TempleCon in Warwick, RI. Never heard of it? That's because it's not a gigantic con that takes over a major city, but it is the perfect example of why you should seek out the smaller, local cons in your area.
TempleCon bills itself as a Retro-Futurist themed convention, but that's only a small part of what attendees can experience. In addition to the cosplay, which even includes a ball on Friday night, there is non-stop gaming throughout the weekend. There are tournaments for Warmachine, Monsterpocalypse and Warhammer 40K for the miniature wargaming fans as well as Magic and Vampire:The Eternal Struggle if collectible cardgames are your passion. A diverse selection of panels will help you learn how to paint better models, design the perfect steampunk costume, ballroom dance or even to better appreciate the qualities of a good Scotch. And there are demos of some of the latest and greatest games like Dystopian Wars and Malifaux. The theme of this convention really ought to be Anything and Everything.
Although the diverse events at TempleCon make it fun for just about everyone, what makes this convention great is that it's more personal than it's bigger brothers. There are no lines wrapping half way around the building to get into every panel. You don't have to wait for two hours in the hope that you might be able to see a demo of the new game you just discovered. The vendor areas are not so crowded that you need to wedge your costume sword in between people just to make space to pass. The pace is easy, the people friendly, and the atmosphere relaxed. I even grabbed a seat in the hotel bar on Saturday night without having to wait or feel pressured to move so the next person in line could have a chance at our table. This year, plan to hit up a few local cons in addition to the big ones. You'll open up new doors of convention fun you never knew existed.