DragonCon 2017: the Good, the Bad, and the Chair
Written by Dela Doll Cosplay
For five days, nerds of every color and creed swarmed every nook and cranny of downtown Atlanta…and it was epic in every sense of the word. DragonCon 2017 was my very first, and I found myself amazed in overwhelmed. I’ve heard for years that DragonCon was regarded as a “party con”, and discovered it to be more than true. At any and all hours of the day and night, the streets and buildings were densely spotted and speckled with attendees adorned in cosplay and other geeked out gear. I quickly realized that there was no way I could possibly see it all, but I did my best to capture the spirit and essence of DragonCon in my adventure!
Now I’m gonna be honest, celebrity guests don’t tend to hold any personal appeal for me at any convention. No matter what con I go to, the lines are almost always too long, and the idea of paying out the ass for a two second meet and greet doesn’t really tickle my fancy. That said, DragonCon 2017 has had the most A-list celebrities (as far as nerdy pop culture goes) I’ve ever seen at a convention. Stan Lee, Matt Smith, John Cusack, Yaya Han: the list goes on. And these weren’t your run-of-the-mill, quick pop-in appearances either: A majority of the guests all stayed for multiple days, and some were even found mingling with the common folk at parties and other events. There are numerous reports of fans getting pictures with their faves grabbing a drink, getting a bite to eat, or even sharing an elevator , so if there’s ever a con where you run a really high chance of interacting with the stars and creators you admire, DragonCon is it.
While guests aren’t really my thing, you can bet your ass that I am 100% likely to be found gawking and talking in the vendors area of any convention. DragonCon’s vendors area was actually areas; as opposed to one designated room for dealers and artists to display their wares and take all my money, DragonCon boasted three floors worth of geeky goodies.Anything you could possibly want could be found. Handmade leather armor? Yup. Three-foot tall wall art of hot warrior girls riding dragons in the moonlight? Yes. Elf ears in a variety of skin-tones? Check. Fucking superhero themed luxury soaps and bath bombs? Hell yeah! They got all that glorious shit too! Not to mention the massive variety of handmade plushies, light sabers, collectors items, comics, props, knives, swords, clothing, and more. I was in Heaven.
I’m not much of a panel person, but much like with the amazing assortment of special guests, DragonCon really delivered in offering a variety of interesting panels ranging in a variety of subjects, interests, and interactivity. There was something for everyone, and even I, in all my ADD glory, found more than a few of them tempting to attend. That said, you will definitely need to have some solid planning and time management skills if you plan on attending multiple panels because it’s a huge con with a lot going on, and it’s easy to get distracted and lose track of time in the midst of all the beautiful chaos.
There was a ton of food available. Downtown Atlanta is full of eateries and restaurants ranging from dirt cheap to super fancy and pricey. I indulged in Thai food, sushi, hot wings, and pizza during my time there, and also spotted some establishments featuring Indian and Mexican food that I wish I had eaten at. There were also food vendors in certain areas of the con, offering your typical con food (hot dogs and soda and such). In addition to this, DragonCon featured a complimentary Con Suite, which is literally “a lounge stocked with all sorts of complimentary soft drinks, coffee, and munchies for all attendees to enjoy when feeling a bit hungry.” That’s right. Free food and drinks. Nothing beats free, and I wish that all cons could do this. Clearly, the options were virtually unlimited and very affordable for any budget.
Events and Activities
This is where DragonCon really fucking shines. Are you a party animal looking to get lit and let loose? Take your pick; there’s something going on every night (multiple, somethings, in fact). Do you prefer to chill and do a little tabletop gaming gaming or figure painting? There’s a lovely area just for you. And let’s not forget the numerous group photo shoots, flash mobs, and spontaneous events that just kind of spring up like beanstalks from nerdy magic beans. No matter what time it was, you could find something fun to do at DragonCon. This is especially perfect for someone like me, who likes to just go explore and experience things naturally with no set plans or goals other than to make memories and have a good time. Whether you get up early and map out your day, or you sleep late and don’t even hit the streets until 4pm, you’re gonna come across an event that sucks you in, and it’s gonna be great.
This video was taken around 12:00am…and the party was just getting started. I’m not kidding when I said that there always an event happening around the clock at DragonCon.
Downtown Atlanta is a fucking shit fuck of hell, confusion, and total anarchy to drive in, but once you find parking, it’s a magical land in which everything you could possibly want is but a short walk away. My suggestions for those who choose to drive to DragonCon is to set aside at least $100 for parking, maybe more. No, I’m not exaggerating at all. Yes, you will find yourself severely fucked up the ass if you don’t heed my warning. Now, once you’ve made peace with the fact that parking costs almost as much as your badge, find a place to park, get all of your shit out of the car, take it to your hotel room or wherever your staying, and prepare to walk everywhere for the next 4 days or so. Don’t worry about your car; you won’t need it again until it’s time to leave because you’re now just a 5-10 minute walk away from each of DragonCon’s designated hotels and venues, a plethora a restaurants, convenience stores, shops, the aquarium, the park, a full sized mall, and pretty much everything else downtown Atlanta and DragonCon have to offer. If at any point you are absolutely tempted to drive, just summon an Uber instead. I pinky-promise you that it’s less stressful than maneuvering the hilly maze of the streets and coming back to find that the parking space you worked so hard to find and sacrificed your firstborn for is now gone.
