This past weekend, Labor Day, I attended Dragon Con. For those who don’t know, this is a HUGE sci-fi/fantasy, gaming, film, anime, writing/books, celebs, type of conference and more. While many think of it as a Star Trek convention continuation, it has morphed into much more over the years. This year was the 30th year, and the crowds grow with every passing year.
This year’s crowds were estimated at 65,000 – 70,000 people. Spread across 5 downtown Atlanta hotels: The Marriott, The Hilton, The Hyatt, The Sheraton, and the Westin. Along with the 2 Americas Mart buildings for vendors and other activities.
My first DragonCon 2 years ago was not great. I didn’t know how to navigate panels, didn’t know how to navigate the crowds, etc. This being my 2nd year and I was on 2 panels, I had a better idea of what to do and what to avoid. So here you go! My tips…
Elaine’s Survival Tips…
- HOTELS: Getting a room at one of the 5 main hotels is difficult; they sell out for the next year immediately following the current year conference. If you do get one, you’ll be paying a hefty fee (like $250-$350 per night, plus $30/day parking).
PRO of main hotels = you’re in the center of all the action, no need to drive.
CON of main hotels = long elevator waits, large crowds, noise all night.
TIP: Remember there are hotels up and down the public transit (MARTA) train line. I stayed at a Fairfield Inn ($80/nt) with free parking, free breakfast, and free wi-fi. This was IDEAL for my introverted, don’t-like-crowds self. I was 1 block away from a MARTA station and a 20-minute train ride from DragonCon.
- BADGE: If you can do it, I’d recommend going down to the Sheraton on Thursday, the day before DragonCon starts, to pick up your badge. The lines are worse on the actual conference days, and it’s worth the trip to get your badge early.
- PANELS: The DragonCon book guide states that all lines to get into panels will not begin until 1 hour prior to the actual panel start time. THEY LIE. Apparently the statement is in the literature to please the fire marshall. ALL panels form lines way ahead of time. This year, I was finally able to get into the Firefly panel I wanted to see by showing up 90 minutes early. Even at that point, I was the last person waiting “indoors” before the line began to form outside & around the block & into the parking garage.
TIP: Figure out which panels you must see, and show up 90-120 minutes early. Most people in line are really nice, you can chat & keep occupied until the room opens. Some panels are worth waiting in line for, others are not. Figure out which ones you’re willing to do the long wait on. Popular ones include Firefly, Star Trek, William Shatner, etc.
- HYDRATE: Bring some bottled waters with you. Yes, you can find them in the hotels but the lines at vendors are long and you want something you can easily hydrate yourself with if you’re in a hurry. Same thing goes for snacks. Protein bars, granola, etc.
- SATURDAY: The conference runs Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday. By far, Saturday is the most crowded and popular day. While many people come all 4-days and get a pass, there are locals in Atlanta who come down just for the day – and that day is Saturday. There’s the parade, costume contests, etc.
TIP: If you do not like crowds, avoid the Marriott – esp on Saturday! The Marriott is the “center” hotel where all costuming, celebrities, photo ops, etc. takes place. The layout is confined and it is crowded to navigate through unless you need to be there for some reason. I learned this from my first experience and it made this year much better!
- BACKUP PLANS: Have a back-up plan if the panel you want to attend is either full or not worth waiting 90+ minutes in line for. If you have an hour’s break, use it to your advantage.
Elaine’s “Best” Moments of #DragonCon2016:
- Best Panel – Firefly with Alan Tudyk & Adam Baldwin. They are both wonderful actors and very down to Earth. Waited 90 minutes in line & it was totally worth it.
- Best Hotel – The Hilton, hands down. It’s quieter than the others and there is a lower level floor with food/drink vendors, chairs and places to sit, and you actually have a chance of finding a seat. The Marriott is too busy/crowded for my taste, the Hyatt is too crowded as well. The Sheraton is great at crowd control for those long panels. The Westin, not so much. The layout isn’t conducive to long lines.
- Best Goofy Moment – Walking across the skybridge behind 2 pink outfits which turned out to be the creatures who sing “Mahna Mahna” from the Muppet Show. They were whistling this tune, and others joined in. By the time we were halfway across the bridge, everyone was singing and humming “Mahna Mahna” together. Pretty cool moment!
- Best Fan Moment: Having a photo op & getting to meet Adam Baldwin from Firefly, The Last Ship, and other shows/movies. I was able to meet Alan Tudyk as well, but Adam Baldwin was my favorite. He was AWESOME.
I was one of the first people in line, and I wore my Firefly t-shirt. When I approached Adam, I showed him the shirt. He smiled wide and said, “I love it!” I walked over to him and we start to smile/pose at the camera. Then one of the photo crew comes up & stops us, tells Adam that in the previewing him to check the lighting, he was showing up as “orange” in the photo. He starts joking around and saying he wouldn’t mind being orange. I chime in and say he can be our “orange Jayne” character from Firefly. He laughs, says yes, then starts going on about he can be orange, other colors, even polka-dotted. By now they have resolved the lighting issue, but Adam is still babbling. I smile, turn to him and say, “Adam, turn to the camera and smile.” He grunts, says, “Yes dear” and we take our photo. It was hilarious, he thanked me for my patience with the whole “orange” thing, and I picked up my photo and went on my way. He was very funny, laid back, not one ounce of ego – – difficult to find in someone who’s been in TV/movies these days. It was a highlight of the day.
I also had my photo taken with Alan Tudyk. Definitely fun, but Adam Baldwin was my absolute favorite :)
Elaine & Adam Baldwin
Elaine & Alan Tudyk