Dragon Con review!
When I first thought about attending this well-known convention, I was hesitant to be honest. Not only was the price tag for the badge and hotel incredibly steep, but I myself am more of an Anime fan than a comic fan. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I like Anime conventions more than I do comic conventions. Dragon Con is firmly a comic convention.
I decided to take my chances and attend Dragon Con for the first time this year. And boy am I glad I did! Not only did I have a great time at Dragon Con, I consider the event one of the best conventions I ever been to.
In this post, I’ll give you the Senpai’s Dragon Con review. I’ll explain the pros and cons of this big comic con, as well as the things I liked and disliked. Overall, Dragon Con is an amazing convention which is why it’s no surprise the event is incredibly popular all these years.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
What is Dragon Con?
At first I thought Dragon Con was your typical Comic Con. Boy was I wrong! While Dragon Con definitely caters to comic book fans, in general the event is catered towards multiple genres such as sci-fi, video games, Anime, novels and more. There is a huge variety of fandoms coming together for Dragon Con. One person I met said they were seeing cosplays from fiction novels, which is something I’ve never seen before! The cosplays are spectacular and diverse!
Put simply, there is no other convention like Dragon Con. People told me that before I attended for the first time, and now having experienced the convention myself, I can definitely confirm this. The convention is 5 days long, starting from Thursday and ending on Monday. The convention always takes place during Labor Day weekend.
One big difference I noticed with Dragon Con compared to other events; Dragon Con is by the fans, for the fans. Unlike some Comic Cons, Dragon Con doesn’t feel profit-driven and you can certainly feel that vibe when you’re at the convention. It’s interesting to note that no part of Dragon Con takes place in a convention center; almost all of it are in hotels! I feel like that helps with the fan-run vibes and it’s refreshing to go to a convention that’s not entirely focused on the dealer’s room.
Another huge difference between Dragon Con and other comic cons: Dragon Con is 24/7! Yes, they have stuff that goes on all-night starting on Thursday and up to Monday. As I mention in my previous post in my blog, most comic con always end early around 7-8 p.m. So for Dragon Con to have 24 hours programming is something that makes this convention stand out.
Anyways, I feel like we’ve described Dragon Con sufficiently. Let’s move onto what makes this convention great:
The convention is incredibly organized
From the get go, I could tell that Dragon Con is a very well organized convention. It makes sense because the con has been around for over 30 years! With that kind of longevity, not only would you learn a lot but you’d probably have done lots of things right in order to keep the annual event going.
Here are just some of the things I noticed:
- Colored-tape lines. Whenever there was a lineup for something, they always had colored-tape lines on the floor to direct you to wherever you needed to go. For example, when I asked where to pickup my badge, the staff member told me to follow the blue line on the floor. That’s what I did, and I was easily able to find my way to the badge pickup booth! Little stuff like this makes things a lot easier for an attendee like me.
- Volunteer/staff controlling the massive crowds. There were plenty of staff and volunteers to manage the big crowds at Dragon Con. They ensured no area had too many people in one spot. I know that a lot of big Anime conventions and big Comic cons struggle with managing all the attendees. But it seemed like Dragon Con organizers have a ton of experience managing all the attendees safely.
- Skywalk policy. One of the nice things about Dragon Con is that you can seamlessly walk through almost every hotel building using these enclosed sky bridges that connects them together. There are signs around the bridges reminding attendees to not stop, take photos or even play Pokemon GO on the skybridge. This was nice as it ensured the passenger flow was consistent, especially since those bridges get really hot with all the people walking through. Being from a fast-paced city where I walk fast, I definitely appreciated this policy!
Normally I judge a convention by how well they manage their badge registration line. But since I arrived at Dragon Con fairly late, it wouldn’t be a fair comparison vs lining up first thing in the morning. With that said, I got my badge instantly as there as no lineup at that time. And from what I heard from other attendees, they said the badge pickup was solid this year!
Location great for commuting and hotel accommodations.
Dragon Con takes place right in the heart of downtown Atlanta, making it incredibly convenient to get there and get around. There is a subway system in Atlanta called the MARTA, and Dragon Con is located right next to the MARTA station. So even if you’re not staying in downtown Atlanta (more on this later), you can easily park your car or stay in a hotel further away and then take the train into the city for the convention.
I myself stayed a few subway stations away from the convention area, because the hotels were way too expensive for me downtown! Nevertheless, it was super easy and convenient to reach the convention and go back to my hotel whenever I wanted to.
Compared to the last time I went here for Anime Weekend Atlanta, attending a con in downtown was certainly a lot better than in the suburbs!
The con takes over downtown Atlanta!
