Gen Con Indy Attendance Tips Part 2: At the Show!

My Gen Con Tip Archive: Part 1: Before the Show! | Part 2: At the Show | Part 3: Looking for Work

Here are some rules for what to do at the show, and just before the show:

Around Indy

  • Walking through the mall is the fastest way to get to certain hotels. And the most air-conditioned. I recommend figuring out the best path on Wednesday, if you arrive that day.

Not Getting Ill

  • Golden rule, courtesy of Paul Tevis: 1-2-3, 1 shower, 2 meals, 3 hours of sleep. Daily minimums.
  • Buy a flat of water when you get into Indy, or before [if you’re driving in]. Leave it in your hotel room. When you leave your hotel room, make sure that your backpack/laptop bag/whatever is topped up with 3-4 bottles. There are some fountains to refill the bottles at, and of course you can buy more water at the show, but you pay through the nose for it. As the day goes on, you drink the water and have more space in your bag for things you’ve bought!
  • Buy and bring some snacks with you, too. Trail mix seems to be popular, but I prefer apples or oranges.
  • Bring hand sanitizer. Use it all the time. Offer it to your friends, family, and everyone you’re going to be around a lot.
  • You’ve just walked into your hotel room. Wash your hands. You’re just about to leave your hotel room. Wash your hands. Don’t bring con gunk into your room.
  • Carry deodorant with you at all times. Use it every hour. I hate that I have to type this, and I know that the people that should follow this advice won’t read it … but seriously.


  • If you are trying to get something that will be in limited supply, you’ll want to get to the exhibitor hall doors early and line up.
  • Bring cash. Some booths don’t take plastic, the ATMs often run out of cash, it’s easier to pay cash if you’re buying food in the convention center, etc. There are banks nearby with ATMs; I suggest using them.
  • When you’re talking to someone at a booth, don’t just give them a generic question like “Can you tell me about X?” — you’ll get a spiel. Sometimes that spiel is long, and sometimes it’s boring, and it can be both. Try to avoid really open-ended questions. And if you are talking to a booth person that just won’t shut up … just tell them that you’re not interested, say thanks, and walk away. [As an exhibitor, I have “spiels,” of course — but I try to construct them in ways that I can spiel for 15 seconds, evaluate to see if the person gives a crap, and if they don’t, bail out. If they do give a crap, I continue on to 30 seconds, evaluate, 1 minute, etc … no use wasting my time and theirs if they’ve decided that they’re not interested!]
  • On Sunday, near closing, you can probably get some deals, especially if you ask at booths from small companies that don’t want to ship a lot of stuff back. But if you hover around the booth all weekend, taking up the exhibitor’s time, and then want a bargain on the backend … well, that’s kind of jerky.
  • I’ve never heard of someone getting pickpocketed at Gen Con, although I’m sure it’s happened. What I have heard of: cards and miniatures getting stolen, and people accidentally leaving a bag of new stuff in the exhibitor’s hall and having it disappear by the time they get back. If you have a bunch of valuables, don’t leave them lying around. Try to bring only what you need for that day down to the convention center. Edit: I have now heard from people who were pickpocketed last year at Gen Con, in the exhibitor’s hall.


(I’m really down on the state of food in Indy. I’d appreciate some comments from people who LIKE places in Indy. I’ll summarize those in a future post.)

  • Anytime you want to eat, it will take a half hour longer than you expect to get seated.
  • Anytime you want to eat, Indianapolis is inadequate. Hope you enjoy “american” food!
  • Naturally, the Steak and Shake right by the convention center is always packed. Thirty minutes for a milkshake.
  • There’s a food court in the mall. It’s not a bad choice — predictable and relatively fast.
  • But tip really well, because gamers are often poor tippers, and it’s not the waiter’s fault that Indianapolis is very narrow, food-wise.


