June 30, 2015 | Posted in CONVENTIONS | By



The 2015 Dragon*Con Convention in Atlanta, Georgia

Official Dragon*Con Logo.

Official Dragon*Con Logo. Source: DragonCon Media Press Kit. All other photos on this p

Dragon*Con is a media fandom convention held annually over the Labor Day weekend in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Dragon*Con is the largest such event on the East Coast, celebrating science fiction, fantasy, anime, comics, gaming, music, film and all things genre-oriented. Every year, tens of thousands of media fans come to Atlanta to revel in the 4-day experience of Dragon*Con and enjoy spending time with like-minded fans, friends – and get some celebrity autographs and photo opportunities while they’re at it.

For a new attendee, Dragon*Con can easily be an overwhelming experience. The crowds, the multiple tracks of programming, the countless ways to spend money on cool collectibles, artwork and costuming… Knowing how to prepare for the event is as important as knowing how to best utilize your time – and funds – while there.

Dragon*Con 2015 is scheduled for September 4 – September 7, 2015. This page is my survival guide to making the most of Dragon*Con, based on my numerous years of experience as both an attendee and a vendor in the Dragon*Con Dealers’ Hall.


Yeah baby, yeah! It's Dragon*Con!

Yeah baby, yeah! It’s Dragon*Con!

Things to Do at Dragon*Con in Atlanta

Guests, Panels, Gaming, Costuming, Music, a Parade and More!

Cosplayer at Dragon*ConDragon*Con is a 4-day, 24 hour a day experience. Every moment of the day and night, from the Friday through the Monday of Labor Day weekend, is packed full of activities, events, concerts and discussions. At Dragon*Con, you can:

* Browse multiple dealers rooms and exhibit halls for collectibles, art, jewelry, comics, books, videos and costume supplies

* Attend moderated panel discussions on topics from British science fiction television to Steampunk

* Hear celebrity guests speak, get their autographs and pose for photos with them

* Take part in gaming tournaments, drum circles, writing workshops and art portfolio evaluations

* Watch movies, anime and classic television programs

* Explore the juried art show and bid on original artwork to take home

* Hear great musicians and bands perform in late-night concerts

…and perhaps most interesting of all, people-watch! From the annual Dragon*Con parade through downtown Atlanta to the late-night “hotel crawls”, people dress up in the most elaborate, creature and sometimes hilarious costumes at Dragon*Con.

In fact there’s so much going on at Dragon*Con, it’s important to plan ahead and be prepared for how to deal with the crowds, the schedules, and how easy it is to spend a lot of money. You should check out my 10 Tips for Surviving Dragon*Con for helpful ideas on making the most of your convention experience.

You never know who you'll run into at Dragon*Con.

You never know who you’ll run into at Dragon*Con…


 

Host Hotels for DragonCon in Downtown Atlanta

Planning Where to Stay During Dragon*Con

The Marriott Marquis where much of the action at Dragon*Con takes place.

The Marriott Marquis where much of the action at Dragon*Con takes place.

Which is the best hotel to stay in for Dragon*Con? The answer will vary depending on who you ask and how you plan on spending the convention – and where you are able to actually get a room!

Dragon*Con takes place across currently five host hotels in downtown Atlanta, Georgia:

1. The Hilton Atlanta (255 Courtland Street, NE)

2. The Hyatt Regency Atlanta (265 Peachtree Street NE)

3. The Marriott Marquis Downtown Atlanta Hotel (265 Peachtree Center Ave – considered by many THE best hotel for Dragon*Con and best place to stay, if possible, as it is the heart of most partying and late night people-watching)

4. The Sheraton Atlanta Hotel (165 Courtland Street)

5. The Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel (210 Peachtree St.)

At this point, all con rate rooms in these hotels are likely officially sold out, but it’s always worth checking back closer to the convention as people cancel or combine room reservations.

