Thinking of attending Youmacon in Detroit sometime in the future? Check out this Youmacon Anime convention travel guide for information on how to get there, how much money you’ll need and what to expect during the con!
Date: Last week of October/first week of November (November 1-4 in 2018)
Location: GM Renaissance Center and Cobo Center (Detroit, Michigan)
Hotel room availability: Easy
Weekend Pass: $70
Hotel rooms: Around $120-$200 USD/Night (booking under Youmacon convention block)
Parking: $20-$30/Night, $40-$50 for the whole weekend
Budget: Approximately $300-$400 USD if lodging with 3 other roommates ($100 for hotel, $50 for food, $70 for weekend pass, $30-$50 for gas, $50-$100 for items in the dealer’s room)
Overall costs: Just as expensive as a large convention with slightly cheaper hotel costs
Youmacon is an interesting convention to say the least. Why?
- The con is one of the largest Anime conventions of North America
- Involves two venues that are physically far apart from each other: The GM Renaissance Center (GM Center for short) and the Cobo Center (the convention center)
- Takes place in Detroit, one of the most dangerous cities in the United States (although the convention area and downtown is very safe and beautiful, which I’ll talk more about in this post)
If you live within a 5-6 hour drive of Detroit, then Youmacon is definitely a convention worth checking out in the middle of autumn.
Getting to Youmacon
By driving: Youmacon is located in downtown Detroit, which is literally right along the Canadian border with Windsor. So if you’re driving to the convention it’s very easy to get to, whether you’re from the U.S. or from Canada (like me!). From the Canadian side, just take the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel and as soon as you exit, you’re pretty much in the convention area. If you live in America, there are several highways that take you to downtown Detroit.
Be sure to leave some money in your budget for parking, because it is VERY expensive. For me, it was about $20-$25 per day to leave my car in the garage right beside my hotel. Although downtown Detroit is pretty safe, I’m not sure if you’d want to leave your car in an open parking lot with no security on site. So if you’re driving to Youmacon, you’ll just have to bite the bullet and pay the steep parking fees.
By bus: There is a Greyhound station on the edge of downtown Detroit. The first year I went to Youmacon, I took the Greyhound from Toronto. It was about a 10-20 minute walk from the station to the convention area. I’d recommend taking a cab from the station to the convention, especially at night.
By train and plane: I have no experience taking the train or flying into Detroit, but it’s definitely an option if you’re coming from further away. There’s an Amtrak station on Woodward Avenue, which is basically Detroit’s main north/south street that goes from the waterfront all the way up to the suburbs. From the station, you can take a bus down to the waterfront, which is where the convention area is located.
If you’re travelling by VIA Rail Train in Canada, the closest you can get is to Windsor, Ontario (the small city across the river from Detroit). Luckily, Windsor Transit operates a tunnel bus between Detroit/Windsor. It’s about $5 for a one-way trip. More information can be found here: https://www.citywindsor.ca/residents/transitwindsor/service-to-detroit/Pages/service-to-detroit.aspx
The Detroit Airport is pretty far away from downtown. I did a bit of digging for you, and found that you have a couple of options to reach Youmacon from the airport:
- Take public transit. It’s only $2, takes about an hour or so and drops you right off at the Cobo and GM Center. This is likely your best and cheapest option.
- Take a cab straight to the convention center. Pretty expensive, around $35 or so.
Note: Once I had a stopover at the Detroit Airport, and got to ride the monorail inside the building. It was really cool. So if you do decide to fly in, be sure to check that out!
Although Youmacon is geared towards every age group, it definitely caters to the young adult crowd. And while the convention is packed with attendees (over 20,000 in 2017), there’s still a laid back atmosphere and it’s not as fast-paced as a large comic con.
Youmacon Location and Venue
I’m sure if I told you right away that Youmacon takes place in Detroit, you’d immediately say “It’s the murder capital of America!” and “I’m definitely not going!” It’s true that Detroit still has a long ways to go to clean up its bad reputation. But the convention area is not only safe, downtown Detroit itself is actually pretty nice. I’ve attended Youmacon 3 times and never had any issues. This year in particular I decided to walk around downtown and it was actually very pleasant. Moreover, there’s lots of security and police around the convention; I feel like Youmacon brings a ton of visitors and money into Detroit, so the city makes damn sure no one messes around!
To be fair though, other parts of Detroit are pretty sketchy. On my way to see another part of Michigan, I drove by some pretty bad areas. So if you plan on doing sightseeing around Detroit, make sure you know where you’re going and like anywhere else, always be cautious of your surroundings.
As mention previously, there are two main buildings: One is the GM Renaissance Center hotel. This building is HUGE; there’s 5 different levels that consists of the hotel lobby, a large food court, a bunch of nice rooms for panels, a bar lounge and a bunch of GM cars scattered around the building. There are also 3 gigantic towers as well, one of them for the hotel rooms. It’s almost like a big mall. A lot of main activities like the Masquerade and rave take place at the GM Center.
Moving around the GM Center is definitely annoying though. It’s honestly like navigating a maze. There seems to be only 1 set of stairs/escalators to go up or down each floor. And for whatever reason, at least one of them is “out of order” during Youmacon.
