Fan Expo is here and I wanted to make a quick helpful post for those who are attending. In short, Fan Expo is the largest fan convention in Canada. Expect lots of big name guests, tons of programming and a big-time feel at this con!

The Basics

    Name: Fan Expo

    Date: August 24-27, 2023 (4-day convention, usually takes place 1 week before Labour Day holiday)

    Location: Metro Toronto Convention Centre

    Hotel room availability: Most official hotels already sold out but convention location makes it easy to get to

Website: https://fanexpohq.com/fanexpocanada

    Costs

    Weekend Pass: $140 CAD for a 4-day weekend pass

    Hotel room prices: Starting from $250-$530 CDN/night (booking under Fan Expo convention block)

    Parking: $32 to park right at the convention center and must leave before 7 pm

    Budget: Approximately $400-$500 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: Like many other Comic Con conventions, Fan Expo is going to be more expensive than your typical Anime convention. And even more if you plan on getting autographs and photos with your favourite celebrities! Be sure to budget a good amount for this con.

Here’s what this Fan Expo tips and tricks guide will cover:

  • I. Getting to Fan Expo
  • II. Location and Venue Guide
  • III. Cosplay Photoshoot Opportunities At Fan Expo
  • IV. Programming and Guests
  • V. Hotel and Lodging Options Guide
  • VI. Fan Expo Food Options Guide
  • VII. Verdict
  • Fan Expo Guide Pro Tips

I. Getting to Fan Expo

By Public Transit

Fan Expo is located right in the heart of downtown, taking place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. So taking public transport is going to be the easiest way to reach the convention.

The closest station to Fan Expo is Union station, which is the biggest transit hub in the city. You can take the TTC (local) subway to Union, and you can also take the GO Transit (suburban) as well.

From Union station, you just walk 5-10 minutes to the convention centre. You can walk along Front Street to reach the North Building. Or along Bremner Boulevard for the South Building.

By Driving

I personally wouldn’t recommend driving to Fan Expo, as driving through downtown Toronto can be very chaotic and stressful! With that said, I understand that it may be easier to bring more people and your stuff (e.g. cosplays) in a vehicle.

If you’re coming from west of Toronto, you can take the Gardiner Expressway to downtown. Exit off York Street and go north for a bit to Bremner Boulevard. From there, go west and you’ll find the MTCC parking lot nearby or whichever place you plan to park; they’re all going to be expensive!

If you’re coming from the north or east, take the Don Valley Parkway south until the highway turns into the Gardiner Expressway. Exit off York Street and go north for a bit to Bremner Boulevard. From there, go west and you’ll find the MTCC parking lot nearby.

By Plane

If you’re flying into Toronto for Fan Expo, it’s really easy to reach the convention. Although the airport is far from downtown Toronto (where Fan Expo takes place), there’s a special train service called the UP Express that takes you from the airport to downtown Union Station in only 25 minutes! It’s the best way to reach Fan Expo from the airport.

But you can also take the local bus and subway (TTC) if you want to save money and don’t mind the longer commute time.

P.S. Fan Expo offers a small discount on flights to Fan Expo if you book with Air Canada and Westjet (5 to 10 percent)!

II. Location and Venue Guide

Fan Expo takes place right in the heart of downtown at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC). Put simply, the MTCC is THE premier convention centre in Toronto; there is no venue bigger or (arguably) better than this place.

It’s an interesting complex to say the least. The MTCC is actually 2 buildings and they’re separated by rail lines. They’re connected by a beautiful elevated walkway!

North Building

The North Building is located on Front Street. From my experience, this one is pretty basic, nothing too fancy. But the floor room is pretty big. Some years this building will be part of the show, while other years it’s not being used by the convention. The North Building is similar to the “other” north building at Anime North (if you want to read my review about AN, click here).

Basically, you probably won’t be spending much time at the North Building, unless you want to head downtown and grab something to eat.

South Building

This is where all the action happens! The South Building is on the other side of the rail tracks, right beside a bunch of landmarks such as the CN Tower, Rogers Centre, Scotiabank Arena, Ripley’s Aquarium and Roundhouse Park (more on this park in the photoshoot section). What’s interesting about the South Building is that unlike most convention centre where a building spreads out horizontally, this building is spread out vertically. That means the South Building had multiple levels and floors to access; it’s like an underground complex but a beautiful one at that!

Here you’ll find the big dealer’s room and showcase floor on the bottom floor. The panel rooms are scattered across all the floors, and each room is very big. The cosplay Masquerade and special programming generally takes place in the larger panel rooms.

Even though Fan Expo gets a ton of attendees, the building is large enough to accommodate everyone comfortably. And there are plenty of stairs and escalators to ensure foot traffic is moving smoothly.

