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6 Great Geek Conventions for Northwest Families

Cosplay, comics, science fiction and fantasy — geek out with your kids at these awesome cons

Published on: February 20, 2020

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There was a time when “geek” and “nerd” were pejorative labels, but it’s not even news anymore that nerd is the new cool. Nowadays, parents don’t wonder who goes to the cosplay-filled conventions that have sprung up everywhere — we wonder which one will be the most fun to attend with our kids. When it comes to cons, Seattle boasts an embarrassment of riches. We’ve compiled this list of the area’s best to help you plan a 2020 full of geeking out.

1. Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC)

When: March 12–15, 2020
Where: Washington State Convention Center, downtown Seattle
Cost: Adults and teens (13 and older): $30–$52 per day, depending on day (see website; Saturday is sold out); superfans ages 6–12 require a Kids 4-Day ticket to attend (currently sold out; now only available through the ticket exchange Lyte Exchange); 4-day passes $145 (currently sold out; now only available through the Lyte Exchange). Minors under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian; be prepared to show proof of age onsite.

In contrast to smaller cons “for and by” the fans, ECCC prides itself on bringing fans and creators together. If your kid has a favorite comic book, cartoon or TV show, they can probably meet its creators at Comic Con. Yes, it’s that big. The earliest major convention on the calendar, Comic Con was attended by more than 95,000 people last year. As its name suggests, ECCC focuses on comics and media. The Kids 4-Day tickets are already sold out for 2020, so if you want to bring kids ages 6–12, you’ll have to pay the adult rate or try your luck on the Lyte Exchange.

2. Norwescon 43

When: April 9–12, 2020
Where: DoubleTree by Hilton, SeaTac
Cost: Preregistration is now open; 4-day membership passes are $80 for adults; $50 for ages 13–17; ages 12 and younger free. Single-day memberships are available at the door.

Now in its 43rd year, Norwescon is for the bookish family, with a primary focus on science fiction and fantasy. The official schedule is yet to be announced, but count on it including numerous activities for kids and families.

3. Sakura-Con

When: April 10–12, 2020
Where: Washington State Convention Center, downtown Seattle
Cost: Registration is now open; 3-day memberships for adults and teens cost $75 (higher at the door); ages 6–12 $37.50; ages 5 and younger free. Attendees under age 18 are required to have an adult with them at all times.

Weebs and otaku rejoice; this convention brings tens of thousands of attendees to the Washington State Convention Center each year to celebrate all things anime and Japanese pop culture. While smaller than Emerald City Comic Con, Sakura-Con's anime theaters, manga library, gaming, cosplay, cultural panels, dances, concerts, art contests, industry guests and huge exhibits hall can still become overwhelming. Families should stick together and pace themselves.

GeekGirlCon DIY science zone
GeekGirlCon's DIY Science Zone. Credit: Kevin Li

4. Seattle Retro Gaming Expo (SRGE)

When: June 20–21, 2020
Where: Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion
Cost: TBD

Ready, player one? While parents marvel at the technology that goes into modern gaming, many of our kids are geeking out on the video games we played when we were their age. SRGE is an opportunity to enjoy those older games together. They focus on giving attendees hands-on experience with classic games and a chance to unearth that long-lost favorite or discover a new gem that only feels old. There’s also lots of fun game-themed merch and information on the history and industry of video games.  

5. PAX West

When: Tentatively, Aug. 28–31, 2020. (Note: The 2020 dates have not been officially announced and are subject to change; check back closer to the event for updates.)
Where: Held in past years at the Washington State Convention Center, downtown Seattle.
Cost: This year's admission prices have not yet been posted to the website. Last year, a 4-day pass cost $222; $57 per day.

PAX West is the home-town stop of the massive, touring Penny Arcade Expo, nicknamed “Woodstock for gamers.” Video games are the heart of the con, but PAX is as big as Emerald City Comic Con in scale, so there’s plenty of room for both major game publishers and independent developers on the expo floor, panels on all things game-related, gaming-inspired concerts, LAN parties, tabletop gaming, competitions and anything else that you can connect to gaming. Passes sell out quickly; this year’s dates and prices have not been announced yet, but plan to purchase passes as soon as they go on sale (usually early June) to get the best price.

6. GeekGirlCon

When: Oct. 31–Nov. 1, 2020
Where: Washington State Convention Center, downtown Seattle
Cost: Registration is now open. Adult day pass $30; adult weekend pass $40; teen (ages 13–17) weekend pass $30; kid (ages 6–12) weekend pass $15; ages 5 and younger free. 

Inclusivity is trending in the convention world, but cons aren’t always the most welcoming places for women and people of color. GeekGirlCon was founded to empower women and girls to pursue their geeky passions from STEM to comics and gaming; its goal of promoting underrepresented groups in geek culture is in evidence in every aspect of the event, from panel topics to logistic arrangements. GeekGirlCon’s emphasis on safety and inclusion makes it the only one where I feel comfortable letting my tween out of my sight. A quiet “introverts’ room” is perfect for taking a break with napping toddlers or tapped-out kids, and the DIY Science Zone brims with hands-on experiments to keep the kids busy.

Convention tips for families

  • For every convention, preregistration is typically cheaper than buying tickets at the door — and for some, may be the only way to get a pass.
  • Familiarize yourself with the photography policy at the convention; in general, always ask before taking pictures, and be respectful if someone says no.
  • If you cosplay, be sure to look up the weapons policy of the convention you will attend. Rules range from “nothing weapon-like ever” to “real weapons okay if disabled.”
  • Remember that inclusiveness means families are welcome, but doesn’t mean that all attendees must conform to your idea of family values. Be prepared to see cosplayers with frightening masks, realistic weapons and/or very skimpy costumes. Consider it an opportunity to teach your kids that treating others with respect is unrelated to their choice of attire.

Editor's note: First published in January 2018, this article has been updated for 2020 events and dates.

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