Anime North 2023!
After holding their 2022 edition in July, this year Anime North will be happening in May again!
Whether it’ll be your first time attending Anime North, or you’re an experienced congoer looking to find out what’s new about this convention…I’m sure this guide will have everything you need to know about AN this year!
Name: Anime North
Date: May 26-28, 2023 (AN usually takes place the same week of Victoria Day Holiday)
Location: Toronto Congress Centre and surrounding hotels (Toronto, Ontario)
Hotel room availability: Farther hotels easy but closest hotels very difficult (the closest and most popular hotels sell out minutes within opening)
Weekend Pass: $70 CAD ($75 CAD at the door)
Hotel rooms: Around $150-200 CAD (booking under Anime North convention block)
Parking: Free parking at the convention centre during the day, low cost parking overnight at hotels
Budget: Approximately $300-$400 CAD if lodging with 3 other roommates ($100 for hotel, $60 for food, $60 for weekend pass, $30-$50 for gas if you plan on driving, $50-$100 for items in the dealer’s room).
Overall costs: This convention is cheap for a big con!
Oh Anime North! I’ve been going to this convention for years, so I definitely know a lot about it! And that’s why I wanted to make this Anime North guide. For those who don’t know, here are some quick facts before we get started:
- The biggest Anime convention in Canada (although Otakuthon in Montreal is catching up), and one of the largest Anime conventions of North America.
- Takes place at the Toronto Congress Centre, which is very close to the airport. Convenient for everyone, whether you’re driving or taking public transit to the convention.
- Takes place in Toronto, Canada, a super fun city worth visiting. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t know because Anime North takes place far away from downtown so you won’t know, unless you take a trip downtown (which I’ll explain later).
- The convention is spread across 3 buildings, which is good and bad (further details below in this Anime North guide)
Here’s what this Anime North guide will cover:
- I. Getting to Anime North
- II. Location and Venue Guide
- III. Cosplay Photoshoot Opportunities
- IV. Programming
- V. Hotel and Lodging Options Guide
- VI. Food Options Guide
- VII. Verdict
I. Getting to Anime North
If you’re one of my loyal readers from Toronto, then you should skip this section since you probably already know your way around Anime North. But for those who’ve never been to this convention, then read on with my Anime North guide!
Anime North is located on the outskirts of Toronto beside the airport. This makes it very easy to access the convention by car, as the area is surrounded by numerous highways. Whether you’re coming from areas close to Buffalo or Detroit in the west, or from Ottawa/Montreal in the east, all you have to do is take Highway 401 all the way to Toronto and get off at the Dixon Road/Martin Grove Road exit.
Tip: There’s plenty of free parking during the day at the Toronto Congress Centre. However, do not use the SOUTH main parking lot entrance at Dixon Road, as it is jammed with traffic all day and with tons of attendees crossing at the intersection, you’ll have a tough time getting through. A better idea is to drive a few blocks up on Martin Grove Road and enter using the NORTH entrance, which is far less crowded.
For parking overnight, most of the hotels at Anime North offer free parking. There’s a few like the Delta that charge close to $20 a day, so be sure to set aside some money just in case. $20 a day isn’t so bad when you consider other places charge a lot more (I’m looking at you Youmacon!).
By bus and train
While there aren’t any Greyhound buses or VIA Rail that go straight to the airport, they do stop in downtown Toronto and from there, you can easily get to the airport and Anime North. From downtown Toronto, you can take either one of 2 options to reach Anime North by public transit:
1. Toronto Transit Commission – Toronto’s local public transit system has an extensive network of subway lines, buses and streetcars that can get you anywhere in the city, including Anime North! The 52 Lawrence West bus (branches A,B and D, NOT F) is the main bus serves the Anime North area and comes very often. The bus runs 24 hours, so you’ll have no problem getting to and from Anime North with the TTC. It costs $3.25 cash to take the TTC one way.
2. Union Pearson Express: There’s a premium express train that goes from downtown all the way to the airport in less than 30 minutes! The Union Pearson Express is super convenient, but pricier to use than the TTC. A one-way ticket will cost you $12.35, and $9.25 with a Presto card (although if you’re not from Greater Toronto Area then it’s not worth purchasing it). Once you get off at the airport, you can take the shuttle bus to your hotel.
