Every Labor Day Weekend for the past 32 years, Atlanta has hosted what some would call the greatest gathering of geeks and nerds this side of the Mississippi, and it goes by the name of Dragon Con. Dragon Con takes place in Downtown Atlanta and covers 5 hotels (Atlanta Hilton, Hyatt Regency, Marriott Marquis, Sheraton Atlanta and Westin) as well as 2 other buildings (AmericasMart Buildings 1 and 2).
The hotels host the panels as well as the Walk of Fame (Marriott Marquis) where meet and greets are hosted with the featured celebrity guests such as John Barrowman (Arrow and Doctor Who), Caleb McLaughlin and Gaten Matarazzo (Stranger Things), Evangeline Lily (Ant-Man and The Wasp), Christian Kane (The Librarians and Leverage), and David Sobolov (The Flash and Guardians of the Galaxy animated cartoons).
Tickets can be purchased in advance and can be customized to the days you’d like to go. There are single day tickets, multi day tickets, or 5-day tickets. The 5-day ticket, or membership, for 2019 is $95. I would recommend purchasing your tickets now because the price will go up. They also offer an ‘eternal membership’ which is a lifetime membership that costs $3,000.
AmericasMart Building 1 played host to an amazing two floors full of gaming. A gamer who loves to play free bingo that pays real money could come in and play a host of different games, from board games to video games to computer games, and all were included with your membership. AmericasMart Building 2 played host to 3 floors of wall-to-wall vendors selling everything from costumes, to artwork, to collectibles. The 4th floor housed Artist Alley when fans can meet some of the greatest comic book artists and authors such as Michael Cho, Tad Stones, and Bryan Silverbax.
To help con goers navigate their way, Dragon Con has probably one of the best apps I have used while at a con. The app not only lets you see what is going on at any given moment but also allows you to coordinate with friends to plan out your schedule in one place. You can add panels or activities to a schedule and easily see what you have planned on a given day as well as rate events/panels right on the app. Another amazing thing Dragon Con does to help attendees catch panels is actually broadcast the panels on CCTV to the main hotels via Dragon Con TV and they also broadcast locally on the CW network.
No amazing “holiday” would be complete without a parade and Dragon Con is no different. On Saturday morning, fans line the street to see their favorite character parade down the streets of Downtown Atlanta. Cool fact is that this is free to the public, so if you just want to see the parade you can. My advice is to get there early to get a spot because the area fills in fast.
Unlike most conventions that close at the end of each day, Dragon Con goes on for basically 24 hours. There are many different parties and events that go on well into the early morning hours, or if you wanted they were showing a large variety of movies all 5 days ranging from every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to 80’s classics like Goonies and Gremlins.
Another thing that sets Dragon Con apart from the rest is that Dragon Con likes to give back. They held a blood drive and raised money for donations to a local charity. This year’s charity was Literacy Action, the oldest and largest nonprofit in the southeast that provides assistance to adults such as GED prep courses, and assistance with reading, writing, math, and basic job skills. They raised money through a charity auction as well as different events throughout the weekend, and Dragon Con matches funds raised dollar for dollar up to $100,000.
This being my first time attending Dragon Con I thought I would take this time to offer a few tips that will help you in planning to attend in the future.
- Book hotels early because rooms in host hotels book a year in advance
- Plan your days to maximize your time (Use the app)
- Bring extra battery packs
- Drink lots of water
- Don’t lose your badge
If you are traveling in from out of town, I would definitely recommend staying in one of the host hotels so you will be at the center of all the action. There are sky bridges that link most of the hotels together or you can walk the streets. If you are local, I would highly recommend taking MARTA. There is a stop not far from all the action and you can save on the parking in the lots around the hotels. I did this and I paid $30 in train fares as opposed to about $100 in parking fees had I parked in the hotel lots.
Much like a trip to Disney, I will say this about Dragon Con. Don’t try to get everything done in one day. There is so much to do and see! The scope of panels/workshops range from Paranormal to Puppetry to Robotics and everything in between, to panels including actors and actresses from your favorite Marvel/DC shows to Stranger Things to Doctor Who.
The greatest thing I will take away from Dragon Con 2018 is that the employees cared for each and every guest that was there. My fellow con goers made my first experience a memorable one sharing their stories of cons past and just talking about different fandoms while killing time waiting in line.
If you are ever in the Atlanta area and are looking for 5 days of fun or even one day, then give Dragon Con a chance and you will be hooked. I have become hooked and those I talked to that have been going for years and years say they will keep coming back! The dates for next year are August 29-September 2, 2019. For more information you can check them out on their website www.dragoncon.com.
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