Badge sales to date indicate this year’s Gen Con will be the biggest yet. Last year, Gen Con reached a four-day attendance record of over 184,500 people and a unique attendance of over 56,000. Each year I attend Gen Con, it seems to get bigger and bigger. More events, more games, more costume contest participants, more food trucks – and more fun. Below is just a hint of what Gen Con brings to Indy – media guests of honor, exclusive events and happenings, fun for the whole family, food and beverage recommendations, tourism and more.
Media Guests of Honor
Two internationally-known celebrities will be joining Gen Con as 2015 media guests of honor. Marina Sirtis gained worldwide acclaim as the sexy, cerebral Deanna Troi in the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series and related films. She will participate in autograph signings on Saturday and Sunday. Summer Glau is an actress best known for her iconic characters River Tam in Joss Whedon’s TV series Firefly and the feature film, Serenity, and Cameron Philips in Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles. She will participate in autograph signings and photo ops Friday and Saturday.
More than Exhibits and Games
New this year is the inaugural Crossplay Contest, described as “one part pageant, one part RuPaul’s Drag Race, and all parts fun.” Crossplay (a mix of “cross dressing” and “cosplay”) has always been part of the costume contest experience, but this year the crossplayers are getting specific attention in the form of their own contest. The contest will take place Friday, July 31 at 7:30 p.m in the Animation & Film Track in the Westin: Capitol II. For more information or to sign up, visit Gen Con’s website here.
Cards Against Humanity, the popular but widely familiar card game, is hosting a concert and comedy show instead of participating in the exhibit hall “as a desperate bid for attention,” says co-creator Eli Halpern. The concert will take place at Old National Centre on Friday, July 31 and features live performances from Molly Lewis, The Doubleclicks, Paul and Storm, Cameron Esposito, Kumail Nanjiani, and more. Ticket holders will receive a swag bag with show exclusives and new products from Cards Against Humanity, the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Magic: The Gathering, Fluxx, Greater Than Games, and Maxistentialism. Tickets (which are sure to sell out) start at $40.00 and are available now at ConcertAgainstHumanity.com.
Touring the City
If it is your first time in Indianapolis and you set aside a few hours to explore the city, I have a few tips on squeezing the most into your time. The Indiana State Museum and Eiteljorg Museum are two of our city’s most visited cultural institutions and are within walking distance. The Indianapolis Zoo, home to the Orangutan Center, and gardens at White River State Park can be relaxing if in need of a digital break. If you’re staying in the JW Marriott, you will be able to see the Indianapolis Indians play at Victory Field on Friday, July 31 at 7:15 pm with fireworks after the game, or you could purchase tickets for a mere $15. In 2014 I shared 25 Things to Do in Indianapolis During Gen Con which includes many year round opportunities.
Explore downtown Indianapolis with a Pacers Bike Share on the Cultural Trail and find the NDY signs. From April through September, these sculptures rotate through the city offering postcard perfect opportunities to share how Indy inspires you. Currently the sculptures are located on Meridian Street and Washington Street, Virginia Avenue and Prospect Street in Fountain Square, and Georgia Street in front of the Indiana Convention Center – how convenient!
Looking to take the little ones out for some Gen Con fun? Sunday is Family Fun Day at Gen Con and a family of four can purchase four one-day badges for only $35.00. Pick up a Family Fun Day Passport Booklet with at the Coupon Kiosk for a list of special activities valid for Sunday only. The Family Fun Pavilion includes exhibits, demonstrations, activities and much more from Gen Con’s partners, and the Training Grounds offers a play space for kids ages 4-12 and is located within the Family Fun Pavilion. Got a toddler or young child in need of some free play space? The Training Grounds has free play areas for those crawling and newly walking kiddos that need more space than the convention halls can offer. For more information about family fun, visit Gen Con’s website here.
Many of the food trucks located on Georgia Street offer kid-friendly bites. Other kid-friendly downtown restaurants within walking distance of the convention center include The Old Spaghetti Factory, the food court in Circle Centre Mall, Hard Rock Cafe, TGI Fridays, Steak and Shake, Potbelly’s Sandwiches, Qdoba, Chipotle, and vendors in the Indianapolis City Market. Most of the food trucks on Georgia Street offer kid-friendly portions or dishes that cater to their unique tastes.
As if you didn’t have enough to navigate on Georgia Street with the dozens of food trucks, Sunday is looking fun and exciting with giant monsters that will take over the strip from 11:00 a.m to 1:00 p.m. Gen Con event sponsor Iello will have 5 foot tall cardboard titans prepared to fight for the title “King of Tokyo.” Other monstrous spectators from Iello games will be available and eager for photo-ops.
Gen Con for Good
Did you know Gen Con selects an official charity each year? Gen Con Co-Sponsor Mayfair Games will host an event supporting The Julian Center, Gen Con’s official 2015 charity. Since 1975, The Julian Center has been supporting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other life crises. On Friday, July 31 on Georgia Street, participants will play the newly released game “Star Trek: Five Year Mission.” Media Guest of Honor Marina Sirtis of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame will also be making an appearance. Last year, Mayfair Games raised more than $20,000 for Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana through similar charity events.
Attendees can help earn as much as $5,000 at “BattleKasting for Literacy” for The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation. A family-friendly event to kick-off the challenge is Wednesday, July 29 at 1:00 p.m at the Indianapolis Central Library. Author Alane Adams (Legends of Ornkey) will be available for interviews about her passion for literacy as well as her book series and the mobile game. BattleKasters, the mobile game based on the Legends of Orkney series and built by Artifact Technologies, turns live events into game boards. The game, which will be played during Gen Con, allows players to collect digital wisdom cards, cast spells, and close the stonefire portal to protect Earth from dark magic. For each person that plays the free game between 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 30 and 4 pm on Sunday, August 2, Adams will donate $2 to the Indianapolis Public Library Foundation – until the grant goal of $5,000 is reached.
Gen Con’s reach is not confined to the walls of the convention center. Each year, Indianapolis restaurants offer new and creative menu options, events and promotions that cater specifically to Gen Con attendees. Hot Box is the official pizza of Gen Con due to their late night delivery options, but if you’re looking to get out and explore, Gen Con lists several restaurant partners on their website where you can find more information.
In addition to brick-and-mortar establishments, the food truck lineup on Georgia Street continues to be a success for attendees who want a local fix without straying too far away from the Gen Con activities. Food trucks rotate between lunch and dinner shifts and will be available starting Wednesday, July 29 at 5 pm with the Sun King official beer tapping party. A full list of food trucks is available here. Many of the food trucks operate solely on social media and a limited number have websites with menus for you to browse before you visit, but Indianapolis is very active with Yelp and many of the food trucks are listed on the app for you to browse photos and recommendations.
Looking for critically-acclaimed Indianapolis restaurants? Visit Indy’s Top 25 Local Restaurants list highlights everything from pork tenderloins to tamales. The list encompasses downtown Indianapolis and the surrounding neighborhoods, some of which are only a year or two old. You can never go wrong with a corned beef on rye sandwich from Shapiro’s Deli, a historic cafeteria within walking distance of the convention center. I just suggest you pair it with a side of macaroni and cheese and a Dr. Brown’s soda.
In need of a caffeine fix to get you through the long hours of gaming? Bee Coffee Roasters, located just across Capitol Ave from the convention center, will be open at 6:30 am on Thursday, July 30 through Sunday, August 2 at 5 pm. This local coffee shop offers everything from hot tea to espressos and lattes.
This list is just one roll of the dice. Where will you be eating, hanging out and enjoying Indianapolis during Gen Con? Leave a comment and let us know!