If you’re pressed on time, then I recommend taking the UP Express going to Anime North, and then taking the TTC when the convention is done.
Anime North is conveniently located close to Pearson International Airport, which is the main airport for Toronto and surrounding areas. Chances are, you’re probably staying at a hotel near the airport or the convention. In either case, you can take the 52 Lawrence West bus east to the Toronto Congress Centre, where Anime North takes place.
II. Location and Venue Guide
Because Anime North is located around the airport area, the area is kind of bland (like most neighborhoods near an international airport). Fortunately, there’s a bunch of quick eats and restaurants surrounding the convention centre, so you won’t have to venture out of the area if you’re looking for food. We’ll cover that later in this Anime North guide.
Check out this video below by Fire And Steel to see how the area of Anime North looks like:
Toronto Congress Centre
Let’s talk about the actual venues for Anime North, starting with the Toronto Congress Centre. There are actually two buildings: the south building and the north building.
The south building isn’t too aesthetically pleasing to be honest, with its warehouse-like interior and dark flooring. It reminds me of a flea market, which is coincidental because this dealer’s room and artist alley happens to be. I guess the aesthetics is not the fault of Anime North, but they really should consider renovating it.
The north building is really nice. It’s very modern-looking and beautiful. Unfortunately, the convention hardly ever uses this building and I wish they used it more often. Of all the times I’ve been to Anime North, only once did I ever get to enter the north building, and that was for the closing ceremonies. There’s a political convention that takes place every year the same weekend as Anime North. So that’s probably why the south building is used a lot more. For 2023, maybe things will be different…and you’ll get to see the beautiful north building.
Outside of the Toronto Congress Centre
Anime North is different in that unlike most conventions, the life and activity of Anime North congregates outside in the parking lot of the Toronto Congress Centre. It’s where congoers lounge and socialize with other people. An area where cosplayers do their photoshoots. It’s where the outdoor rave takes place. Where the idol dance groups and DJ’s play their music and perform
The parking lot is like a street festival for geeks and attendees. And as a Canadian who puts up with crappy weather 75% of the year, I find it AMAZING when you put Otaku street festival+beautiful spring weather together. It truly is a nice experience.
So if you want to take a break, socialize or people-watch, then the outside area beside the
The Delta Hotel across the street from the Toronto Congress Centre is the second main building used for Anime North. It’s a pretty nice hotel and they recently underwent a renovation. Inside the hotel there’s a Starbucks, along with a couple of convenience stores and higher-end restaurants. It’s kind of small for a convention hotel, at least compared to other cons I’ve been to.
Almost all of the panels take place in the Delta, along with the main and special events such as the Masquerade, maid café and video rooms. The Delta Hotel gets very crowded in the lobby hallways, especially on Saturday. So whatever you do, do not ask for a cosplay photo in the middle of the hallway! You’ll get some dirty looks from a lot of congoers if you do this. Ask them to move to the side if you want a quick photo (there’s actually a lot of unspoken rules of cosplay photo etiquette).
The third building is the Sheraton Hotel. This is where all the gaming stuff happens (video games, board games, card gaming). In one room, you have all the console and computer gaming. The next room, you have all the rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution and Rock Band. In another room, you have the card games and board games. Like the Delta Hotel, the Sheraton Hotel isn’t too large and you can walk the entire hallway in less than a minute. But it seems to fit all the gaming programming into one building! Getting here from the Toronto Congress Centre or the Delta Hotel is a hassle though.
Unlike those two buildings, the Sheraton Hotel is separated by a long highway bridge you have to cross a long highway bridge in order to get there. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from the Sheraton Hotel to the Congress Centre and Delta Hotel.
When it’s hot outside, it can be a real hassle to do this walk! Anime North does have shuttle buses to and from the Sheraton hotel, but you do have to wait a while. This is where the TTC pass comes in handy, because you only have to take the bus 1 stop to get to each venue. I did this and it was so convenient and fast because the 52 Lawrence bus comes every 10 minutes or less. So if you’re big on the gaming and plan on spending good amount of time here, consider buying a TTC weekend transit pass to make your life easier.
III. Cosplay Photoshoot Opportunities
If you want to do cosplay photoshoots at Anime North, I have good and bad news for you. Let’s start with the good. If you’re shooting outside, you’ll have LOTS of room outside in the parking lot of the Toronto Congress Centre. The parking lot is so huge, as long as you stay out of the main walkway where congoers go in and out of the building, you’ll totally be fine.
