, if you book through the hotel block, you’ll save money on Uber by taking the shuttles and also have the added benefit of meeting people who are staying at your hotel.

Of course, when you’re booking your hotel also plays into the equation. If you’re booking late, and I mean really late, you might be better off booking a hotel somewhat local to the convention center through your favorite website. For my first year in 2015, I booked late and suffered the consequences. Fortunately, I was able to get a room at the Figueroa, which is only a block away. Unfortunately, I had to pay a premium rate because it was within a month of the convention.

If you’re that late, the hotel block will probably be long sold out, and at that point you’re better off considering other options. If there’s one tip I recommend for people out of town, it’s to plan ahead and book early. The later you book, the more expensive it’s going to get. This goes for acquiring passes to the event as well, as they typically go up over time before resting at the final cost.

 

The Convention

anime expo 2016 cosplay bentobyte day 2-33

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s talk about the convention itself. First and foremost, it’s a big one. Huge, in fact. As I mentioned previously, Anime Expo is the #1 anime convention in the United States, with numbers just over 100,000 as of 2016. You’ll find that there are a lot of people, which can make getting around difficult, but it can also make getting food a chore.

To that end, you’ll probably want to come prepared. I’m talking snacks and bottled water, because you’ll need it. Los Angeles can get pretty damn hot in the summer, and it certainly was for Anime Expo 2016. I made the mistake of forgetting to bring water, which ended up being okay for me personally, but if I had wanted to remedy the situation I could have made a visit to the local Target.

While you’re at Anime Expo, there are a lot of places outside of the Los Angeles Convention Center. Most of these are located at or near LA Live, and they’re either typically incredibly crowded, or incredibly pricey. Most restaurants in the area also close down at 5:00 pm, which can be a problem if you plan on staying at the convention center later than that. This is another reason why it’s better to keep snacks and drinks on you until you’re able to actually stop and grab food.

One thing that you’ll absolutely want to bring is a backpack. Note that the convention center does check your bags before entering, but it didn’t seem particularly invasive. Anime Expo also encourages attendees to bring a refillable water bottle and snacks, so you don’t have to worry about not being able to bring them in. Venues around the area which host events during the convention such as The Novo at LA Live may not allow you to bring these items, so check their policy beforehand!

If you have any questions while you’re at the convention center, Anime Expo typically has a number of information booths around the convention center. They can help you find out where you’re going, but they’re happy to help with whatever questions you might have about the event. If you need help with something, just drop by one of the many booths. There are also a number of other services available as well, like bag checking and the quiet room which is a recent addition from 2015.

If you’re checking out of your hotel on the final day of the convention and not staying afterwards, you can actually have your bags checked at the convention so you’re not stuck carrying them around. Hotels typically offer this service as well, even after check out, so you can check with your hotel to see if they check bags also. After looking at the pricing for bag check at Anime Expo, I found that it was actually cheaper to have my bag checked at our hotel, which is what I ended up doing.

For that, I only paid $1 for the hotel to hold my bag for 24 hours. For comparison, Anime Expo’s bag checking lists the price at $15/item for a day, which is obviously a lot more expensive. If you have to pick up your luggage before heading to the airport, it’s probably more convenient to leave it at your hotel if they offer the service.

Finally, as Anime Expo frequently hosts a number of important guests within the industry, be sure to pay attention to when and where guests are making appearances. Every year a number of guests can be found signing autographs, but these events are typically ticketed meaning that you’ll have to find out about them and get your ticket in advance. There are a number of ways to do this, but I recommend paying attention to updates on social media and the Anime Expo website.

Downtown Los Angeles

anime expo 2016 bentobyte day 2

The Los Angeles Convention Center is located in Downtown Los Angeles, which means you’ll likely be spending the bulk of your time there. There are a number of interesting sights to see, but since I’ve only been going for two years now I’ve yet to completely familiarize myself with the area. One thing I’ve learned though, is where to get good food for cheap prices. In this section I’ll recommend a few spots for people to check out.

Grand Central Market

If you’re coming to Anime Expo with a large group of friends, or meeting up with some, Grand Central Market is a great place to get food. This place is packed with food vendors, majority of which offer decent priced meals. On average, I spent under $10 per meal, which is very reasonable if you’re familiar with the pricing in the LA Live area. They also offer a shuttle for diners to get around courtesy of Downtown Concierge. I didn’t have the opportunity to actually take the shuttle, and instead opted for Uber, but I absolutely would have taken the shuttle if I had known about it at the time.

Fig at 7th

Like Grand Central Market, Fig at 7th is another great spot full of vendors. There’s one big difference, though. This one is within walking distance from the convention center! It’s just a few blocks there and back, and in both of the years that I’ve attended Anime Expo, it hasn’t been too crowded. There’s a full-on Target here, as well as an H&M and plenty of food options. California Pizza Kitchen and Starbucks have chains here, and they’ll soon be joined by Five Guys.

If you do decide to drive there, they’ve even got discounted parking for people who shop or dine there. I went there after the convention to get some gelato, and after validating our parking with the receipt, the parking only came out to $1. That’s not bad when you consider how busy Downtown is.

Staples Center

If you’re not familiar with Downtown LA, you’re probably familiar with the Staples Center, home of the Lakers, the Clippers, and the Kings. Sports aren’t the only type of event hosted there, concerts are also frequently happening at the Staples Center. If you’re looking for entertainment, it might be worth your while to see if anything is going on while you’re there.

Microsoft Theater/The Novo

Microsoft owns a couple of venues at LA Live, which are Microsoft Theater and The Novo. Both venues have been used for different purposes during Anime Expo. In 2015, Crunchyroll hosted Anamanaguchi and Porter Robinson at Microsoft Theater, and Cool Japan Festival took places at The Novo. Likewise, in 2016, Anisong World Matsuri was held at both of these venues. Do note that these events are typically ticketed, so even though they’re part of Anime Expo, you may still have to buy a ticket.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Located further in Downtown Los Angeles is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which serves as home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. From what I’ve gathered, the Walt Disney Concert Hall typically hosts more classical events such as opera and symphony, so if you’re interested in that sort of thing then it might be worth giving a shot.

General Tips

  • Always carry snacks and a bottle of water with you
  • Bring a backpack to carry things in
  • Wear comfortable shoes, because you’ll be doing a lot of walking
  • Avoid eating at or around the convention center if your goal is to spend as little money as possible
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for information, there will be plenty of staff on site but most people will be happy to help
  • Before you go to any events, explore the convention center a bit and familiarize yourself with the area

Resources

Registration Help – Anime Expo

Registration – Anime Expo

Premiere Fan – Anime Expo

Bag check – Anime Expo

Grand Central Market

Fig at 7th

Staples Center

Microsoft Theater

The Novo

Conclusion

Now you should be better equipped to deal with Anime Expo! If you see any questions that you’d like answered, please feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. I’ve tried to make this guide as extensive as possible to help new attendees, but this guide will likely continue to change and improve as time goes by.

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Adam Capps

About Adam Capps

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Adam Capps is the editor of video games at BentoByte. He spends his days playing video games and his nights writing about them. He’s also an avid fan of anime, manga and music.

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