More than 50,000 fans are expected to descend on downtown Atlanta this weekend for the 27th-annual DragonCon, a four-day event celebrating science fiction, fantasy, comics, gaming and more.
I’ve been to six of the last seven conventions, and I’ve picked up a few tips along the way. Whether you’re planning your first trip to the Con, or you’re no stranger to here, hopefully you’ll find something below that will get you to the end of the convention without sustaining much battle damage:
Be prepared for the weather. The current forecast tells us the weekend will start with temps in the low 90s, with the highs sliding down slightly as the weekend progresses, likely due to the threat of thunderstorms.
If you plan on attending any of the popular panels (presentations with big-name celebrities), you’re bound to be waiting outside in long lines for a long period of time in the heat island that is Atlanta’s streets. So for the sunshiny weather, consider bringing some sunscreen, a cooling towel, and a water bottle. You’ll find water dispensers inside most of the hotels’ big ballrooms and in the hallways—use them, and your water bottle, to your advantage when you get ready to venture back outside.
A rain jacket is your best bet if showers slide into downtown. An umbrella isn’t a bad idea, but if you’re in a tightly packed line, opening one up may be tough, though if your umbrella is big enough, you may consider using it to make friends of someone next to you.
Get your convention badge, and keep it on you, at all times. If you preregistered for the convention, you’ll want to bring the postcard you got in the mail so the registration staff can get you checked in and on your way in a hurry.
Your badge will come with a clip, but it’s not the most secure way to keep it on your person, so I recommend bringing a lanyard for it. You can find some great nerdy lanyards at stores such as Hot Topic.
If you lose your badge, you won’t be able to get back into the convention. So make sure you keep it on you at all times, and make sure you bring it each day of the convention.
Wear comfortable shoes. If you’re an active attendee, you’re bound to be walking to a number of panels throughout the day, which will likely have you hiking from hotel to hotel. That also means you’ll probably be standing a lot as well. So do your feet a favor by wearing something that won’t have you nursing blisters by the time Labor Day rolls around.
Bring a chair! It may be tough to lug the typical tailgating-type chair around all weekend (and it may even be frowned upon by event staff, though some attendees’ costumes and props take up just as much space), but there are some lightweight and compact options out there. One such option is the Pocket Chair, which is small enough to fit in a purse and even some pockets (my wife and I each have one).
Bring snacks. You’ll need some energy if you hope to experience a full day of the Con. The convention has no scheduled meal breaks, so if you want to experience everything you want, you may have to skip a meal. That said…
Expected a crowded food court. During the regular meal times, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a table. If you dare to grab some food during the busy times, you may want to designate someone with you to scout for and secure a table when one becomes available, or resign yourself to find a spot along a wall or in a quiet corner. If you don’t mind an irregular meal time, you’re more apt to find a place to sit when it’s not so crowded.
You may have better luck at some of the restaurants downtown, but they too may be busier than normal, especially with football fans in town.
Bring money. Passes to DragonCon aren’t the cheapest tickets in town, but once you’ve bought them, you’ll probably need to get our your wallet a few other times, such as when you want some food or drinks. The dealers’ rooms might have some merchandise you’ll want to procure, and if you want a picture or autograph from a celebrity in the Walk of Fame, you’re probably going to have to shell out some dough. Some celebrities don’t charge for those fan experiences, but if they’re a big enough name, they probably will.
Costumes are half the fun. OK, so you won’t catch yours truly wearing one during the weekend, but if you have a costume that has anything to do with sci-fi, fantasy, literature, video games, or anything nerdy, by all means, wear it! You definitely won’t be alone, as many attendees will be there in costume, too.
Don’t have a costume? Wear a geeky T-shirt.
Bring a camera. You’ll see some awesome costumes throughout the weekend, and most of those folks won’t mind having their picture taken. It’s common courtesy to ask before you snap a photo, though, and it’s best to ask to take a shot when your subject is waiting in line or standing in a hotel lobby—not when they may be heading to their next event.
Not every event during the weekend will take kindly to flash photography, and if you’re walking through the Walk of Fame, you’ll need permission from the celebrity to take their picture, and as I mentioned earlier, you’ll probably need to hand over some cash.
Lastly, please, please, PLEASE shower! With all the people around, the law of averages says you’re bound to smell some body odor during the weekend (known by many Con-goers as “Con funk”). You won’t be very popular if the “Con funk” is coming from you. You may be dressed like a Klingon, but you don’t have to smell like one.
On the flip side, dousing yourself with cologne or perfume probably won’t win you any friends, either. It may be of some help at times, but it will most likely irritate those around you when you’re in line or trying to walk through a crowded hotel lobby.
Got any other tips for your fellow DragonCon attendees? Share them in the comments.