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What to know before you go: Dragon*Con

Dragon*Con Parade, 2008. AJC file photo

Dragon*Con is just amazing — it’s a pop culture convention where Star Trek and Star Wars get along, where pirates, Spidermen, goth kids, comic book readers, artists, filmmakers, costumers, families and singles and everyone you think you know gets together to hang out and explore the sci-fi side of themselves. It started in 1987 with 1,400 people at the Piedmont Plaza Hotel, and this Sept. 4-7, it welcomes more than 30,000 people to four downtown Atlanta hotels.

The conference includes some 35 topics fleshed out enough enough to be a sub-conference, more than 500 featured guests, contests, shopping, a film festival, a blood drive. But for such a large, boisterous event, it doesn’t get in the way of normal operations. You’ll be able to tell the office workers from the conference-goers, but downtown Atlanta certainly won’t shut down to those not wearing pirate hats.

Here’s a guide to help you through the weekend, but Dragon*Con regulars: your advice, tips and ideas are always welcome! Please share in the comments!

Attending Dragon*Con costs money, whether you have a one-day pass or a lifetime “membership.” However, it’s also the source of some of the best people watching you’ll ever get around here for free. Make sure you know which crowd you fit into — the one hanging out on Peachtree Street during the parade, or the one waiting in an orderly line to meet William Shatner. As the convention rules say, “You must wear your membership badges at all times to be admitted to any convention function. In other words: Yes you have to wear your steekin’ badge!”

You can go hang out in the Peachtree Center foodcourt and have a grand time, but better yet, head downtown around 10 a.m. Saturday morning — that’s when the annual Dragon*Con Parade gets started. It will go from Woodruff Park at Auburn Avenue, head north along Peachtree Street to the Hyatt, then down Baker Street to the Marriott. It’s not a long parade, but it does involve thousands of people in costume. Watch out for street closings in the area around that time. UPDATE 9/5: Here are photos from the parade, shot by a photographer and some by me!

Sure, you can still buy a pass to get in! At-the-door Dragon*Con “membership” is available at the Sheraton — thanks to reader southern hope for checking it out! — and covers the four days of the conference (It doesn’t include the Guest of Honor Banquet, tournament gaming sessions, workshop materials and some autograph sessions.) You can also buy one-, two- or three-day passes. Kids younger than 7 are free, unless you’re using the day care. In that case, kiddo needs a badge.

Klingon pageant contestant, 2008. AJC file photo

As explained above, you won’t be able to get into most conference events without a badge. So, if you’re dying to see a particular author, TV star, costumer, event, etc., check out the day passes. For sheer spectacle, I recommend Sunday: it’s got the Miss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant at 4 p.m., the attempt to break a “Thriller” dance world record at 7 p.m. and the Masquerade Costume Contest at 8:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Creative Loafing did a great job of sifting through the (enormous) schedule to find some Dragon*Con best bets. HowStuffWorks has a nice Dragon*Con Survival Guide, too.

Most Dragon*Con activities are central to the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Hilton Atlanta and Sheraton Hotel. There’s no official Dragon*Con parking, but look instead to hotel parking, or other downtown parking lots and decks. Courtesy buses are running between each of the hotels (and some of the overflow hotels), although they’re within easy walking distance, too. And let’s not forget MARTA, Atlanta’s public transit system. It runs right into the middle of Dragon*Con — park in the free commuter lots further out, hop on the train and get off at the Peachtree Center stop off the North/South line. Follow the superheroes.

Black Manta costume, 2008. AJC file

If you’re attending Dragon*Con, you can catch updates and news in The Daily Dragon zine. If you’re watching from afar, or on a higher-tech gadget, check out the conference on MySpace, LiveJournal and Twitter. Don’t forget to send us your family-friendly Dragon*Con photos! We’ll include them in a public gallery on Keep an eye out for me, too! At very least, I’ll be at the parade, tweeting via @insideaccess.

It’s a long, busy weekend. Programs will be canceled, or they will move. Downtown will be busy, too, with the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game and all the free, public cookoffs and concerts surrounding it, a Georgia Tech football game and other events, conferences and performances. If you need a break from the downtown-version of crazy, check out the lit-crazy Decatur Book Festival, just a few MARTA stops away — most events are free and open to the public. Some even involve Dragon*Con featured guests!

For instant updates, follow @insideaccess on Twitter.

6 comments Add your comment


September 8th, 2009
1:37 pm

This is a great article for all of my friends who’ve looked at my Facebook this weekend and asked “what the hell is DragonCon?”


September 6th, 2009
10:34 am

I am a newby. Didn’t know this was happening this weekend. I like to people watch, but need something else besides big costumes. Staying at the Marriot Marquis. Any “pride” stuff going on? Im thinking it will hard to distinguish between queens and idk…some dragon con characters.Help.

Jamie Gumbrecht

September 6th, 2009
1:10 am

Glad it helps! I’m thinking that I may wind up at the Hyatt hotel bar tomorrow, post-DBF. Nice suggestion. :)

[...] Popular Culture: Dragon*Con, a multi-media convention for science fiction, fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art music and film opens and continues Sept. 4-7, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Hilton Atlanta and Sheraton Atlanta Hotel. Know before you go info. [...]


September 4th, 2009
7:33 am

Agree this is great info, and also like this series.

Close second for best people watching is the hotel bar at the Hyatt, which you can drink at without a badge.

Sue Rodman

September 4th, 2009
6:50 am

I love the “What to Know Before You Go” series. This is great info.