Ah, this is why we have websites full of such information. Try our directions page.
Baltimore's got three major airports within driving distance, and Interstate 95 (the main north/west highway on the East Coast) goes right past the Baltimore Convention Center. You can even get there by boat!
Hot and humid. Anywhere from 75 to 110 is possible in a Baltimore summer, and the humidity is about the same. Rain is a distinct possibility. Prepare for the worst, especially if you have a long walk to your hotel, or plan to wait outside for the convention to open.
Dress comfortably, and remember that while you'll be outside in blistering heat occasionally, most of the time you'll be in a nice cool building. It can actually get pretty chilly in the BCC. If you tend to get chilly, bring a lightweight shirt in case you need it. Perhaps most importantly, wear comfortable shoes, and ideally bring a pair for each day. You'll be spending a very long time in them, and doing a lot of walking. A hat and/or umbrella is probably a good idea, too.
Don't park on the streets--it's generally going to cost far more in the way of tickets than it's worth. Parking is available in many nearby lots, but if you're not used to downtown prices, prepare for sticker shock. Many places charge upwards of $15-20/day. Hotels tend to be the most expensive. However, you can often find parking for about $8-12 a day if you get there early and are willing to walk a bit. Important: make sure you note the closing time of your garage--many close fairly early.
There are, but the ones in the immediate vicinity of the BCC usually run out of cash. Most hotels have a cash machine these days, but it's a good idea to come prepared.
Otakorp, Inc. is the not-for-profit organization best known for running Otakon, one of the world's premiere gatherings of fandom. It's an educational non-profit that promotes understanding and appreciation of Asian culture, by means of celebrating its popular culture. Otakorp, Inc. Website
Otakorp, Inc. isn't "owned" by anyone. Its funding comes from memberships and fees (primarily from Otakon, which is also where most of the money goes), and its officers are elected from among the ranks of voting members. By the terms of our bylaws, members can earn the right to vote by working in support of the organization (generally as staff), paying dues, and attending meetings.
No. All of our officers must be volunteers, and may not receive material compensation for their efforts on behalf of the organization. In accordance with usual practices for officers of a corporation, they are eligible to be compensated for travel expenses, but in practice this seldom happens.
No. The only people who have a direct say in how Otakorp conducts its affairs, or how it runs the convention, are the voting members. Neither are there any industry reps on our board of directors, and it would be difficult for industry reps to satisfy the requirements to be a voting member in the first place. We do work closely with the industry and maintain good relations with them, but they don't pull the strings or pay the bills.
If you are a commercial retail business, your only option is the Dealer's Hall. The Alley is reserved for individual artists and writers, webcomics, and small-volume craftspeople; anyone expecting to do brisk business should consider the Dealer's Hall instead. If you're just interested in selling a few pieces of art, consider entering them in the Art Show and Auction.
Otakon has one of the largest dealer spaces in the business, with thousands of people passing through every hour; with 700+ booth spaces we almost always sell out long before the con, and frequently have a lengthy waiting list. While you should always check the posted rates, historically the typical 10x10 booth space has cost ~$750. That includes the booth and basic decorator setup, as well as two dealer badges that offer full membership rights. Dealers may also purchase additional member badges at the pre-reg rate ($55 in 2008) for their employees. While it may seem expensive at first glance, the majority of this fee goes to cover the cost of the hall, its setup, and the union labor rates we must pay. Other decorator services and utilities must be arranged through the BCC's official channels; more information will be available in the dealer info packet.
Otakon's Alley is one of the largest of its kind in the entire U.S., and offers artists a unique chance to get their creations seen by Otakon's massive membership. Approximately 250 tables are available and we typically sell out within a few days; however, because most of the people renting tables are not full-time professionals, there is a fairly good chance that space will open up, and thus we maintain a healthy waiting list. The Alley is open only to pre-registered members, and thus table fees do NOT include any member badges. Historically, the price per-table (for a 6-foot table) was $70 if paid for in advance, and $80 if paid at the convention. That fee includes the table itself, two chairs, and a table skirt so you can stash your stuff. This does NOT include electricity, but you can order if from the BCC for a fee -- see the official packet when it is released for more information.
