Friday, August 26, 2022

The 2022 Dragon Con Survival Guide: New & Improved!

It's Fri-Yay, y'all!

And even better, after a too-long pandemic-y hiatus, John and I are heading back to Atlanta this Wednesday for the one, the only, Dragon Con.

Eeeeee I'm so excited.

We've been going to this con every year since 2009(!!), and Dragon Con was the only cancelled event I truly missed the last two years. Take the rest, but gimmie my dragony chaos crew. DC fuels me up all year, and feels like home in a way you just have to experience to understand - which is why I tell everyone to try it at least once.

Baby Jen's first Dragon Con, 2009. This was pre-Epbot! Also my first time asking for a photo with cosplayers, because Ghostbusters 4evahhhh.

And while I'm feeling nostalgic, here's my favorite photo from that first year:

Sparkly Edward Cullen & Mighty Mugs Chewie. Yep. That' about sums it up.

Anyhoo, so today we're revisiting my Dragon Con Survival Guide. These are helpful tips for newbies and veterans alike, plus it gives me an excuse to post some of my favorite photos from last time (2019), which always hypes me up.


To keep this entertaining you'll be getting a mix of crappy cellphone pics and my dramatic black-out portraits:

So if nothing else, I hope you enjoy the eye candy. :)

First, the Dragon Con basics:

What is it?

Dragon Con is an internationally known pop culture, sci-fi, fantasy, and gaming convention held in Atlanta, Georgia. It spans 5 days over Labor Day weekend, and prior to 2020 had grown to an attendance of over 80,000 people.

That's by no means the largest convention in the U.S., but Dragon Con *feels* the largest because instead of a convention center, it's held in 5 large "host hotels" and two shopping center buildings, all of which span several blocks in downtown Atlanta.

Because the con is spread out over such a large area, it's easily the most confusing and potentially stressful event you'll ever attend. Don't worry, though, I got you.
Here's a helpful map from Reddit you may want to print out:

 You'll pick up your passes at Registration in the Sheraton, where the green check mark is. After that, most of us never return to the Sheraton, hehe.

And one more map that shows parking options, if you need them:

The MARTA is a fantastic public transport that brings you right to the con and saves you a ton on parking, so take that if you can.

If you're like us and prefer to drive, though, try to park in the center cluster of garages across the street from the Marriott. They'll cost about $30 per day, but are SUPER convenient. And since they're so expensive, there are always spots left!

 Quick Tip: DC doesn't sell tickets, they sell "memberships." On their website, there's no "buy" - it's "join." That can be confusing for first-timers, but rest assured it's the same thing. Right now tickets for all 5 days are $160 - but keep in mind for next year that if you pre-purchase you get steep discounts.

Now that you know where to park & get tickets, let's talk daily Dragon Con SURVIVAL.

 The Marriott lobby, where all the best costumes come out to play.

Plus all the big groups and spectacles!

For some reason the Spartans are always a crowd pleaser. ;)

Dragon Con is capping attendance at about 75% this year, so we'll have more breathing room, but there will definitely still be crowds.
  First things first:

- Self-care is VITAL

This is the one everyone told me to emphasize most last time, so consider it emphasized. Con Crud is real, Covid is still out there, and if you don't want to get sick you'll need CONSTANT VIGILANCE.

Dragon Con is requiring masks indoors and capping attendance, but I also recommend: 

- sanitize your hands constantly

-  NO ESCALATOR HIGH-FIVES. Or sharing drinks. Or random kissing. Your kissing should be highly selective.

- Get enough sleep, drink lots of water, take vitamin C, etc.

- We're already required to wear masks indoors, so, you know, wear them. Properly.

That doesn't count, Madmartigan!

- Prioritize & Plan Ahead

Dragon Con panels are spread over 5 different hotels, and running in the 90 degree heat will wear you out FAST. Map out your can't-miss events ahead of time (DC has a free app for this, download that now!) then use the skyways connecting the hotels when possible, so you stay in the A/C.

Once you have a schedule, watch the Dragon Con app (or their Twitter account) for updates and cancellations. At the con itself, scheduling changes will be announced online, on the app, and on DCTV.

- Know Your Sky Bridges

There are overhead bridges connecting 3 of the 5 hotels (plus the food court area) which allow you to stay in the A/C and avoid trekking up and down the outside hills. There's even a bridge connecting our favorite parking garage to the food court! These bridges are a life-saver in the Hotlanta heat, so use them whenever possible. Refer to that first map I posted to find them.
If you get lost - and you will - ask someone beside you in the crowd. Odds are, they'll know!

  Or look for a helpful Sailor Moon Scot. Heyooo.

