For those of us that have been going for years, Dragon Con feels like a second home, and we’ve all gotten used to how it works. But if you’re coming for the first time, you’re likely to get overwhelmed before you even get there. How are you going to prepare? What kind of amenities are available? Every year leading into the Con, we see newcomers asking questions on Dragon Con communities that show just how broad the misconceptions are. Here are a few “Dragon Con 101” things to know that should help you get the basics covered.
Don’t be scared of MARTA. MARTA is Atlanta’s public transit system. It’s not that great, and it doesn’t go too many places, but for the purpose of Dragon Con, it’s basically perfect. It’s far cheaper than getting a cab, and you’ll bypass Atlanta’s infamous traffic problems. If you’re flying in from out of town, MARTA connects the airport straight to the convention area–just ride it all the way up to Peachtree Center Station. You can also use MARTA to get to nearby tourist attractions like Centennial Olympic Park, the World of Coke, and the Georgia Aquarium. Practice common sense on board and you’ll be totally fine.
Get your badge first. As soon as you arrive and get checked into your hotel (if you’re staying on-site), find registration and get in line. In the past few years the process has been streamlined quite a bit, so you shouldn’t spend all day in there. However, the longer you wait to get in that line, the longer you have to wait to join the festivities. This is especially true for those getting Saturday passes. That line gets long fast, and you’ll miss the parade. Get here early and get in that line as fast as possible.
Don’t forget your postcard. In order to make sure that the badge line moves quickly don’t forget the postcard they mailed out if you pre-registered. Having this and your photo ID in hand when you walk up to the window makes the process run smoothly and efficiently. It also makes the volunteer working that window grateful that you don’t waste five minutes of their time fumbling through your bag as you repeat “I swear it’s here” over and over before finally emerging with a crumpled up card clutched in your fist.
Learn where not to stop. Dragon Con gets packed really fast. Some might say it’s overcrowded. You will see places where there seems to be a constant flow of moving bodies, heading slowly from place to place. Do not stop in these places. Likewise, if you don’t know where you’re going, figure it out before you start moving along. For your safety and the safety of others, please move out of the way when you get to the destination end of an escalator before you start looking around to get your bearings. If you block that end of the escalator, you’re likely going to get yourself or someone else injured as the crowd bears down upon you. And for the love of all things Whedon, NEVER STOP IN THE SKYWALKS.
Rule of 6-2-1. It’s a crazy weekend full of all sorts of exciting things and if you take even a minimal amount of time to sleep, shower, or blink, you’re positive you’ll miss out on something amazing. We get it. But do yourself, and everyone around you a favor, and remember the 6-2-1 rule. 6 hours of sleep, 2 meals, and 1 shower, every day. You’ll be happier, cleaner, and less likely to end up with con crud when it’s all over. If you don’t think you’ll be able to shower all weekend, then you’re going to need to find a way to keep yourself clean. If you try and drown your body odor in body sprays and perfumes, you’re going to choke the people around you, and you won’t solve the problem. You’ll smell worse than you did before. Body sprays and perfumes are also likely to trigger migraines and allergic reactions in some people, so you could even be causing problems for others by soaking yourself in them. Instead of turning yourself into a toxic cloud, try and find cleansing wipes and deodorant you can keep with your things for quick spot-cleaning. A good tip for freshening up costumes is diluting some cheap vodka with water and using a spray bottle to apply to your clothes.
There are no storage lockers or public showers. To have a place to stash your stuff and bathe, you’re going to need access to a hotel room. Whether this means getting your own or finding a friend willing to let you use theirs is up to you–but don’t come to Dragon Con expecting that you’ll be able to store your stuff and bathe on the event levels.
Be Patient. As stated previously, Dragon Con is very crowded. People often cannot move out of your way in a packed area; if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, you’re likely to get frustrated and disappointed. Dragon Con also has disabled attendees. Be respectful, as they will often need extra time to get on and off elevators, into panels, and may even take longer to communicate with others. When in doubt, give yourself plenty of extra time to get to your panels and events. And for the love of god, if you see 12 people waiting ahead of you for their coffee at Caribou, yours is not going to be the first one up in the window. Don’t steal someone else’s coffee because you don’t know how to wait.
Take the stairs. If you are able-bodied (don’t forget that not all handicaps are outwardly visible) and only going up or down a few floors, try to take the stairs as much as possible. In most of the hotels all event levels are accessible by various stair wells, which frees up elevator access for those who are going more than a handful of floors or who cannot physically climb the stairs. Most of the time you’ll get places faster and even get some bonus exercise in.
Don’t hop in front of elevator crowds. It is basically guaranteed that during Dragon Con, the elevators will have crowds of people waiting for their turn to use them. If you arrive and slither into the thing just as the doors are opening, thereby cutting in front of everyone who has been waiting for what could be upwards of ten minutes, you’re being terrible. Everyone at Con has to wait at some point. Don’t be the person that makes other people’s waiting even longer.
Respect the cosplayers and their personal boundaries. Cosplayers will be everywhere, some of them in costumes you will want to photograph or take a closer look at. Don’t touch them without asking first, and take “no” for face value. If someone asks you to stop taking photos of them, respect their wishes. And if the cosplayer you want a picture of is a small child, please ask their parent before taking photos. Lastly, please remember that cosplay is not consent.
A lot of this boils down to the wise words of Bill and Ted: “Be excellent to each other.” Dragon Con can be super stressful for people, even while they’re having a lot of fun–simply because it’s such a large crowd, and there’s so much to do and see. Keep that in mind when you’re trying to get to your panel in the Hyatt basement from the Hilton, and remember Wheaton’s Law: don’t be a dick.
Note: Edits were made to ensure all Atlanta tourist attractions are listed by their official names.