Skip to main content

Holiday Matsuri 2023 Review

Enter Holiday Matsuri, Central Florida otaku’s beloved holiday tradition where anime fandom meets Christmas aesthetics. The 2023 showcase, held at the World Marriot Center, bid a bittersweet farewell to the venue, yet the air was thick with the warmth of family, excitement, and joy. The convention seamlessly merged holiday cheer with the vibrant energy of anime culture, offering a unique and memorable experience that only Holiday Matsuri can do.

Despite the various obstacles Holiday Matsuri as a convention and their staff had to face such as mid-week dates, those dates' proximity to Christmas, and some safety concerns, the BN’K team and I (Blaque N’ Kulture) genuinely believe that HolMat (Holiday Matsuri) managed to pull off a pretty stellar showcase.

Attendee Experience


Let’s begin by discussing HolMat’s attendee experience. Regarding accessibility, this event showcased commendable efforts in prioritizing accessibility, setting an example for other conventions to follow suit. Notably, the inclusion of stickers for attendees with diverse disabilities, including epilepsy, is a commendable initiative. Ample space for those utilizing mobility aids like wheelchairs and walkers was made available across the event and the incorporation of seating options accessible to all shows the convention's commitment to fostering inclusivity.

Inclusivity & Diversity

This show exemplified a commitment to inclusivity, featuring panels led by individuals dedicated to highlighting diversity within the cosplay and otaku community. Additionally, panels led by hosts like Yaya Han and Panterona Cosplay were engaging and exciting to witness. I especially enjoyed the panel hosted by Quil of Hooligans in Cosplay, WorkingWndrz, NathyCosplays, and DoodleRobCospalys which discussed themes of equality and comfortability in fandom spaces.

The diverse lineup of guests, including Danny Chambers, Dante Basco, Dresses & Capes, Karan Ashley, and many others, further underscored the event's dedication to representation. Attending this convention provided a refreshing experience where visibility and prioritization of diverse voices were evident.

Staff Experience

The staff at the event demonstrated exceptional kindness and respect, enhancing my overall experience. Staff was easily identifiable amongst the crowned donning bright-colored shirts in yellow, red, and blue, making them stand out against the vibrant and colorful attendees. Furthermore, the staff's improved knowledge of event logistics, a notable improvement from prior years, contributed to a smoother and more enjoyable experience. A particular standout was Josh (Hi Josh), who went above and beyond to assist me during a moment of stress. When my friend got lost, Josh swiftly intervened, helping me remain calm, locate my friend, and offered valuable advice to ease her panic. He also directed me to additional resources, such as water and seating areas. Despite a few issues that I'll address later in this review, these interactions left me feeling genuinely cared for. 

Attendee Navigation

Having attended Holiday Matsuri multiple times, I consider myself a seasoned veteran familiar with the World Marriot layout. However, it's essential to note that this year saw a few location changes, which were effectively addressed through the provided map. The alterations, while minor, did require a bit of adjustment for returning attendees. The map and staff assistance, played a big role in navigating these changes, ensuring that even seasoned participants like myself could quickly and easily find where they wanted to go.

Activities and Events

The event offered a diverse array of activities from daytime well into the evening (2 am every night to be exact), ranging from guest panels to main events and attendee-hosted panels. Personally, however, I found that there weren't an overwhelming number of panels that aligned with my specific interests. It's worth noting that preferences vary, and what may not have resonated with me exponentially interested others within my team. They discovered and engaged in numerous activities and panels that resonated with their tastes, resulting in a thoroughly enjoyable experience for them. 

I want to include this because I understood this was off-putting to a few individuals I chatted with throughout the event and a few individuals on the BN’K team. Paid panels are not uncommon in the pop-culture events space. It’s not a popular choice for panelists as many don’t feel it’s appropriate to charge for their panel depending on the subject, however, I believe that paid panels are perfectly fine to have at cons as long as the subject matter of the panel is accurate. 