III. Cosplay Photoshoot Opportunities at Fan Expo

Kaeya Venti (Fan Expo)
Photo of my Kaeya and my friend’s Venti at Roundhouse Park, across the street from the convention centre! Photo by exotiquephotography_ca.

TLDR: All of your cosplay photoshoot opportunities at Fan Expo will take place outside of the convention centre.

Because not only does Fan Expo get very crowded; the event is the biggest fan convention in Canada. But because the Metro Toronto Convention Centre located right beside big tourist attractions and stadiums. So it’s going to be very packed and finding a private spot won’t be the easiest thing to do.

With that said, there are a couple of locations that great for doing cosplay photoshoots. And you won’t have to go too far from the con to reach them. Here they are:

  • Roundhouse Park. By far the most popular location to take cosplay photos during Fan Expo. Roundhouse Park is right across the street from the South Building! Not only is the park relatively big, but it also features cool railway stuff because the area used to be a place where they stored actual trains. Great for Steampunk I guess, but any cosplay works fine in this area. Since it’s so close to the event, Roundhouse Park does get busy as well. But you shouldn’t have too much issue finding a spot for you and the photographer to get photos. Roundhouse Park is by far your best bet.
  • Olympic Park. If you exit the South Building, right in front you’ll find Olympic Park. It’s a small little green space with usually lots of pretty flowers. I will say that the greenery here at Olympic Park is nicer than at Roundhouse Park (where it’s basically just grass). So if you need some photos with some flowery in it, then Olympic Park is good for that. However, being so close to the entrance/exit of the con, Olympic Park gets pretty crowded as well.
  • The elevated walkway that connects the South and North buildings. As mentioned earlier, there is a bridge that connects the two buildings together. The bridge itself is beautiful, with colored glass and a nice carpet. I’ve seen many awesome cosplay photos on my feed with pics on this bridge. BUT…it is extremely hard to get a photo here, especially during Fan Expo when there are over 60k attendees. Unless you take a quick photo, you won’t get a chance to get photos here. I would imagine you would have to come super early to the convention to have a chance.
  • Toronto locations in general. The city of Toronto itself has many awesome great places to take cosplay photos! I made an entire article listing all potential location. If you want to check them out, click here.

IV. Programming and Guests

(NOTE: there is the SAG-AFTRA strike going on right now. It’s been stated that the strike shouldn’t affect the availability of guests, as the actors are allowed to participate and appear at conventions such as Fan Expo. However, I would recommend being prepared in case a celebrity won’t be able to attend. Do save up for your photos and autographs though!)

The main attraction of Fan Expo (or Comic Cons in general) are of course the big-name celebrity guests! If you want a chance to meet your favorite actor/actress/superstar, this is the best place to do so. You can meet them in-person, take photos with them and get their autographs.

There are so many celebrities and guests that come to Fan Expo, so I won’t list them all. You should check out the official website to see if anyone of interest will be coming this year. But here are some big names that will be there for the 2022 edition:

  • Hayden Christensen
  • Millie Bobby Brown
  • Christina Ricci
  • Stephen Amell
  • Charlie Cox

Each person sets their own price for photos and autographs, so be sure to budget for that.

The MASSIVE dealer’s room is the heart and soul of Fan Expo. It’s like paradise for us geeks and even Otaku’s! Here you’ll find pretty much everything you want, including:

  • Toys
  • Comics
  • Shops
  • Video games
  • Anime
  • Autographs and photos
  • Food and drinks
  • Gaming

You’ll probably be spending a good portion of your convention in this big showroom. It’s a great and fun atmosphere, if not a bit chaotic.

As for programming, Fan Expo does have quite a few activities and things happening, including:

  • Celebrity Q&As
  • Panels and workshops
  • Retro Video Game Arcade
  • Cosplay Photoshoot Meetups
  • Masters of Cosplay (i.e. Masquerade)
  • Cosplay Red Carpet (just show up in cosplay and get your photos taken. Sounds like a great idea to get free cosplay photos of yourself! (link)
  • eSports gaming events

V. Hotel and Lodging Options Guide

My Otakuthon room at at the hotel I stayed at.
Since Fan Expo is located conveniently downtown, it’ll be easier to stay outside of the city for cheaper prices.

I don’t really have much to say about hotel and lodging for Fan Expo. Unfortunately, all of the major hotels under the Fan Expo block are already sold out or unavailable. And since Fan Expo takes place in downtown Toronto, if you want to stay close, then it will be very expensive to do so.

If you need a place to stay within Toronto, I recommend just commuting to/from the convention and staying further away from downtown. You’ll get much better prices for hotels and Airbnbs if you’re looking outside downtown.

And the nice thing about Fan Expo is that the convention is right beside Union station, a big transit hub.

