What To Pack
January is the coldest, cloudiest, and driest month for San Antonio. If it does rain expect standing water in the streets and sidewalks for a couple of days. Snow is possible that time of year.
January is also the worst month for allergy suffers in San Antonio. Tree pollen count is between moderate to very high the entire month.
- High: 63°F | 17°C
- Low: 39°F | 5°C
- Wind: 8.8 MPH | 14.2 KPH
- Humidity: 67%
- Rain: 7 out of 31 days, total monthly precipitation averages 1.8 inches | 4.5 cm
Check out my con packing list to help get started with your own packing for PAX South. It includes a list of the essentials and nice to have items, as well as details and suggestions. Feel free to download the PDF for future reference and to share.
There is a security check point you must pass through before you enter PAX each day. If you are carrying a bag security will check its contents. Don’t bring anything you couldn’t normally get through airport security, including pocket knives.
Rules of PAX
- Drugs are bad.
- Don’t steal.
- Don’t punch or kick people.
- No cheating.
- Don’t harass anyone.
- Don’t mess with things that aren’t yours.
“Don’t be a dick!”
– Wil Wheaton, PAX Prime 2007 Keynote Address
Each and every day at PAX you should get at least:
- 5 hours of sleep
- 2 meals
- 1 shower
This is for your health and better enjoyment of the show. Con crud is real and can ruin your weekend, or your memory of the weekend. A 5 hour energy drink does not count as 5 hours of sleep. Meals include a hamburger and fries combo, but don’t include a power bar. Drink water with your meals, you can have a soda later. A shower a day, either morning or evening, is usually enough to refresh and ward off con stink.
Hey! Listen! The Enforcers are the army which makes PAX run. They are gamers, like you, and their job is to maximize your fun while also watching out for everyone. The are easy to spot with their orange Enforcer shirts.
If they ask you to move or do something, please do. They are not mad with power, they are asking for a reason. Be sure to thank them when they help you out, or at random when passing by.
Cosplayers & Guests
You’ll see plenty of cosplay and, if you’re lucky, even a few special guests outside of their events. If you want a picture or signature that’s cool, but please be courteous.
Ask a cosplay for a picture and they will usually agree. In the hallways please step aside to not block traffic. Stopping for pictures isn’t allowed in the Expo Hall due to the traffic. If someone declines to have a picture taken it isn’t personal, they’re trying to enjoy the show, too. Be respectful of all cosplayers as fellow gamers and human beings.
Follow the same basic courtesy with special guests as cosplayers. Many of them will have designed autograph sessions. It is your responsibility to have a Sharpie if you want a random encounter autograph. The silver ones usually work best.
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center (HBGCC) is the home of PAX South in downtown San Antonio. Nestled along the banks of the River Walk and connected to the Grand Hyatt. The Marriott Riverwalk and Rivercenter hotels are across the street.
It is over 1.6 million square feet in size, including the 2,319 seat Lila Cockerel Theatre. In 2015 PAX South took up roughly half of the available space. In 2016 the HBGCC completed a major expansion, doubling in size. In 2017 PAX South expanded into the new space, and still has room to grow.
- Local to San Antonio
- Spending the night too far to walk (at least 0.5 mile away)
- Need to drop off/pick up a tower PC for BYOC
- Have mobility issues
If you are driving here’s a list of the closest parking garages.
Free W-Fi is available in the Main Lobby, West Lobby, and pre-function spaces. These are the places you’ll hang out before PAX opens each morning, excluding the Queue Hall.
You can buy Wi-Fi access throughout the convention center.
The River Walk goes through downtown San Antonio and right up against the convention center. The water and foliage makes for a great spot for cosplay photos, better than what you would find at any other PAX. Along the River Walk you’ll also find restaurants, bars, and shops.
Coat Check/Bag Check
A coat and bag check service is available in the Main Lobby. Pricing last year was $3 per item.
Depending on the weather there may be a line for the service. Also keep in mind you’ll need to stand in line at the end of the day to retrieve your items. Consider wearing layers instead of a heavy coat. You can stuff thin layers into your bag and skip the lines.
Inside HBGCC is a UPS Store. They’ll provide packaging and shipping services if you need to get any large loot sent back home. They also have poster tubes available.
There is also a FedEx Office Print & Ship Center in the connected Grand Hyatt, next door.
Lost & Found/Security Office
What To Do At PAX South
If you arrive before 10:00 AM and want to visit the Expo Hall first this is where you’ll hang out. Check out my guide on convention lines to make the most of your wait.
See exhibitors ranging from game developers to geeky vendors to a church for gamers.
- Talk to the booth operators, they are there to see you.
- Want to shop or try for free swag? Do all that on the same day so you don’t need to carry loot every day. Make time to drop off your goodies at the hotel if possible.
