There are a lot of conventions out there for comic book geeks, video gamers, costumers, anime fans, and such. In fact it seems like there are more and more every year. This year it was possible, if you are willing to travel around the country, to attend a convention of some kind every single weekend, sometimes more than one in the same weekend.
All of these conventions have certain things in common. They start at 3 o’clock on a Friday afternoon, give or take, closing around 6 PM, Opening again Saturday and Sunday mornings at maybe 10 AM until five or 6 PM in the evening each day. There are “Artists Alley’s”, vendors rooms, probably some ballrooms with various panels, Sometimes featuring celebrities, Photo and autograph opportunities and maybe a costume contest. They all share the same flaw however. They all start at the time they start and end at the time. Once the con is over your left your own devices, many times in some Podunk town or suburb of a major city with little or nothing to do involving the convention and its activities.
Not Dragon Con.
Dragon Con is a 96 hour long, nonstop costume party. Yes it is a convention with all of those features I mentioned above and so, so, much more, but it runs 24 hours a day for four days and four nights. Five if you consider that many people start the party early on Thursday during the check in period. You see, where most conventions take place in one hotel, maybe in the convention center if it’s a bigger one, Dragon Con takes place in, around, between, and across 4+ hotels in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. You will see costumes at this convention that people have, in some cases, works multiple years to get ready just to walk across the lobby of the Marriott Marquis and be seen. You will see works of costume art unparalleled in your entire life experience. There is simply no other convention anywhere in the world that can match the breadth, depth, variety, and sheer mass of costumes you will encounter. If there is something that someone, somewhere, somewhen is a fan of you WILL see a costume of it. Steampunk/furry/HALO? LOOK, There is a group of them right over there! Mr. Rogers’ Rubber Bondage Fantasy? Yup, right over there. There was even a couple of really brilliant guys last year that were in camouflage of the Marriott Marquis carpet. Prepare to be amazed.
People start checking in as early as Wednesday but by Thursday morning you’ll have people wandering the lobbies of the Marriott Marquis, Hyatt Regency and Hilton Hotels in costumes of all sorts and making their way over to the share Sheraton Hotel around the corner to get their badges. By midday on Thursday the trickle has turned into a deluge and you will have tens of thousands of people wandering the halls of the three main hotels, back and forth Sheraton Hotel, And to many of the other hotels in the Atlanta City Center. In fact you cannot get a hotel room anywhere in a 20-block radius on Labor Day weekend unless you have made the reservations well in advance.
I could write 30 pages describing the wonder that is Dragon Con and still barely even scratch the surface of everything you can see, experience, and do there. So I’m just going to give you some basic survival guide tips for a first-timer making their pilgrimage to the beautiful madness that is Dragon Con.
In general, it’s always best to start with the basics.
The 6/2/1 Rule: EVERYONE should get A minimum of six hours of sleep, two full meals, and at least one hot shower for every 24 hours they are at Con. The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in to the Marriott Marquis lobby by midafternoon Thursday will be the smell. The stench of humanity will be your constant companion at all times. Elevators will be a particular…experience. So don’t make it worse and SHOWER! As often as you can! Your more than likely going to learn about con-crud first hand, but taking supplements, a reasonable amount of sleep, and some basic sanitary steps can help minimize that. USE HAND SANITIZER!
So now, having addressed the basic rules, here are some more specific things to know and remember for Dragon Con…
Remember to eat. Because the Con is going around the clock, people forget to eat. To quote one friend, “I have, without exaggeration, caught somebody in a faint every year I’ve attended. The combination of heat and tiredness probably have a lot to do with that, but 4 times out of 5 it’s been that they haven’t eaten. The con suite is your friend.”
Let yourself be a fan! Be yourself (provided you’re not an ass) and embrace your fandom(s). Let the repressed inner fan out. You will be surrounded by thousands of people who not only know what your talking about, but probably will know more about it than you. Drink it up.
