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The Beginner's Guide to Spa-Con | Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas | Hot Springs National Park Arkansas

The Beginner's Guide to Spa-Con | Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas

So you've never been to Spa-Con before? Here’s a complete beginner’s guide to conquering one of Hot Springs’ unrivaled September events.

This guide may be used by anyone — from Batman to Barbie to Boba Fett. Just be sure you’re ready come September 22nd-24th. There’s a lot of ground to cover here, so I present the official guide to doing Spa-Con right without further ado.

Tip #1: Get Full Access

(and why you need it)

Don’t be a rookie — get the VIP pass. Of course, you can dip your toes into Spa-Con with a day or weekend pass, but would you want to miss out on the complimentary food, drinks, and after-parties the VIP pass gets you? For just $150, experience Spa-Con to the fullest.

The VIP pass includes a tee shirt, tote bag, laminate, stainless steel cup and notebook, access to the VIP lounge (where you will find complimentary food and drinks), advanced access to all panels, workshops, photo ops, and exclusive meet and greets with celebrity guests. But it doesn’t stop there. The most exciting incentive for the VIP pass is access to the three after-parties at local spots: Superior Bathhouse Brewery, The Porterhouse Club, and The Hotel Hot Springs.

But don’t just take my word for it. Special Events Manager Alexis Hampo, who has been attending the con since 2018 and working with it since 2019, claims getting the VIP pass is her number one tip for anyone attending.

“It’s totally worth it and is the best way to experience everything the convention has to offer,” Hampo says.

Tip #2: Stick Out in the Crowd (or Don't!)

Cosplay - I became acquainted with Spa-Con because I’m always looking for any reason to dress up for Halloween as early as possible. And man, do these con-goers know how to cosplay!

Have you ever seen Pikachu do the Cupid Shuffle? No? Well, there’s only one place you can do that, and that’s Cosplay Club! Spa-Con’s Cosplay Club is a cosplay contest and dance party all in one! Step onto the dance floor adorned in your favorite cosplay or attend the event in your casual attire and dance the night away. This event has become a highlight of the Spa-Con weekend. Even if you don’t cosplay yourself, attending Cosplay Club is some of the best “people-watching” in the state!

VIP, weekend, and Saturday day passes include entry into the Cosplay Club. You can purchase tickets at

$500 in cash prizes will be granted in the following divisions (based on craftsmanship):

  • Best Overall Adult 18+ (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place)
  • Best Overall Teen 13 - 17 (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place)
  • Best Overall Kid - 12 and under (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place)
  • Best Makeup / Hair

However, once you attend a con and experience cosplay, you will find it’s more of an art than a fun costume. As with all art, it can get quite elaborate when it comes to a code of conduct to follow.

When you see someone dressed as your favorite character, you may have a moment of freak-out excitement. (Who could blame you?) But don’t get carried away and touch the person or their costume without their permission, and don’t take a photo of them without their consent.

For those dressing up and liking to do so “to a t,” this does not ever permit a real weapon. And, as the rules go, ensure you are ready for any prop resembling a weapon to be checked by staff.

I should also note it is not required to wear any form of costume at all! Enjoy Spa-Con in any attire.

Tip #3: Take a Piece of Spa-Con Home

Believe it or not, the shopping experience at comic conventions is the best place to find the most niche items you never knew you needed. From artwork and merchandise for shows, from childhood characters you forgot existed, to collector’s items, to bedazzled hair clips.

One of my favorite areas of the shopping area is the comic book booths. I haven’t historically been a comic book lover. Still, if I’ve learned anything from Spa-Con, they have something for everyone. I have found comic books for some of my favorite childhood shows, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Mickey Mouse. They are a lovely vintage memento to have.

Tip #4: Gaming, Ready Player One (Register in Advance)

Spa-Con offers something for all kinds of gamers, from physical to virtual.

Any Street Fighter 6 fans? You won’t want to miss the Spa-Con Showdown, which offers cash prizes. For an extensive rundown on the showdown, click here.

How about Role Playing Games? We have RPG galore. From D&D to Dishonored, click here for the complete list of RPG opportunities available over the weekend.

Not into Street Fighter or RPGs? No worries, free video gameplay will be available on Sunday, and tabletop games will be available on Saturday and Sunday!

And the game I am personally looking forward to most is the free laser tag. Come one, come all, just come dressed in cosplay that allows you to be stealthy — because this is a fight to the death.

Tip #5: Get to Know the Stars

Last but certainly not least, you want to know the ins and outs of all the panels—where you can hear from artists, animators, cosplayers, and even celebrities.

“Something I now look forward to every year are the panels!” Hampo said. “Talented artists, cosplayers, animators, and makers come to Spa-Con every year to share their knowledge and experience with convention goers. There’s so much to learn at Spa-Con!”

Celebrity guests featured at this year’s Spa-Con are Annabeth Gish, Orlando Jones, Janeshia Adams-Ginyard, Rodger Bumpass, the Stranger Things Winnebago, and Walking Dead Sheriff Car (celebrity guests in their own respect), Downen Creative, Knightmage, Andi Serpenti, Pat Moriarity, Jerry Bingham and Daniel Scott Jr.

Tip #6: Rock out with Galactic Empire

Galactic Empire will kick off Spa-Con Season 7 on Friday, September 22! Join the galaxy’s foremost progressive technical heavy metal Star Wars cosplay John Williams tribute band as they lay waste to Planet Earth at Spa-Con Opening Ceremonies. Prepare for an evening of most impressive heavy metal! *Concert included in the purchase of a Spa-Con VIP or Weekend Pass.

Spa-Con 7 will be three days packed full of fandom and fun, and you won’t want to miss a second of it. But whether you’re a seasoned Spa-Con goer or this is your first, it’s easy to do Spa-Con right. So keep calm, and Spa-Con my friends. We’ll see you September 22nd-24th.

Cassidy is a Hot Springs-based freelance journalist. In her free time, she enjoys playing games, skating, walking her dog Murphey and spending time with her nieces and nephews. Cassidy aspires to create a positive impact with her writing, be it fun or informative (or both!)

Featured Listings

Superior Bathhouse Brewery

501-624-2337 | 329 Central Avenue 71901

The Porterhouse Club

501-617-3070 | 709 Central Ave. 71901

Hotel Hot Springs

501-623-6600 | 305 Malvern Avenue 71901