This past September, I had the opportunity to attend my first Dragoncon event. Without knowing what to expect, I geared up for my first Dragoncon experience, headed down to the event and had a blast the entire time I was there. While taking in the entire experience, I jotted down some notes on what would help make things easier for people attending their first ever Dragoncon, like I did this year.
Download the Dragoncon app for your mobile device. It’s free and an easy way to keep all yourself organized while you sort your way through the chaos that is Dragoncon.
Paper schedules are available everywhere. If you’re like me, apps are nice but I prefer paper. Flipping pages seems simpler than navigating windows.
Bathrooms. There are bathrooms everywhere, but like everything at Dragoncon, there are lines. The largest bathrooms are inside the dealer rooms. They generally have no line. So if you’re willing to fight your way in then those are your best bet.
Panels. Most panels will have a line. If you want to get in to the more popular ones then you need to get there early and by early I mean WAY early. Lines were getting capped at two hours before some panels, so keep that in mind.
Celebrities. Same advice from the panels goes for the celebrities. If you want to meet the bigger stars, be prepared to wait. There is also no guarantee that you will get to meet them and you will not get your money back if you don’t.
Hygiene. Shower early, shower often. Nothing sucks worse than being shoved next to someone who has been out & about for three days and is about as ripe as a bag of fertilizer. I get your busy, but please do everyone a favor. Shower every day.
Do. Not. Try. To. Drive. Take Marta.
The population of downtown Atlanta swells by 70,000 people when Dragoncon comes to town. It swells even more on parade day. Save yourself a headache and just ride Marta into town. The cost for a round trip fare is $5 and daily parking is free. It’s a far better option than driving.
Tickets can be purchased at any of the stations. You can buy them by the trip or pick up a day pass if you’re planning to explore more. Check itsmarta.com for maps, train times etc. I would recommend purchasing your train tickets on or before that Friday. The stations are busy on Saturday and you will have a bit of a wait if you plan to do it then.
If you take Marta then you’ll need to catch either the Gold or Red lines and take them down to Peachtree Center. The station is a 3-5 minute walk from all the hotels.
For Parade Day, the route runs from the North Avenue Station all the way to Peachtree Center. You’ll want to get there early as the good spots go fast. If you get there later like I did then you can also go up. The parking garages are all open and most of them are exposed to the street below. If you’re not afraid of heights then it’s a better option than fighting the crowds for a view. You can also try hoping off at any of the stations before Peachtree Center to see if it will be less crowded. If you don’t buy a daily pass then you will need to purchase an additional trip if you plan on riding down to the con after the parade is over.
Before I went I packed myself a little survival kit. I knew I would need more than my badge, a map and my phone. My kit turned out to be super handy without being terribly cumbersome. It all fit in a small string bag that went everywhere I did.
My Survival Kit:
Sunglasses, Sunscreen and a hat. You’ll need all of them, especially on parade day. If you decide to sit along the curb for the parade then be prepared to bake a little. While most people enjoy getting a tan, no one likes to get burned. Do yourself a favor and at least take the sunscreen. You’ll be happy you did.
Water. I repeat. Take. Water. In between the lovely September weather and the copious amounts of walking you’ll do, you’ll want to consider taking water around with you. Dehydration is never fun.
If you want to prevent your bottle from sweating in your bag then wrap it in a dish or hotel hand towel before go. Then you also have a towel if you need it.
Snack foods. They’re light, small and came in handy when I needed a quick bite to eat.
Food and Drink are plentiful downtown, but it will be expensive. Food prices in most restaurants range anywhere from $10 – $20. There is fast food available in the mall, but they are not open late. There are also expanded wait times and lines for food due to the amount of people around. If you don’t have the time to wait, then this is your best bet.
Portable Charger. Do yourself a favor and pick up a portable charger. Trust me, it’s worth it. They range anywhere between $20 to $80 and work on all devices. I picked one up for about $30 and it worked like a charm. It put a full charge on my phone with some juice leftover. Make sure to check the directions on it when you go to charge it for the first time. Mine takes about four hours to get a full charge, so it’s best charge these overnight. If you plan on staying out late then it may be best to have more than one or getting one of the larger models. The larger the charger, the more charges you get from it. The larger chargers also allow for multiple devices to be charged at one time. That can come in handy if someone is in dire straits. Speaking of dire straits, don’t forget to take your device’s charging cable with you. They are available for purchase downtown, but only during the normal hours of operation. Keep that in mind if you’re planning to stay out late.
An extra bag. This seems silly, but if you plan on doing some shopping in the dealer room then I would strongly recommend it. Most dealers do have plastic bags, but if you plan on making multiple purchases then it may be easier to bring your own. Another option is to head to the We Love Fine booth. They have giant bags that they give you when you by something. They’re perfect for hauling around any and everything you want.
Deodorant. For me this is a personal thing. Nothing sucks worse than when your deodorant quits working. Especially when it’s hot both outside and inside. You don’t have to do it, but I’m sure your new con friends would appreciate a touch up when things go south.
For the ladies, extra supplies. Oh the joy of womanhood and that constant fear that your monthly friend will show up at the most awkward moment. This is another you don’t have to have thing, but it never hurts to have it. Worse case you throw it back in the box after the con.
The Dealer Room
I loved and hated this place all at once. I went twice. Once right after the parade on Saturday and then again Sunday morning. My advice to you is do not go after the parade. It is super packed. If you want to hit the dealer room on Saturday then do it during the parade. Otherwise be prepared to become best friends with several thousand people as they try to push their way through along with you. Other good times to go are Friday at the start of the con & Sunday Morning. Most people are still coming into town on Friday, so it’s not as crowded. Most people are still hungover Sunday so again, a great time to go.
If you go, take plenty money. Aside from the tickets to the actual con and the walk of fame, the dealer room is the most expensive thing about Dragoncon. It has plenty of items to tempt you, but none of them are cheap. Keep that in mind.
Hopefully this guide will help make your Dragoncon experience that much easier to navigate, whether it is your first time ever going to the event or if you have been to the event before and need some helpful tips for the future.