You can visit the Dragon*Con hotel page for discount codes at the host hotels and also overflow hotel information. Personally, I usually look for a room via Priceline at one of the overflow hotels in the downtown Atlanta area, or for an inexpensive room in the midtown area instead. Being a little away from the main convention action can actually be nice for a change and a bit of relaxation, and most hotels in midtown are not far from the convention and located just a few stops away on MARTA.


 

Celebrities at Dragon*Con 2015

Celebrity Signings and Guests at this year’s Dragon*Con

Who will be the top celebrity draw for the 2015 DragonCon? The featured guest list for 2015 is just starting to come together, and some of the notable names already there include:

  • Arrow‘s John Barrowman, Katie Cassidy, Nicholas Lea, David Ramsey, and Stephen Amell
  • Doctor Who‘s Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann,
  • Hannibal‘s Aaron Abrams and Scott Thompson
  • The 100‘s Richard Harmon, Bobby Morley, and Eliza Taylor
  • Authors Timothy Zahn, Jim Butcher, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Mercedes Lackey and Naomi Novik

Of course, it is important to know that convention guests are not guaranteed; schedule conflicts, personal matters and travel difficulties can keep a guest from attending at the last minute. Therefore I generally do not recommend a person plan on attending Dragon*Con and traveling long distance to the convention if he is solely interested in seeing just one guest, in case that person cannot make it.


 

How do autographs and celebrity photographs work at Dragon*Con?

The author with Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz of The A-Team, at Dragon*Con.

The author with Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz of The A-Team, at Dragon*Con.

Autographs are NOT included in your Dragon*Con membership. You must pay individually for the autographs you want, and can typically either buy photos from the stars themselves or bring your own items to sign. Autograph prices can run anywhere from $20 to over $100 and cash is typically required. Signings are held at the “Walk of Fame” exhibit hall at Dragon*Con. The Dragon*Con pocket program will give you a schedule of when each guest is scheduled to be signing, generally around the times they are giving a presentation or panel appearance (right before or after) for often a few hours a day.

Some guests will allow you to take a snapshot with them, at their table, for a fee of $5 to $10 – so please don’t start taking photos without checking their policy first, and DO NOT take random photos of the celebrities if you happen to pass one by in one of the hotels’ hallways or restaurants. Professionally staged photographs with some of the guests are available and arranged by “Froggy’s Photos”. They are not cheap – think $25-50 on average with more for larger group shots or big name guests – but you will get a nice 8″x10″ photograph with your favorite celebrity for the price. The photo above of myself with The A-Team‘s Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz is an example of one of these staged photo sessions at Dragon*Con, which I then got signed by each.

DragonCon stormtrooper


Ten Things You Must Pack for Dragon*Con

A Packing List to Prepare for the Convention

Whether you’re attending Dragon*Con for the first time, or are a regular attendee, here are things you definitely will want to remember to pack for the convention.

  1. Steampunk cosplayersYour camera. Don’t forget spare batteries and/or your charger. You won’t want to miss the opportunity to get photos of the incredible costumes, as well as the convention guests (when allowed).
  2. Cash. ATMs are prone to run out of cash in the immediate area of the convention due to high volume and use. Be prepared with cash on hand for vendors who don’t take credit cards or checks.
  3. Protective photo sleeves or a binder. If you plan on buying a lot of 8×10 photos and getting autographs, be sure you have a way to protect them while walking around the convention and traveling home. A small 3-ring binder, a stiff folder, cardboard and/or photo-sleeves will all come in handy.
  4. A lariat for your badge. Don’t rely on the simple pin-back or clip on your Dragon*Con badge to keep it secure. In heavy crowds, it’s easy to lose your badge, and then be out of a lot of money – and wasted time having to buy a new badge.
  5. A jacket or sweater. Even with the large crowds, convention halls and meeting rooms can get chilly. Bring a jacket, hoodie or sweater you can take on and off as need be.
  6. A pillow. Sharing a room with multiple people? Be sure there are enough pillows to go around by bringing your own. Make sure it is in a colorful pillowcase or otherwise marked with your name, however, so it does not get lost or “acquired” by the hotel cleaning staff.
  7. Business cards. You’ll likely meet people you want to exchange contact information with during the convention. Be ready with business cards, home printed ones are fine! It’s a lot easier than trying to keep notes.
  8. Vitamin C. Trust me, you’ll be exposed to a lot of bugs in the air with so many people at the convention. You’ll also likely be running around on low sleep, bad nutrition, and general exhaustion. Keep your immune system up by taking your vitamins during the convention!
  9. Spare suitcase or backpack. If you buy a lot of stuff at the convention, you’ll need a way to get it home. Granted your hotel may be able to arrange shipping for you but the cost may be less to check an extra bag on your flight, train or bus trip.
  10. Aspirin or other pain medication. Can we say likely hangovers, boys and girls? It’s easy to party a little too much at Dragon*Con. Be prepared for the Morning After – so you’ll be ready the next day to do it all over again!