The bad news is the scenery/background at Anime North is not ideal at all. In fact, it’s pretty plain and dull. Doing a photoshoot on a patch of grass or on the concrete jungle that is the parking lot isn’t very aesthetically pleasing. And don’t even bother trying to do a photoshoot indoors; the convention centre and hotels are very crowded and I doubt you’ll be able to find a suitable space.
So in short, doing a photoshoot at Anime North is easy but nothing spectacular. Not even close to the levels of beauty you’d get at Katsucon or Colossalcon. With that said, there are tons of cosplayers and photographers at the biggest Anime convention in Canada, so you’ll have no problem getting photos taken.
IV. Programming and Guests
The next section in this Anime North guide is the programming and guests.
You have the standard things like the Masquerade, cosplay skit contest, video gaming, and the various panels and Q&As. But there’s also unique programming like the, Doll North, The Moonlight Ball Formal Dance and Nominoichi (attendees selling Anime and video game stuff at clearance prices!). Otakubaloo is an outdoor rave that runs all until late at night.
There’s lots of other things to do at the convention as well, such as:
- The Cosplay Masquerade
- Video game tournaments and free-to-play, Live Action Role Playing (LARP), Taple Top gaming
- Game shows such as Ouran Host Club and Kingdom Hearts trivia
- Anime North Fashion Show
- Anime Hell (my favorite!)
- Pop Idol Dance Showcase
- Group photoshoots
- Anime Music Video (AMV for short) contest
Prior to 2019, Anime North used to feature live wrestling at the event. But no more wrestling!
I think most people won’t get bored at the convention. Unless you’ve attended the conventions for several years like my friends have. Then you might be bored because it’s similar every year.
As for the guest lineup that Anime North gets, it’s a mixed bag in my opinion. I see quite a few attendees complain about AN not getting the caliber of guests like the American conventions or even Otakuthon gets. On the other hand, I’ve seen some big Anime voice actors and cosplay guests at the convention. So I’d say it’s subjective. If you’re looking for big name guests, then better to save up for a U.S. convention.
V. Hotel and Lodging Options Guide
This wouldn’t be an Anime North guide without talking about the legendary hotels!
So how is the hotel situation at Anime North?
Great if you don’t mind going a bit farther away from the convention (i.e. you need to drive, take the bus or walk very far).
Frustrating if you’re looking to stay at the hotels right beside at the convention.
By far the most difficult hotels to book are the Delta and Radisson Hotels. Since both are an elevator ride away from the convention, of course everyone wants a room at these ones! If you want them though, you’ll have to play the hotel lottery game. Keep an eye on when hotel bookings open (usually around June or July), mark your calendar and get ready to book right away. This is the only way to get a hotel room unless you get lucky with a last-minute booking.
The Crowne Plaza and the Sheraton Hotel are the next hotels closest to the convention. The rooms also book fast at these conventions, but not as fast as the Delta or Radisson. So when hotel bookings are open, book it as soon as possible. I think because they are farther away, they don’t get booked as fast. But the Crowne Plaza in particular is underrated in my opinion. It’s one of my favourite convention hotels.
Other/much easier hotel options for Anime North
If you rather not spend 1-2 hours of your life refreshing the hotel page in hopes of getting a room at the Delta Hotel, then you have plenty of options outside of the convention area.
Anime North has a wide selection of overflow hotels that are easy to get. However, you’ll have to figure out a way to reach the convention as there are no shuttle buses for these hotels. If you choose an overflow hotel on Dixon Road, you can still reach the convention by TTC/public transit. However, the overflow hotels in Mississauga (the city beside Toronto) are very far and you’ll have to drive or take a taxi/Uber to reach the convention.
The hotels at Anime North are relatively cheap compared to similarly-sized conventions. If you look at the hotels page for AN, they’re all under $200 CAD a night, which is definitely lower than average. When I attend conventions in the U.S., hotel prices START at around $200 USD a night! I’m always prepared for a price sticker shock when I attend American conventions. But whenever I attend Anime North, I never have to worry about breaking my wallet.
