DragonCon is the southeast’s top event for science fiction, fantasy, gaming, and films. While the 30-year-old event receives half as many attendees as San Diego Comic-Con, there are over 70,000 people who come from all over the country every year.
It’s held over Labor Day every year and includes panels on film, television and books, a celebrity walk of fame, gaming rooms for live-action role-play, card games and video games, memorabilia sales and much more. Notable guests over the years include George R. R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and George Takei.
DragonCon is officially a membership-only convention, but membership is open to all. Membership costs $75 per year and gets you into the convention. The event takes place between five host hotels and two floors of the Americasmart building.
1. Book your hotel early. There are five host hotels where most attendees stay during DragonCon and where most of the events occur. They’re the Hyatt Regency, Westin, Marriott Marquis, Hilton and Sheraton, all located downtown. This is where you want to be, especially for late-night events and after-parties, but there are also overflow hotels nearby.
Special rates apply for conference attendees and many people post on Craigslist and other sites looking for weekend roommates. Airbnb is another option if you want more space. If you’re not staying downtown, take MARTA instead of driving, as roads will be closed and parking is hard to come by.
2. Costume up. One of the best things about DragonCon is the costumes. Most people have outfits for each day or multiple per day. Strangers will want to take your picture and pose with you, so it’s best not to have one that’s so obscure that no one will know who you are.
3. Bring the essentials: cash and comfy shoes. If you’re staying at a host hotel, you can go and crash in between sessions, but otherwise, bring anything you might need, as there’s nowhere to sit.
Treat it like a music festival, so don’t count on ATMs or cell reception. Make plans to meet up with people in advance in case you can’t text. I also recommend bringing a water bottle, snacks and a Mophie or extra phone charger.
4. Pick your track and get organized. Brit, steampunk, anime and video games are just a few of the tracks you can pick to attend. Map out what events you want to go to in advance and see which ones are conflicting.
You won’t be able to go to every single one, so choose what interests you most. Expect to wait in line for the bigger name guests. Also, plan for some downtime. Use the brochure provided, as well as the DragonCon app, television channel, and newspaper for times and locations.
5. Get out of the convention halls. While there’s a lot going on over those four days, it’s nice to get out of the hotel every now and then, especially if you’re visiting from out of town.
There are unofficial and official events outside of DragonCon, including a special exhibit at the High Museum of Art, an official outing to the Georgia Aquarium and much more. Restaurants and stores also offer discounts and deals for attendees and those in costume.
Tips for Attending DragonCon
You must pick up your own pass unless you give your friend a permission slip, a copy of their government ID and email with a barcode. They give you a plastic badge holder, but it’s a good idea to bring or buy your own lanyard, as people have been known to swipe passes from attendees and hawking them.
Don’t count on taxis for getting around town, especially catching them from downtown. Take Uber when possible and if you’re avoiding the crowds, head over to Edgewood Avenue or Midtown.
Most people eat lunch at the Peachtree Center food court, so be prepared to wait in line for just about anything. I also recommend going to Five Points for more options.
Watching the DragonCon Parade
The parade portion began in 2002 and has become a favorite of both attendees and locals. If you’re coming just for the parade, get there by 9 am at the latest if you expect to see anything.
Streets are closed by 9:30 for the parade to begin at 10 am. Bring a chair or step stool for additional comfort. It’s best to sit on the Hyatt Regency side of the street for that time of day so that the sun won’t be in your eyes.
If you have a balcony facing Peachtree Street at the Regency, you’ll have a great view, as do the people standing at the top levels of the parking decks. Kids can sit in the front and if you want to know more on bringing kids to the parade, read this post on Field Trips with Sue. Ask people for permission to take their photo as a courtesy and they’re more likely to pose for you.