“So you want to attend a Harry Potter convention?” is our new series to help out first-time Harry Potter convention attendees. We will break down each individual con, provide tips on how to budget, how to prepare, and how to make it a successful con experience.
You’ve been a fan of the books for years and have always been jealous of the pictures floating around the internet of everyone with their amazing con experiences. Or maybe you’re a new fan that missed all of the excitement of midnight book releases and movie premieres. Whatever your reasons, it is time for you to attend your first Harry Potter convention. What next?
Part 1 – Choosing Your Convention
First, pick which convention you prefer to attend. Each convention has a unique style and pros and cons. Your friend may enjoy one con that you hated, while you adored another con that your friend found mediocre. That is totally okay. Each experience is different and valid. As you go through the list, really think about what YOU are looking for in your first con experience.
1. MISTI-con. MISTI-con is a small, immersive Harry Potter convention that takes place every two years in Laconia, New Hampshire. The next MISTI-con is May 18-22, 2017. This convention takes over the entire hotel, which is fantastic for a number of reasons (No muggles! Decorations everywhere! A 24-hour common room!) You never know what you’re going to find at this convention. Things to know about MISTI-con:
a. MISTI-con’s attendees trend a little older than some of the other conventions. Most of the attendees range from about 22-40, though there were quite a few people above and below those numbers.
b. It’s also a big convention for Harry Potter cosplayers – costumes and cosplay are the norm here. (Your muggle clothes are still welcome though if cosplay is not your thing!) Some people dress as their favs from the series, while many others either create OCs or go with a general wizard/witchy outfit.
c. Much like Dragoncon, hotel rooms sell out before convention passes. Reserve your hotel room well ahead of time or be prepared to stay at one of the overflow hotels (great hotels, really, but the shuttle only runs once a day each way, so you may want to budget a rental car in as well if you stay at an overflow hotel.)
d. Attendance is capped at 500 people.
e. Special guests are invited to the convention, but it’s usually only a couple of them because the con is very relaxed. It’s very common for the special guests to just wander in and out of events and meetups, relax at the pool, and actually ENJOY their convention experience without being harassed by attendees. You won’t see many big names at this convention.
2. GeekyCon. Okay, yes, this is no longer strictly a Harry Potter convention. For those who are unfamiliar with this con, GeekyCon is a multifandom convention that started as LeakyCon, a Harry Potter convention run by the famous Harry Potter fan site “The Leaky Cauldron.” As it is not just for Harry Potter fans, it is great for those who want more fandom representation or have spouses/partners/friends who aren’t quite as into HP as you are. GeekyCon is currently based in Orlando, FL at the Orange County Convention Center. This convention is the largest of the cons in this post with between 2,000-5,000 attendees. Things to know about GeekyCon:
a. GeekyCon attendees trend younger than other cons. I would put the average age between 14-20.
b. It’s not a big cosplay con. There are some great cosplayers at this convention, but generally most people wear jeans and a nerdy t-shirt. There were more cosplayers at the 2015 con, but I’m not sure yet how much of that was due to the smaller attendance numbers that consisted of GeekyCon’s most devoted fans. We’ll see how that changes in upcoming years.
c. Rockstar passes (all-inclusive VIP passes) sell out very early each year. It costs more than regular tickets, but you get admission to everything plus front of the line privileges. If you like the feeling of pureblood privilege, this is a really neat feature for this con.
d. GeekyCon is also known as LineCon. It’s for a good reason – I waited in more lines at this convention than I have in every other con I’ve attended combined. Registration lines can be five+ hours long with no guarantee you’ll be able to get registered before you leave that day. There’s a huge line to the opening ceremonies. We knew in advance that there would be and showed up half an hour late…. Only to find the opening ceremonies were running late (still rehearsing!!!) They eventually started just over an hour past the original start time. Other Leaky/Geeky vets assured me that this was 100% normal. We were the only ones disturbed by this.
UPDATE: this was GREATLY improved in 2015. I’m not sure how much of it was the smaller numbers and how much was the change in process, but registration took all of 15 minutes for the full con or about an hour for those checking in early in the morning for Friday/Saturday day passes. There WERE still huge lines for things such as the autograph wristbands required to receive an autograph from some of the special guests. (These are on a first-come, first-serve basis with Rockstars receiving priority.)
e. They are able to get more big names at the convention. A lot of the special guests are YouTube stars (Hannah Hart! Potter Puppet Pals! Not Literally!) and YA authors (John Green! Rainbow Rowell! Scott Westerfeld!), though they do usually have at least one of the HP movie actors there. You have a chance to meet some really cool people. Autograph/meet and greet sessions are free (or rather, included in your tickets, so make sure you take advantage of that.)
f. In the past, Leaky/Geeky attendees have been… very enthusiastic when greeting some of the special guests at the convention. Special guests at this con generally need to stick with their handlers as much as possible (which means your socializing opportunities with some of the special guests can be limited.)
3. LeakyCon. I know I just talked about this one! … except I really didn’t. What was LeakyCon has now become GeekyCon, while adding a new con also called “LeakyCon.” It is run by the same company that runs GeekyCon (“Mischief Management.”) They are notoriously late on announcing details in comparison with other cons, so at this point we don’t know much beyond the fact that it will be “an immersive, small Harry Potter convention” with reports that they will meet one year in Europe and one in Los Angeles around the time when the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter section of Universal Studios Hollywood theme park opens. UPDATE: The next LeakyCon takes place in Los Angeles in October 19-23, 2016.
4. Mugglenet Live! Mugglenet’s first convention was this year in London, with TONS of special guests from the Harry Potter movies in attendance. It sounds like it was a great event, but sadly I, a poor American, was unable to afford this con with it being so close to MISTI-con. Woe.
5. Leviosa. Leviosa is brand new, so we don’t know too much about it! It seems to be targeting adults in their 20s and 30s, with promises of adult Harry Potter-themed beverages, a slash track, a writing track for aspiring authors that includes one-on-one session with an agent… this con DEFINITELY has the potential to be amazing. This con takes place in Las Vegas in July 7-10, 2016. (Yeah, there’s your downside – Vegas. July. I’m sweating just thinking about it. Ugh.)
6. Granger Leadership Academy. Are you a Harry Potter fan that is interested in activism, community service, and civic engagement? If so, then this may be the convention for you! The Granger Leadership Academy (GLA for short) is a leadership convention put on by the Harry Potter Alliance. The convention is geared towards those who run or are interested in running a Harry Potter Alliance chapter, but those are simply interested in getting more involved in their community will find a number of the panels interesting and enlightening. At $50 for registration, it’s certainly the most affordable of the conventions listed. The next GLA takes place in March 2016 in Warwick, Rhode Island. Note: if you are unfamiliar with The Harry Potter Alliance, the organization (and therefore the convention) tends to be left-leaning. If that makes you uncomfortable, then this might not be the convention for you.
To summarize, if you are looking for a small con with deep conversations, where you can really get to know a good portion of the con attendees while attending mature and varied Harry Potter programming, then I would recommend MISTI-con or Leviosa. If you prefer larger con ideal for younger convention attendees where you can explore a variety of non-Harry Potter fandoms while still having some light, basic Harry Potter programming, then perhaps you should try GeekyCon. If your preferences trend to small Harry Potter conventions with a heavier focus on special guests, then consider LeakyCon or Mugglenet Live!. If you love politics, Parks and Recreation, and The West Wing as much as you love Harry Potter, then consider going to Granger Leadership Academy.
Have you decided what convention to attend? Now it’s time to create a budget.