The Art Show is open to any registered member, and thus your membership is NOT included in the show fees; you are effectively paying a fee to display your art and offer it for auction. If you can't make it to Otakon, but have a friend who's going, there are specific rules that allow you to authorize a member to act as your agent for the show; please see the official rules when they are released for more details.
Pretty much all the big players, and many small ones. Our dealer's room is large enough to land a plane in. Once the dealers are confirmed, we will post a list of dealers on the website.
Just about anything and everything remotely connected to anime or asian culture. Many dealers have websites; check out their wares online so you know what to expect.
Most of them do, though few will say no to cash. In many ways, you're better off using your credit card, because most cards offer you some protection in case there's a problem with your purchase.
Baltimore uses the general Maryland sales tax rate of 6% for most retail sales. This is higher than it was last year (2007) due to actions of the Maryland legislature. Prices posted generally do NOT include this sales tax unless they say otherwise, and dealers are supposed to mark the tax separately on your receipt regardless of how you pay. Hotels follow a slightly different model involving "occupancy tax", which works out to 12.5% for downtown-area hotels, and slightly less than that for hotels in the outlying areas. This will be spelled out on your bill, but if you're concerned, you should ask the hotel to tell you what the total per night is with the tax included.
Inside the BCC, Centerplate is the only vendor allowed to sell any kind of food, and their prices are generally considered high. However, there are plenty of nearby locations within easy walking distance, and a map will be provided with your convention materials. Harborplace is filled with restaurants, and there are many nearby fast-food and takeout places. Another option is to bring your own food and keep it at your hotel room or in your car. Remember, you aren't supposed to bring outside food into the BCC, so if you've smuggled in some snacks, be discreet about it and clean up after yourself.
Centerplate has an exclusive contract with the BCC, and we are bound by those rules when we use the venue. Their agreement forbids any food or drink sales (including snacks) that aren't handled by Centerplate. This is fairly standard for large venues such as convention centers, and there is nothing we can do about it. Contrary to rumor, Otakon does not get a "cut" of the concessions -- nor do we control their hours or prices.
Make sure you get at least one good meal in every day -- a real meal with real nutrition. (Ramen won't cut it, not by itself.) And make sure you drink plenty of water, not just fruit juice or sodas or coffee. If you pass out on us, we'll be annoyed.
Otakon makes every effort to accommodate the needs of our diverse membership. If you have special needs, please let us know so we can ensure accommodations are available. Typically, these services can include interpreters for the deaf and access in getting around the BCC for those with limited mobility.
For those who need sign language interpreters, we need to know in advance to make the arrangements; alternatively, we'll be glad to work with you to get your usual interpreter access.
Those with limited mobility may have difficulty navigating the BCC, as it is an older building and accessibility isn't always obvious. We make every reasonable effort to accommodate people with such disabilities, and reserve elevators and special access seating for most events. This year, we're asking those members who need wheelchair or similar access to stop by our registration area and obtain a sticker, which will grant access to elevators and certain staff-only access points. Not only will the sticker make it easier for volunteers to identify you as someone who should be given access, but it'll help us see how many of our members require such assistance and plan accordingly.
While Otakon cannot assume any risk for managing your care, having the information available may be useful in the even you become ill while at the convention, or may help avoid misunderstandings. In the event of an emergency, our volunteers can provide any information you give us to emergency services. We also STRONGLY recommend that you wear on your person indicators about your medical condition, such as medical ID jewelry or wallet cards.
If Otakon's your first convention, expect to be just a bit overwhelmed. There's so much to see, so much to do, you may not know where to start. So try to sample a bit of everything. Just go with the flow, have fun, make friends, and share in the celebration.
Nah. You should dress for comfort. But quite a lot of people do dress up, and if you're feeling creative, feel free to show off your skills.
How much do you plan on spending? Plan on spending at least $20 a day on food and drink, plus your portion of travel and hotel costs. Make sure you have enough money to get home!