- Beware long lines to demo the latest hotness in video games. Chances are the game will be releasing soon enough, so decide if waiting for hours is worth your time at PAX. Smaller games will be more accessible, and you might find something you like you didn’t know about.
- There are more exhibitors and vendors in the Tabletop area.
The Expo Hall is a big part of PAX, but it isn’t all there is. Plan to spend a few hours wondering the booths, but don’t miss out on all the others things going on elsewhere.
PAX Merch Lite
This is the small vendor booth for PAX South and Penny Arcade located outside of the Expo Hall. There is a larger Penny Arcade shop inside the Expo Hall, but this one has the exclusive and limited items.
Watch competitive video game play throughout the day. Also available to watch on Twitch.
A free play area for tabletop gaming. Visit the game library and check out one of over 1,000 games, find a table, and invite others to play. Or find a table looking for players.
Organized role playing games will be available, often with a sign up sheet.
Sit down at a pre-loaded gaming PC and play games, single or multiplayer.
Check out a game from the library and play on one of many consoles, ranging from Atari 2600 to the PS4 and Xbox One.
Pull up a beanbag chair and get out your Nintendo 3DS, Switch, or your favorite smartphone game.
- Relax and play Super Mario Odyssey, or find a few others to challenge to a round of Mario Kart.
- Find the PAX Pokémon League and challenge gym leaders for a badge.
- Forgot your USB power bank? The Enforcers can plug in your device.
No “plopping” down on the beanbags, please.
The queue area for the Main Theatre will be down the hall, look for signs or ask an Enforcer.
This is a designed quiet space for anyone getting stressed or needing a break from the crowd. Free water is available.
If you wander in please be respectful of those using the space.
A safe meeting place for gamers from all walks of life. No judgements allowed. You’ll find some vendors, organizations, and a place to hangout.
Expect to see more dedicated rooms at PAX South. In the past they’ve had:
- Classic Arcade – Arcade machines all rigged for free play.
- Jamspace – A room full of musical instruments.
- Dance Stage – DDR and similar dance games.
- Jackbox Stage – Party games
Long after PAX is over my best memories are of panels where I had a good laugh and learned something. Go through the schedule and if any panels look interesting give it a try.
There are casual tournaments in all gaming areas. You can sign up to take part the morning of the tournament. Watching a tournament may not work out given each room’s setup.
The Omegathon is a PAX favorite. Twenty attendees are selected to take part in a series of games, each one eliminating players. Some of the games are known in advance, others are secret until time to play. The final round is the closing event on Sunday.
Streamers, special guests, and other VIPs at PAX will have scheduled autograph sessions. Bring your collectables and Sharpies.
Concerts & Bandland
On Friday and Saturday night PAX puts on a concert.
- Regular performers include Paul & Storm, Protomen, The Doubleclicks, and Video Games Orchestra.
- The concerts are free to all PAX South attendees. If you aren’t worried about getting the best seat you can arrive late.
- If you’re sensitive to loud noise or want to keep your ears safe then consider earplugs. Get a pair of high fidelity earplugs to enjoy all the music at a fraction of the volume. You can also get foam earplugs from the theatre’s Enforcers.
You’ll find many of the performers available in Bandland throughout the weekend. Stop by to pick up a CD or get a photo and autograph.
Plan Your Schedule
Before you arrive plan out your schedule. You will NOT be able to do and see everything. Instead focus on seeing the things you are most interested in, and use the rest as backup options.
- Pick out the panels you want to see and tournaments you want to take part in.
- Use the PAX South app’s scheduling tool. You’ll better see overlaps and free time.
- Give yourself time to get from one event to another.
- Enforcers will clear the rooms between panels. Don’t count on getting into the second of back-to-back panels.
- Plan to line up 30 minutes in advance on average, 60-90 minutes for the more popular events.
- Have a Plan B for the more popular events.
- Give yourself a few hours to wonder through both the Expo Hall and the Tabletop area.
Lanyards & Swag Bags
Free lanyards will be available at many locations, with plenty to go around.
Swag bags will be available in the Queue Hall after it is empty. There is no shortage and no need to rush. To be honest the swag bags rarely have much of value these days. They will be available every day.
If you’re picking up your badge (must have selected Will Call when purchased) you can do that at 8:00 AM. If you’re in town early you can also swing by Thursday afternoon.
BYOC (Friday Only)
BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) participants can arrive early and setup in the PC Room. You won’t be able to access other closed spaces.
Morning Queue Options
The convention center doors will open up around 8:00 AM, but PAX South won’t start until 10:00 AM. If you arrive early you can queue for one of several options. Often queueing up early is the best way to get as much out of PAX as possible. If you have any questions about the lines be sure to ask the Enforcers.
Keynote (Friday Only) – If you wish to see either the keynote or the Penny Arcade Q&A immediately after it you’ll need to line up here. The theater is not cleared between the two events. The theater will likely fill up, but you don’t need to be there quite as early compared to other options.
