DragonCon Tips?
August 29, 2008 6:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to DragonCon in Atlanta this weekend.

Other than a nearby and smallish Star Trek convention I attended for one day probably 15 years ago I've never been to this sort or thing before. I'll be driving my own car, arriving in Atlanta in the early afternoon tomorrow (Saturday), and staying two nights in Smyrna.

There are a handful of specific people/events I want to see but mostly I just want to walk around and see what it's all about. FWIW, I'm a middle-aged man and a life long scifi fan but not really a geek (at least I don't think so), and I'll be traveling alone.

One thing I'm a little concerned about is finding parking near the convention.
posted by lordrunningclam to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total)
I know this isn't answering your question directly, but I would not plan on driving into Atlanta this weekend for DragonCON. There is MAJOR construction going on on I-75/85 and it's going to be a nightmare - like only 1-2 open lanes in either direction kind of nightmare. I've been hearing about it all week. I suggest MARTA even though that might be a pain, at least you won't be stuck in traffic for hours.

Off the top of my head, you could probably drive to the Dunwoody or Medical Center stations and take the train intown.
posted by SoulOnIce at 7:04 AM on August 29, 2008

Never been, not going, but found some info at Flickr via Google: DragonCon Parking - Help. Here's some more info via Livejournal.
posted by nitsuj at 7:04 AM on August 29, 2008

Ooh, you should really come a little earlier so you don't miss the parade. It's the highlight of the convention.
posted by designbot at 7:13 AM on August 29, 2008

You might find the (lengthy!) post and thread on Worldcongoing at Making Light - it starts as a discussion on attending WorldCon (and there's some bits focused on writers) but a lot of the general advice is excellent and explained well, and much of it is relevant to any con, but particularly large and potentially overwhelming ones.

Even if you disagree with the advice, it'll give you a way to think about the different issues.
posted by modernhypatia at 7:26 AM on August 29, 2008

2nding the information on 75/85. Getting into or out of the city on wheels is going to be an absolute nightmare. MARTA is the way to go this time, as not-fun as that is. Also agree with the earlier arrival, if possible. The Parade is one you have to see.
posted by frwagon at 7:37 AM on August 29, 2008

Went last year. I'm a long time con-goer, been to conventions major and minor. From San Diego Comic Con to the tiny Non-Sport Card Expo in Chicago.

Dragon-Con is a largish convention, but it has one major flaw--it's spread out over three buildings (on a steep steep hill). So far as parking goes, if you get there early, there's plenty of garages in the area to park (it cost some but not too much). The fact that there are 3 buildings so spread out means there are lots of parking spots "near the convention", however if it's near the part of the convention YOU want to be at...that's the trick.

The con is a LOT of walking up and downhill, up and down stairs, due to the steep incline and the 3 buildings. For example, you walk in on the "ground floor" of one hotel, go down an escalator, and exit on the "lower floor" to the street, which is a full story below where you entered. Then you cross the street to the other hotel.

I was disappointed greatly in Dragon Con's shopping opportunities. I'm a sci-fi/comic collector and the "sales floor" consisted of two small-ish hotel ballrooms.

DragonCon, more than the other cons, is focused on sexuality and B&D. There were topless women in body paint at our check-in, and the sales floor sold leather gear and latex items. As that's not really my scene I was disappointed.

The autograph area, however, is one of the most impressive I've seen ever. Better than SDCC. Big names from a variety of sci-fi, fantasy, and just pop culture (my wife melted for Eric Estrada). One thing DragonCon does that bugs me is you must pay to have a photo taken with the celeb. Most places give you a photo free with an autograph. At DragonCon a photo was $20.

The panels are all right, attendance is medium. I didn't go to a single full panel, there were always some seats. They seemed to focus on authors for panels, which is good as in my experience they have a lot more to say than actors. But the schedule is published, I'm sure.

My biggest tip is to get there early. Parking is better, and the con just gets more full (as does parking) as the day goes on. A convention is NOT a vacation, it's getting up early and then getting there, getting your coffee or stimulant of choice (Mt. Dew, whatever), and having fun.

And having gone last year, I am going to second the parade. It was truly impressive last year.
posted by arniec at 7:37 AM on August 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Definitely take MARTA - from Perimeter Station, or above. Not only is DragonCon this weekend, but the Alabama-Clemson game is Saturday night. The few lanes that will be open downtown will be filled with fans streaming in from Alabama and South Carolina. It's not going to be pretty.
posted by studentbaker at 7:49 AM on August 29, 2008

If you absolutely must drive, take I-285 south from Smyrna to I-20 East and that will get you downtown relatively easily. Unfortunately there aren't any MARTA stations (with car parking or otherwise) in the northwest Smyrna/Marietta area of the city.

As long as you're not heading back out of downtown via I-20 the same time all the Alabama fans are heading back to Tuscaloosa (which would be around 11:30/midnight Saturday night), then that's your best bet if you're going to be in a car.
posted by DawgterFeelgood at 9:34 AM on August 29, 2008

I almost forgot to add, and this is very very important: if you park in one of the lots that isn't a garage, PAY THE MACHINE. Scammers troll those lots, they'll walk up to your car and tell you a price, and then give you a ticket from days earlier. It happened to me last year. Look around, pay the machine. If approached, say you only have a credit card (unless they are OBVIOUSLY employees, wearing a company shirt, etc)
posted by arniec at 9:56 AM on August 29, 2008

Nthing MARTA if that's possible.

Side note re. MARTA: If you take the MARTA, whatever else you do, you must take the escalator down from street level at Peachtree Station (IIRC that's more or less where DragonCon is) to the MARTA. I do it every time I visit my fiancée in Atlanta. It's a mindbending escalator ride where they have slanted all the tiles on the wall to the exact angle of descent of the escalator, and when you're at the midpoint of the escalator you start to feel like you're in one of those H.P. Lovecraft THE GEOMETRY VIOLATES SPACE AND TIME situations. It is awesome, especially if you've got your drunk on a bit.
posted by Shepherd at 10:02 AM on August 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice. Unfortunately I won't be able to make it to the parade, and apparently MARTA service to Smyrna sucks so I'm going try driving in and parking each day. I thought of looking for a different motel, but at this point I think I'll just stick with the one I have. Thanks for the I-285 to I-20 advice, that's what I'll do.
posted by lordrunningclam at 12:39 PM on August 29, 2008

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