Salt Lake FanX
Salt Lake Fan Experience is held annually at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. It is put on by the same people that organize the Salt Lake Comic Con. The Salt Lake Comic Con is usually held annually around September, while the FanX is held annually around March. The FanX has a smaller attendance, and does not bring in as big of celebrities as the main event. It is also less crowded, easier to obtain autographs and photos from the celebrities that do attend, and has many of the same vendors as the larger event. It may be Salt Lake Comic Cons little brother, but it is still one of the biggest events during the year in the surrounding area.
The main exhibitor floor is one large area, with the photo op and autograph area separated to another section. This makes it easy to stay in the vendor area and only transition to the photo/autograph section by going across an obvious transition area they make very apparent in the venue. You’ll know when you get to the celebrity area because it is VERY crowded. They used less space in the venue this year compared to last year so space was tight. Panel rooms are located outside of the exhibitor area on the main and 2nd floors. They did not utilize the northern panel rooms which made it much easier to find the panels you wanted to attend. Overall there was less venue space used compared to last year (and much less compared to the main event in September) but I found this much easier to navigate around and find what you wanted.
The convention uses a wristband system for regular attendees. These will be mailed out if admission is purchased early enough in advance. I would highly recommend that you do this as lines for picking up passes at the event can get ridiculously long. An attendee scans their wristband at one of the entrances and they are free to roam around any area within the venue. Badges are only distributed to VIP attendees, vendors, and press. This allows for volunteers, security and workers to easily distinguish someone from a regular attendee. This also removes the need to switch badges each day like in other events, as the same wristband is used to enter each day you attend.
If you are concerned with security, don't be. Many of the individuals providing security at this year’s event were from the local Hill Air Force base. There were also uniformed police officers roaming the vendor floor and halls, as well as tons of volunteers roaming around and within every panel room. There were also huge signs notifying people of the rules concerning cosplayers and harassment. The event encourages a family friendly environment with an entire section of the event dedicated to the younger attendees: Kidcon. They also have many cosplay groups in attendance that provide many photo opportunities for younger and older attendees: 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, Kids Heroes Foundation, and Umbrella Corporation to name a few.
Getting To Salt Place
If you’re not native to the area and plan on traveling there (like I do) there are many hotels right next to the venue. The Marriot, Radisson, and Holiday Inn, and Hilton are right across the street from the venue. The Holiday Inn and Marriott are probably the closest within walking distance to the entrance of the venue if you are very concerned with travel time to the event. There are many more hotels further away from the venue, too many to mention here. If you plan on staying somewhere further away the city hosts a very nice light rail that has a stop (Temple Square) just north of the venue. Taxi, Lift, and Uber are all available within the city as well.
Parking is also not a problem because the Vivint Smart arena (where the Utah Jazz basketball team plays) is right next door as well as tons of parking at the City Creek mall. So even if the venue fills up there are tons of spaces near the venue to park. If you are coming with a vehicle I would suggest using the website bestparking.com. This website has information about nearly every available parking in major cities and the rates of each. This website has helped me save literally hundreds of dollars in savings for parking in major cities as they are well known for charging a ridiculous price for daily parking rates. For instance, in my native city of Seattle I was able to find parking a few blocks away from the Washing State Convention Center for $8 all day on the weekend. This is drastically cheaper than the convention center parking that charges over $20 per day of parking.
If you are coming from the Airport, the absolute cheapest way to get to downtown (unless you have a friend drive you) is to use the Salt Lake TRAX. The Green line goes from the Airport to the Temple Square stop that is just north of the venue. A one-way ticket costs $2.50 and is good for 2 hrs, it also allows you to get on other TRAX lines to complete your trip if you need to get to a hotel that is not within the green line coming from the airport. A taxi will burn you about $30-35 getting to a hotel near the convention center, and depending on what time you get an Uber it will cost roughly the same amount (depending on surge rates). TRAX runs from 5am to Midnight on weekdays, and 6am to Midnight on weekends. If you have a flight that is close to either of these times, I’d make sure to check the schedule to make sure you’ll be able to take the TRAX to get to and from the airport to make your flights.
There are many food vendors at the venue to satisfy your hunger and many of them I do highly recommend (I like the Mexican food booths featured there this year). If you are willing to go out into the city and try something cheaper or more exotic then what the venue has to offer there are many places to consider. The best place to go IMO is the food court at the City Creek Mall. It is located on the far side of the mall at the bottom of the Keybank building so it is easy to navigate to from the venue. There are at least a dozen places to eat in the main area, with many more restaurants located within the vicinity of the food court. The Gateway, located west of the venue, houses a handful of restaurants. There are also many individual restaurants located within walking distance from the venue (I would suggest the Olive Garden just south-east of the venue south entrance & directly north of the Hilton hotel).
Data connections like at many events can be hit or miss. This is due to the huge amount of people within a small area and also because of the thick walls of the venue hindering good signals. My T-Mobile data connection was not good; this is similar to other events I have attended in the past though. It seems that the GSM providers (T-Mobile and AT&T) are much worse compared to the CDMA providers (Sprint & Verison) in the events that I have attended in the past.
The venue does provide wireless internet, but the free version is only available for 30 mins, and it is only a 512 Kbps connection. During my time using the free trial it was very poor and dropped connection often. It was actually more reliable and faster to just use my poor T-Mobile data connection then the free wifi. If you wish to purchase internet from the venue it is a 1.5 Mbps connection at $14.95 per day. I would assume a purchased plan has much better reliability.
If you have an inkling of touring some of the surrounding area there are many locations close to the venue to see. The biggest attraction would be Temple Square located north-east of the venue. The area is open 9am to 9pm every day and allows free entrance into all of the buildings; most notably the Church History Museum, Conference Center, Assembly Hall, Family History Library, and many visitor centers. The Temple, is only accessible to members of the church who have a current church recommend (more can be read here).
There are two malls within walking distance from the venue. The City Creek mall as mentioned earlier has a large food court, as well as many clothing, electronic (an apple store and a windows store), and entertainment stores (Disney store). The Gateway also mentioned earlier is west of the venue, and is a developing mall, many of the shops are not yet filled, but it features an impressive water fountain, as well as the Megaplex theater (the same one that Salt Lake Comic Con uses for their private movie screenings) and the Clark Planetarium.
A little further away from the venue are some places like This is the Place Heritage Park. This area focuses on the early days of the Salt Lake Valley and has replica buildings and attractions during those early settlement years. Close to the park is the Natural History Museum of Utah. One more attraction you may want to consider is the Utah State Capitol building and surrounding park located just north of the Temple Square.
To the Point
For the ticket prices I would say it is very worth it to attend this event (if you purchase at the earliest possible time there are discounts), especially if you live in the area as it is the largest comic convention within Utah other than the larger Salt Lake Comic Con. The atmosphere is very family friendly. The vendors are unique. The celebrities are of somewhat smaller caliber then other events but this gives you the opportunity to meet them without the huge lines and crowds. Most importantly though the cosplay is vast and very impressive. There are many dedicated cosplayers around the area that attend to show off costumes they’ve been working on all year. I try to capture a small bit of this with my photos, but I am never able to catalog all of the great costumes people show up with every year, there is simply too many people there to catch them all. So if you have an interest to attend Salt Lake FanX, I would say go for it. You won’t regret it.
last edited 3/29/2017 by Tristan