Dragon Con 2019: 6 Days in the Life of an Over-40 Fan
You’ve probably heard a lot about Dragon Con if you’ve never been before. The event is held annually in Atlanta every Labor Day weekend. The 2019 con just ended and I am still very much in recovery mode. I have been attending every year for 13 straight years, but the convention is very different for me today at 44 than it was in my early 30s. But I fully intend to attend Dragon Con until I die, so even though my approach may change, I’ll still be there.
While it was still fresh, I wanted to recap of Dragon Con 2019. Keep in mind I was there as a fan, not as press, so that’s the perspective you’ll be getting.
Wednesday is the New Thursday
This was the longest ago, so the hardest to remember. I am in an amazing position to have friends from all over the country come to Dragon Con. On Wednesday, two friends from Michigan and two friends from Asheville North Carolina descended on my home in Atlanta hours before we could even check into our hotel. (They wanted to meet my kitten, which is an entirely different blog post).
We went to lunch and when my husband got home, we packed up the car and drove into downtown Atlanta to check into the Sheraton. We’ve been staying at the Sheraton since it became a host hotel in 2010, I believe. We were glad that the Legionaries scare didn’t shut the hotel down for Dragon Con. Since official events don’t start until Thursday, Wednesday night was low key. We walked to a taco place for dinner and checked out the Wednesday hotel bar scene, which was surprisingly busy.
Thursday Night Tiki Party
Thursday, more friends arrived. Minnesota, Colorado, and Baltimore were now represented. We got our badges, which took longer than usual to go through the lines this year. Then I took a group of people who were staying at my apartment back to get them acclimated to meet the kitten they were watching for the weekend.
On Thursday night, Dragon Con hosted a Tiki Party at the Sheraton Pool. Our room was directly off the pool so we decided to host our own room party with a Tiki Theme. If you attend Dragon Con, you’ll see multiple parties and events throughout the weekend. It’s impossible to attend them all, so it’s worth just picking a few things. I’m into Tiki right now, so it was a perfect choice and close to our room. We even made our own rum punch for friends who stopped by.
Friday Costumes to See and Be Seen
Friday, during the day, things got into full swing. With all the possible tracks and panels happening across 5 hotels it is impossible to attend everything. And some panels, especially those with the big-name celebrities, are often difficult to get into. Our strategy is to put as many things on our schedule as possible and decide last minute which might work best.
On Friday, my husband and I attended a panel with several Orville cast members. We went to a local restaurant for lunch and then met up with our group to begin the costuming process. At night, Dragon Con has parties and events, but you’ll also find many people congregating in the large host hotels for cosplay. Even if you don’t costume, it’s worth check out to see what’s going on.
Of course, if you do cosplay, nights are a great time to see and be seen. Sometimes groups of friends will do costumes in a theme. This year, some of our friends did while others didn’t.
Saturday Night at the Georgia Aquarium
Saturday is an interesting day in downtown Atlanta. The parade is the single even that anyone can attend whether or not they have a badge, so locals come down to line the street and see the cosplayers. I, on the other hand, try to avoid the street during this time and prefer to watch the parade on local TV.
Just after the parade, several friends and I went to see the Teacup Races, which is my new favorite things. Competitors trick out remote control cars with a tea theme and try to make it through an obstacle course in the best time without destroying it. There was certainly a range of racers, from absolute perfection to complete destruction. But I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time.
Also on Saturday, I ventured up to the Hyatt to attend a writer’s panel and then check out some new music on the concourse stage. Jess-O-Lantern is a spoopy songwriter from Florida and I was very impressed by her performance.
Saturday night is one of our favorite events. We attended the Dragon Con Night at the Georgia Aquarium. The event is ticketed, so non-Dragon Con attendees could choose to participate if they wanted. The aquarium is open at night for all manner of cosplayers and merriment. Our group springs for the VIP passes to get access to the special VIP lounge, open bar, and snacks.
Sunday Slow Down
Sunday depends almost entirely on Saturday and I could tell we weren’t going to be doing much. When one friend arrived back to our hotel room at 4am just to sleep on the floor under a couple of towels, I knew we all had a long Saturday night. So Sunday was very much a slowdown day for us. In the evening, we watched the Masquerade costume contest on Dragon Con TV, available in all host hotels or through a streaming membership.
Full Stop on Monday
By the time Monday rolled around, I was unable to do much of anything. We packed up our room, people started taking off for the airport, and I just wanted to go home to my TV, sofa, and kitten. We ate breakfast, checked out, and called it quits on a very wonderful Dragon Con indeed. We’re already booked for our hotel room in 2020.
The Culture of Dragon Con
Dragon Con is unique in the con circuit. It is one of the only conventions where attendees cosplay the con itself, notable through the Cult of the Marriott Carpet which has since seeped into pop-culture, including the WWE. This year the Marriott embraced their con legacy to create new experiences.
This year’s most entertaining con-culture story was the Cult of Jon, an unassuming FedEx cardboard advertisement that is now its own religion.
Even if you’ve attended other conventions around the country, you’ll be genuinely surprised at Dragon Con in Atlanta. It is a singular experience that can’t be compared to any other. And with a 5-day pass at only $85 + fees until prices go up in a month or so, it’s also one of the most affordable cons. Rooms at the 5 host hotels can be hard to come by, but there are plenty of overflow hotels and hotels along the MARTA line that would also work. You have a year to plan if you want to join in the fun.