So what I’ve noticed with conventions that take place in a city center with lots of people; the con usually tries to blend in with the normies who aren’t part of the convention. But with Dragon Con, it felt like the event ran downtown Atlanta that weekend! Basically everyone in downtown Atlanta knew the convention was taking place there, so you’d have no issues with anyone giving you weird looks or being able to walk around in cosplay.
I’ve heard people describe Dragon Con as the Mardi Gras for nerds, and that’s exactly how it felt being in downtown Atlanta! The whole area was catered towards the con, not the other way around. And that’s another thing that makes Dragon Con so special!
Tons of programming
Even for a Weeb like me who isn’t too much into comic and sci-fi, there was still a TON of programming and activities for me to do at Dragon Con. Holy crap! There is just so much to do at the convention, including:
- Numerous panels and discussions
- The cosplay parade in downtown Atlanta on Saturday morning
- Wrestling on Thursday night
- Video game and tabletop gaming
- Numerous dance parties
The dealer’s room is massive (multiple stories inside a large building)
They have this thing called “Tracks” where it sorts the programming based on the genre or interest. For example, if you pick a video game Track, then you’ll have all the video game activities and panels sorted out for you and generally in the same area.
The convention takes place across 6 different hotels (I think). And not just a hotel; these are gigantic hotels! So you can bet there is a ton of things to do at this con.
Despite being big, the convention never felt crowded
Even though Dragon Con gets over 80,000 attendees a year, I rarely ever felt like there was too many people in one area. I’ve been to other Comic cons where I felt like I was squeezed into the convention center like a pack of sardines. But because Dragon Con is spread out all over downtown Atlanta, it never felt too overcrowded. Yes, there were a lot of people, don’t get me wrong. However, it was more than manageable for me.
It’s good that Dragon Con activities are in multiple buildings and the organizers actively maintain good crowd levels. That is something I appreciate.
The cosplays are simply top-notch!
Because Dragon Con is a multi fandom convention, you get to see all sorts of amazing cosplays from a variety of genres. As a cosplayer myself, I definitely enjoyed seeing the different cosplays at the con. Here are some of the highlights I saw:
- The Price is Right
- Master Roshi
- Mario Kart
- John Cena
- Mario + Like Skywalker
- Genshin Impact (of course)
The people and vibes
As mentioned earlier, the vibes at Dragon Con are immaculate. Having the event run by fans makes a huge difference and everyone is there to just have fun!
Lots of booze!
I’ll leave it at that. 🙂
Note: Despite the drinking, Dragon Con is a very family-friendly event. I see a lot of families and their kids attending the convention. Totally different at night but during the day, the event feels like it’s more all ages.
Alright, now that I’ve talked about all the wonderful things about Dragon Con, let’s talk about some negatives…
It’s so expensive!
Make no mistake about it; Dragon Con is an expensive convention to attend. Of all the cons I’ve attended, this was by far the most I had to spend. Owing to the event’s popularity and prime location, everything seems to be much more expensive than usual, including:
- The hotels. Oh yes, the hotels were insanely expensive in the area surrounding Dragon Con. Even if you were able to snag an official convention hotel (which sold out nearly a year ago), a lot of them were were going for over $300 USD/night. I was even seeing prices in the $400-$500/night range. It was crazy. I was fortunate to find a hotel last minute that wasn’t close to these prices but I did have to take the train to the convention. If you plan on staying in a hotel near Dragon Con, you and your roommates better save up a lot of money!
- The badge. I bought my badge at the highest price because I decided to attend late in the month. So I spent $175 USD for a full weekend badge, which is about $235 CAD for me. That is double the price than I usually spend for a weekend pass anywhere else, and I’ve never spent more than $200 CAD on a badge. Not saying it’s not worth the money, but the price for a badge is really steep.
- The food and drinks. I found the food around the convention fairly expensive. I paid over $30 CAD for a meal at an Asian fast food restaurant! And I get that convention prices will always be more. But seriously, over $12 USD for a cup of cocktail? C’mon now. 🙁
You can only pick up a day pass on the day of
This was definitely one of my pet peeves about Dragon Con. If you buy a single-day pass, you can only pick it up on the day it’s assigned for. So for example, if you bought a Saturday pass, you wouldn’t be able to pick it up on Thursday or Friday; only on Saturday. So if you buy single-day passes for 2-3 days, you’d have to pick them up on their separate days.
Due to my schedule, I was only able to attend on Friday and Saturday (2/5 days) of Dragon Con, so I initially thought about buying a single-day passes for Friday and Saturday. It would have been cheaper than buying the full weekend pass; would have saved me over $70 CAD by doing so. But because of the same-day badge pickup policy, I would have to pick up my badge on Friday AND Saturday. That would have been a huge hassle, especially since I wouldn’t know how long I’d be waiting in line each day.
