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Amy Zimmer from Sebastopol, CA writes in:

I would love to go to the maker faire in San Mateo–but crowds flip me out! Do you have any suggestions or must sees for navigating for a crafty mostly gift giver type crafter (and maybe her two girls, ages 10 and 14)?

I think each of us experiences a bit of enochlophobia or agorophobia at some point during Maker Faire; there are just so many people! Well, Amy, you should definitely check it out, it’s a great event for the whole family, and here are some tips that might make the experience more enjoyable for you and everybody else who’s not at piece in a crowd of tens of thousands:

Buy your tickets in advance

Avoid the ticket line by buying your tickets online in advance.

Check the Maker Faire site regularly

In the weeks before Maker Faire, there will be more and more information published to the Maker Faire site including schedules of demos, makers who’ll be attending, and information about transportation to/from the Faire. This will help you know what to expect to see, which should make the visit a little less overwhelming

Make a loose plan for the day

Using the schedule provided online and onsite at the Maker Faire, decide which demos and events are a must for you and your girls (diet Coke and Mentos at 12:30? Soft circuit demo at 11am?), and then plan your day around those. Know which maker and crafter booths you want to get to, and allot time to get to them between time-specific events. By all means, also allow time for unexpected things to catch your eye, but having a plan of attack can help you feel in-control.

Shop early

If you plan to shop in the Maker Shed and Bazaar Bizarre, do it early in the day. Sure, you’ll have to carry around your purchases with you, but this is when the crowds are smaller in these parts of the Faire.

Find some quiet time

This one is the hardest tip to actually implement, but it can certainly help. Find a shady grassy spot to eat lunch or otherwise relax and reflect. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated (oh, what a difference it can make in your energy level and mood)!

I hope those tips are helpful to you, and that you’ll come out and see us at Maker Faire! Have you been to Maker Faire before and have tips for Amy? Share them in the comments below!

If you have a question you’d like answered here on Ask MAKE, drop me an email or tweet at us!

8 thoughts on “Ask MAKE: Navigating Maker Faire

  1. While you’re wandering about, look for the LUNAR booth, where we will be selling (at our low bulk cost) model rockets that you can build and launch on site in about an hour! Lots of friendly help available, but really it’s pretty easy and very safe.

    We had great success last year, hundreds of successful flights, really looking forward to it again this year.

    I love watching the kids working it out and then watching their rocket launch!

    Really excited about maker faire, see you there!

    -RG

  2. amy, i recommend checking out swap-a-rama-rama. it’ll be a whole lot of fun for both you and your girls, and a great way to escape the crowds and get into actually making something at Maker Faire.

    and don’t miss bazaar bizarre–you’ll love all of the amazing products, and will definitely walk out with some gifts (both for yourself and others!).

  3. To avoid hassle, I’d suggest parking elsewhere and taking public transit to the event (see the Attend -> Travel and Hotel page). Last year’s Faire created a traffic jam literally for MILES!

    Once at the event, if you need a break in a quiet(er) spot, the south end of the Expo Center grounds (outside the large building) tends to be less populated than the lawn area. Also the area around the Center’s front gate (NOT the parking gate!)

    1. get your hand stamped, take a walk a block away, find a relaxing place to eat, take a slow stroll back, and you’re ready for the crowds again.

      I usually go through the entire place, pretty quickly, and then going back to stuff that interests me.

      The stuff I absolutely love is the hands on things that you get to take home with you.

      good luck! take your time!

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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