- Remember there's a "Day Con" And a "Night Con"

Dragon Con is only family friendly during the day; after dark there's lots of drinking, lots more skin and nearly-nude cosplay, and a general party atmosphere. However, after dark is ALSO when most of the best cosplay comes out.

I highly, HIGHLY recommend spending at least one late night (preferably Friday or Saturday, and at least 'til midnight) in the Marriott lobby. That's where you'll see Dragon Con at its bonkers best.

Which reminds me...

 - Don't Miss The Thursday Night Bunny Hutch

::singing:: "It's Thursday niiiiiiiight"

  Thursday night is the annual "Bunny Hutch" event, where you'll see every Playboy bunny & Heff fandom mashup you can imagine, and then some.

So many puns, but my Mom reads this, so... HI MOM.

Don't let the Playboy theme scare you off; this event is more about being creative and silly than it is risque. You'll see way more scandalous outfits Friday or Saturday night than you will here.

(You can see the rest of my Bunny Hutch photos from 2019 here!)

 - Pack Each Day Like You're Going Camping

Pikachu needs his nomnomz, y'all.

A backpack is ideal, but any large and comfy bag will do. Use it to bring:

- a refillable water bottle (there are lots of convenient water stations)
- snacks that travel well (Meal bars, fruit, etc.)
- Purell or sanitizing hand wipes
- grooming necessities (at least deodorant. Please.)
- emergency supplies (costume repair, medicines, etc.)
- extra batteries for cameras and/or cellphones 
And unless you're wearing the most comfortable sneakers you own:
- a backup pair of shoes/flip-flops

Quick Tip: There are several costume contests throughout the con, but the BIG one is called "The Masquerade" on Saturday night. This confused us our first year, since it sounds more like a ball, but it's really just a costume contest.

The Masquerade is broadcast live on DCTV - the in-hotel TV channel at every host hotel - AND on Dragon Con Goes Virtual, an online channel you can purchase for $10. Both are great ways to see the contest while chilling in your room. (The virtual option is for anyone, btw, and has tons of live coverage, panels, contests, etc. Great way to sample Dragon Con from home! )

- Anxiety Sufferers, Have A Panic Plan

If you have severe crowd anxiety, then I'll be blunt: DC is not for you. However, for those like me who "only" have run-of-the-mill panic and agoraphobia, this convention is totally doable. Bring your meds, pay attention to your food & rest needs, have a buddy with you at all times, and take lots of sit-down breaks as far from the crowds as possible. Earplugs and sunglasses can also be a big help for over-stimulation - and of course have your phone on hand for a quick distraction.

(Also take a look at DC's Disability Services page; they've expanded some of their services, and may be able to help.) 

Need to get out of the crowd and rest? Here are three of my go-to spots:

- The bottom floor of the Hyatt has lots of small panel rooms and corridors. The rooms will be full, but the hallways will be relatively crowd-free, and are a nice spot to sit on the floor.

- In the Marriott, turn right just inside the main lobby entrance. Follow that long hallway to a large open area with couches and water coolers. (This is by the eternal membership and security offices.) This area is almost always deserted, and y'all, COUCHES. Total life-saver.

- The Westin lobby - it's huge and the least crowded of all 5 host hotels. Great place for a recharge, if you're up for the hike to get there.

If you just need to rest your feet and don't mind the crowds, then plop down on the floor anywhere out of the way; that's what most of us do.

I was actually sitting on the floor during this photo: all the Potter books lined up right in front of me, haha.

I've also heard great things about the tabletop gaming area over in America's Mart - aka, the shopping building. Some gaming you have to sign up for in advance, but others are open to walk-ins, and can be a good way to get away from the crowds while meeting fellow gamers.

- Don't Plan More Than 4 Panels Per Day

Everything at Dragon Con takes longer than you expect, so pad out that schedule, peeps! And give yourself time for shopping, meals, people watching, etc.

- Skip The Parade
::controversial opinion alert::

The Dragon Con parade takes place Saturday morning at 10AM, and boasts over 3,000 participants. That's 3,000 people just IN the parade itself. I don't have the numbers for the viewers, but I think it's roughly "the entire population of Atlanta." Some veterans consider this a can't-miss spectacle, but for me it's a hot, shove-y nightmare.


So, my advice? Sleep in and watch the parade on DCTV or Dragon Con Goes Virtual instead! (Sometimes the local news airs it live, too.)

Whatever you decide, note that police shut down almost all of the streets in the immediate area, so you won't be able to get anywhere NEAR the convention (or the parking garages) until the parade crowds have cleared around noon. So plan accordingly.

