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MetroCon 2023 Review

 As Orlando, Florida locals, the BN'K team has seen their fair share of nerd and otaku-themed events. From local favorites like MegaCon to local legends like the Anime Festival of Orlando, the team has captured and experienced various events in the Orlando and central Florida area. However, the BN'K team agrees that one of the best convention experiences we've had was at MetroCon in Tampa, Florida. With its wonderful balance of activities, interesting interactions, great shopping deals, and atmosphere, we think MetroCon is a solid convention to attend. Check out our full review below to get the full scope of the convention.

Honest Critiques

A BN'K press pass
We here at BN'K value transparency, so we do have a few critiques about the event. However, to be totally honest these critiques aren't detractors from the event, just places of opportunity for the event to improve. We think the most important critique we can provide would be on schedule accessibility. It's understandable that as we move into the future, more events are moving to integrate digital aspects into their events to streamline some of their processes. One of the main moves I've seen at these events is creating an app for attendees to use during the duration of their event. The app typically holds the schedule for the event, highlights, guides, and a list of guests, vendors ext. Each event accomplishes the integration to varying success and unfortunately, in our experience, we had a lot of issues with the mobile application. We run a 5 man team for BN'K and only one person in the team was able to download the app. Everyone in the team uses updated phones (both iPhone and Android) that were released within the last 3 years, so it was very odd for us when we attempted to download the app, that all of our devices stated that our phones did not support the app. This wouldn't have been that much of a bummer if, in addition to not being able to access the app, there also was no paper program for us to follow.

Now, of course, we are aware the cost of paper and the impact paper trash has on our environment, however, I think even if the event had large cardboard "you are here" signing, visual posters with the schedules available, anything to make the schedule widely available for those unable to access it through the app would've been so helpful. Now the event did offer a virtual con guide pdf you could use, but it didn't provide all the available panels available, only special events or panels with guests. If you didn't download or know that was an option, you could go to the website and pull up the schedule there, but if you have spotty or no network connection at the venue, you'd be at a loss. Especially for things like when certain areas shut down, because there were a fair amount of people who didn't know when areas were going to close, including our team. Lucky for our team, we are still able to get around okay throughout our time at the event, but I really would encourage MetroCon to create some kind of physical visual of the schedule for their attendees. 

Some of our smaller critiques are the badges. Now the actual passes themselves aren't the issue, it was the lanyards needed to put them around your neck. We've seen a growing trend of conventions no longer giving out custom lanyards in addition to the badges, opting to provide a cheaper lanyard option for attendees and offering thee custom lanyards for a cost, typically for 5 dollars. We actually don't have an issue with this model as we understand producing anything for the convention, especially at the quantity needed to accommodate thousands of guests. This was actually not the case for MetroCon though. They opted to eliminate a free lanyard and only offer a custom paid lanyard option, meaning that if you didn't already come with a lanyard you would need to buy one or find an alternative way of keeping up with your pass throughout the event. We can't speak for others but for us, our concern was that people may lose their passes. For us, we actually brought lanyards from home to accommodate the issue.

Our last minor critique is actually one that we have of many conventions, and that's the lack of signage in the vendor hall. It's really difficult to find your favorite vendors when there are no aisle or booth signs to indicate where things may be. We think it would be an amazing opportunity if in the future MetroCon could provide booth signs or large aisle signs to indicate where attendees are in the vendor hall.

MetroCon is a Certified Nerd Classic

Despite our critiques, MetroCon was still an absolutely spectacular event. Starting with panels and special events, MetroCon had a good understanding of interest balance. There was always something to do and somewhere to be. They hosted a variety of things such as a Maid Cafe with Cafe Kira Hoshi, a lolita fashion show, several game tournaments, an Idol Fest, and even a talent show! They also did a pretty good job of scheduling things in a way where you could attend multiple high-interest events. Some of the most interesting events only overlapped by 30 minutes or so, which for a convention as large as Metro, is a spectacular achievement. 

MetroCon also had some really cool hangout rooms like their TTRPG room that had a ton of board games and hosted DnD one-shots. Their arcade room was really exciting with a good mix of PC, console, and arcade set-ups for all different kinds of gamers. The team really enjoyed the Carolina Manga Library which we've followed to several conventions. They had an Idol meet and greet room which was a brilliant idea! Often time during conventions the idol meet and greet can be a bit chaotic when amongst other things, but having a room dedicated to the idols was nice. We actually got an opportunity to talk to all of the idols!

We wanted to highlight the Tampa Convention Center as well as the venue was beautiful. The venue is right on the bay so you can see the water off in the distance making it a great place for cosplayers to get great pictures. The event was also well-balanced throughout the large venue. They did a great job of utilizing the space efficiently so nothing felt cramped or cluttered, and there were plenty of accessibility points for individuals with different mobility needs. The food provided by the venue was reasonably priced compared to other event centers, and they had multiple places to grab food, making grabbing a quick bite or sitting down to have a meal very easy. Accompanying the food provided by the venue, were delicious food trucks outside providing another level of variety in food options. 

Along with great event planning, a well-mapped venue, and tons of great activities, MetroCon's culture is second to none. The BN'K team has been to a plethora of conventions over the years, but we don't think we've ever felt so at home at a convention that wasn't local. Everyone on the staff was super respectful and kind, the attendees and guests were super sweet, and even the vendors were wonderful and helpful. We felt very supported as a press team which gave us the ability and freedom to cover the event beautifully. However, it wasn't just the support we felt directly that we fell in love with, the kindness and warmth provided to the attendees was spectacular as well. help desk staff was excited to offer help to anyone who needed it, they offered a quiet room with a stress ball and blackout spaces to provide a safe space for those who needed a break from the crowds, and nearly all staff we saw or spoke to knew their event and was able to provide instruction or direction when asked. MetroCon felt like home.

What about Cost and Accommodations?

MetroCon has a pretty average cost for an event of their size. If you buy early bird tickets, you can get three-day passes as low as $65 and VIP passes as low as $70, however VIPs for this event are extremely limited. typically those looking to grab tickets for this event will find that 3-day passes typically range from about $70- $85 before the event and were $90 at the door. Metro also offers bundle and discount options for those who are looking to buy 2 or more tickets, so it is best to follow them on social media to see when tickets drop. 

As for stay accommodations, you will want to arrange that in a hurry! If you have the money and intend on staying at the hotel closest to the venue, you will absolutely want to book as early as possible. If you happen to be late to the party there actually are still a few good options, you just have to do a little hunting. For those of you who drive or live locally, parking is something you'll want to be sure you keep in mind as downtown Tampa is very claustrophobic. The good news is there are a variety of parking options at different price points for you to choose from. This is actually a plus comparable to other events where depending on the event, the venue may hike parking to a ridiculous amount.

We think overall that the accommodations and cost of this con are pretty affordable if you plan accordingly and most importantly, in advance.

Should You go to MetroCon?

Our simple answer is yes. Especially if you're a Florida local, making the trip to Tampa to attend this amazing con should be a no-brainer. Despite critiques of the event, MetroCon has got to be one of the best cons we've attended in the state, for the price, the activities, and the culture. However, don't take our word for it, we encourage you to plan for MetroCon 2024 by following them on all social media and checking in on their website when new information becomes available. 

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