By Day 4, we were Dragon Con’d out and ready to head home for some rest before starting the work week. We had no idea what kind of traffic to expect in Atlanta on a Memorial Day weekend as a lot of the other 60k Dragon Conners were also heading home. We skipped breakfast at the hotel and headed North on I-75. We stopped at Cracker Barrel for breakfast, then topped off the tank and resumed our northward journey. I was using Waze to navigate home and throughout Atlanta all we heard was “Watch out… police reported ahead” about every 45 seconds. They were out in force trying to catch people heading home a little faster than they ought to be.
With our first Dragon Con behind us, We thought we’d share a few of our thoughts and observations.
- Time Management. There are lots of awesome panels but don’t expect to see all of them. We had backups and backups for our backups. There might be two panels you want to see at the same time, but depending on how far about they are and whether the line for one wraps around the block, you need to be able to adapt. Once we figured out that lines for popular panels started at least an hour before the panel started, we began to get there a lot earlier. This means we missed a panel or two. There’s also a chance that your panel might be rescheduled so you may miss a later panel. The good thing is that a lot of the more popular and harder to get into panels are filmed and put online for free viewing.
- Food. We carried a backpack with us with a few essential items (like Tylenol, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and snacks). We saw lots of folks pull out sandwiches while in line but we weren’t that prepared. There’s food for sale in the lobbies of hotels, like hamburgers, hot dogs, even boxed chinese food, but at best it was like eating warm stadium food. It wasn’t super expensive, but it was convenient if you were hungry. We could’ve carried a little more water, but water was usually available in a gift shop or near a food vendor. Stay hydrated!
- Camera. I’m glad I had an external view finder on my digital camera for the parade, but I didn’t use it much in the lobby. I did use it to try and get some zoomed in shots of panel speakers. My Lumix LX7 has a camera lens that you have to take off before shooting and I had purchased an automatic lens cap that opens automatically, but for some unknown reason, I thought the real lens cap would be better. It was safer, but it took two hands and an extra few seconds to remove it. When your childhood superhero is walking past you on the street and you HAVE to have a photo, seconds sometimes matter, especially when there are 700 people behind you trying to get to their next panel. Have extra batteries and memory cards. I had no idea I was going to take 300+ photos of the parade but I did. Not every photo was a keeper but at least I could pick and choose. I wish I had shot them in RAW instead of JPEG but oh well.
- Costumes. I think when we return, we’ll bring more costumes. We’ll never know what it is to be an A-list celebrity, but at Dragon Con it was really fun being recognized and posing for photos. Joy had only planned on wearing her costume for half the day but she enjoyed seeing people smile as they recognized her and she ended up wearing her costume all day and even into the night! We’ll just need to think of some clever (and comfortable costumes) for our next con. If you have an elaborate costume, plan on being able to repair it at least twice during the weekend. There are so many people here that you can’t help but get bumped into or jostled in a lobby. Everyone was super friendly but accidents can and do happen.
- Bring Money! Attending the Con ain’t cheap. If you can afford one of the host hotels and don’t mind hearing super heroes partying in the hallways at all hours or 20 minute waits on the elevator, it’s the best way to enjoy all Dragon Con has to offer. They book up fast though so we ended up staying at an overflow hotel. It was only 15 minutes away, it was quiet, and it had a shuttle, so we didn’t have to pay $30-40 a day for parking if we had to drive to the Con every day. Plan on spending money for snacks and meals. From what I heard about the Walk of Fame where you can get autographs, you have to pay each celebrity for their signature. We bought a few pieces of art and some board games but we could have easily spent more. Lots of the vendors take debit/credit cards in addition to cash.
- Wear comfortable shoes! You’re going to be hiking from hotel to hotel and standing in lines for everything. Make sure your shoes are up to snuff.
- Hand Sanitizer. Make sure to carry a bottle of hand sanitizer with you. You’re going to be crossing paths (and touching door knobs, hand rails, etc.) with about 60-70,000 other people. Don’t catch Con Flu!
- Get the app. There’s an official Dragon Con app and it’s a life saver! You can pick out the panels and events you want to see and it will save them to a schedule you can check out any time you need. When you click on a panel in your schedule, you can even see a map of the hotel and see what room it’s in. The app is constantly updated throughout the Con so you’ll always know when and were things are. You can even add friend codes for people you meet to keep in touch with them. Too bad there’s no Fast Pass for some of those panel lines!
We had an absolute blast at our first Dragon Con and I’m glad we went. I had no idea what to expect but it was a giant, goofy, geeky, awesome good time with about 70,000 people that share some of our same closeted nerdy interests. Everyone was so awesome and friendly despite the long lines and crowds. We will definitely being go back in the future but we may also try a smaller con next year like PensaCon in Pensacola.
If you want to see all of the photos we took at Dragon Con 2014, here’s a link to my Flickr album. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then here’s a great video that really captures all the crazy cosplay awesomeness that can be seen in the hotel lobbies that must be worth at least 2.5 million words. Thanks Dragon Con!