I’ve never been a summer person. I hate the heat; in fact, there’s a tiny sadistic part of me that misses the East Coast’s last, horribly intense winter. This summer, I’ll revel in the sunlight for a minute or so before I’m boiling hot and sweaty. Once my hair has expanded from an already thick and curly (though asymmetrical) mass into a frizzy, enormous mess, I’m ready to call it quits. However, every year when summer rolls around, I can’t help but be delighted for July, and all that comes with it—namely, traveling to my home state of California for San Diego Comic-Con. SDCC is my happy place, a little heaven set apart from my normal life. Here are just a few of the reasons Comic-Con is the highlight of my year:

1) Acceptance. It may sound cliche, but Comic-Con is a place where I can be truly myself—a person who is not, in fact, a total nerd by some people’s definition. I love film, specifically Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, which played a formative role in my adolescence, and the recent Marvel franchises. I enjoy comics, but I’m ignorant about a great deal of characters, writers, and artists. However, from what I’ve experienced, that’s totally okay. My general enthusiasm and willingness to learn make me feel welcome. (Though, to be honest, it could be the Avengers symbol that’s currently shaved into the side of my head.) Every Con I gain greater awareness, add numerous titles to my reading list, and discover fantastic people that claim a rightful place on my radar. The sense of community I feel here is unparalleled, making SDCC a truly unique and wonderful experience.

2) Serendipity. Over the years (2014 marks my fifth Con), I’ve noticed that things just tend to work out. Whether it was randomly running into and having a short chat with the highly talented Michael Sheen (one of my favorite actors) in 2010, to my best friend presenting in both 2012 and 2014, every year has created the most fantastic memories. True, we haven’t yet managed to crash EW’s True Blood party, but for the most part, each Con has exceeded my expectations. This year, I bemoaned the fact that I’d have to take the train from my hometown to San Diego: Southern California’s public transit leaves much to be desired, and the journey took about twice as long as it would have by car. However, on the train a really nice guy moved across the aisle so that my friend and I could sit together; it turns out he’s a filmmaker and all around cool human. We spent the ride ecstatically discussing different facets of nerd culture, and made efforts to connect throughout the Con. Despite my initial distaste about the train, I’m thankful that it allowed me to meet someone I already Con-sider (see what I did there?) a friend.

3) Panels with cool people. But really, so many cool people. Since Comic-Con has become a super huge deal, you get a great number of film and TV producers, writers, and actors mixed in with incredibly talented comic book writers, artists, and editors (plus a number of entertainment writers, anime enthusiasts, agents, etc.). This year I’ve seen the hilarious Jack Black and an eloquent, adorable Scott Snyder, with hopes/plans to see Peter Jackson, Tatiana Maslany, and whatever secret Hall H (the giant room where all the big film-related panels occur) event Marvel has up its sleeve.

4) Cosplay. I’ve never cosplay-ed before; while part of me is intrigued by it, I’d mostly rather have the freedom to go about my Con unfettered by spandex and other people’s need to take my picture. However, good cosplay is something I love at SDCC. When someone has spent time making costume, whether it’s extremely accurate or a reinterpretation, a kind of magic happens. Somehow, all that work and care they’ve put into their cosplay bleeds into the event itself, making it all the more precious. Also, for every Black Widow you see (and boy, this year there are a lot of them) you see someone cosplaying a more obscure character. My favorite so far this year has been a woman in a black body suit with one bright red contact and a giant ring around her torso. Remember how I said Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth was big for me? Regardless, with the weekend only half-over, I’m extremely keen and excited to see more inventive and high-quality cosplay.

5) San Diego. San Diego is a beautiful city, especially the area around SDCC. The convention center sits right on the water, so even the chore of waiting outside for a big panel is ridiculously picturesque. Add to that the nearby, historic Gaslamp area of the city, awash with bars, restaurants, and boutiques, and you have the ideal area to enjoy both Comic-Con events, and any after-hours recreation one may desire.

I could go on and on about my love for SDCC, but I have panels to attend, friends to see, parties to crash, and an all-around fantastic Con to enjoy.

Rebecca Vineyard is a New York-based performer and writer. She may be followed on Twitter and Instagram at @rebeccahenna. (Images via, via, via and Shutterstock)