Hey guys I’m still alive! Sorry for not posting so much. I’ve been a ghost lately and just came back from a long vacation. I was going to make a post while I was abroad. But then I ended up getting really sick during vacation which totally sucked.
Don’t worry though! I’m back and have some pretty awesome plans for this blog, including more content and some new ideas. I’ve considered starting a program that will help cosplayers in a certain aspect of life…PM me if you want to know. But I’ll only go through with it if I feel like I’m truly helping people.
Anyways, since I went to Anime Weekend Atlanta for the first time last week, as a Canadian cosplayer I wanted to talk about the difference between U.S. Anime conventions and Canadian Anime conventions. I know some of you guys here in Canada have never been to a con in America, and probably a lot of my American readers have never been to Canada! Having been to many different conventions in both countries, I have some wisdom to share.
Based on my observations and experience, here are the main differences between Canadian and U.S. cons…
Earlier start and finish times for American cons
I’ve noticed that many U.S. Anime conventions start much earlier, like as early at 8:00 a.m. on the Friday! In Canada, conventions usually start around 4-5 p.m. on Friday. On the flip side, U.S. conventions also tend to end earlier on Sunday. For example, I remember going to Anime Boston in the U.S. and remember seeing the convention staff and vendors packing up around 3 p.m. on the Sunday, which is pretty damn early.
If I had to choose, I personally prefer a convention starting later on Friday and ending later on Sunday, which is how many Canadian conventions are run. Because I’d imagine Friday morning being a difficult time for many to show up; most of us work, go to school or end up traveling to the convention around that time. On top of that, many hotels don’t let you check-in until 3-4 p.m. anyway, so it would be a hassle to put on your cosplay. Usually when I’m in the U.S., I don’t show up to a convention until 5-6 p.m. Even though I miss half the day on Friday, it’s still a great day to attend for many reasons.
Industry panels and companies at U.S. cons
The big Anime/cosplay-related companies such as Arda Wigs, Crunchyroll and Funimation always make appearances at large U.S. conventions. You’ll see them at booths and panels throughout the con. Because they’re a big part of U.S. cons, they also season premieres for new Anime! At Canadian cons, you don’t really see this happen. That being said, companies like Crunchyroll are slowly attending Canadian cons like Otakuthon and making their presence up here in the North. But you’ll notice the sponsorship and company logos are plastered everywhere at American cons: from the badge that you pick up, to the advertisements inside the convention guidebook.
The video game rooms at U.S. cons tend to be bigger (and better)
Sorry Canadian conventions, but U.S. cons take their video game rooms to a whole different level! At MAGFest and Youmacon for example, their video game rooms are the size of dealer’s rooms! On the other hand, video game rooms at Canadian cons are a lot smaller. Not only that, there are tons and tons of arcade machines at American cons, and that’s something you don’t see in Canada.
The biggest difference I find is that you actually have an opportunity to play. At American cons, there are enough video games for everyone to try out some of them. I find at Canadian cons, it’s next to impossible to get a chance to play because the room is smaller and much more limited. At Anime Central and MAGFest in the U.S., the gaming room is 24 hours so if you head there late at night (after doing some drinking/partying), you’ll have the whole video game room to yourself! They take their video game rooms seriously at American cons. Well at least most of them.
I always wondered why we never get big video game rooms in Canada. But here’s an interesting story; I’m friends with a guy in Canada who helps out in the Fighting Game Community (FGC). He has a friend who owns a lot of arcade machines in the U.S. and his friend travels to various conventions in America with his truck to provide arcade games for the con.
However, he does not travel up to Canada due to logistical/border reasons, which kind of makes sense (guy driving a big truck full of arcade machines across the border…seems legit). And given how sparsely populated Canada is, it probably would be difficult to transport video game equipment to Canadian cons, whereas in the U.S. there’s far more cons in a short distance to justify it. I believe this is one big reason why the gaming department at American cons is so much larger than in Canada. In any case, going to a con in America is a great opportunity to try out a bunch of video games you’ve never played before.
There is WAAAY more partying going on at U.S. cons
The lobby at the Waverly Hotel during Anime Weekend Atlanta. There’s usually a fun, party atmosphere at U.S. cons!
Again this is based on my own experience and this may be a positive or negative for you. But man, you Americans down there know how to PARTY! On Friday and Saturday nights, I see so many drunk con goers at the convention; it’s pretty ridiculous! It can make for a fun but chaotic atmosphere.
As I mentioned in my Youmacon guide, there can be more convention attendees during the night than there are at during the day, and this is definitely the case at American cons. The rave/dance parties go until very late, while in Canada…the rave ends at 1 AM at Anime North. That’s all you need to know. Not only that, the American cons I’ve attended even have “hallway raves.” The drinking can get out of control (all those stories about con goers punching holes in the wall and all the ambulances circling the con building are all true). If you love to party, then you need to attend a convention in America. The conventions in Canada are far tamer.
