We arrived at Wizard World at the Oregon Convention Center a few minutes before 4 pm, when the doors open. There were long lines of people that had been waiting for a long time, one Convention Center employee said “all day” but I’m not sure if that’s true or if he was being hyperbolic. However, the cosplay of this group was fantastic, and we had a front row spot for the parade of excited, excellently-dressed Wizard World enthusiasts as they entered the arena.

Our first stop was the StateFarm virtual reality station. Heywood jumped on the seat as soon as possible. He was like “I’ve done this before, I know how it do.” And he had, but the swagger of this 8-year-old cracks me up sometimes. My oldest, Alvah, thought he might want to do it, but then got nervous and decided it might too scary (he’s not a fan of actual roller coasters so I get it). To do the VR station, I will note that you have to complete a survey with StateFarm and, I learned this last year, they do follow up and want to actually sell you insurance. I think the trade was worth it, so I did it again and then I also went on a roller coaster ride. It’s super fun and also disorientating. You know that you aren’t on a roller coaster, but it’s all you can see in any direction and it makes your brain doubt which reality is true. I kept wanting to take a picture, which isn’t possible at all (obviously) but that made me rethink my relationship to my phone and taking pictures on it. I think I might have a problem.

We have a system for these events wherein we take a lap around the space, and get the lay of the land before deciding where we want to engage. Sometimes we can’t wait (hence the VR experience first thing) but most of the time we make our full lap before jumping in. There is a ton of really amazing art on display throughout the space — there were a few times I looked back to see the kids had stop and were staring, mouths agape, at someones artful depictions of their favorite characters and heroes. There is also a booth where caricature artists will draw you (or your kids’ faces) on the body of any hero or character you choose. It was pretty tempting and impressive.

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We eventually made it to the kids area. Listen — I’m going to be honest, it’s not the best kids area I’ve seen. However, it is right next to the cosplay area so there are people ready to interact with your kids in character. My kids met Batman and Superman (they weren’t fighting at the time, don’t worry) and Deadpool and Cable, and they  were HAPPY about it. They have a stage with kids’ programming, a balloon artist and face painting, tables with coloring sheets and crayons — it’s a good place to take a break and let your family unwind a bit.

We happened upon someone just getting started on the stage, and I am really glad we did. Victor Dandridge (Vantage:Inhouse Productions) was presenting an educational book he made called U Cre-8 that teaches kids how to not be scared or too overwhelmed to draw. The book breaks down how everything is made of shapes and shapes are made of lines and anyone can draw a line therefore everyone can learn to draw shapes and objects. My kids were both super-skeptical and then instantly amazed and inspired. Heywood wanted me to quote him as saying: “that was awesome — I want paper to draw on now, to practice it.” Throughout the presentation I heard him saying under his breath “this is amazing” and “OMG, I am learning so much.” Even Alvah was engaged the whole time and willing to give drawing another chance (he is in a phase right now where he just doesn’t want to try drawing because it takes too much patience, but this has him rethinking it). Both of my kids wanted this book. The coolest thing about this is that this is a book Victor made for the schools in his town (in Ohio, I think). He is trying to get this book into as many schools as possible so as many kids as possible can connect with it and use it spark creativity and learning. We were super impressed (read more and support the project about U cre-8 here).

Overall, it’s a good time with lots of great stuff to see, do and watch. We just scratched the surface with our visit Friday night. Here are some tips for the trip:

Tips:

  • This year they seem to be cutting down on paper use. There aren’t booklets or schedules given out, just a black and white copy of the map with a list of vendors on the back. You are encouraged to use the website for finding the activity schedule. However, wifi at the convention center costs money but without it, the connection inside OCC isn’t great, so either come with your your schedule written, printed, or downloaded on your phone or plan on shelling out a few bucks to be connected.
  • There is construction at the convention center so getting in can be a bit more tricky than usual. Be prepared to wind through the convention center a bit. The event takes place in the north end (near Holladay St and the max line) this year — in Hall A/B.
  • There are not a ton of vendors that are straight comic book selling spots. There are a few but my son was pretty bummed when he couldn’t find any $1 comic book boxes (his absolute favorite thing). We did find $5 Marvel and DC graphic novels and that made him pretty happy, but it got dicey there for a minute. They could be in there somewhere but I didn’t see them.
  • There are tabletop gaming areas and video gaming areas — I didn’t price them out, so I’m sorry I can’t help you there. There is a very cool Mario station that my kids oohed and aahed over for a while.
  • There is a cool rock climbing set up but it does cost around $7 or $8. You can climb up pretty high, so if you lose someone in your party, it could be a good way to try to spot them.
  • Advanced Minions & Mazes improv comedy is happening Friday and Saturday. This is family-friendly, all-ages fantasy improv comedy. Go on an adventure with them: these improvisers love all the same things that brought you to Wizard World. Let them take you on a unique, one-of-a-kind, completely improvised on the spot adventure.
  • As always, make note of the bathrooms, bring snacks or money to buy convention center food. There are a few beer spots around the space, so you might want to make note of that.

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