Experiencing Dragon*Con for the First Time

I recently returned from a trip to Dragon*Con, which is held annually in Atlanta, Georgia. It is held over the four days surrounding Labor Day weekend. The convention bills itself as the largest multimedia and pop-culture convention focused on science fiction, comics, gaming, art, music and film in the universe.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of Dragon*Con, but it was my first trip. After spending the weekend amongst an estimated fifty-thousand attendees, it is definitely a sight to behold. To the uninitiated, Dragon*Con could be described as a very large costume party, since the majority of the attendees were costumed as a favorite comic, movie or science fiction character. Imagine thousands of fans of Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Tron and Battlestar Gallactica as well as others in obscure costumes and you’ll get the idea. Nearly everyone else had a camera of some sort, and I fell into the latter group.

So why did I go to Dragon*Con in the first place? My 12-year old daughter is a talented artist and aspiring comic book illustrator. She has been tutored by various artists, and they all told her she should make us take her. So in October 2010, we made reservations at the Marriott Marquis Atlanta, one of the five host hotels for Dragon*Con. Rooms sell out in hours, and we were lucky to secure a reservation. We had heard the horror stories about the long registration lines, so we opted to buy our passes after arriving. It turned out to be a great bet. The pre-registered line on Friday was around two hours long. We made it through the non-registered line in less than a half hour.

Once you have your badge, you get a pocket guide, if you can call 128 pages “pocket”. The iPhone app turned out to be more useful, when you could get a cell tower. We checked out the three dealer rooms with vendors offering everything from comics and dice to T-shirts and Victorian pieces to complete your Steampunk costume. We attended the parade where hundreds of the best costumes take over Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta. We attended a few of panels from more than 30 different fan tracks. We checked out the art show where my daughter met a few of her favorite artists in person. And we barely scratched the surface that is the Dragon*Con iceberg!

What did we learn at Dragon*Con?

  • There are groups of people that spend a lot of time and money to get their costume as close to script accurate as possible. There were many impressive costumes.
  • A simple sandwich in the hotel will cost you around $9, but a short trek across the sky bridge to the Peachtree Plaza Mall leads to better food and more reasonable prices.
  • Take an empty spot on an elevator no matter which direction it’s going. If you wait until it is going the direction you need to go, you will be waiting a very long time.
  • An autograph from [insert any sci-fi actor] requires a small investment.
  • Just when you think you are a fan of [insert any sci-fi series], you will always find someone who is a bigger fan!

Will we go back? Even with thousands in attendance, most people were genuinely friendly. The hotel staff went out of their way to be helpful. And when my daughter was asked if she had a good time and wanted to go back next year, she enthusiastically responded, “most definitely!” That sums it up for me. Hope to see you there in 2012.

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