An example of this was Panterona Cosplay’s panel Making Foam Elf Ears. Panterona Cosplay is an experienced and talented craftswoman who deserves to be adequately accommodated for her expertise if she decides to charge, and that goes for all of the amazing individuals in the Cosplay Academy and beyond. If as a panelist you have a skill or unique thing you are imparting to others, it’s okay to charge for that. 

The diversity in programming catered to a broad audience, acknowledging that individual preferences can greatly influence the perception of the event. Everything isn’t for everyone and Holmat not only acknowledged this but made it so in their programming to accommodate different attendees.

Food Accessibility

Holiday Matsuri has effectively addressed the issue of food accessibility, setting a high standard for other conventions. The strategic placement of food trucks along the central hallway ensures that attendees, regardless of their location within the venue, have convenient access to diverse and most importantly, tasty and flavorful cuisine options. Standouts from the weekend were a Philly cheesesteak truck, a grilled sandwich truck, and their coffee food truck. Additionally, the Marriot complemented this setup with a cantina station located near the pool and arcade, providing alternative dining choices. This thoughtful approach to food distribution not only caters to the diverse tastes of attendees but also minimizes the inconvenience of searching for sustenance during the event. 


Considering the scale and offerings of Holiday Matsuri, the ticket pricing appears reasonable for the overall experience. The convention provides various discount opportunities based on the timing of ticket purchases, offering flexibility to attendees. Ticket prices incrementally increased, starting at $80 six months prior, and reaching $120 at the door. Additionally, VIP tickets were available for $250. The convention also offers lifetime passes, although the current pricing details were not available at the time of writing. This tiered pricing structure caters to different budget ranges, ensuring accessibility for a broad spectrum of attendees. 

Additionally, I will add that while $80 -$120 for the event is fair pricing, it still can be out of the budget for many attendees. For this fact, I encourage individuals interested in attending HolMat in the future but have a limited budget to attend to look into options such as volunteering, or becoming staff. Not only is it a fantastic way to support a convention, but it's a unique way to experience the convention.

Convention Logistics

Navigation Logistics

Holiday Matsuri deserves commendation for its consistent and commendable efforts in providing effective navigational tools for attendees. The large mural and wall-size signs strategically placed throughout the venue are not only legible even in crowded spaces but also vibrant and easy to identify, featuring HolMat's signature white and green color scheme. The convention's app, frequently updated during the event, serves as a comprehensive guide, covering all aspects from events and panels to guests, vendors, and artists. The inclusion of push notifications to keep attendees informed is a valuable improvement over previous years.

While the app is a valuable resource, some constructive feedback includes the suggestion to highlight 18+ events, guest panels, and paid events in a distinct color for enhanced clarity. Additionally, Holiday Matsuri's convention handbooks and quick guides are wonderful. These guides not only serve as informative resources but also make for delightful keepsakes of the event. The quick guide, especially when used alongside the handbook, provides an easily accessible means of keeping track of events, even in situations where a phone may not be readily available. In the realm of navigation tools, Holiday Matsuri stands out as one of the best conventions in ensuring attendees have a seamless and enjoyable experience.

Scheduling for Evening Events

While I've previously touched on Holiday Matsuri's scheduling from an attendee's perspective, a critical evaluation of the logistical aspects reveals certain shortcomings, particularly in the realm of evening events, which traditionally draw a significant crowd at HolMat. This year, due to issues with the Marriot and date changes, the convention shifted to the week of Christmas, specifically Wednesday to Friday. Although this initially posed a challenge, my past positive experiences with HolMat kept me optimistic.

However, my main concern centers around the stacking of major events each night. On Wednesday, pivotal attractions like "Hottest Men in Anime," the "Cosplay Deviants 18+ Contest," and the "Tiny Waves Cosrave" all coincided. A staggered start time or spreading these events throughout the convention would have enhanced the overall experience. On Thursday, there seemed to be a dearth of events, leading to a noticeable gathering of attendees in the lobby, suggesting a lack of interest. This could be attributed to music similarity across all large events and the main shows get packed out very quickly. To address this, HolMat could amplify events like the “Benefit Ball”, karaoke in the game room, and “Cosplay Coture Gala”, diversify evening events such as providing hip-hop or j-pop/j-rock themed musical events, promote lesser-known but intriguing activities like “DJ-Jo's Anime Lofi Experience”, and create social spaces for those seeking a quieter atmosphere.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the events I attended, there is room for improvement in HolMat's after-hours and evening programming.

