In a week, cosplayers, convention-goers and thousands of science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts from all over the United States will be converging on downtown Atlanta for the 31st annual Dragon Con.
The convention, which has scheduled events from Aug. 31 until Sept. 4, attracts people with various interests and fans of TV shows, movies, gaming and more. Actors, artists, writers, filmmakers and other celebrities are attending the convention this year and participating in various panels.
This year, Dragon Con will be hosted at five Atlanta hotels: Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Hilton Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Sheraton Atlanta Hotel and Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel.
Whether you’re an annual attendee or a first-time participant, Dragon Con has the potential to make cherished memories. You just need to plan properly.
Here are some practical tips you can use to make the most of your Dragon Con experience.
Plan Your Arrival
If you haven’t booked a hotel in the area, it’s important to know where you’re going to park. Rachael Eidson, a student at Kennesaw State University, started attending Dragon Con when she was in middle school. She suggests finding a way to get dropped off at the convention by friends, family members or taxi services instead of driving.
“Sometimes you forget where you park, (and) it makes the experience more stressful,” she said.
Also, parking can be expensive. Visitors can reserve spaces at one of Dragon Con’s parking decks through a service called Parking Panda. Parking information can be found on the convention’s website here.
Another option is to take MARTA.
“MARTA drops you off in the Peachtree Center Station, which is just a block away from the Hyatt Regency and a great place to start your Dragon Con adventure,” media relations director Dan Carroll said.
Know What’s On The Schedule
Eidson says it’s important to plan your day and know which sessions you want to attend so that you can find a seat. She recommends making a list of the panels you want to attend and going early because the more popular the panel, the more crowded it is going to be.
“Our guest list is one of the strongest we’ve ever had — including guests from ‘Doctor Who,’” Carroll said.
The list also includes Atlanta’s own Food Network star Alton Brown, actor and filmmaker John Cusack and actor Wallace Shawn.
“It’s really important to have a good schedule, or you’re gonna end up wasting the day and then realizing, ‘Oh, I missed all these things,’” Eidson said.
Use The App To Help Plan Your Day
Dragon Con offers a free app that provides information to help you navigate the host hotels and keep up with the schedule. The update for the 2017 convention should be available soon, Carroll said.
Eidson said the app has been very helpful.
You don’t want to get weighed down carrying too much throughout the day, but you need to come prepared.
Eidson recommends bringing a phone charger or a portable charger, a water bottle and cash just in case you are not able to use your credit or debit cards.
Eidson also recommends bringing a bag to store all the items you accumulate as you shop from the many vendors available at Dragon Con.
“During my first few trips, I didn’t expect that,” she said. “You get kinda stuck carrying all this stuff.”
Think About Where You Want To Eat
The hotels have their own catering options throughout the day, and there’s also a food court inside Peachtree Center and another in the SunTrust building, but that will not be open Saturday and Sunday.
You can also check out the restaurants in the area including a new Waffle House, Benihana and Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken.
Eidson says she has eaten at Hard Rock Café in the past, and the waiters have cosplayed as well.
If you choose to eat at the food court, Eidson warns to not go when you’re starving because it gets extremely crowded.
If You Get Lost, Don’t Fret
“Every (host) hotel and the AmericasMart has an information booth,” Carroll said. “We have volunteers who have been trained in what’s going on at Dragon Con who can help (you) find where (you’re) going.”
If all else fails, refer to the Dragon Con app or check out the website, dragoncon.org.
Always travel with a friend, Eidson said. Don’t go alone.
Dragon Con has programming throughout the day and parties during the night.
“During the daytime, I definitely feel a lot safer,” Eidson said. “(At) nighttime, parties go on, people are drunk, and sometimes people on the street are wandering around.”
Eidson said to apply the same rules you would abide by if you were going to a bar. Stay with your friends, and watch what you drink. If you don’t feel safe walking to your car, ask Dragon Con security to walk you out.
Finally, Feel Free To Bring Your Whole Family
This year, Dragon Con is expecting around 82,000 visitors, Carroll said. There’s a diversity of events going on for attendees young and old. One of those events is a televised parade Saturday, Sept. 2.
“There’s no charge for the parade,” Carroll said. “It’s Dragon Con’s gift back to the community.”
One of the events kids can enjoy is a track called “Kaleidoscope,” which includes Disney-themed panels, writing workshops, trivia and other activities.
“One of the things we’re proud of is that we’re able to accommodate such a wide range of guests,” Carroll said.