On top of that, the elevators do not stop on the 2nd floor. This year when I went, the stair/escalator set from 2nd floor > 3rd floor was out of service. With the elevator not stopping on the 2nd floor, this meant you had to wait in line for the elevator (which I talk about more in the lodging section) and take it to the 1st floor, then use the escalator from the 1st floor to reach the 2nd floor. The elevator always stops on the 3rd floor (because the hotel reception desk is on this floor).
You wouldn’t believe how many times during the con I accidentally got off the 3rd floor, said “****!” and had to line up again for the elevator to the 1st floor in order to reach the 2nd floor. Oh boy. Sometimes I’m glad Anime North’s programming in the hotel is only 2 stories high.
The other building Youmacon uses is the Cobo Center, which I consider the convention building. First of all, I can’t stress how beautiful this building is! It is massive and the panel rooms are just gorgeous. I actually dropped into a panel room just to see how nice the ballrooms are (I’m an explorer at heart). The majority of the panels are in the Cobo Center, as well as the dealer’s room.
Unfortunately, the GM Center and the Cobo Center are pretty far apart from each other; At least a 10 minute walk. I haven’t been to any other convention where the buildings were that far apart (Anime North comes close though). Either you can walk 10 minutes outside from building to building. Or you can take the Detroit People Mover, which is like a monorail system that circles around downtown Detroit. The People Mover stops at both the GM and Cobo Center, so you don’t have to freeze your butt off walking there. It’s only 75 cents for one ride or $5 for the entire weekend.
Cosplay Photoshoot Opportunities at Youmacon
When it comes to doing photoshoots at Youmacon, the convention doesn’t really stand out in terms of location. But it’s still a decent place to get some photos for your cosplay page.Here are a few good photoshoot locations at the con:
-The GM Center has glass walkways that light up from below, which makes for interesting lighting! However, since there’s a lot of foot traffic around these walkways, it’s best not to bring a tripod when shooting. ‘d say it’s okay to get a few photos here, but don’t focus your entire photoshoot here.
-As for the Cobo Center, according to my photographer friend the venue is both good and bad. Good because the windows in the convention center are massive, so you’ll get lots of good, natural lighting. On top of that, the Cobo is beautiful inside so the place provides a beautiful background for your photos. The downside is that it’s very crowded so you’ll have to find a few spots that are empty. Also, the carpeting in the Cobo Center is very ugly, so your photographer will have to do their best to avoid photographing the floor.
-The waterfront is a nice area to shoot as well. However, the convention takes place in the middle of November so it’s going to be pretty cold and windy shooting outside.
Youmacon offers the standard type programming and activities you’d expect at an Anime convention. You have your Masquerade, a dealer’s room, concerts (such as Capcom Live), big name guests and even a maid café!
The dealer’s room and artist alley was average to me. Although the room itself is pretty big, there weren’t as many vendors as you’d expect with a room that’s fairly large. There wasn’t much to offer in my opinion.
One thing that does stand out however, is the gaming room. Of all the conventions I’ve ever been to, Youmacon has one of the BEST gaming rooms out of any convention. I’d say only MAGFest is better, and that’s saying a lot. In previous years, the gaming room was 24 hours in the Renaissance Center and this was amazing. I remember my first year; I stayed up all night playing Mortal Kombat on the arcade machine! Unfortunately due to logistical issues, the gaming room was moved to the Cobo Center this year. This meant that the gaming room was no longer open all night, and some of the large arcade machines that used to be available were not around this year. Still, the gaming room for 2018 offered a variety of video games, from arcade machines, video game consoles, racing boxes, epic video game tournaments. So if you love to video game at conventions then you HAVE to attend Youmacon.
For you night owls out there, the convention has TONS of late-night programming and activities. You have the rave that runs on both on Friday and Saturday night until 3 or 4 AM in the morning! I believe the tabletop gaming stays open for the entire convention, so you could play Catan with your buddies all night if you wanted to. There are also adult panels and videos going on night, like the hentai and “Cringiest Fanfictions” where fellow Otakus talk about the weirdest fan stories on the Internet that’ll probably ruin your childhood. As mentioned before, the gaming room stays open until 2 A.M., although it used to be 24 hours in the past.
The good thing is that everything around the con seems to be open late as well. The GM Center is open 24 hours during the con. And the Detroit People Mover runs until 2 or 3 AM for the convention, which is really nice because it shows the importance of Youmacon to the city of Detroit (i.e. Us Weebs are good for the economy!). Interestingly, when I stopped by the food court inside the GM Center around 1:30 AM, almost all of the restaurants were still open! I noticed there’s waaay more attendees out and about at 12 midnight than there is at 12 p.m. This is really funny to me, as somewhere like Anime North it’s the complete opposite.
If you’re into activities outside of the cons, head over to the Greektown neighbourhood. There’s a casino in the area where you can win/lose some money, and there’s a few bars/nightclubs as well!
An interesting thing to note is that Youmacon generally falls on the same weekend as Daylight Savings Time, so you end up getting an extra hour of convention programming because of this!