Event Management & Communication

Holiday Matsuri demonstrated commendable efforts in event management and communication. Their active engagement on social media platforms before, during, and after the event contributed to keeping attendees informed. The presence of knowledgeable staff was generally sufficient, assisting when needed. While there was a minor hiccup with the retrieval of my press badge during pre-registration, I acknowledge that the overall pre-registration badge pick-up process changed this year. Some communication about these alterations would have been appreciated. Nevertheless, despite this small inconvenience, obtaining badges was notably more organized and straightforward compared to many large conventions I've attended over the years.

Crowd Management & Safety

Based on my experience, Holiday Matsuri implemented effective crowd-management strategies. The event was sufficiently staffed, with people stationed at key checkpoints for badge checks, including archways, entrances to the vendor hall, and artist alley. The staff demonstrated attentiveness to attendees' well-being, checking in on individuals who seemed in need of assistance. They also had clear bag policies and bag checks at after-dark events. The presence of local law enforcement and hotel staff contributed to a heightened sense of security, though it is acknowledged that their credit is primarily attributed to the hotel rather than the convention organizers. Nevertheless, the combined efforts of the hotel and HolMat staff created a secure environment for attendees, making it one of the most secure Holiday Matsuri events you've attended.

I did want to take time to discuss a situation involving a suspected mass roofie incident. Now to be frank and transparent, I cannot speak to the experiences of individuals who say that they or someone they attended with was roofied. There were various accounts of individuals stating that they or someone they knew was roofied and all I can say to that is that I wish each one a speedy and full recovery and I am deeply sorry that anyone experienced such a frightening life experience at a convention.  With that being said, what I can say is that I did see some peculiar activity that was new to me at this event. My team and I did physically see someone get assistance from paramedics, hotel staff, and police who were inebriated, however, neither I nor my team have specific insight from anyone who attended who we know for certain was affected by roofie. 

Additionally, there was a claim that the water jugs used to provide water to con attendees were contaminated. This I feel confident in saying is most likely false. One reason is that my team and I drank from the majority of the water jugs over the three days, multiple times each day. Secondly, to contaminate said jugs, you would either have to completely remove the jug from the dispensing base or insert something into the jug with some kind of puncture tool, and there would be no way to do that without someone noticing, as not only staff, but attendees were consistently by these water dispensers for the entirety of the event, especially at evening events. Not to say that such actions are impossible, just highly unlikely. 

I will conclude by saying I think, Holiday Matsuri didn’t have the best initial response to the serious claims, however, I think they did do a great job of following up with the community at large and providing updates when possible about coordinating with local PD and the hotel to address the claims. 

Venue and Accommodations

Hotel Staff and Security

Marriot Staff was very kind from what I gathered. It did feel like this year staff was very apprehensive about something the entirety of the convention. This could be attributed to general safety concerns, the mass roofie speculation, or some other third thing I am unaware of. Despite this, the staff played a mostly silent background role, allowing Holiday Matsuri staff and local law enforcement to directly engage with attendees for the majority of the event.

Speaking of local PD, I want to talk about the increased police presence. Now I am aware in prior years HolMat attendees have caused some issues for Marriott regarding reckless behavior and overall being pretty noisy, especially in the evening. Personally, as Blaque N’ Kulture, I felt uncomfortable with the heightened police presence, influenced by my lived experience as a black woman in the United States. Seeing the police actively patrolling the halls made me rather apprehensive, and while I initially anticipated a significant event prompting police intervention, their presence mainly served as a deterrent. Additionally, the primary density of their presence was near the hotel side of the Marriot; that combined with the hotel staff’s presence gave me an anxious and uneasy feeling throughout the weekend. However, the interactions I had with the police were generally courteous and polite, with their role primarily focused on security. Given the move to a new venue in 2024, I would have suggested that Holmat consider investing in a private security company like CEOtaku. However, the logistics of this idea may need reevaluation in light of the venue change.

