{ subscribe_url:'/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/national-book-festival.php' }

Tips to Make the Most of Your Day

So you’ve followed our advice and planned your trip to the National Book Festival on Sept. 24. Once you’ve arrived, the combined effect of the gigantic Washington Convention Center, a schedule of more than 120 authors and dozens of festival activities can all be a little overwhelming. Here, then, are some important tips on navigating the big day:

Travel light. There will be security screening in effect this year, and anyone with purses, backpacks, hand-carried items, strollers or bulky coats will be routed through a screening procedure. We’ll have three entrances and plenty of checking stations, but the lines to get into the building may back up. Remember:

  • If you don’t have a bag of any kind, anything hand-carried or a heavy coat, you can avoid the screening line. So if you can, leave your gear at home. But if you can’t, please be prepared to go through the line.
  • Strollers with children are okay, but no wheeled luggage. please.
  • If you want to get books signed and haven’t purchased them yet, consider buying them onsite at our Book Sales Easier to take bags out than bring bags in!

Wear comfortable shoes. The map doesn’t do justice to the HUGENESS of the Washington Convention Center. It’s a massive place. Two big city blocks, wide hallways, multiple levels. There are escalators, but you’ll still need to prepare for long walks throughout the festival.

Once in, stay in. After you’ve passed through screening, you can move freely throughout the buildings of the Convention Center. However, you can’t go outside (for lunch, etc.) without having to go through screening again to re-enter. In order to move between the two buildings, you may need to go up a level or down a level through to the building connectors in order to avoid the screening lines.

Make a schedule. Wait, haven’t you done this yet?? Before you even arrive, download our National Book Festival App for smartphones and make your customized schedule and make sure you get to all the authors you want to see without losing your cool. But as you do …

Cluster your activities. The stages are grouped on different levels in different buildings:

North Building / Level 1
Food & Home
Poetry & Prose
Contemporary Life
South Building
Level 1
Fiction I & II
Graphic Novels (evening)
Books to Movies (evening)
Level 2
Poetry Slam (evening)
Level 3
Main Stage
History & Biography
Lower Level / Expo Floor
Children I & II
Library of Congress Pavilion
Book Sales & Signing
Family-Friendly Activities

ask-meMake it easy on yourself and build your schedule ahead of time so you can map out your routes and better anticipate the time needed to get from place to place. The Lower Level spans both buildings, so on your way from sessions in the North building to sessions in the South building, give yourself a long break and check out some of the great things going on down there on the Expo Floor.

Ask for help. Lost? Confused? Forlorn? You’ll see plenty of folks in light blue National Book Festival Event Staff shirts holding “Ask Me” signs. Our top-notch volunteers will have the answer to your questions or know who to ask!

Eat locally. Getting hungry during the day? You may want to hit the many concession spots available within the Convention Center (see list below). In addition, there are dozens of great dining venues close by if you head south outside the center. Just remember, if you leave the Convention Center, you’ll need to go back through screening upon your return.

Be patient. During the course of this amazing day, there may be bottlenecks, snafus and the frustrations inherent during any complex event in such a big venue. But remember, we’re all here to share our love of books and have a terrific time. Our festival staff and volunteers will do everything we can to ensure that you do. See you Sept. 24!

Food Venues within the Washington Convention Center

North Building / Level 1
Grab and Go (near Room 156), 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

South Building / Level 1, Grand Lobby
Grand Lobby Cafe, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.

South Building / Level 3
Caribbean Cove (Jamaican fare), 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

Lower Level / Concourse A
Coffee Cart (gourmet pastries, donuts): 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m.

Lower Level / Hall A
Food Show A (Big Stack deli menu), 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
CP / Candy Land Station (pretzels, hot dogs, churros), 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Faithfully Sweet Smoothies by Faith, 10 a.m.-10 p.m.

Lower Level / Hall B
Food Show B (regular menu & breakfast), 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
Nacho Cart, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
G&G Stations (PB&J sandwich, grilled cheese, tomato soup), 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
South of the Border, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Lower Level / Hall C
Bavarian Nuts, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Nacho and French Fries Cart, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Pizza Stand (pepperoni, cheese & sausage pizza), 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Faithfully Sweet Ice Cream & Smoothies, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Caribbean Cove (Jamaican fare), 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

Festival Reflections from an Author Escort

David Fernandez-Barrial has been an author escort at the National Book Festival since 2009, and worked before that representing the Copyright Office in the Library of Congress pavilion at every festival from 2003-2008. He is currently the foreign-language librarian of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. In this Q&A he shares […]