So I bit the bullet and spent the extra money to buy a weekend pass so I didn’t have to lineup twice. It sucked and I didn’t understand why they needed to have this policy. You could say it’s to reduce the lineups. But say if I wanted to pick-up my Saturday badge on Thursday, wouldn’t that just force more people to lineup on Saturday then?
Anyways, this was probably the biggest gripe I had. But not that big of a deal.
Convention hotels are strict and insanely difficult to book
In the Dragon Con discussion groups, I read a post about how getting a hotel is similar to The Hunger Games and I can see why now. Dragon Con has to be one of the most expensive and most difficult conventions to get a hotel room for. Not only do multiple hotels sell out far in advance, but a lot of them require non-refundable deposit for multiple nights.
So in order to get a hotel room, you’ll have to get very lucky and very committed with your convention plans firmly in place a year in advance. For many, that’s too much of an ask. But when you have a convention this popular, they can do this.
Dealer’s room was very difficult to access
Maybe this isn’t a negative, depending on your perspective. So from what I heard, the dealer’s room is so popular that the organizers have a hard cap on how many people are allowed in the building. That would explain why on Saturday afternoon, I saw an enormous lineup just to get into the dealer’s room. From my guess, it would have taken over an hour in line to enter. I didn’t want to wait that long, so I decided to pass on going inside at the time.
Fortunately, there was a much shorter lineup around 6 p.m. and I was able to get in then! The dealer’s room was incredibly unique and all. But I feel the hard cap can prevent a lot of attendees from seeing what’s inside.
Alright, so that’s all the negatives about Dragon Con that I experienced. Nothing too major, considering all of the big positives that this convention has to offer.
Let’s talk about some other stuff…
Wasn’t as hot as I predicted
Because Atlanta is located in the Southern part of the U.S. and Dragon Con taking place in August/September, I thought I was ready to melt in the hot summer weather.
However, once I arrived in Atlanta, the heat wasn’t actually that bad! I’m not sure if the weather was below-seasonal temperatures, or if the humidity in the ATL wasn’t as dense. But the heat wasn’t an issue at all.
Sure, I did get a bit sweaty in my cosplay during the day. But it was relatively easy to cool off as there are lots of quiet spots around the convention to sit down under the air conditioning. I guess if I was an armored suit cosplay, then it would be a different story. I’m happy to say that the heat is not a big deal in Atlanta, even during Dragon Con.
So one of my big concerns going to Dragon Con was safety. I’ve been to Atlanta before and there were times where I felt uncomfortable, especially on the MARTA train. Fortunately, the area in and around Dragon Con was incredibly safe. There was lots of attendees, security and staff in downtown Atlanta and you’d have no issues in my opinion walking around, even at night.
With that said, I did feel a little uncomfortable going back to my hotel via the MARTA train at night, especially in cosplay. I just made sure to walk really quickly once I exited the station. But other than possibly a few stares from train passengers, I didn’t have any problems. From what I saw, there are a lot of Dragon Con attendees who take the MARTA train back to their car/hotel all the way to the last train arrives, which is around 1:00 A.M. So I think the MARTA system is fine in terms of safety.
I actually even considered walking all the way back from Dragon Con to my hotel, but the receptionist advised me to take a taxi or MARTA back at night just to be safe. So that’s what I did. One night I decided to call an Uber from the con to my hotel and it was great! A bit pricey but I got to my hotel quickly and safely.
You have so many food options at Dragon Con because the event is right in downtown Atlanta!
The main option was the big food court located in the middle of the convention grounds, which was always busy with people. I found this fried chicken joint in that food court that wasn’t too busy. On the Saturday however, I had to line up for the Asian restaurant for over half an hour. I considered giving up and thought about grabbing lunch near my hotel away from the crowds. But since I met a new friend there and wanted to socialize, I decided to stick it out and wait. The food was great, so it was worth it.
Apparently there’s a “secret food court” that people were talking about, but I could never find it. Also, apparently the convention hotels serve a lot of great and unique food. But it was pretty expensive, so I didn’t try. And plus I didn’t know which were supposedly the best ones, given it was my first time attending.
P.S. I tried Waffle House for the first time when I was there. I loved it!
Wow, this review got long! To sum it up, Dragon Con is AMAZING. One of the best conventions I’ve ever been to. And this is coming from a Weeb like me who is more into Anime conventions. You HAVE to experience Dragon Con. I’m SO glad I decided to try it out for the first time. The trip was well worth it!
Overall Score: 9.5/10
I hope you enjoyed my review of Dragon Con. 🙂
If you have any questions or if you’ve been to Dragon Con as well, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave them in the comments below.
My name is Roger Senpai. I’m a cosplayer that’s been in the community for well over a decade now. I’ve traveled all over the world to Anime and Comic conventions and hosted my own cosplay events. Now I’m writing articles for new and experienced cosplayers like you to help inspire, save you money and improve your cosplays!