Room Accommodation

This year's room accommodation with the Marriott presented some challenges. In past years, booking a room allowed for flexibility in choosing the duration of stay with reasonable rates, and the room cost was charged on the checkout date. However, this year marked a departure from that system, and it served as my second indication, alongside the date changes, hinting at a potential venue move for Holiday Matsuri.

The changes included the Marriott requiring deposits equivalent to the first night's room stay when booking, higher room costs based on my team's experience, a 3-day minimum stay requirement, and a mandatory prepayment at check-in. While this might not have been too disconcerting for first-year attendees, as a veteran, it was notably frustrating. Despite these challenges, our stay in the room itself was relatively relaxed, with the hotel accommodating additional requests promptly, which is standard service expected from the World Marriott. While the booking process was notably irksome, the stay itself was pretty standard overall.


When it comes to parking options for non-Marriott guests, there were three choices available at various surrounding hotels. The Green Lot and Red Lot both charged $25 per day or $55 for all three days, offering standard parking services. Meanwhile, the Blue Lot was designated for ADA parking only, priced at $15 per day. All lots were without in/out privileges.

For Marriott guests, parking was restricted to one vehicle per room, offered at a discounted rate of $12.66 per day. Parking passes were conveniently issued at the garage and charged to the room, providing the added convenience of in and out privileges. In summary, the parking arrangements for Holiday Matsuri were in line with typical event and convention standards, offering various options to accommodate attendees based on their needs and preferences.

Con Ratings and Final Overview

Here are Some Highlights from the Weekend: 

  • The photo room at Holiday Matsuri not only boasted reasonable prices but was also manned by an exceptionally friendly and helpful staff. 

  • Yaya Han's costume walk emerged as a standout event, leaving a lasting impression on the convention's ambiance and reinforcing the wonderful experience it aimed to deliver.

  • The extended operating hours, with the convention staying open until 2 am daily and the game room until midnight, were appreciated. However, we’d love to see the game room's duration extend with the main convention hours.

  • DJ-jo's Lofi Listening Panel proved to be a unique and truly special experience and really hope to see something similar next year.

  • The karaoke in the game room stood out as a delightful highlight, offering an entertaining activity for convention-goers. 

  • It was a pleasure seeing Jai-Alai Heroes: ThrowBack in the game room.

  • The Itasha Car showcase is always a treat, although I would've loved some kind of interactive element here other than just getting to see the cars.

  • Meeting the V-tube guests provided a cool and personal touch, fostering a connection between the guests and attendees. Guest booking overall was spectacular at Holmat this year.

  • The costume contest has been a consistent highlight for Holiday Matsuri and this year was no different, a truly top-tier showcase.

  • The Table Top Room, hosted by Haven Games and QuestCon, emerged as a fantastic space for tabletop gaming enthusiasts, diversifying the convention's offerings. 

Places of Opportunity

Here are some places of opportunity from the weekend: 

The schedule for Holiday Matsuri should ideally be released two weeks before the event. This allows attendees to plan their schedules beforehand and increases the overall anticipation and preparedness for the convention.

It would be beneficial to send general instructions to panelists regarding the setup and utilization of the panel room. Some panels experienced technical issues, as seen in Dj-Jo's panel where he faced difficulties getting both screens for visuals to work. Clear instructions beforehand could contribute to smoother and more professional presentations.

Introducing a public quiet room would be a valuable addition to the convention. Such a space could serve as a retreat for attendees seeking a quiet environment, providing a welcomed contrast to the energetic and bustling atmosphere of the convention.

