Every Labor Day weekend since 2010, my hubby and I have gone to Atlanta, GA, for DragonCon! It was the first convention I ever went to, which still amazes many people. But, it took me a while to figure out what to take, what to leave home, and how to effectively enjoy the con. Some of that came from blog posts like this: people who have been going that share their wisdom and knowledge. Here are some of the things I have learned over the years to have fun at this massive convention.
STAY HYDRATED!!!! WITH WATER!! I know you are going to drink other things, but make sure you drink water. There is no substitute for it. Especially if you give blood. Alcohol can wait until the next day.
Getting around. Be ready for a lot of walking. This con happens in five different hotels and the America’s Mart. Also, Atlanta is not flat. There is a massive hill between the Sheraton and the Westin. It’s downhill from the Westin, but it’s uphill from the Sheraton. Be ready for exercise.
The Hyatt, Marriott, and Hilton are connected by skywalks. Because they are along a hill, the entrances in the Marriott do not exist on the same floor. While they have started to police the flow so things keep moving, they are not the most effective ways of moving between the hotels on Saturday and Sunday. Honestly, I highly recommend simply going outside when you are able to.
No matter where you are walking, think of the way before you as a road (in the US). Stay to the right! The skywalks/”habitrails” are generally policed that way, but the sidewalks aren’t. We’re all trying to get somewhere. Be ready to walk single-file or two-by-two so others can get through.
Elevators. Yes, there are elevators to get you from one floor to another. In my experience, the Westin is the only venue where you could use them to get to the programming you’re heading for. But they also have stairs and escalators. I highly recommend using those and leaving the elevators for people who need them to get from floor to floor, as well as for the people who need to get up to the rooms.
Also, please DO NO “GO DOWN TO GO UP!“ Getting on an empty elevator going down in order to end up going up is simply rude. If you are that desperate for an elevator, get on at the lowest floor. I get so pissed seeing an elevator get filled up, go down one floor, return and be full of the exact same people, before moving up. It’s just rude!
Lines. Officially, DragonCon does not allow lines to form more than an hour before the panel starts. There are two ways to approach this. First, ask the volunteer at the location of the panel where the line for your panel is and they will direct you if the line has started. If you are polite and out of the way, sometimes they will let you hang around in the area until they are allowed to start the line, and you get to be at the beginning (this is how I got to be as far up as allowed in the center of the row for Peter Davison and Sylvester McCoy in 2013). The other approach is to ask people in line what they are in line for. If it’s the line you’re looking for, follow it back to the end. Please don’t start unofficial lines, it doesn’t go well.
Photos. Tons of people wear costumes to DragonCon (but not everyone, so don’t feel pressured to if you don’t want to!). Whether you’re taking the photo or are being photographed, make sure you’re out of the flow of traffic. Also, as you’re walking around, make sure you’re not walking through a photo. If you’re interested in taking photos, be able to take them quickly so you don’t hold up the subject too long, and to get out of the way. Don’t be afraid to ask for a photo, but be ready to hear they can’t. Sometimes they’re heading somewhere and really can’t stop.
DCTV. DragonCon TV or DCTV is broadcast in all the host hotels throughout the con. They have also made a “Streaming Membership” available through the store so anyone can watch from anywhere. DCTV can be so useful! There have been numerous occasions when I go to get in line and have been told the line has been capped. Yes, they will count people in line for bigger panels to cap the line before they start allowing people in. Depending on the panel, I have gone back to the room to watch the panel on DCTV. It’s also a great way to watch big events like The Masquerade on Sunday and the Friday Night Costuming Contest from the comfort of your room. You can have a party with friends while you watch.
The Dealers Room and Artist Alley. Be ready for a maze of dealers, artists, and a ton of people. My only advice, be patient and hope you hit a quiet point. This is another place where DragonCon has started policing populations. They try to maintain a specific population inside. Both are located in the America’s Mart buildings, along with some programming tracks. There is a skybridge from the Westin to the America’s Mart, but I don’t know how that works now that they are tracking people. The outside entrances may be the only entrances, at least for the Dealers Room and Artist Alley.
The Daily Dragon. This is going to tell you about changes to the schedule. They do update it in the app, but it’s good to have the heads up. They have physical copies around the con and it’s on the app, but I’ve linked their website so you can check from the room before you head out and find out your panel was moved or cancelled.