  • Schedule a day with no schedule — just a day to wander, hang out with people, play demos, walk the exhibitor’s hall, all that stuff.
  • Buy a handful of generic tickets for dropping into games or giving to friends who have run out or didn’t plan on getting into a game and that you invited along.
  • Your first day there, grab 4 copies of the program book. Take 3 back to your hotel and put one in your bag. You will lose one every day. If you aren’t the type to lose one every day, don’t do this! You may want to just rip the important pages out of the book — the maps, IMO — and put them in your bag/notebook/whatever.
  • Don’t schedule stuff back-to-back. If you’re playing a game 10AM to 2PM, don’t schedule one for 2PM to 6PM as well, unless they’re in very close rooms.
  • Don’t play games that you play all the time at home, unless it’s some sort of special convention-only event.
  • Play more games for shorter periods of time; 2 hour introductory sessions for games you don’t know instead of 4 hour longer sessions.

Going Home

  • If you have to check out of your hotel on Sunday, that always sucks. It will eat at least an hour of your time to pack your crap up, check out, and arrange for some sort of alternate car parking/baggage storing for the interim. If you have a bunch of roommates, you should coordinate this early Sunday morning, so you know what you’re doing come checkout time. Remember to sweep your hotel room really thoroughly for things left behind. It’s easy to accidentally tuck a sword or something behind the door and walk out without it.
  • If you are planning on buying a lot of stuff, bring a suitcase inside your other suitcase on the way to show, and bring one home full of games on the way back!
  • There is a UPS outlet just outside the exhibitor’s hall in case you want to ship odd-sized stuff home. As of two years ago, the people running it were super-cool — there was a payment snafu with my shipment, and they shipped my stuff anyway, googled me up, and gave me a call the next week to extract payment.

Anyone have any further tips or advice? Post ’em up!


  1. I have never been to Steak and Shake, and can’t bring myself to start now. The food we got last year was ‘OK’, but as you say… it’s inadequate.

    The hand washing is ‘it’ – totally agree. Hand sanitizer bugs the crap out of me, but it’s a necessary evil.

    Part III coming? What games are you looking forward to?

  2. The Ram – brewpub (with some rather fine brews) has some good food although I’m rather fond of their Hefe Weiss which monks sustained themselves on during fasting…a practice I try to follow when attending Gen Con 🙂

  3. Good advice, although I give the suggestion about bottled water a hearty “booooooo.”

    Go out and buy a SIG bottle (cool designs!), a surplus military canteen, a Nalgene, or even a Camelbak if you’re really crazy for hydration. Bottled water is shite for the environment, and Jebus only knows what kind of unpleasant chemicals have leached out of the plastic and into your water during storage and shipping.

    There’s a lot of info on the tr0nz about how our landfills are turning into mountains of empty water bottles (Indianapolis == not so into recycling), so I won’t go into it too deeply, but tap water won’t kill you!

    Get a carabiner, hang a water bottle from your belt, and for the same price as a flat of bottled water, you’ve got a refillable, eco-friendly hydration utensil that’ll last you for years instead of hours.

  4. The Claddagh has great brews and a far more relaxed atmosphere than the Ram (though their special Gen Con brew has not disappointed so far). I hear tell the food is also good, with a mix of pub grub and American fast-food staples at affordable prices. Try the Guinness/Strongbow drink – it is so good. Also find them on Twitter: @Claddagh_Indy.

  5. I liked the Steak and Shake! But then that might be because we don’t have one out here. A chocolate malt with a big gooey glob of chocolate sauce in the middle…mmm. The burgers weren’t that bad either.

    Yeah, I have plebeian tastes in food. But we also used to go to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse on the night before the con starts–maybe still plebeian, but *tasty.* 😛

  6. UPS is an alternative for Americans but Canadians and people outside the US should avoid it like the plague since they charge outrageous customs brokerage fees

  7. Personally, I don’t think you get your money’s worth at Steak & Shake when it comes to the regular meals. You’re better off at the food court in the mall.

    Either way, since you know you’ll be eating poorly, I’d recommend buying a box of fiber bars. That, along with the water will help keep you “regular.” They actually taste pretty good, but you’ll definitely want water with them. They can be a tad dry. Also, word of warning, they can make you gassy, so take some time to walk to get rid of the gas later on.