(There’s this one convention in Canada where my friends call it the “party con”…uhh no it’s not! It’s more of a chill con. At least compared to the ones in the U.S. )
Okay, so it might seem like at this point, American cons are superior in every way. But that is not exactly true! Here are a couple of things that are nice about Canadian cons…
Canadian cons are in general MUCH cheaper
One thing I appreciate about going to conventions in Canada is how much money I save compared to American cons. A non-early bird weekend pass for Anime North or Otakuthon at the door is around $60-$65 CAD, which is less than $50 USD. Keep in mind that AN and Otakuthon are the two largest Anime conventions in Canada, and you’re still only paying $50 USD max. That’s really cheap compared to the prices down south.
At Anime Weekend Atlanta this year, I paid $80 USD for a weekend badge, which is over $100 CAD! That is freaking expensive. And $70-80 USD for a weekend pass is pretty typical for large U.S. conventions, which is almost more than double the price of a big convention in Canada. So I find it kind of funny when people complain about how “expensive” Anime North is. They haven’t paid American prices for a con yet. Now that’s expensive! A lot of my friends who attend cons in America have no choice but to get roommates because of the high prices. But if you’re like me who likes to travel often, then you have no choice but to go on your own!
You know else is nice about Canadian Anime conventions? The hotels!
Con hotels in Canada are usually cheaper and have more lenient cancellation policies
Mind you, there are a lot of factors that make con hotels cheap or expensive (e.g. location, supply/demand, time of year). But most of the time I end up having to fork out a lot of money to stay at a con hotel in the U.S. At Anime Central last year, staying at the main convention hotel (Hyatt Regency O’Hare) ended up costing me at least $300 CAD/night, which is crazy expensive. And not all U.S. hotels will have lenient cancellation policies; the Hyatt Regency for Anime Central took my non-refundable deposit 1 month before the con.
Another example is Dragon Con; when you book a convention hotel for Dragon Con, you have to pay for 1 night immediately and that deposit is nonrefundable. These policies suck if your plans happen to change and do not provide any flexibility.
Contrast that to Canadian convention hotels, and it’s a completely different story. At Anime North or Otakuthon I usually pay around $150/$200 CAD a night for a main hotel, which is far cheaper than anything I’ve ever paid for a con hotel in America.
On top of that, many Canadian hotels let you cancel your booking up until 1-2 days before the con. In fact, some hotels for Anime North let you cancel without penalty until 6 p.m. on the same day! So if I decided on the Friday of AN, I didn’t want to go, I could just cancel my hotel booking the same day without losing any money. That is unheard of; by far the most lenient cancellation policy I’ve ever seen (probably why Anime North hotels get booked so quickly).
So when I’m looking to book a hotel for a Canadian Anime convention, I usually don’t worry about the hotel rate because it’s (relatively) cheap. But in the U.S., I really do have to search around and look for the most economical place to stay, because it can get too expensive. For some conventions like Anime Boston and Anime Weekend Atlanta, I stayed off-site because the convention hotels were far too pricey for me to afford. But unfortunately, I sometimes have to bite the bullet and book a super expensive hotel for an American con.
Which cons are better – Canadian or American?
Now that you know some of the differences between an Anime convention in Canada and the U.S., should you go to one or the other? You should go to both!
For my Canadian followers – Hit up an American convention to experience the party culture down south. For some of you guys, I know you may not be into partying, but the atmosphere itself is very fun and exciting. I actually don’t drink much at conventions but even then I still enjoy the fun environment of a party atmosphere of the U.S. cons. Not to mention the video game rooms at American cons are awesome (i.e. bigger and 24 hours). Plus if you’re into industry panels from big companies like Crunchyroll, then you’ll love to be at a U.S. con. Be sure to save up a lot of money though, as some American cons can be very expensive. I personally like to travel to where it’s worth traveling to the city as well (e.g. Chicago). That way it makes the expensive bill easier to deal with, and I kill two birds with one stone: I get to travel to a city and be at a convention!
For my American followers – You should come up to Canada more often for our conventions. As of right now, your dollar is much stronger than ours so you’ll find things are very cheap here (weekend pass, hotels, food). Our largest cities are Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. All 3 of them are cities worth visiting and have large Anime conventions worth attending, so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth when you do. Even remotely-located conventions like YetiCon are worth attending since they’re awesome cons in in an awesome place. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly trip that’s more laid back (i.e. not too much partying), then head up north and try out one of our conventions and visit our cities.
That’s the end of this post; I hope you found it interesting! If any of you guys have experience going to a con in Canada/America, let me know in the comments. Would love to hear your thoughts, and whether you agree/disagree with me!