Hi! I had a great weekend with my friends at Anime Central in Rosemont, IL, otherwise known as ACen. I’ll tell you about my experience and the things I bought along the way (there’s a good amount of them…). I got the full experience by staying at the Embassy Suites right across from the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. It was a really great location to be in, even though I wasn’t in the hotel room too much. I was there with my boyfriend and friends from school. I did meet some new people along the way, which was great. I’m always happy to meet more people who like anime. I’ll start with some overall advice I have about attending for the weekend and then explain what I did for each day.
Here’s my advice:
- Bring extra snacks. You’ll need a bunch. You and your friends are likely to get hungry late at night. This was the case for me. I only had enough for one night.
- Make sure to establish specific meeting spots for group meet-ups. Have all the phone numbers of everyone in your group. We used the Crunchyroll booth as a good meeting spot. The booth was a bright orange color and right at the main entrance. Also, don’t count on people being exactly on time because of the crowds.
- Bring an external phone charger so your phone can charge while in your bag/purse. Then, you don’t have to worry about it dying during the night. It’s good for safety purposes too.
- If you’re a morning person like myself, visit the game room area and play arcade games. Also, hotel breakfast areas tend to be crowded, so go to Starbucks instead. There are plenty of good options for breakfast sandwiches, muffins and yogurt. It’s not super crowded, so you don’t have to wait in line for DDR or other games. I had some time to kill while waiting for my friends to meet me for shopping.
- Get your own hotel room key when staying in a group. It’s useful to have one if you need to go back and grab something. Or, make the hotel plans yourself if you’d rather be in charge of the room. I think I’m likely to do that for next year and only have 3 other friends stay with me. It’s nice to have a room that’s less crowded since you’re surrounded by people all day. Though, it was great getting to meet new people. Also, people are likely to have their friends stay over, so be aware of that when rooming with a large group.
- Use the “swag bag” they give you to carry merchandise. Also bring a backpack if you think you’ll be getting a ton of things. It helps you stay organized. I didn’t buy anything super large, so it wasn’t a big problem for me.
- If you are drinking, be smart and safe about it. Help out your friends if they’re tipsy or drunk. Try to balance out drinking with some water and snacks. It’s also fine not to drink if you’d prefer not to.
- Take a lot of pictures! You’ll want to remember the fun moments you have with friends. I regret not getting a group picture of all of us.
- It can take extra time to delegate what to do with a group. Splitting up into sub-groups is a good way to handle this. I wanted to go to a Shojo panel and no one else in the group did, so I went with my boyfriend (Thanks for going with me, Luis! I had a lot of fun!). Just figure out a time and place to meet up after.
- Say hi and take pictures with other cosplayers. Also, take pictures for your friends. I got to meet a guy dressed up as Kenshin, so that was cool! There was also someone dressed up as the dango from Clannad. You never know who you’re going to meet.
- Stay hydrated and eat! Don’t forget to do this. They had free water, so take advantage of it. It can get hot while walking around. It’s also easy to find food in the convention center and the surrounding area.
- Take extra time to line up for popular panels to get a good seat. The crowds can be pretty heavy. It’s not always guaranteed you’ll get in if you’re there late. Have some more water while you’re in line too and go to the bathroom beforehand.
- Plan your costumes ahead of time! I’ll do this for next year. I didn’t have too much time to get anything new or cosplay as a specific character. Haruhi from Ouran High School Host Club is on my list. Or maybe Sailor Jupiter from Sailor Moon.
Day 1, May 20th:
My Mom held onto my stuff before hotel check-in and dropped me off at the convention. Today, I wore my maid outfit with cat print tights, red flats and a maid headband/apron. There, I met up with my boyfriend and we waited for some other friends to go shopping. Anime Central has the Artist Alley where you can buy cool kinds of custom artwork. Next time, I’ll have to request a commission. It would be fun for someone else to draw me. Also, our group ended up at a late night panel around midnight. That one was interesting to say the least. We also visited the game room which is open 24/7, so that was a lot of fun! My boyfriend and his friend, Brian, were dressed up as Light Yagami and L from Death Note. I also became a death note after changing into the shirt featured in the picture. It was fun to see them do a dance battle. It was a really great day. I also met a person dressed up as Left Shark from the Katy Perry performance, so that was awesome. For lunch, we visited McDonald’s which was about 10-15 minutes away from the convention center. I can’t remember what we had for dinner specifically, but our menu this weekend was mostly fast food. This day was super fun!
Day 2, May 21st:
I was definitely tired this day after not getting too much sleep. I dressed up in a uniform from Azumanga Daioh. There was a lot of talking/commotion in our hotel room late at night. But, I figured that was to be expected. I went to a fun panel called Shoujo Stereotypes and Beyond. I got some new anime recommendations from the panelists. We also played some interactive games with various scenarios like “seeing senpai with another girl” or “giving valentine’s day chocolate to senpai” or “dropping something”. Our group also went to Hilarious Hentai Dubs (it was 18 + due to adult content). I don’t normally watch that type of anime but it was humorous than anything else. It was super funny – if you’re going to ACen, this is a great one to go to with your friends. I also did more shopping today with Brian (thank you for being a good shopping buddy!!). I got my boyfriend a birthday gift thanks to Brian’s help. I’m not always the greatest at picking out gifts, so Brian was able to point me in the right direction.
Day 3, May 22nd:
Today was the end of ACen, sadly. I spent most of the day shopping and hanging out with my friends. I wore my Ouran High School Host Club t-shirt that I bought on Day 2 with some jeans and converse. I went to a panel about traveling to Japan with David and Luis, so that was really fun. I hope I can go there one day (especially Tokyo Disneyland!). There wasn’t as much going on since it was a shorter day. I liked getting to hang around and see what everyone bought over the course of ACen. During my time at ACen, I bought a more innocent (13 +) Yaoi doujinshi called “Lost and Found”, a Sailor Jupiter sleep mask, Fruits Basket and Sailor Moon prints, and a Dango plushie from Clannad. Also, the chalk drawing featured below was finished today by the artist working on it the whole weekend.
Overall, I had a positive and fun experience at ACen! I’d love to go next year with all of my friends again. Now I’ll be more prepared for next year. I’ll definitely plan my cosplay outfits in advance and book everything early. Let me know if you have any cosplay suggestions for me! I’d love to hear them. 🙂