FAN EXPO Cleveland (formerly Wizard World) held March 24 - 26 at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland, attracts people from all over — and all walks of life — to come together to celebrate the best of the best pop culture characters, costumes and meet-and-greets.
Why is Cleveland such a great location for FAN EXPO? Because we are HQ for some of the biggest pop culture films and creatives, where you can relive or act out your favorite scenes to your heart’s content.
We’re the city where Superman creator Jerry Siegel was born and attended Glenville High School with his classmate and co-creator Joe Shuster. We aren’t bothered by people invoking their Spidey Sense in the middle of Downtown Cleveland like Peter Parker in “Spider-Man 3.” And we certainly appreciate Captain America references at The Cleveland Museum of Art (a.k.a., SHIELD headquarters in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”).
Need more ideas for the perfect way to geek-out over FAN EXPO Cleveland weekend? Read on and prosper.
Day 1: Friday, March 24
First stop: one of Cleveland’s most popular comic book shops since 1990, Carol & John's Comic Book Shop. Don’t let this small spot fool you. Carol & John's is packed in with popular and rare comics and memorabilia.
Grab lunch and sit under the jaw-dropping rotunda at Heinen’s Downtown Cleveland inside the former Cleveland Trust Building where scenes from Marvel’s 2012 blockbuster “The Avengers” were filmed. The grocery-store-slash-eatery-slash-attraction sits at the corner of Euclid Avenue and East Ninth Street, and features foods both made to order and already prepared, as well as an amazing wine and beer selection.
Head back to get your best costume and makeup ready, because it’s FAN EXPO Cleveland time! The party begins at Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. You might lock eyes with your favorite celebrities from the biggest superhero blockbusters, the most beloved TV series and more, so reserve your autograph or photo opportunities beforehand and make sure to check the schedule for exclusive Q&A sessions with your pop culture faves.
Head over to Melt Bar & Grilled in Lakewood for the best meal you will have between two slices of bread. Seriously. Try their sammy dedicated to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Cowabunga. It’s filled with cheese pizza rolls — done extra crispy, with rich basil marinara sauce, cheese, cheese and more cheese.
For comic fans who are 21 and older, continue the fun at 16-Bit Bar + Arcade, where none of their arcade machines require quarters – as long as you are enjoying a cold one. Situated in their new digs in Ohio City, you won't have to go far from the Con to get your game on and enjoy drinks with great pop culture callouts like the Pinball Wizard, Hulk Hogan or even the Donkey Kong. They share their new home with Pins Mechanical Company, so you can also check out duckpin bowling, pinball machines, foosball and bocce while you're there.
Day 2: Saturday, March 25
Image © Larry E. Highbaugh, Jr.
Break your fast at Shay’s Restaurant, where legendary Clevelander and comic book series creator Harvey Pekar convinced Robert Crumb to be his illustrator. The real-life event was depicted in the 2003 film “American Splendor,” also filmed at the restaurant.
Though, sadly, you’ll never be able to board a ship to visit the planet Krypton, here in Cleveland you’ll get as close to Superman’s origins as possible. Visit Jerry Siegel's house, where Jerry Siegel first conceived of the original superhero with Joe Shuster. His home is currently privately owned, but you can walk by and gawk at historic comic work and plaques.
Make your way back downtown and have lunch at Rebol. If, when standing on the newly revived Public Square, you suddenly feel the urge to defend the world from Loki and his alien army, we’ll understand. After all, it was the setting for a scene from “The Avengers” which saw the area transformed into Stuttgart, Germany.
Make your way to the Comic Creator area to celebrate and honor the artists, writers and insiders who built the comic industry. Then, make your way to panels featuring creators, celebrities and other pop culture experts talking about all your favorite fandoms. And don’t forget to wear your best pop culture duds today for the always amazing costume contest. Costumed attendees ages 13 and over can sign up for all the cosplay fun. Like people watching? Welcome to heaven.
Got a spare Lucha Libre mask? Bring it to El Carnicero for a delicious Mexican meal in the shadow of wrestling paraphernalia. Get the guac trio and a red bell pepper margarita with a chile-lime salt rim. You’re welcome, in advance.
Take a short walk to the Warheouse District for the official FAN EXPO after hours party at The Velvet Dog. Nerdy themed drinks, Dj, dancing and a great rooftop patio make for a perfect end to a day of celebrating fandom with your fellow attendees. Anyone with a FAN EXPO Cleveland Pass gets in free. Cosplay is of course encouraged, but not mandatory.
Day 3: Sunday, March 26
This place did it first and did it damn right. Make sure to get a seat at Tabletop Board Game Cafe, Cleveland’s first board game café. With more than 1,000 different games on site, it’s so easy to spend several hours at the Ohio City hotspot. And need we remind you (again) that Cleveland loves food? At Tabletop, their brunch menu is filled with all things delicious, even for those with strict diets. Oh, and they have beer, in case you need to nurse a Hulk-sized hangover.
Remainder of the day
It’s your final day of FAN EXPO Cleveland, so do it up right! Check the programming schedule to pack in all the adventure, photo ops, autographs and activities that you can before the end of the day when the show closes. Oh, and treat yourself to that one last piece of merch you've been putting off buying. Life's too short.
Don’t worry, all the wonder and magic of FAN EXPO Cleveland will be back next year, so start stitching that spandex suit together now and get ahead of the game.