Dragon*Con is not for the faint of heart. It was balls-to-the-wall, over-the-top and mind-blowing. I do not want to think that people who do not like this convention are just those that can not handle it, but that is what sounds true. This event is unlike any other. It’s non-commercialism attributes to it being so fan-friendly which makes it incredible. You do not get giant advertisements or people trying to sell their movies. What you get is sheer amounts of fans coming together to discuss what they love and a non-stop party for nearly five days (depending on when you arrive in Atlanta, of course.)
My second year at this convention was certainly different from my last. Going to Dragon*Con the first time can be incredibly overwhelming and I feel that a lot of the negative reports I am seeing about the convention are from first time attendees that just could not get the hang of it. Although I managed to fall in love with the event the first time, it is a very difficult convention to even navigate the first time around. Dragon*Con takes place in five different hotels in downtown Atlanta – the Marriott, Hyatt, Sheraton, Hilton, and Westin. Three of those five are connected by sky-walks while the other two are about a block away. Each hotel is home to different tracks of entertainment while a lot of the main programming happens in the Marriott and Hyatt.
One of the pros to this convention is how non-commericialized it is. I have been to some events that were extremely commercial and some that tiptoed around the line, but, to me, Dragon*Con seems so built around pleasing the fans without trying to sell me anything. The convention is expensive (the at-the-door price for a four-day badge is $120), but the event is well worth the price.
I also love the Dragon*Con parade. Each year on Saturday morning convention attendees march in a parade down Peachtree Street. Atlanta citizens and convention goers alike line the streets to watch the parade. Last year, I actually shed a tear because the parade was just so amazing. I feel that the entire event is worth attending just to go see the parade.
The programming at Dragon*Con is amazing! I rarely attend panels at other conventions, but I attending six at Dragon*Con.
Doctor Who 2013: A Look Into Next Year
Doctor Who Canon
Big Damn Heroes (Firefly panel)
Doctor Who New Series Analysis
D*Con is also a huge party. Oftentimes people do not even get into their best costumes until night because that is definitely when the convention livens up! Parties last until the wee hours of the morning. Alcohol flows incessantly. Just walking around the various hotels can find a person a new night-time experience. I mostly hang around the Marriott, the hub of Dragon*Con, but I ventured out to the Hilton and the Sheraton at night this year and discovered a rave playing Top 40 pop hits, karaoke, tabletop gaming, and plenty more.
Dragon*Con has something for nearly everyone although they are lacking in two departments: anime and video gaming. They do actually have amazing video game panels, but do not have a decent video gaming room.
CROWDS CROWDS CROWDS. This year was a whole new level of crowds than last year. It was difficult to get anywhere and people are constantly moving. Despite the rules to not take pictures in walkways, this was often ignored and con-goers would scold the rule breakers. Many have said they would not return to Dragon*Con if they did not do anything about the crowds, but what exactly COULD be done? Any large-scale event is going to have crowds. Until some super sized venue is created in the world then events will just deal with the crowds the best they can. I certainly thought this convention did a good job with the lines for panels and trying to control the crowds. It is near impossible to get into any hotel without a badge or a hotel key. (I know security worked extra hard because there was an incident I saw that the police had to get involved after someone was denied entry.) So, while the crowds were large, I do not think that was specifically an issue only Dragon*Con has to deal with. This is just an issue at ALL large conventions.
Another con was navigation. If a person has an interest in multiple tracks of programming, it is hard to get from one place to another in time. There is simply too much to do so a person just has to schedule accordingly. This was often disappointing when certain panels were being held within an hour of each other because it is almost always customary to get to a panel an hour ahead of time to ensure entry. For example, I attended the Big Damn Heroes panel in the Westin. After it ended, I had 30 minutes to get out of a crowded ballroom, walk nearly two blocks, get into the Sheraton, and get seated for a Doctor Who panel. Needless to say, I was too late to enter. Basically a way to alleviate this situation is to choose panels based on desire to go. Also, do not keep such a tight schedule because it is nearly impossible to see everything a person wants. I must note that at least D*Con clears the panel rooms between panels. Say no to camping!
I will be attending Dragon*Con next year and many more years to come! It is great to go out and explore different events, but when you find one that is worth sticking to then stick to it! I do not think Dragon*Con could ever get boring and I certainly do not regret choosing to attend it versus the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle (which was on the same weekend! THE HORROR) My interests run the gauntlet from sci-fi to fantasy to gaming to costuming. I am versatile and love variety. Dragon*Con is perfect for me and when I want to be specific with one interest then I will go to PAX. Just please, please, do not be on the same weekend EVERY YEAR.