Expo Hall – Being very early will allow you to get in ONE popular game demo without a lot of lost time. Once finished with your first demo the hall will be full. Sunday is the best morning to do this.
Panels – Panels starting between 10:00 – 11:00 AM will have queue space which you can head towards. You don’t need to rush to the convention center.
Tournaments – You’ll need to sign up for tournaments you wish to join. It is best to sign up first thing in the morning on the day the tournament will take place. Sign up locations are usually where the tournament is being held (Console Room, PC Room, etc). You will not be able to access these rooms until 10:00 AM, but you should be able to hang out nearby before then. Double check with a nearby Enforcer.
PAX Merch Booth Lite – The PAX Merch Booth Lite is a big time suck Friday and Saturday, and the good stuff may be gone by Sunday. Line up as early as possible. The store may or may not open early. Once it does the line doesn’t move very fast, so expect to get out well after the rest of PAX has opened.
Special Events – If PAX South offers any special events, such as True Dungeon, expect long lines. These may be good options for your morning queue, if available. Check with the Enforcers and have a Plan B in mind. Friday or Sunday are the best mornings to do this.
There is a PAX South app which is a must have for your phone. It includes the schedule, maps, lines status, and more. Many of the features work even if your network connection is out.
Nintendo 3DS & Switch
Handheld games are very popular at PAX. So much so that there is a Handheld Lounge, an area full of bean bag chairs, at every PAX. You can play while taking a break, challenge a PAX Pokémon League gym leader, or sign up for a tournament.
The Nintendo 3DS has been a staple at PAX for years. If you struggle with StreetPass & Mii Plaza games you’ll get more hits than you’ll know what to do with at PAX. If you want to focus on those mini games it may be worth upgrading Mii Plaza through the Nintendo eShop for $5. The upgrade allows you to line up to 100 Miis at your Plaza Gate, compared to the normal 10.
Popular 3DS Multiplayer Games
- Animal Crossing: New Leaf
- Final Fantasy Explorers
- Fire Emblem: Awakening
- Fire Emblem: Birthright/Fates
- Legend of Zelda: TriForce Heroes
- Mario Kart 7
- Mario Party Star Rush
- Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
- Monster Hunter Generations
- Pokémon X/Y
- Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire
- Pokémon Moon/Sun
- Super Smash Bros. 3DS
The Nintendo Switch is still new, but it is one of the best selling consoles in the company’s history. There were present, but rare, at PAX East 2017. With Christmas over with expect them to be more present at PAX South 2018.
Popular Switch Multiplayer Games
- Enter the Gungeon
- Human: Fall Flat
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
- Nine Parchments
- Overcooked Special Edition
- Rocket League
- Splatoon 2
- Super Mario Odyssey– Second Player Controls Cappy
An all day con can tax a power hungry handheld console. Here are a few tips for maximizing your play time.
- Dim the brightness of your screen.
- Turn off wireless communication if not doing multiplayer games or StreetPass.
- The Enforcers in the Handheld Lounge can charge up your device.
You can also bring a power bank to recharge your console on the go.
- Anker PowerCore 10000 is a good, all round power bank. I use it as an ‘all my devices’ charger. It isn’t the fastest charger for the Switch, for that you’d want a larger USB-C power bank. But, it will get the job done and it offers a smaller, lighter package to carry around all day.
- For faster charging of the Switch check out the:
- Get a Nintendo 3DS USB cable to connect your 3DS to a power bank.
- Get a USB-C to USB-A cable or USB-C to USB-C cable (depending on whether you get a USB or USB-C power bank) to connect your Switch.
Where To Eat
You can get an okay combo meal for $7-10. The big upside is you don’t have to go far to eat.
The downsides are more lines, limited selection, meh quality, and no designated seating. Try to eat early or late to reduce your line time.
Rivercenter Mall Foodcourt
Exit the convention center and cross two streets, passing the Marriott hotels. You’ll find the Rivercenter Mall and its food court on the lowest level. They have several options and lots of seating.
This gets you out of the convention center for a bit and you’ll have a better selection of food. You can also find a table to sit at and eat with friends. Try to avoid the lunch rush by going early or late.
You’ll spend more time away from PAX, and the food quality isn’t much better than what is in the convention center. There is better food to be had in the nearby hotel restaurants, but they are pricy.
San Antonio Restaurants
If you can spare the time away from PAX your best bet is to check out local restaurants in the area. Pull up your favorite review app or visit the PAX South forums for a list of recommendations. There are plenty of options within walking distance, especially along the Riverwalk. BBQ brisket is a local favorite. Whataburger is always recommended for anyone who hasn’t been to one before.
A restaurant is a great option for taking a dinner break away from the con. The Expo Hall closes down at 6:00 PM and you have time before the evening concerts.
Expect to be away from PAX for at least an hour. The closer you go to the convention center the longer of a wait you may have, with other PAXers going to the same place.