Every Labor Day weekend, Atlanta explodes with surprises in one of the oddest five days out of the year, with the advent of Dragon Con.
Dragon Con 101
Dragon Con is one of many conventions (or “cons” as fans call them) held across the country in almost every major North American city. Cons are usually, but not always, focused on a specific facet of geek culture: video games, science fiction, board games, etc.
Superheros Assemble! — Photo courtesy of Pat Loika
Dragon Con however, is what is called a multi-genre con. They run the entire gambit of geekdom, and depending on which exhibition hall you visit, you can compete in video game and card game tournaments; participate in a best costume contest; watch popular movies with a theater full of like-minded people; or listen in on celebrity panels.
Of course one of the major draws to any con are attendees who come dressed in costumes, or cosplay, as it's called in fandom circles. Never will you see sidewalks filled with such bright and colorful people as during the days of Dragon Con. If you want a picture of a costumed attendee, all you need do is ask. It’s perfectly normal to ask any random costumed person if you may take their picture, and 99 times out of 100, they’ll gladly strike a pose for you.
Who ya gonna call? — Photo courtesy of vladeb
Dragon Con was first held in 1987 in Atlanta at the Piedmont Plaza Hotel with just 1,400 fans, but has since expanded to over 50,000 attendees across five hotel exhibition halls, all situated next to one another in the bustling downtown area.
Best Events during Dragon Con
What you do at Dragon Con, or any con for that matter, is entirely up to you. With each pass into the con, you get a booklet listing all the goings on during the convention. As mentioned above, you can do just about anything that geeks like to do, but the most popular events are panels. Explore industry or expert panels in which insiders give tips and tricks to attendees on how to do a variety of different things. These include how to make better costumes, how to build the ultimate gaming center, and many other subjects. Most events happen more than once, so if you miss the one you want, you can catch it later.
You can almost hear the Imperial March theme in the background. . . — Photo courtesy of Matthew Henson
Don’t forget to watch the costume parade on Saturday in which hundreds of costumed fans march from Centennial Olympic Park to the Marriott Marquis, all in groups focused on a certain film, tv show, or video game. There’s nothing quite like witnessing a group of Star Wars storm troopers marching in perfect lockstep followed by a group of ghost busters and then by a hoard of Dothraki raiders.
NCR Ranger from the popular Fallout video game franchise in the cosplay parade — Photo courtesy of Matthew Henson
The five hotels that host Dragon Con are the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Hilton Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, and Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel. All five of these hotels are located either a block away or directly across the street from one another.
Tips for Avoiding Travel Headaches
Travelers beware: on Labor Day weekend, Atlanta will be an absolute madhouse. Georgia Tech opens its college football season with a high noon home game at the school's downtown stadium. Meanwhile, the Georgia Dome hosts the biggest game on the opening day of the NCAA schedule. And if that weren't enough to complicate logistics of travel, NASCAR visits Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night.
Bottom line: book a hotel room as early in advance as possible and preferably as close to the action as you can be. Taxis are plentiful, and driving your own vehicle or a rental is not advised. Traffic around downtown Atlanta is legendary and perhaps second only to southern California in terms of massive gridlock. MARTA, Atlanta’s public transportation system, does make stops right next to and around the con area, so having a hotel further out is a doable option for those who can't book r room right at the Con.
Whether you like it or love it, there's no doubt that Dragon Con is the most unique event in Atlanta all year 'round. Wild parties, colorful characters, and a weekend you won't soon forget are all in store for all those who are in touch with their inner nerd.