  8. As an Indy native, there are some decent places to eat downtown, but none are really close to the convention center.

    There are several good brewpubs, the Ram has been mentioned, Alacatraz is pretty good. Rock Bottom is worth a walk, it’s just across the mall on Washington St. There is a new one that just opened downtown that I really like, Scotty’s Brewhouse. It’s closer to Conseco Field house though. It started in Indiana college towns, and just opened this one.

    The Claddagh is a good Irish pub. The Rathskeller is a good German place, but it’s a haul from the Con. Good beer selection though.

    India Garden is a good Indian place. It used to be just north of the CVS, but it’s recently moved over by the Circle. Acapulco Joe’s is a good Mexican place which is also just north of the CVS. Adobo Grill is also a good Mexican place, but more expensive.

    J. Gumbo’s is a Cajun place just on the other side of the mall which I like, I think it’s new as well since last year.

    Bazbeaux pizza is a good pizza place over on Massachusetts Ave. There are several good resteraunts on Mass Ave, but that’s also a walk from the Con.

    All those places are reasonably priced. There are, of course, the expensive places around, but that’s not usual con fair…

    Let me know if you want any more info.

    • Ben — awesome! Thanks for your local perspective. I don’t want to come across like I’m slagging all of Indy; simple fact is, I rarely make it more than a few blocks in any direction outside of the convention center, so for my purposes, that’s “Indy.” 😉

      I’m glad to hear that India Garden is back in business, and since I just got back from Louisiana, I may have to check out J. Gumbo’s.

  9. If you are driving in and have a decent amount of freezer space at home here is a tip. Buy your flat of water the week before the con and stick the bottles in the freezer.

    When you head down to Indy in pack them in a cooler that you can just chuck in the corner of the hotel room, they will stay frozen all weekend. and you can toss other things in their to stay cool from the 20+ lbs of ice bottles 🙂

    Take a fewout each day and have ice cold water all day as they slowly melt. Just have a plastic/Vinal lunch bag to toss them in so they don’t “sweat” all over your books and swag.


  10. I’ll have to stick up for the Indy Steak & Shake folks… every time we went last year, we were seated within 5 minutes and served in exceptional time for as busy as they were. And the person who was bussing our table one evening was the restaurant’s General Manager (i.e. the big boss for that store). I give them a good grade for effort.

    Now my question is parking; I want to get there on Wednesday, park my car, and leave it until Sunday and have the bet chance of it not being bothered. What’s the best/most economical spot to do that?

  11. Colin, I don’t think it will be the most economical, but the most hassle-free way will be to park it at your hotel. Faster unloading and loading, it will be nearby if you absolutely need it [or want to check in on it], and it will be in some sort of covered lot.

    I believe there are cheaper lots nearby, but they fill up quickly. You may need to just do a quick drive around to see what’s available and what the prices are, after calling your hotel and checking for their rates.

  12. Regarding J. Gumbo’s: it has sadly closed. It was good stuff last year but it’s gone now. We on the GEN CON boards have already given it proper lamentations. 🙂

    Mikado is a Japanese restaurant just south of the Ram. Nice place, good food, a bit pricey, but certainly not “American” 🙂

  13. Adam:

    Yeah, I parked at the garage there at the Westin last year… $25 a night for parking put a crimp in my dealer room spending 🙂

    I’ve scoped out the interactive downtown map that is online but was hoping for some local insight.

  14. I found a sushi bar. A *good* one.

    Not the one on the corner near the Omni that’s all show and well… subpar fish. This one is near to the Claddagh on the other side of the Omni. If you’re a sushi sort like me, I plan to hit there Wednesday – I’ll let you know if they’re still as good as I remember.

  15. I’m a big fan and booster of Ethiopian food. I have no idea how close this is to the convention center, but Abyssinia is a restaurant at 5352 W 38th Street. Like different? Like spicy? Like eating with your hands? Try Ethiopian!

  16. Went to Harry & Izzy’s this year for steak. Expensive, but this is a vacation – so splurge! Food was on par with the 4/5 star Yelp reviews.

    Pita Pit was also great for a fast and easy lunch.


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