A nice perk about these Anime North hotels is that their cancellation policy is very lenient (which is also why the rooms sell out quickly). Most Anime North hotels allow you to cancel your room reservation up to 3 days before the start of the convention with no penalty. That means you can book a hotel room a year in advance and cancel next year 3 days before, without being charged at all! This is awesome.
At many other conventions, either you have to cancel much sooner or the deposit is nonrefundable. Compared to many other conventions I’ve attended in the US, being able to cancel only a few days before is very generous.
So take advantage and book a hotel room if you’re even considering coming to Anime North the following year. If plans change, then you can always cancel a week or 2 before.
VI. Anime North Food Options Guide
Anime North might be located in the middle of nowhere, but there’s no shortage of restaurants around the convention centre! You have:
- Fast food options such as Harvey’s, Subway and Tim Hortons.
- For you sushi lovers, there are restaurants like Sushi-Ya Japan and Makimono (the sushi bars specialize their menu during Anime North!). There’s usually an onigiri stand inside the Delta Hotel! No guarantees they will be there this year though.
- There are tons of sit down restaurants as well such as Boston Pizza, Jack Astors, Montana’s and Swiss Chalet.
- There are also food trucks and stands just outside of the Toronto Congress Centre.
Since there are tons of hungry attendees during the whole weekend, these restaurants tend to get pretty busy. The lineup for Harvey’s can go outside the door! If you don’t want to wait in line, the hotels have fancier restaurants that are not crowded but more expensive. Sadly there are no grocery stores nearby, so it would be difficult to buy something there and take it with you to your hotel.
Because this year Anime is taking place in July, it will likely be very hot! So be sure to stay hydrated and fed during the convention. 🙂
The convention is far from perfect, but Anime North will always satisfy a lot of congoers every year. Many Torontonians and Canadians across the country attend each time. And if you’re from the States, you’ll find it’s a unique convention and easier on your wallet than most U.S. conventions. Anime North hasn’t really changed much, for better or worse. 😉
This wouldn’t be an Anime North Guide without some various tips. So here they are:
Anime North Guide Pro Tips
- If you plan to buy a lot of things in the dealer’s room, then bring cash with you before you arrive at the convention. Because there are no banks nearby and the ATM lines inside the convention centre are insanely long.
- Be sure to review Anime North’s COVID-19 Policy before attending the convention. Click here to read it.
- If you’re driving to the convention and not staying at a hotel, drive and use the north entrance of the Toronto Congress Centre. Do NOT drive towards the south entrance as it jammed with traffic and attendees/pedestrians.
- If you want to snag a hotel room at the closest hotels like the Delta or Radission, here’s what you should do. On the Sunday, go up to the reception desk and ask when the hotel bookings are open for next year. They will likely have a set date and time when the hotel blocks will open (usually in June or July in the morning). Mark this day and time on your calendar, and be sure to set aside at least 1 hour. Because everyone else will try to book a hotel room at the same time. With a little patience and some luck, you will get a hotel room at the Delta and Radisson and be right at the convention!
- Most hotels for Anime North have a lenient cancellation policy. If they do, take advantage of Anime North’s hotel super lenient cancellation policy and book a hotel room if you’re even considering coming to the convention the following year. If plans change, then you can always cancel a week or 2 before without penalty. Not many conventions allow you to do this!
- Remember to be respectful when taking photos of cosplayers. Always ask for permission before snapping a photo. Read more about this here.
- Unlike many large conventions that take place in only one building, Anime North involves several different buildings with 1-2 of them very far away from each other. Keep this in mind when planning out your con weekend schedule. If you have a group photoshoot at the Toronto Congress Centre but also have a gaming tournament to attend at the Sheraton, you’ll need to give yourself a lot of time to travel between the two venues because they’re far away from each other.
- Don’t neglect your health and well-being during Anime North! Especially this year since the convention is taking place in July instead of May, with the weather being much warmer this month. Be sure to make use of the water coolers inside the buildings and get lots of food and rest during the convention.
- Since Anime North requires being outdoors often (whether to travel between buildings or to hangout outside the Toronto Congress Centre), be sure to consider the cosplay you’re wearing. Some years it’s really hot to wear a bulky cosplay, other years it’s very cold to wear a more revealing cosplay. Canadian weather is like that!
- Wait until Sunday for discounts in the dealers’ room.
I hope you found this Anime North Guide helpful! And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to comment below.
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!