After Hours

Geeky conventions not to miss in 2011

Beat the winter doldrums by planning your trips to comics, gaming, cosplay, sci-fi, and DIY conventions now. Gen Con 2011, BlizzCon 2011, and SteamCon III are just three of the geeky cons listed.

We're in that part of winter when it's cold and snowy and, as my kid puts it, "everything is just blah, blah, blah." Gamers seem to accept this time of year better than most — the colder it is outside, the more reason we have to stay in and play video games. But even those who escape to the amazing worlds inside games get cabin fever.

As airlines, hotels, and travel agencies offer great deals to encourage buyers, this is a great time to start planning your geek pilgrimages to various cons. Here is a list of some of the geekiest conventions scheduled for 2011. We'll add major conventions to the list when the dates and locations are announced.

February 26-27: Miami Comic Con at the Miami Airport Convention Center. This year's highlights include the WWE Divas, Ray Park (Darth Maul, Star Wars Episode I), and Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian, Star Wars Episodes V and VI). March 4-6: Emerald City Comiccon in Seattle. Special guests this year include Wil Wheaton, Tom Breevort (Marvel Comics), and Felicia Day. March 11-13: Star Trek Convention in San Francisco. Celebrating the 45th anniversary of Star Trek! Don't miss the Saturday evening Celebrity Cabaret. March 11-13: PAX East 2011 planning is underway. This year's event is being held in Boston. Get your tickets and reservations now, and pack a heavy coat...there's a good chance it will still be quite cold in Massachusetts. March 12-13: Maker Faire UK. Maker Faire will be held in several European and American locations this year. From Rockets & Robots to Arts & Crafts, if you love to make things, this is the con for you. March 18-20: Toronto Comic Con. Special guests include Jake Lloyd (Star Wars Episode 1) and Chandler Riggs (The Walking Dead). March 19-20: Brickworld in Indy. Two days of LEGO creation fun. March 25-27: MegaCon 2011 in Orlando, FL. Important tip: Get your Stan Lee autograph tickets in advance. March 25-27: EyeCon, which puts on celebrity autograph conventions nationwide, is holding the first Vampire Diaries Con, which will be in Atlanta, GA, tickets and reservations are still available. April 1-3: The same people who bring us Comic-Con are hosting WonderCon in San Francisco. Tickets are available for this April 1-3, 2011 event. The focus is on comics and popular arts; be sure to read the Masquerade rules and prepare your costume. April 29-May 1: Anaheim Comic Con. Phil Jimenez (X-Men artist) headlines along with Adam West (Batman) and Burt Ward (Robin). This con draws tens of thousands of fans from all over so get your hotel booked early. May 14-15: Movie geeks and model hobbyists enjoy WonderFest, held annually in Louisville, KY. Guest announcements are coming soon; hotel reservations are already available. (Note: Spring is a great time to visit Louisville because there's always lots to do.) May 21-22: Maker Faire in the Bay Area. The con to attend to if you love DIY projects. May 21-22: Big Apple Comic Con "Spring Edition". Headliners include Tom Felton (Harry Potter) and Jerry Robinson (creator of Batman's Robin and The Joker). June 15-19: Brickworld in Chicago. Full registration closes on May 18, 2011, and there will be no registrations at the door; tickets for Public Days will only be sold at the door. This year's theme is "Five." What can you build around the theme of Five? June 17-19: Philadelphia Comic Con. Headliners include Adam Baldwin (Firefly), and Bruce Campbell. Mr. Campbell usually draws a sizable crowd, so get your tickets ordered early. June 24-26: Star Trek Convention in Parsippany, NJ. Celebrating 45 years of Star Trek! Make sure to get your autograph and photo op tickets early. July 1-4: Registration is currently available for AnimeExpo 2011, which will be held in Los Angeles. Buy your badge and start working on your anime costume. July 1-4: Florida Supercon will be held in Miami. Extended this year to a four-day event. Hellboy artist Duncan Fegredo headlines this year. July 21-24: ComicCon 2011 International in San Diego, CA, will be the biggest geek event of the year. It's so big in fact that it's already sold out. (We decided to keep it in the list because it's still a must-know event.) July 30-31: Maker Faire in Detroit. This is the second annual Maker Faire Detroit, and really, where better but the home of the automobile? August 4-7: Gen Con, held in Indianapolis, IN, is for serious gamers. The event is family friendly and even hosts SPousal Activities (SPAs) for the gaming widow or widower. 2011 badges and tickets are not yet available. August 11-14: Trekkies, beam up to Las Vegas for Star Trek Con. This is the 45th anniversary of Star Trek, and the organizers have lots of special events in the works to celebrate. Gold weekend passes are already sold out, but other tickets are available. If you want to go, book soon. August 11-14: Chicago Comic Con Wizard World. James Marsters (Buffy, Angel, and Caprica) headlines along with Gareth David-Lloyd and Kai Owen (Torchwood), and the king himself, Bruce Campbell. August 25-28: FanExpo Canada will be held in Toronto. The event is extended to four days this year due to going over capacity last year. September 2-5: Dragon*Con. Held in Atlanta, Georgia, Dragon*Con is the largest multimedia SciFi and Fantasy con around. September 16-18: Horror Realm 2011. "Pittsburgh's Modern Horror Convention" features horror movies to watch, games to play (like the Ghoulywed Game), and this year's event offers a special Zombie Survival Course. September 17-18: New England Comic Con will be held in Boston. Special guests Walter Koenig (Star Trek) and Jake Lloyd (Star Wars) headline this year; more guests TBA. September 17-18: Maker Faire New York promises to be particularly interesting — the Big Apple never disappoints. September 24-25: Big Apple Comic Con. It's Comic Con in NYC! September 30-October 2: Star Trek Convention in Chicago offers a chance to get to there if you haven't made it yet. October 1-2: BrickCon in Seattle showcases what those wacky West-coast builders can do with locking blocks. October 8-9: Girl Geek Con in Seattle. Get your geek girl cON and spend some time with the softer side of geek society. October 13-16: New York Comic Con is extended to four days this year. Also, there's an app for that, so you can keep up with the plans as they are announced. October 14-16: Steampunk enthusiasts, go ahead and mark your calendars for SteamCon III. Hotel reservations are already available, though tickets are not. October 14-16: FallCon is Calgary's Annual Boardgame and Miniatures Convention. As of July 11th, registration is now open for the event. October 21-22: BlizzCon, held in Anaheim, CA, offers gamers a chance to meet their guilds IRL (in real life) and enjoy tournaments, discussion panels, and a peek at Blizzard's upcoming games. October 22-23: Mid-Ohio Comic Con will be held in Columbus. Elektra artist Bill Sienkiewicz is already lined up for this one. More guests TBA. October 28-30: Central Canada Comic Con will be held in Winnipeg, MB. Wolverine and Spider Man artist Mark Texeira will be there. November 11-13: Austin Comic Con. Comic Con goes south for the winter. December 3-4: Atlanta Comic Con. Scheduled only several months after Dragon*Con, Atlanta Comic Con draws geeks back to the Georgia warmth — just in time for winter.

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Online resources about geeky conventions

This list is really the tip of the iceberg. There are many, many more conventions throughout the year. If your travel budget is small, check these resources to find a convention near you:

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Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conduct...

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