Be respectful of others. Be respectful of all of your fellow Con-goers, at all times. Con Etiquette is important! This means making room for disabled or elderly persons on elevators and escalators, being polite (or saying nothing at all!) to costumers (Cosplayers) about their costumes, not impeding the flow of traffic (especially near main traffic points like escalators), stopping to take pics with little kids if you’re in cosplay, and generally being a good person. Just because a guy or a girl is dressed in a very revealing costume, that is not consent for you to grab them, molest them, disrespect them, or make inappropriate suggestions to them. At Dragon Con, more than any other con, if you make mistake of grabbing some persons ass because they’re dressed in a sexy costume you are likely to face swift, and sometimes brutal, justice at the hands of your fellow con-goers. After which you will be hauled away by Atlanta’s Finest. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Just don’t be a dick.
Be prepared to hurry up and wait. Always give yourself a minimum of 30 minutes travel time if moving from hotel to hotel. They are pretty close together, and the three main hotels are all connected by sky walkways, but between the crowds and the cramped conditions, it easily takes that long to change venues. And that leads to the next one…
You WILL miss something. Accept it. There’s way too much awesomeness scheduled in the 4-day window. At any given time, there are at least 4 things you’d like to be doing. Depending on your level of need for scheduling, make room for flexibility. It’s very likely that, on your way to your next scheduled thing, something shiny will catch your attention. Take time for the shiny. Always. And if it is something that is important enough to you, get there plenty early. The best panels fill up really fast and even the largest rooms are not all that large. There is no “Hall H” here!
USE THE APP! The Programing can be confusing if you do not know how to read it. Each track has its own programming schedule. Do you like Dr. Who? Then look at Brit track. Star Trek? Trek Track. Like Anime? Animation Track. You have like 20 (or more?) subjects all wrapped up in one giant show that is Dragon Con. Using the Phone App Will help you to schedule things that you want to attend and see how various things overlap, as well as showing you where they are with pretty decent maps built right into the app.
Don’t count on using your cell phone. Cell reception inside the host hotels is famously spotty, at best, and especially so during Dragon Con. What little Wi-Fi there may be is massively overtaxed. If you want to meet up with your friends, create some prearranged meet up spots/ times to check in with each other, because you probably won’t be able to reach them by phone.
Dragon con staffers are your friends, use the services available. From a friend on the staff, ”We (as staff) want to make the con super awesome for you. If anyone or anything is not making it awesome we will do our best to fix it. (Especially use Disability Services because some people are too proud to get the help they need or they do not do the research to know it is there)”
See the Vendors building! You read that correctly. The vendors are in their entire own building, two whole floors of amazing and cool stuff. Make sure you do a full walk-through of ALL vendor areas at least ONCE before making a single purchase. Otherwise, you’ll spend your money on something you thought was totally awesome just to find the same thing for less elsewhere or something even more awesome a few booths down and not be able to get it. That is the worst!
Don’t be afraid to ask for pictures, just be polite about it. If someone says no, it’s probably because they’re trying to get somewhere and everyone has been asking them for pictures for the last 45 minutes/ 25 feet. Be aware of when and where some of the big group photo shoots are happening. You may be able to get some great pictures at those but you might also not as some of them the photography is strictly controlled. Always ask first.
Don’t forget to have fun! With everything going on it is really easy to lose sight that you are at this huge party. Make time to sit and people watch people in their amazing costumes. You can sit in one spot for an hour and be completely entertained by the sheer number of amazing costumes that will pass you by.
There are so many other things I could tell you. So many other ideas, suggestions, recommendations, etc. Suffice to say that Dragon Con is truly something that must be experienced firsthand to be believed. There are a lot of Cons I want to attend at least once, however Dragon Con is the only one that I absolutely must go to every year. And once you have gone you will understand why.
If you have any questions, suggestions, or requests you can contact me at https://www.facebook.com/UsedFutureWorkshop
And coming in September http://www.usedfutureworkshop.com