Now that I’ve sufficiently warned you of the parking fuckery, onto the positives! As I’ve previously stated, everything you could possibly need or want is right around the corner. DragonCon spans several venues in downtown Atlanta, and somehow all of them are nice. Every area I went to was air conditioned and reasonably spacious. The Atlanta Marriott Marquis and other host hotels (the Hilton Atlanta, Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, Hyatt Regency Atlanta, and the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel) were party central, it seems. Meanwhile, AmericasMart held the vendors areas, the table top gaming area, and other events was roomy and relatively easy to navigate thanks to the helpful staff (I asked for directions several times and people were nice and gave accurate info each time!). That said, I do prefer for everything to be in the same space when I go to a con, but with a 80,000 attendees, that’s simply not possible. I believe that DragonCon did an amazing job with making the most of their space, and did their best to keep order, which I’m certain wasn’t easy and took a lot of careful effort and planning. Demonic parking aside, I enjoyed navigating con. There’s a lot to see just walking down the street, so it was all much more of a welcome adventure than a bother to go from one building to the next.
In the cosplay community, it has often been said that DragonCon is one of those conventions where people really bring out their best costumes, doing elaborate mechanical designs, massive group cosplays, and complicated ball gowns of their own design. This is 100% true. In just a single day at DragonCon, I’d already seen some of the most amazing cosplay creations ever to grace a con floor, some of the most hilarious cosplays based off of puns and iconic moments in pop culture, and the most well-executed group cosplays ever. A good portion of the attendees, myself included, donned a variety of cosplay throughout the weekend, from the beginning of the day well into the twilight hours (seriously, people were in full armor walking down the street at 2am. It was surreal. I loved it.). Rather than continue to wax poetic about all of the eye catching cosplay at DragonCon, I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves. Some of these photos were taken by yours truly, while others were supplied by my fellow attendees (thanks, guys!).
I…am on the fence here. It definitely won’t emotionally or psychologically scar your small children if you bring them to DragonCon. In fact, they might even have a great time! On a personal level, though, as the mother of a 6 year old girl who doesn’t always handle crowds very well, I can’t say that I’d bring her to DragonCon until she was a little
older. Friends of mine and other people I saw had their small children in tow, but I couldn’t see myself doing it. There’s a lot of walking, and the sidewalks and certain parts of the con were packed and busy. Even as an adult, it could be easy to get lost or separated from your peeps, so imagine trying to keep up with a toddler.
I feel like if you’re someone who wants to just mingle and enjoy daytime events, then you’d probably be ok bringing your children along to some extent. Just pack a lot of water and snacks and make sure they’re wearing comfortable shoes and have a change of clothes. On the other hand, if you want to party and hit up night events, you may want to find a sitter or just sit DragonCon out entirely. It would be really easy for a kid to become exhausted or overwhelmed with all the people, noises, and foot travel. I feel like the best way to go about things is to be honest with yourself about what your child can handle. Consider the following:
- Their age
- How well do they do in crowds?
- Do they enjoy physical activity?
- Are they easily bored?
- Do they enjoy costumes (Somme kids don’t. My younger sister was not a fan of theme park characters when we were children)?
- Do you feel like explaining every little out-of-the-ordinary thing?
- Do they like any of the things DragonCon has to offer?
- Do they have any special needs in terms of healthcare?
During the day, none of the attendees got too wild or out there, so in terms of content and such, I don’t think that’s much an issue. At night, however, things are obviously a different story (a pretty fun different story, but an objectively adult one, but the kids should be in bed by then, and you should be with them unless you’ve made childcare arrangements (Never ever leave your small children unattended in a hotel room. Ever.). Personally, I’m thinking around 8-10 years old would be ideal for my own daughter to attend with me, and I will happily forgo adult and night events in exchange for experiencing DragonCon with her. I’ve heard of families having a great time together at DragonCon, while I’ve seen some parents say that they prefer not to have the kids with them when they attend. Obviously, I can’t tell other people what’s best for them and their families, but hopefully this helps make the topic of children and DragonCon a little easier to deal with and will lead to good decisions for parents and their children.
We Need To Talk About the Chair
We should all know that we don’t throw chair. We don’t throw chairs from the 10th floor of the Marriott and literally split open our innocent fellow-con goer’s skull with them. We do not do this…and yet it happened. As great and attentive as I found the DragonCon staff to be, they can’t possibly prevent every unfortunate occurrence from happening all on their own. Wit this in mind, there’s a reasonable expectation that we should be know how to properly conduct ourselves. If you get so completely smashed, trashed, and otherwise inebriated that you think it’s a good idea to do something that could completely ruin someone else’s DragonCon experience at best, and critically injure or kill them at worst, just stay away from the alcohol to stay home entirely. Don’t bring your poor judgement and lack of self control to an event in which everyone there spent money and time to enjoy themselves. Other people don’t deserve to have it ruined by your foolishness.
DragonCon is amazing. At risk of sounding like a complete cornball, it’s damn near magical. I definitely recommend it to anyone with an adventurous streak who likes to have a good time and doesn’t mind a little walking. There was always something to see or get into, and it was easily well worth the price tag. I’m looking forward to attending future DragonCons and making more memories. It’s an event that definitely lives up to the hype in every way possible, and I have yet to meet a single person in my circle of geeky acquaintances who regrets going. If you didn’t attend DragonCon this year, you missed out. If you love conventions, make it a point to be there in 2018! In all honesty, if I could only attend one con a year for the rest of my life, DragonCon would probably be it.