I thought I was prepared for Dragon Con.
Since I started going to conventions in 2012, I’ve seen dozens of videos of the four-day costume party and parade that is Dragon Con in Atlanta. After purchasing tickets for my boyfriend and I, I joined six Facebook groups dedicated to different aspects of the convention.
I heeded all the advice. We brought cooked food, extra clothes and a pack of water bottles and sports drinks on top of our normal luggage.
When we walked into the Hilton — one of the five host hotels for the convention — on Thursday night, I was overwhelmed by the swarms of people in costume dancing to beat of the DJ set up in the hotel lobby.
Let me back up for a second. Dragon Con, which was held over Labor Day weekend, is now considered one of the biggest sci-fi, fantasy and pop culture conventions in the Southeast U.S. With attendance reaching over 80,000 this year, it spans five hotels in downtown Atlanta and two buildings in the city’s America’s Mart.
And all five of those hotels are filled with events throughout the day and night. The convention offers 40 different panel tracks covering topics from American sci-fi classics and anime to puppetry and space. At night, panels give way to different concerts and themed dance parties in nearly all five host hotels.
If panels and parties aren’t your thing, Dragon Con offers a three-floor vendors hall and artist alley as well as a 14,000-square-foot basement filled with Japanese rhythm games, retro arcade cabinets and tables of tabletop gaming.
Oh, and the convention shuts down two miles of downtown Atlanta on Saturday morning for a parade of all the costuming groups that attend Dragon Con.
To call Dragon Con a convention is an understatement. It is a true fan gathering. Each of the 40 panel tracks, the parties and even the tabletop and arcade games are organized all year by extremely passionate fans loyal to the convention.
Walking into the convention, that passion and loyalty really shows. I danced with Playboy bunny versions of Star Wars and Harry Potter characters at the Bunny Hutch party Thursday night, shouted Batman’s choices with a packed room of other people at the Telltale Games Crowd Play Live! panel on Friday afternoon and got the chance to meet cosplay legend Yaya Han on Sunday.
Dragon Con is truly what you make of it, because you’re never going to see all of it in one weekend. And I think that’s what makes this convention so unique. It’s four days of thousands of people from nearly every background imaginable helping each other have the best weekend possible, and opening themselves up to having new experiences and learning about new fandoms along the way.
I’m already saving up for my next Dragon Con. 2019, here I come!
Tiffanie Reynolds writes about nerd culture twice a month. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.