The Rookie’s Guide To Walking An Auto Show

Getting ready to walk your first big-city auto show? Follow these tips to preserve your sanity and budget while gazing at the cars of your PowerBall-fueled dreams.

You may think that walking a car show is a piece of cake and you’ll get a chance to see everything, but most big-city car shows are have several football fields worth of cars and displays. Here’s how to enjoy a large-scale car show with your wallet and sanity intact.

Detroit Hosts Annual North American International Auto Show

2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, MI

  •  Follow them on social media: Most car shows organizers rely on social media to communicate with attendees and to announce discounts, giveaways, and other treats. It’s also a great way to reach out to organizers with any questions. I messaged the staff of the Orange County International Auto Show with a question and got a reply that same day.
  • Look for discounts: Some shows will offer same-day discounts while others will offer Early Bird discounts, large group discounts, and student/senior discounts. Every little bit helps.
  • Devise a game plan: Grab the show map from the show’s website and decide which stands to hit first. If the crowds get to be too much later on, you will have at least seen your favorite cars or must-see displays.
  • Dress for the show hall, not the weather outside: The outside weather at the OC Show was a scorching 95 degrees, but the show hall was much cooler. I froze. Lesson learned.  Even with more than a few shows under my belt common sense took a back seat.
  • Go on a weekday: True, this is next to impossible if your employer doesn’t offer sick pay or vacation days, but if they do, go for it. Crowds are smaller and it’s much easier to see everything you wanted to see and then some.
  • Get there when the doors open, especially on a weekend: Most big-city shows open at 9:00 a.m., so beat the crowds and be there when the doors open. Car shows are much more fun when you’re not jostling for space with thousands of other people.
  • Make a day of it. If the show hall is within walking distance of other attractions or places of interest, make them a part of your day. There is nothing like a “daycation” to make the week go by just a little faster.
  • Pack your own snacks. Show hall food is expensive and not all that tasty.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking. A lot. Seating is scarce in the show hall.


    “Honey, it wants to follow me home. Can we keep it?”

  • Take it all in. If you’re a true car geek, very little compares to having acres of cars at your disposal. You’ll see the cars of your dreams up close with no hovering salespeople. The vibe at the shows I’ve been to has always been laid back and friendly. Enjoy the hours-long break from the “real world.”
  • Make sure your camera works. I tossed my camera into my backpack only to find out that it had a dead battery just as I walked into the show hall. My cell phone camera sucks, so fortunately my partner in crime shot some great pictures.

Nothing beats a big-city car show for a one-day getaway from the real world. My day job bores me to tears, so the one day I spent at the OC Show did wonders for my outlook. A big-city car show is an instant vacation that doesn’t cost a fortune.

2 thoughts on “The Rookie’s Guide To Walking An Auto Show

  1. Make sure you stay on the carpet. Your feet will thank you.
    Don’t miss the thieves market. All the good stuff you can stuff in the bags handed out by the manufacturers.


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