An additional improvement could be the inclusion of a "happening now" page on HolMat's social media platforms for their events. This feature would offer real-time updates on ongoing events, helping attendees stay informed about the latest happenings and making it easier to navigate the diverse offerings of the convention.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Reflecting on my experience during Holiday Matsuri's 2023 showcase, my overall feelings lean towards a positive outlook with a recognition of both strengths and areas for improvement. The event had notable highlights, maintaining an overall stellar experience despite encountering some hiccups and areas that could be refined. The resilience displayed by HolMat in managing challenges is quite commendable and speaks to its commitment to delivering a memorable event.

While there were concerns expressed about certain aspects, particularly safety, scheduling, and logistical changes, the organizers and staff showcased their ability to adapt and ensure the success of the convention. The prospect of a new location for the 2024 showcase introduces some anticipation and slight apprehension from the team, but I feel that’s a natural response to the upcoming change.

Looking ahead, we’re quite optimistic and have a genuine expectation of improvement and growth for Holiday Matsuri. I’m expecting a banger comeback in the new venue.

Final Rating and Should You Attend 

Now, let's tackle the million-dollar questions: what's the verdict on the event, and is it worth your time? Well, our collective rating as a team stands at a solid 7.5 out of 10, a score we believe resonates well with the overall experience. Now, onto the crucial decision – should you make an appearance? Without a doubt! Holiday Matsuri is a rare gem, a holiday extravaganza that HolMat pulls off like no other. The holiday convention game is truly their playground. So, mark your calendars, follow Holiday Matsuri on all their social platforms, and stay in the loop for the grand reveal of dates for their 2024 showcase. You won't want to miss the festive fun they've got up their sleeves.


Popular posts from this blog

Cafe Peko Peko: Where Fun Meets Chaos in the Most Delightful Way!

Cafe Peko Peko is not your ordinary maid cafe; it's an exhilarating journey into a world of hilarity and excitement, all while keeping the fun factor cranked up to eleven. It’s a gem in the world of themed cafes, and it offers a truly exceptional and unforgettable experience. As someone who's had the pleasure of experiencing this remarkable establishment, I can't help but gush about the unforgettable time I had. During the CEOtaku showcase, Cafe Peko Peko truly outdid themselves by providing an extraordinary experience that left everyone in awe. Their ability to keep cafe attendees engaged was truly off the charts. The adorable performances and engaging activities, such as the icebreaker games and the ice cream scoop board game, had us all in stitches and on the edge of our seats. It was clear that the cafe's staff had honed their skills to perfection, ensuring that every guest had an absolute blast. Also, Cafe Peko Peko served some of the most scrumptious macarons we&#

MetroCon 2023 Review

 As Orlando, Florida locals, the BN'K team has seen their fair share of nerd and otaku-themed events. From local favorites like MegaCon to local legends like the Anime Festival of Orlando, the team has captured and experienced various events in the Orlando and central Florida area. However, the BN'K team agrees that one of the best convention experiences we've had was at MetroCon in Tampa, Florida. With its wonderful balance of activities, interesting interactions, great shopping deals, and atmosphere, we think MetroCon is a solid convention to attend. Check out our full review below to get the full scope of the convention. Honest Critiques A BN'K press pass We here at BN'K value transparency, so we do have a few critiques about the event. However, to be totally honest these critiques aren't detractors from the event, just places of opportunity for the event to improve. We think the most important critique we can provide would be on schedule accessibility. It

CEOtaku 2023 Review

In September 2023, the BN’K on Tour Team took to our very first fighting game convention. Our amazing lead photographer took the lead on this endeavor as they are super locked into the local FGC (Fighting Game Community)  here in Orlando. With his excitement and the team’s eagerness, we embarked on what would be one of the most fun, comfortable, and truly exciting convention experiences we’ve had in the Central, Florida area. CEOtaku is an anime fighting game convention like no other, and I can't express enough how much we adored this event. This convention is a mecca for anime fighting game enthusiasts and competitors alike, and it absolutely delivered an extraordinary experience this year. If you're into the thrilling world of anime fighting games, CEOtaku is the place to be. Honest Critiques and Suggestions We here at BN'K on Tour value transparency, so we do have a few critiques about the event. However, to be totally honest these critiques aren't detractors from th