Primarily because of our venue; the 24-hour convention is something limited to conventions that fit in a single hotel, and is generally something you do with a single track of programming. When we last ran in a hotel for 24 hours, very few people actually stayed up watching the videos; they used the video rooms to sleep.
Otakon tried a four-day con some time ago, when we were a fraction of the size we are now, and it nearly killed us. Remember that all of our staff volunteers their time to run the convention, and most staffers are already sacrificing an entire week of vacation (or taking the time off without pay) to put on a three-day convention. By the end of the convention, the staff are utterly exhausted. If by some miracle we had an abundance of staff, we'd still have to work out a large number of logistical and funding issues to start earlier (or stay later). So don't expect to see a four-day Otakon anytime soon!
We've tried. Trust us on that. But many of the BCC escalators are old and aren't able to put up with the heavy use that Otakon and its members inflict on them. There are some escalators that only have a top step weight restriction of 193 lbs while others have 450 lb weight restriction. We will do our best to make sure as many escalators as possible are running. However the ones we and the BCC have flagged as being unable to handle the stresses our members put on them will be turned off. If you cannot climb stairs for the course of the weekend, please ask to be directed to the Special Needs booth at registration where you can receive a sticker that will allow you access to the elevators. However rest assured that we have your safety and comfort the foremost in our minds when planning Otakon.
All of the escalators have a built-in safety feature that stop them when the railings and the stairs travel at a separate speed. Which is why you will see some escalators working one time and then not another time. If you see this, report it to the information desk and we will do our best in conjunction with the BCC to get it up and working again.
Don't contribute to the problem. Anytime you have a lot of people in one place, and it's hot out, you're going to get the occasional whiff of B.O. Please shower (with soap!) at least once every day and change your clothes. No matter how cool your outfit is, the acrid smell of pleather and human sweat will ruin the effect by the second day, we guarantee it. Make sure your sleeping arrangements allow for proper hygiene.
You can't, as a rule. While it's true that we record and archive several aspects of Otakon, there are layers of legal and intellectual property rights issues that would prevent it being available for distribution, even if we didn't charge. The problems with AMV rights ought to be obvious (fan-assembled content with multiple rights holders involved). For concerts or masquerade performances, broadcast or resale rights must be negotiated separately and there are additional fees involved that can add up very quickly. (You'd have to sell a lot of DVDs to generate enough income to cover those costs.) Individual panelists sometimes allow their panels to be recorded and shown, but most don't because it diminishes the value of their appearance. In the case of Mystery Anime Theatre 3000; however, there's simply no way Otakon could ever release those shows. The people who put on that show retain the rights to their commentary and skits, but the anime they riffed on isn't theirs to redistribute -- not to mention Best Brains owns the format for MST3K, the obvious inspiration. For those reasons, we didn't make archive copies of the performances.
The convention information desk is your best bet. It's located in the Pratt Street Lobby, behind the registration area.
All unclaimed items are handed over to Public Safety at the Baltimore Convention Center at the end of Otakon. You can contact BCC Public Safety with questions regarding lost items at: 410-649-7055.
Yes and no. It depends on what you mean by sponsorships.
Yes, we can accept donations, but no, we don't use the traditional trade show model for such things, mostly because we are not a trade show.
Otakon takes great pride in being entirely fan-run, and our membership has traditionally been suspicious of a too-cozy relationship with corporate interests. Because the bulk of our budget comes directly from membership fees, the needs of our membership will always come first, and large donations never come without strings attached.
Thus, we do not accept direct sponsorships from anyone -- by which we mean that while we frequently work with our friends in industry on specific projects, we do so within very specific boundaries. For example, we do not allow industry to sponsor rooms ("The MyCorp Theatre" or "MyCorp Presents The Video Gaming Hall") or control programming content as a rule. Generally speaking, we do not allow any corporate logos (other than ours) on official convention merchandise, or allow anyone to advertise in a way that implies a preferential relationship. (You can't be "the official hotel of Otakon", for example.)
However, we are happy to accept paid advertising in our program book, and you may pay to place items in our registration bags, and there are other opportunities available for our friends in the industry to support the convention and reach out to our membership. If you are interested in this sort of thing, contact our industry coordinator via the contact form; if you're simply looking to buy ad space, check out the advertising section on our website for details and current pricing.
Individual vendors who wish to donate prizes should coordinate through the Dealers Hall Coordinator.
As an 501(c)3 educational non-profit, Otakorp, Inc. is a legitimate charity and we will gladly accept no-strings donations from individuals. We'll even send you a nice letter thanking you for the donation. For more information on making a donation to Otakorp, please use the 'Contact Otakorp, Inc.' option on the contacts page.
Start with this website. Several areas have their own detailed FAQs as well. If you've got questions about volunteering, check out the volunteering FAQ. But if your question isn't answered here, feel free to check out the the Otakon BBS. You can also hit our contacts page if your question isn't answered anywhere else. (However, about 90% of the questions we get are already answered, so please do check around first.)
Otakon doesn't comment on any guest with which we have not yet signed a contract or otherwise have a firm commitment. We will announce guests as soon as negotiations are finalized. Note that guests are ALWAYS announced first on the official Otakon sources: the website, mailing list, and forums.
Until we announce it officially, it's just a rumor. We generally don't comment on that, and guest stuff is strictly need-to-know until we've got a firm commitment. (See "when will you announce guests?" for more info.)
Again, we only announce guests when we've got a serious, usually written, commitment in hand. The guest may be certain he's coming, but until we announce it, it's not official. Period.
Panelists are there to participate in panels. Guests are there for a variety of reasons, and generally offer something unique beyond participating in panels; in addition, they often have a committed fanbase, which means people will come just to see them.
Oh, there are so many guests we'd love to have, but sometimes it just doesn't work out. Most often, it's because the guest simply isn't available; sometimes it's because the guest isn't willing to travel by plane for 14+ hours. A few guests (more often, their management) make demands we're unable or unwilling to satisfy. And remember, we do have a limited budget. That said, we hope to surprise and amaze you every now and then! (After all, who else could bring you L'Arc~en~Ciel?)
Because we have a huge number of people coming, we eat up most of Baltimore's hotel space. And because the cheap seats always sell out first. The Days Inn and the Holiday Inn are generally the least expensive, and therefore they sell out first. As for why the hotels sell out so fast, a good part of that is because people book ahead of time, even before a rate is negotiated. We're working on that situation, and hope to have hotel rates set by the time we announce the next year's date.
Otakon has worked hard to establish good relationships with all the nearby hotels, and pretty much every downtown hotel works with us to give a good convention rate. If the hotel doesn't offer one, it's not from lack of trying on our part, and in at least one case it seems to be purely a case of management not approving of our convention -- though they have no problem selling rooms at full price.
Depends on the hotel, but generally no more than four. Yes, we've heard of people cramming 10 or more people into a standard double room, but it's unwise and violates your hotel's rental agreement (and the fire code), and they're perfectly within their rights to kick you out, or charge you for the extra people. They are less likely to worry about your extra body or two if you don't make a nuisance of yourself -- so don't put extra demands (towels, pillows, key cards) on the hotel for your extra people. But we encourage you to follow the rules.
Ask your hotel about its party policy, and please follow it. Otakon has a good reputation with hotels because our guests are generally well-behaved. Please don't jeopardize our ability to continue to get good rates.
Convention room rates are negotiated with the local hotel based on how many rooms we guarantee to fill. There are any number of reasons why a hotel might be able to offer a room at a cheaper rate than they offer the convention, and they're all beyond our control. If you can get a cheaper rate outside the room block, more power to you! But you're unlikely to get more than one or two rooms at that rate, and Otakon has to work out rates for thousands of rooms at a dozen hotels.
The short answer is that staff have to stay somewhere, and you can't have a convention without them. One of the few perks of being on staff is that you don't have to worry about where you're going to stay, but putting up nearly 400 people for 3-5 nights doesn't come cheap. It's in the best interest of the convention to put the staff up in the cheapest, closest hotel that we can fit into, and there are only so many rooms available.
When you attend Otakon, you're actually getting a membership in a non-profit organization called Otakorp, Inc. Otakorp, Inc. is an educational non-profit whose purpose is to promote the appreciation of Asian culture, primarily through its media and entertainment.
Information about Otakorp, Inc. can be found here, on the Otakorp, Inc. page. The concept of a membership (rather than a ticket), has been around for ages and seems to be the preferred model for fan-run conventions.
When you become a member of Otakorp, Inc., you're entitled to attend its annual meeting, Otakon. But you must register to attend the event itself. We've set it up so that purchasing a membership automatically sets you up with a convention registration, because only members of Otakorp, Inc. may register to attend Otakon.
Beginning in 2006, we've also set it up so that each year you are able to renew your membership. Your member ID (and the associated contact information) will stay with you for all the years you attend Otakon. Renewing your membership will register you for that year's Otakon. Being a member will also grant you access to other benefits as we are able to provide them.
It's only for members. Right now, it's where you can grab a fresh copy of your receipt or check on the status of your payment. You can even provide updated contact information. Eventually, we'll put other stuff there, such as member surveys, contests, and special offers.
We accept the following forms of payment for Pre-Registration:
Visa, MasterCard, and Discover branded debit and credit cards
For at-door registration we accept:
Visa and MasterCard, Money Orders and Traveler's Checks made out to Otakorp, Inc. and Cash
Try checking our lost and found (located to the left of the Pratt Street entrance). If it is not there, you will need to purchase another membership. We will not be replacing lost or stolen badges this year.
As of 2012 we are no longer accepting money orders as a form of payment for online registrations. If for some reason you cannot pay your membership fee with a credit card or debit card, please contact the online registration team through our contacts page so we may work with you.
Otakon does not sell tickets. Otakon allows you to buy memberships in the organization, which allows us to host a very large meeting every year. If you pre-register you should receive a confirmation e-mail. If you didn't receive this e-mail please check your spam box and if it's not there contact the pre-reg team through the contacts page. No matter how you register or pre-register, you'll pick up your membership packet and badge at the BCC. The time and place are listed on the website under "Registration" and "Registration Hours".
You should have received a message from us confirming your successful registration for Otakon. As it notes, you should bring that, as well as a photo ID to help us match you with your registration. Having these things out and ready when you reach the front of the line will help speed the pickup process.
Your best bet is to obtain one. Any official photo ID is a valuable resource -- be it a driver's license, State issued ID Card, Passport, school ID with your photo on it, military ID, or even a credit card with your name and a photo of you on it.
That said, remember the purpose of the ID is to help us verify your identity. (We don't want to accidentally give your membership to the wrong person.) Bring whatever you've got that can help you do that.
But you really should get a state-issued photo ID, which are usually obtainable from your state's motor vehicles administration, among other places.
Children under 8 are admitted free with a paid adult membership, and must be accompanied by an adult. Be aware that though we are a family-friendly convention, many of our offerings are not intended for young children. However, we offer a special track of programming aimed at a younger audience, called Ota-Chan, which should be listed with the other events.
Expensive? The registration for Otakon would buy two anime DVDs at retail price, perhaps three online if you're lucky. It's about the cost of a single-day pass to an amusement park. For that you get three solid days of nearly non-stop entertainment and a wealth of choices.
The cost of membership reflects what it costs to run the the con. It's expensive to mount a convention of any size, but especially pricey to run one as large and diverse as Otakon. In 2004 we started renting the First Mariner Arena in addition to the Baltimore Convention Center, to provide space and programming for the Convention and neither come cheap.
You can be assured that every penny you spend on registration goes right back into the convention. No staffer is making money off the convention, no evil mega-corporation is gleefully rolling in the profits.
Nope. Sorry, you can't pick up badges for anyone but yourself. The only exception is if you're picking up a free (8 years old and younger) badge for a child you're responsible for. The child must be present to receive the badge. Also it's probably wise to bring printouts for your kids, or for a forgetful significant other.
We have to cut off pre-registration to give our staff time to prepare for the convention -- that includes taking care of requests, corrections, and other fixes.
Sorry, we do not allow refunds or transfers.
You do not HAVE to bring it, but it speeds things along considerably if you do. We do require a photo ID, or some alternative means of proving your identity. See the note above.
Sometimes when you are paying with a debit card, a hold may be placed on your card for the membership fee. A separate charge will then appear shortly thereafter for the actual payment. The held charge typically disappears after 5-7 business days depending on your bank. If you suspect there was some sort of server error that resulted in a double-charge on your card, please wait 14 days before contacting us. As your bank places the hold on the card, there is nothing we can do to remove it.
Wow, that's a loaded question. Baltimore, like most cities, has some rough areas. Our home, the Baltimore Convention Center, is right in the heart of the well-patrolled tourist area, between the two stadiums and the Inner Harbor. That said, there are always those who will attempt to prey on tourists, and you should use your street smarts. Don't travel alone, especially at night; don't flash money or flaunt your purchases; don't give money to anyone on the streets; don't take shortcuts through alleys or darkened streets. Keep your wits about you and you'll be fine.
The policy is strict to ensure your safety and for compliance with the rules and laws we must follow. Our weapons policy is developed in conjunction with the BCC and with local law enforcement. Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with real dangers, and the last thing anyone needs to worry about is trying to tell whether your gun or sword is real or fake. Public safety is more important than cosplay aesthetics.
Besides the general advice above, your best bet is to simply say "Sorry, I can't help you today" and move on. For safety reasons, you should not actually offer any cash to panhandlers; some are up to no good.
The answer varies from year to year, but a safe answer is "as soon as we can". As you can probably imagine, it takes a lot of planning to run this convention, and it can take time to negotiate with our venue and various hotels. When we've got enough settled to make the announcement, it'll be on the website and other official Otakon sources.
Generally, we post the schedule a week or so before the convention. Sometimes we are not allowed to post the names of the videos we're going to show, and sometimes we have to make last-minute changes.
Because we don't have one room that can hold all 22,000 people. Thus, we try to have really cool stuff scheduled opposite other really cool stuff, so if you miss out on one Cool Thing, there's another Cool Thing that you can enjoy. (We've never been a one-event convention!)
At the end of 2003, the guys behind MAT3K announced that it would be the last. There were many reasons, but chief among them was a desire to quit while they were still funny, rather than see the quality degrade. While we'll miss them too, we respect their decision.
Nope -- not one penny. Otakon has never had paid staff. The entire organization is volunteer-run, though we do contract out for certain things such as legal and accounting services.
To become staff for Otakon, you must be recommended by two current staffers and be approved by our chief of staff. The most reliable way to earn such recommendations is to work as a gofer and show your dedication.
Our webmaster updates information when it's ready to be released -- that usually means that it's been reviewed by the apppropriate people. We've got a new system now that makes it much easier to update the website, and that should improve the frequency of updates.
Most often it's because your browser has been told to rely on cached pages rather than get a fresh copy when you visit the site. You can adjust this by ensuring your browser is set to always get a fresh copy of the page, every time you visit the site. (Where this is depends on your browser, but it's usually in the "tools" or "preferences" areas, and it can always be changed -- even if you're using AOL.)
In some cases, you may be viewing the site from behind a proxy server, in which case you need to let your network administrator know there's a problem.
Ah, that's a fun one. Your best bet ANYTIME you get an error message is to immediately write down the error and the page you were on, and what you were trying to do. We can't figure out what happened without that. (Incidentally, if you're using Internet Explorer, you should make sure that your browser is set to NOT display "friendly" error messages. For some reason the default is to show messages that are utterly useless -- and while "Error 404" may mean little to you, it's impossible for us to figure it out without such information.)
(By the way: the most frequent error we encounter at present is when people overload the fields in our online forms. We'll get that fixed eventually, but in the meantime, keep it brief!)
Errors can be reported using the web contact form, or you can email webmaster (at) otakon.com.
They should all mean the same thing. (otakorp.com and otakorp.org should all point to the same site, too.)