Whether you’re doing most of the activities during the day or waiting until the evening to party, you’ll definitely have a lot of things to do at Youmacon.
(P.S. The the program guide they published his year was TERRIBLE. Look how tiny the font is. The mobile edition wasn’t any better)
Because Youmacon is located in downtown Detroit, you have plenty of hotel options near the convention. In terms of getting a room, it’s pretty easy. There were some years where I waited a couple of months before the convention date, and I still was able to book a room. So you don’t need to play the “hotel room lottery” like you would with other conventions.
As for which one to book, I highly recommend you stay in a place that’s part of the Youmacon hotel block, such as the GM Center. If you book a hotel room under the Youmacon block, you can get a room in the $120-$170 USD range, which is slightly cheaper than your average hotel in a downtown area. For 2018, there were 4 hotels that had the special convention rate: Detroit Marriot at the Renaissance Center, the Greektown Casino-Hotel and the Crowne Plaza. All three of these hotels are right at or beside the convention area, with the Greektown Hotel being a 5-10 minute walk (or you could take the People Mover to get directly to the con).
I stayed at the hotel inside the GM Center. The hotel rate was $162 USD/night, which is decent considering I’m used to paying over $200 USD/night for large U.S. conventions. From my room, I had a beautiful view of the river separating Detroit and Windsor. And since the hotel is one of the convention buildings, I was only an elevator ride away from the convention!
Speaking of elevators, one of the biggest pet peeves I have when I stay at GM Center is the elevator line; yes, you have to wait in line in order to get on an elevator in the hotel! For most of the convention, I waited less than 5 minutes in line. But on Sunday morning during checkout, my roommate and I waited 30 minutes for an elevator from our room to the lobby that wasn’t completely full. Not only that, we had to take the elevator going “up in order to go down!” Yes it was that bad. And unless it’s an emergency, you really don’t want to walk down 70 flights of stairs to go down, especially with luggage. To be fair, the convention staff has done a really good job in making the elevator line go quickly. Nevertheless, waiting in line for an elevator is one of the hassles you’ll have to deal with if you’re staying at the GM Center.
Food and Drink
Oh hell yeah! There are plenty of food options in and around Youmacon. The GM Center has around 30 different restaurants inside the building. To start, you have a large food court on the bottom floor of the GM Center with the typical fast food joints like McDonald’s and Burger King, sandwich shops like Subway and unique places like Mac ‘n Cheez. There are more restaurants on the other floors of the building such as Applebee and Panera Bread. Again, the food court is open super late so you’ll never have to worry about being hungry late at night.
There’s even more food options at the Cobo Center. I’ve never had any food there, but there is a small food section inside as well.
If that’s not enough for you, downtown Detroit has a lot of great restaurants in the area. Here are some places I’ve tried and recommend to you:
-There’s a popular pizza joint called PizzaPapalis. I’ve ordered there a few times and their deep dish pizza is very tasty.
-There’s a really cool burger place called Shake Shack a few blocks away from the convention area. The cheese fries are so good!
-A Coney dog is a hot dog with chili on top. There’s two popular Coney dog restaurants in the area: Lafayette and American Coney Island. It’s delicious!
Overall, you won’t be disappointed with the food here. One of my favourite reasons why I like going to Youmacon and Detroit is because the food is so good here! I usually gain a pound or two after the con is over!
If drinking is “essential” to your con experience, then you’re in luck. Not only do you have a bar lounge inside the GM Center, you have a CVS and a souvenir store inside selling alcohol. In particular, I was surprised to hear that the souvenir store stays open until 3 a.m., meaning I could buy booze way past midnight. This is in contrast to where I live in Ontario, where you can only buy liquor at a government store that rarely stays open past 9 p.m. According to my American friends, the alcohol at the convention is pretty expensive, but fairly cheap compared to Ontario standards.
Alright, I feel like I’ve touched on the all the things you need to know about Youmacon. Here’s a summary:
- Programming is diverse and starts from the early morning to late at night
- Top-notch video game and tabletop rooms that stay open very lateA variety of great restaurants to try out around the convention
- Located in downtown Detroit, a fun area of the city that’s revitalizing
- The distance between the GM Center and Cobo Center is substantial (at least a 10 minute walk). For some, it’s a major inconvenience
- Parking is fairly expensive
- If you’re staying at the GM Center, waiting for an elevator is a hassle (especially during Sunday checkout)
- Like many U.S. cons, the weekend pass is pretty expensive
- Trying to find out what’s going on at what time is difficult with a tiny program guide schedule
If you either live in Southern Ontario or anywhere in the Midwest within 5-6 hours driving distance, you definitely should check out Youmacon. It’s a large and fun Anime convention that’s worth attending, especially since it takes place in November, a time where no other big conventions are happening on the east coast of North America.
However if you live further away, then it’s not worth traveling all the way there. While Youmacon has great programming and an exceptional tabletop and video game room, it’s your pretty typical standard convention you can experience somewhere probably closer to your area. On top of that, there isn’t much to see in Detroit itself so if you plan on doing some sightseeing outside of the con, you won’t be walking around much like you would in say, LA or New York…not yet at least. Detroit is improving and I truly hope to see a full revival of the great American city.
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!