I want to start off by saying my husband and I are huge nerds; from video games to anime or strategy games to comics we love them all. We have attended a few conventions in the past; however, had never been to Katsucon before. Many friends have attended this conference and bragged about what a great time they had. After reading the schedule of workshops and panels hosted at the convention, I was amazed at how many activities were geared towards children. I was also excited to see that our favorite Yoga instructor Sean would be there to teach Pokémon Yoga. I reached out to the media department and was invited to attend Katsucon 2017 to take photos and to share our experience through a parent’s perspective.
Since this was our first time attending the conference we decided to go solo without the kids to check things out and see for ourselves if Katsucon was something our kids would enjoy. I like to keep events and activities that we do family friendly. Being family friendly has many different meanings; for The Playful Parent, family friendly goes beyond just being a suitable event for all ages. This means that the environment is age appropriate in modesty, content and upholds our family’s Christian values and beliefs. My boys are ages two and four, so I like to pick activities that are fit for their attention span and maturity level. It is important to go places that are designed for families and think about the little things needed from changing tables, to kid’s menus, to engaging activities, and hospitality. For this reason I’m torn on if our family is ready to attend Katsucon together. In this article I will point out the highlights and the draw backs.
So first let’s start with what makes Katsucon amazing. I love that the environment is very friendly, in a sense that there is no judgment and that all attendees are accepting and welcoming. Everyone loves to get dressed up as their favorite characters. You will see all sorts of interesting and unique costumes; most of which are inspired by anime or Disney movies. This is very appealing to audiences of all ages; especially children. The little ones I saw in attendance were excited about photo opportunities with their favorite characters. Many cosplayers attend the conference to showcase their costumes and enjoy hanging out in the atrium of the hotel to strike a pose.
Katsucon has worked hard to make this event more and more family friendly over the years; this year the schedule had a section called Chibi Katsu dedicated to panels and special events just for children. Chibi Katsu included educational classes on history of anime, fun workshops like Pokémon and Naruto Yoga, costume contests and more. Most of these workshops took place in a dedicated section which was nice to see other families and children hanging out together. The video game room and atrium were two other places we saw lots of family’s. When interviewing different fans, everyone had a different answer for what was their personal favorite. It seemed that playing Mario Kart in the game room was a big hit for some, while taking pictures with princesses was more interesting to another. That’s the great thing about Katsucon…there is so much to see and do that there’s something for everyone.
A few things I would like to highlight are the Maid Café. I didn’t know about the Maid Café until the day of which was a little sad because you need to make a reservation to attend. This special dining experience is in the Pienza both Friday and Saturday during the convention. It offers a chance to try Japanese cuisine and is hosted by delightful Maids and Charming Butlers in full costume. This unique family friendly dining experience includes great food, live entertainment and a variety of fun board games. I would also like to point out the Costume Masquerade, which is a show put on to show case different costumers craft and skills.
Also while at the conference I met some really awesome people who are excited about bringing more family friendly events to our area. I can’t wait to attend the Museum of Science Fiction touring Washington, DC in early Fall 2017. I learned that the Museum of Science Fiction has been partnering with some awesome partners like: NASA, Science Channel and American Alliance of Museums to bring the Escape Velocity to the East Coast. This three day event promotes STEM education within the context of Science Fiction and will include discussion panels, exhibits, presentations, workshops; next generation virtual reality experiences, mini film festivals, opening concert, competitions and project based learning activities for children.
You won’t want to miss visiting the Model room while at Katsucon. In this room you find some pretty cool space ships and robots on display, along with an impressive collection of cinema costumes. In the Model room I met the owner of Washington Street Books and Comics in Havre de Grace, Maryland. He brought his personal collection of original costume pieces from various movies; which are on display in his store. I was excited to hear that he is invested in learning through play and shared that his annual free comic day is coming up soon. Every child who comes to the event receives two free comics; this program was started to encourage and promote literacy.
I’d like to address family accommodations too! The Gaylord National Convention Center is one of the most family friendly hotels in the Washington, DC area. They have family style bathrooms with changing stations, plenty of restaurants fit for little palates; not to mention the fountain show in the atrium is remarkable. If you need a stroller at the Convention, there are plenty of elevators and even a stroller check. Just outside the hotel you will find awesome things for kids to do; Build A Bear, Peeps store, Capital Wheel and more.
The convention has put together guidelines you can find on their site or in the guidebook that has been put in place to keep the convention safe and more modest. The dress code goes hand and hand with the hosting facility’s policies. It’s pretty much the no shirt, no shoes, no service policy. The guide book mostly highlights coverage issues to keep the costumes more modest and appropriate for all audiences.
This topic of dress code leads to the major draw backs or concerns for making this convention family friendly. While the convention has made it clear that the day time festivities are kept family friendly and in to the evening mature audience festivities and costuming take place, I have noticed an overlap into the day time. Cosplay costumes range from fun to scary and pretty to sexy, this leads to some concern. While the dress code has been put in place, it is not always followed. For an example, this means that you will find outfits that do not cover as required. Modesty for our family is important. I wish that conventioneers would follow the policy better so that this could be a suitable choice for more families. It is nice that the conference has made the evenings after 8PM for 18 and over only. There is a formal ball in the evening where those dressed in gowns and formal attire can attend.
Other draw backs included that the convention can be over stimulating in that it’s very crowded and there’s so much to do in so little time. In order to help prepare for going you should know that for the more popular workshops you will need to wait in line. I noticed many children had toy, stuffed animal or gaming system to play with while waiting. Also, keep in mind that for the most part people are mindful of those around them in action and language. However, you will occasionally hear poor choices in words. During a workshop a young lady cursed but the leader politely said in the Chibi Katsu we say “cool beans.”
If you enjoy all things anime and are thinking about introducing your children to this wonderful world of imagination and technology; I suggest that you take a trip to Katsucon as a date night/weekend. This gives you the chance to make up your own mind, while have a great time as a couple. My husband and I enjoyed a much needed date. It was a blast to dress up, attend panels and even have a fancy dinner at the Old Hickory. We even stopped by the merchant room and artist alley to enjoy the artwork and even find something fun to bring home for the kids.
Based on my experience at Katuscon this year I felt like the best age group to attend the convention was middle to high school aged kids with the supervision of an adult. I chose this age group based on the information presented in the workshops, attention span and maturity level. At the end of the day, it’s up to a family to choose what activities fit their family’s needs; I hope that based on this information you can make a sound decision that is best you and your wee ones for Katsucon next year!
***The Playful Parent does not receive payment to write articles, all information and opinions shared are my own. Discounts and complimentary tickets are always a plus but not a requirement. I enjoy writing articles about my families experiences so that parents feel encouraged to get out and try something new with their kids.***