 

Personal Safety at Dragon*Con

An Important Caution to all Attendees

DragonCon cosplayDragon*Con takes place over several hotels and pours out into the open streets of Atlanta, Georgia. As such, it is not a “closed” convention space, and many non-attendees from the nearby area – or those in Atlanta for other events – often end up intermingling with convention attendees and not understanding the costuming and other aspects of Dragon*Con completely. This can lead to unfortunate situations at times, and indeed the 2010 Dragon*Con ended up being the site of numerous disturbing incidents of sexual harassment and assault. Much of the harassment allegedly was directed at convention attendees by college sports fans who were also staying in the downtown Atlanta area, or those being encouraged on Facebook or Twitter to come gawk at “the freaks”.

As such, it is important for all convention attendees to be aware of their surroundings at all times and how to protect their personal safety. Attendees need to look out for others who might be in danger or being harassed. While we hope hotel and convention security will be better this year at taking charge of these harassment problems, there is now a volunteer project, Back Up, to encourage convention goers to look out for each other’s safety. Visit the Back Up LiveJournal community for more information on the project and how you can get involved.

DragonCon Klingon


How Safe is Atlanta, Georgia for Dragon*Con

About Downtown Atlanta and Personal Safety

Some people wonder how safe is Atlanta, particularly the downtown area where Dragon*Con takes place? I personally have never had any issues with safety there, although one must exercise the same amount of common sense and awareness necessary in any large, urban city. There are certainly a number of con artists and homeless hustlers hanging around in the dowtown area during the convention, looking for people wearing badges or in costume who may not look like they know where they are going. Downtown Atlanta itself is a bustling commercial and business area during the day, but after work hours does tend to get deserted – except of course for all of the Dragon*Con attendees during the convention.

Some general words of advice: if someone on the street approaches you and asks if you need help with your luggage, or loading your car, or finding a particular hotel, politely decline them. There are many police officers and tourism guides around on the street who can provide genuine assistance. You can also walk in to one of the area’s many hotels and ask at the front desk or concierge for help. If walking the streets late at night, do not walk alone – travel in a group or take a taxi, even if it’s a short trip. Keep expensive belongings to a minimum as you are walking around – leave valuables and additional credit cards/cash/etc in a safe deposit box in your hotel.

DragonCon parade


Useful Resources for Dragon*Con Attendees

Dragon*Con Websites, Forums and Communities On-Line

sockii

sockii is just your typical Jane-of-All-Trades who never has enough time in her day for all of her projects. She has written for many websites online including Squidoo, Zujava, Yahoo! Contributors Network, HubPages and Wizzley. She has been attending and vending at science fiction and media conventions for over 15 years, and for several years ran an art gallery and jewelry store in Philadelphia. Today she is happy to be living in South Jersey with her partner David and their 6 cats. Sockii is a member of several affiliate sales programs including Amazon Associates and Viglink. Products from these services may be advertised on her posts and pages to generate sales commissions.

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