You can literally hop on a GO train or bus and it’ll likely stop at Union station. Or you can take the subway to Union station as well. So just find a hotel or Airbnb along a subway or GO Transit station and you’re good!

I find a lot of attendees don’t bother getting accomodations for Fan Expo anyway (unless you’re from out of town or want to party after). The convention closes at 7-9 pm for Thurs, Fri and Sat. So there’s not much reason to hangout after, unlike Anime conventions where the con is usually late or 24 hours. Toronto pubic transit runs very late, so you can catch a late night train or bus back home or to your accomodation away from downtown. But if you want to drink, party all night or attend some late-night events after the con, then perhaps you’ll want to get a hotel room so you can crash right after!

VI. Food Options

Fan Expo has plenty of culinary and alcoholic (and non-alcoholic) choices for you, when you’re feeling hungry or thirsty (or both)! Inside the convention, there are a few places to buy food but it’ll be more expensive there. Immediately outside, there are hot dog stands for some quick food if you’re strapped for time.

If this is your first time attending Fan Expo and you’re looking for a restaurant, you’ll likely find some fancy sit-down restaurants nearby that are going to be more expensive.

But if you want to save some money, fear not. There are quite a few fast-food options that are cheaper, relatively speaking. Including:

  • A&W
  • Chipotle
  • Harvey’s
  • McDonald’s
  • Pizza Nova
  • Subway

Toronto surprisingly isn’t well-known for having a special local dish or cuisine (like in Montreal). But the city builds its culinary reputation based on the diversity of ethnic foods you can have! Based on my own experiences traveling, you can get some of the best ethnic foods here, such as Chinese and Indian food.

Chinatown has a lot of good Asian food and drinks for decent price, but it is quite a walk from the convention. Or you could take the streetcar there.

If you and/or your party are looking for a bar to sit down to eat and drink, here are a few good choices:

  • Boston Pizza (this one is right across from the North Building. Good food, okay prices but they have lots of big TVs to watch sports games, so it’s a great social atmosphere!)
  • Jack Astor’s
  • Shoeless Joe’s

If you’re looking to just get your drink, I recommend heading up to Queen or King Street West. There, you will find plenty of bars to choose from!

Verdict

Fan Expo is the largest fan convention in Canada for a reason. It’s family-friendly, there are things to do for everyone (even us Weebs) and it’s a lot of fun! Definitely save up money for the higher prices, but you’ll have a good time at this con. 🙂

Fan Expo Tips

  1. If you don’t live in the Greater Toronto Area and need a place to stay, you don’t necessarily need to stay in downtown Toronto. Fan Expo is very close to Union Station, one of the busiest railway stations and transit hubs in Canada. So there are many trains and buses outside of Toronto that directly go to Union, even on weekends. So you can stay in the outer parts of Toronto or even outside the city for a cheaper price. And then you can the GO Bus or Train to Union station for Fan Expo!
  2. Be sure to review Fan Expo’s COVID-19 Policy before attending the convention. Click here to read it.
  3. Unless you have to bring a lot of stuff AND you got lots of people with you, I would not recommend driving to the convention. Since Fan Expo will be right in downtown Toronto, parking will be expensive and driving can be a hassle in the city centre. Again, Union station is very close to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, so it’s very convenient to reach the convention by public transit.
  4. Since the convention doesn’t run into the late night, I would recommend getting food AFTER hours. Not only will you have more time for the con, but you can head outside of convention for cheaper and less crowded food options. The convention ends at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, so that’s the perfect time to do so.
  5. Although the convention hours may not be as extensive as your typical Anime convention, there is still a LOT of programming jammed into those hours. So be sure to plan out which shows, panels and events you want to attend in advance before going to the convention.
  6. Don’t forget that it will cost you extra to get an autograph and photo with the celebrities you want. So be sure to budget for that, on top of buying a day/weekend pass.
  7. Fan Expo is a convention for all fandoms! So don’t be afraid to cosplay from an Anime, video game, movie, cartoon and of course from comics.
  8. Remember to be respectful when taking photos of cosplayers. Always ask for permission before snapping a photo. Read more about this here.
  9. Don’t just attend Fan Expo…explore Toronto! It’s Canada’s largest city and there are SO many fun things you can do, especially during the summer. Go to a baseball game at Rogers Centre, watch a concert at Scotiabank Area, or walk along the Harbourfront. A little further out, you can check out cool Toronto areas such as Chinatown, Kensington Market, Yonge and Dundas and more. If you’re from outside of Toronto, I highly recommend staying an extra day or two before/after Fan Expo, so you can explore and enjoy the city.
  10. Visit Ripley’s Aquarium right next door!

I hope you found this post helpful in planning your convention weekend for Fan Expo. As always, if you have any other questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer!