Thursday, April 11, 2013

Early Notes from the San Antonio WorldCon

This past weekend I was able to join the majority of the organizers of the 2013 in San Antonio to go over plans, facilities, etc. It was a great and very productive weekend, and I was very happy to meet other members of the volunteer teams face-to-face (I'm running the Academic track of Programming). Having had a chance to walk the ground where the WorldCon will be, I wanted to offer a few notes for people who will be making plans for this Summer.

  • The thing I suspect will be most confusing will be the hotels associated with the convention. There's the Marriott RiverCENTER and the Marriott RiverWALK. The RiverCENTER is the party hotel, and will have a share of the programming items. That's also where the Con Suite will be. The RiverWALK is NOT the party hotel, but it is closer to the convention center itself. There will likely only be a couple of functions there. I've made my reservation in the RiverWALK Marriott.
  • The RiverCENTER (party hotel) has 4 elevators going up to floors 25 and higher, and 6 more going up to floors 24 and below. Chances that they will all be jammed after the Hugos? 100%
  • You cannot travel between any combination of the hotels or the convention center without going outside. You can get from any point to any other point by going down to the riverwalk, which should be cooler than street level. However, the riverwalk paths are somewhat narrow, and they get crowded in the afternoons (and will be much more crowded over Labor Day weekend) and it will be more difficult for mobility-challenged people to navigate. The street level may also be challenging over that weekend, since it sounds like there will be a street festival going on as well. So if you have to change buildings, leave plenty of time to get from point A to point B. 
  • Remember to wear layers! It will be roasting hot at street level, pretty hot along the riverwalk, and thoroughly refrigerated inside the hotels/convention center. I was wearing short sleeve shirts all weekend and wished I'd brought a jacket when I was inside the air conditioned spaces.
  • There are more food options within walking distance than you can shake a stick at: anything from a mall food court to a Denny's across from the Marriott RiverCenter (street level) to standard Mexican or Italian at the base of the Marriott RiverCenter (Riverwalk level) to high-end steak and nightclubs. 
  • There's also a liquor/convenience store between the two Marriotts on the Riverwalk. It has a sign prominently posted letting you know that it is perfectly fine to carry open alcohol bottles/glasses along the riverwalk; and that smoking is also acceptable along most of the riverwalk. Those will allergies take note!
  • For those with kids, if you head to the Convention Center and then climb back up to street level just beyond it, you'll find a really lovely playground at HemisFair Park. Our son (19 months) loved it, and it was generally full of a wide age range of kids. We didn't get to the Children's museum, but it looks like that is only 1-2 blocks away from the Riverwalk. The San Antonio Zoo is also nearby.
  • If you want to take a river tour by boat (recommended), there's a ticket station between the two Marriotts. However, my husband found that you can get 1/2 price tickets through the hotel concierge desk.
  • For those flying in/out who want to buy lots & lots of books but don't want to get charged for extra luggage: both the Marriott RiverCenter and the Convention Center have UPS stores inside them. Easy to ship books/costumes/artwork home!
I think that's about it from my notes. I suspect that people (as at all WorldCons) will feel like there's much too much walking to do, and it will be easy to get lost until you get your bearings. However, you're pretty much never out of line-of-sight to a nice bar or restaurant where you can have a seat and restore your spirits. I'm very much looking forward to the convention; it looks like we're going to be in great hands as relates to the ConCom. I hope to see lots of you there!

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