Over the weekend, I attended my first Denver Comic Con (DCC). Though I’ve seen almost all of the new era of comic book and superhero movies, I’m no aficionado, so I expected to feel a little overwhelmed and out-of-the-loop. And while the sheer number of people—event organizers estimate attendance was more than 114,000 for the three-day festival—made moving around the convention floor a bit of a chess game, I discovered that the beauty of DCC is that it truly is open to anyone. That means all ages, all interests, and all backgrounds. (I honestly didn’t recognize more than half of the cosplay outfits I saw.)

Here are my seven takeaways from DCC 2016. Maybe they’ll inspire you to scoop up tickets next year (they go fast).

You don’t have to be a superfan to attend. Sure, a large percentage of people were committed to their outfits, from blue-painted Na’vis to a fully suited Groot. But just as many wore simple superhero T-shirts or regular clothes (like me). So go all out or keep it simple—whatever makes you comfortable.

But you will get some seriously geek-tastic photos. If someone took the time to get all dressed up as his or her favorite character, he or she is probably down for a photo-op. So don’t be shy—just be sure to ask politely.

Have a plan (and bring snacks). This huge event takes over the entire Colorado Convention Center. It’s best to have a general idea of what sessions, panels, and guest speakers you can’t miss—and know where they’re being held. If you’re hoping to score a seat to hear someone like Lena Headey or Stan Lee speak, plan on lining up at least 30 minutes in advance. And while there are plenty of spots to grab food both inside and outside the Convention Center, lines can get long. If you’re hauling kids around—or have a tendency to get hangry—pack some snacks (and water!) to tide you over.

If Stan Lee returns next year—as he said he would—make sure you’re in the audience. Speaking of the great Stan Lee: He’s hilarious. Besides his wisecracks, fans will enjoy hearing his anecdotes and learning tidbits like how he refers to Spider-Man (his favorite character) as Spidey, and Robert Downey Jr. (a.k.a. Ironman) as Bob or Bobu (I’m not entirely sure of the spelling). Look out for Lee to pop up in three cameo appearances in upcoming films. As Lee says, “They’re all masterpieces.”

This is the place to find your next Halloween costume. At the upstairs Con Floor area, you’ll find everything from a Wonder Woman skirt to a Sons of Anarchy baby onesie. Basically: Anything you—or your kid—could possibly need to transform into your favorite character. Take advantage.

This isn’t just a place for play. Of course, Comic Con is supposed to be fun. And it is. But you can also learn a heck of a lot. Budding writers, comic book artists, and more will find inspiration in sessions and panels focused on improving skills and through talking to the many visiting artists and authors. Con’s “Unity Mission” means there are also plenty of offerings focused on women, minorities, and the LGBTQ communities.

Denver Comic Con is put on by Pop Culture Classroom, a local nonprofit that uses comic book media to help kids learn. Proceeds from DCC fund its Classroom program, which promotes literacy through a “Storytelling Through Comics” curriculum that is available free of charge to schools, teachers, and community organizations. 

Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.