There are lots of convention lists out there but I’m creating this one as a list of well-run conventions in the immediate Chicago/Rosemont area. This list will be limited to conventions I have researched and feel are worth attending.
For more comprehensive lists (that also list conventions outside of the immediate Chicago area), check out:
- PopCult HQ’s Convention List
- PopCult HQ’s Accessible Convention List
- AnimeCons Convention Schedule
- FanCons Convention Schedule
|Convention name||Dates||Badge cost||Location||Accessible via CTA?|
|Uchi-Con||Jan 25, 2020|
|FREE!||University of Chicago||Yes!|
|Capricon||Feb 13-16, 2020|
|$75 at the door||Wheeling, IL||No|
|NWI Comic-Con||Feb 15, 2020|
|C2E2||Feb 28-Mar 1, 2020|
|$85 in advance||McCormick Place, Chicago, IL||Yes!|
|Anime Central||May 15-17, 2020 |
|$80 at the door||Rosemont, IL||Yes!|
|MightyCon DuPage||May 23, 2020 (varies)||$8||Wheaton, IL||No|
|Anime Magic||August 28-30, 2020||$50||Schaumburg, IL||Somewhat|
|WindyCon||mid-November (2020 dates not announced)||$65||Lombard, IL||Somewhat|
|Chicago TARDIS||November 27-29, 2020|
|Midwest FurFest||December 3-6, 2020||$70||Rosemont, IL||Yes!|
Of the above listed conventions, most I have attended and/or staffed. The ones I haven’t, I know staff of the convention or trust who is running it. There are area conventions not on my list – for several, that is because the convention runners are not trustworthy. I point to convention reports on PopCult HQ‘s site as well as Nerd & Tie‘s site as a great place to learn more about some of the problems in the community. Unfortunately, conventions are now seen as a great way to make money, even though they really are NOT. Most conventions lose money their first few years. There have been quite a few horror stories of convention runners taking money and vanishing. It is worthwhile to read up on any convention you plan to attend.
As far as my personal recommendations – I highly recommend Uchi-Con, C2E2, and Anime Central as my top choices of Chicago-area conventions to attend. While C2E2 and Acen’s badge prices are rising little by little, mostly to keep pace with inflation and expansion. C2E2 has expanded to use pretty much all of North & South building’s show floor space as well as a large chunk of smaller programming space, while Acen is now using every inch of function space in the Hyatt as well as nearly every inch in the convention center. But both of those events offer quite a bit in the way of programming and great guest lists.
Uchi-Con, while small, is free and very well run. It is a student run convention and the students have consistently done a very solid job with their event. Plus, you can’t beat the location for great cosplay photo backdrops! I also recommend Chicago TARDIS if you are a Doctor Who fan. It is a smaller, single-fandom convention, but the smaller size means you get to know everyone better – staff, attendees, and guests! I have been staffing since 2013 and I’ve become friendly with a number of regular attendees, as I’ve watched them grow as costumers.
As far as other conventions on the list – I have attended MightyCon and NWI Comic Con in the past. Both are smaller shows but well run and a nice inexpensive way to spend a Saturday in cosplay. Both have great costume contests run by experienced teams. Capricon and WindyCon are the last of the old-school small sci-fi cons left in the area (some others, including DuckCon, are now gone). I have not really attended either, though I did spend some time at CapriCon a few years ago, but I have heard nothing but good things about both.
Anime Magic is a newer convention, 2020 will be their second year, but I have spoken with some of the board members and researched the convention and they seem to be very solid. The team members I have met seem genuinely interested in putting together a good event. I was planning to staff for them this past summer but things fell through. However, I still recommend them as a good event to attend. Likewise, I have yet to attend Midwest FurFest but I have heard nothing but good from friends in the community.
Lastly – my final recommendation is to read up on any event you want to attend. Check sites like PopCultHQ and Nerd & Tie to see if they’ve written about the event (PopCult will have recaps and reviews, and their reporting is solid). Look up who’s running the event – are they someone with lots of negative articles attached to their name? Review the convention website & social media, see what your badge cost gets you (some events only give you access to the show floor for your badge price & everything is extra, others include everything except maybe one or two special events). Don’t forget to review convention policies/rules too – stuff like restrictions on the kind of props you can carry or whether or not you can bring in a large backpack for your shopping is important to know!