Quick Tip: Did you know there's FREE FOOD at Dragon Con? It's true! If you're strapped for cash head to the ConSuite in the Hyatt, rooms 223 - 226. It's open 24 hours a day during the con, and will have sodas, snacks, and various food stuffs available, all free. Be prepared to wait, though, as there are usually lines.

If you *do* have food funds then you'll find a vast array of options: there are carts, kiosks, shops, and a full food court in the PeachTree center, all open late to accommodate the con.


BONUS KNOWLEDGE:  Dragon Con Has This Thing For Cults

Less of a survival tip and more of a fun fact, but you're going to see this carpet pattern EVERYWHERE:

That's the Cult of Carpet, DC's biggest and most well-loved "cult."

Every year we get new parody "cults", like the Cult of Cleaning from last year, and the Cult of John from the year before that:

There's too much to explain here, but these are all in-jokes and references to cons gone by, so I *highly* encourage asking DC veterans about them while you're here.

Oh, and if you find me and John, we'll have a couple Carpet Epbot pins up for grabs, so you can join in the fun:

Which brings me to my last essential Survival Tip:

 - Go With The Geeky Flow

 Don't be afraid to throw that schedule out the window, friends. Remember, this is supposed to be fun. If it's not, then change what you're doing to make it right! Talk to people in line with you, stop to listen to a band, or sit down and have a drink. Do what you want to do, not what you feel like you should do to "get your money's worth," or even what your friends want to do. Heck, go somewhere by yourself sometime - you'll make more friends that way!

Dragon Con is more about the experience of banding together with other real-live humans who share your passions than it is about getting to the next panel, so live a little. Make some memories. And above all, have fun!

Also send me photos of any punny costumes you see, because I collect them, haha. I try to do a roundup every year, and it makes me ridiculously happy. (Here's 2019's if you want some groans and lols.)

And finally, mark your schedules, because reader Rebecca has scheduled a couple Epbot Meetups for us to hang out!

So far we have one Thursday night at 6:30, another Sunday afternoon at 2pm, and a third possibly in the works in-between, TBD. Head to the FoEs Go To Dragon Con Facebook group for details, or just to meet some fellow readers before the con.

John and I plan to be at all the meetups, so please come say hi, grab a pin, show me your AWESOME COSPLAYS so I can fangirl over you, etc.

I'll be updating my IG/FB Stories throughout the weekend, so watch there for fun and silliness. And as always, if you see us at the con itself, give a yell! I promise John and I are just as goofy IRL, and never mind being interrupted.

So tell me, DC vets, what'd I miss? Share your tips and tricks for surviving Dragon Con in the comments.

Or, if you've never been, tell me what you most want to see at Dragon Con!


P.S. I haven't mentioned this in a while: did you know you can order Epbot designs on Threadless?

We have about a dozen different designs over there, which you can order on t-shirts, stickers, cell phone cases - basically anything Threadless sells. Which is SO MUCH. Check out the Epbot Threadless shop to see more!


  1. You neglected the ribbons, which I recently learned about. so many ribbons

  2. If you're a first-timer (or are just interested), there are a couple of events in the app for new people -- search "newbies" in the events. There is also a Facebook group, "Dragon Con Newbies":

    I usually suggest staying flexible. Before I started volunteering, I just marked everything that sounded interesting. Then when a panel was over or we finished eating, we could look at the schedule, see what looked the most interesting (and possibly easy to get to), and pick something. I still mark things that are interesting, even if they conflict with my schedule, because either schedule can change. :-)

  3. Heads up, MARTA added a new service called Reach that functions like uber in certain zones. You need the app to use it. Costs same as a ride.

  4. So glad you'll be there this year. Also there will be NO ON-SITE SALES this year. Only online sales. So get them online or use your phone to buy online there. No cash sales of memberships.

  5. Just looked over the Disabled Services page, and yowzah! Their game is so tight it squeaks, y'all! Source: I worked the San Diego ComiCon's disabled services for its founder, Robert Goodwin, and currently work the DS dept. named in his honour at San Diego Comic Fest, and am familiar with the job. The only other con I've seen that's this tightly covered is WesterCon; they issue red, yellow, and green stickers for people to signal their social contact comfort levels.

    If anybody needs absolutely anything, at this or any other con, PLEASE don't feel weird about contacting Disabled Services; we frickin' LIVE to serve!

    Your Pal,

    Storm the Klingon


    The stairs in the hotel get sticky with tons of spilled soft drinks, food, all sorts of stuff, and you can end up getting sticky gunk on the bottom of your shoes.

  7. I had planned on asking about accessibility last night after reading the repose of the DragonCon survival Guide" - but it was late - and return to find the comment above from 'Storm the Klingon', and I am inspired to write one now. The disabilities services page for DragonCon is encouraging, but I cannot tell form reading it whether a visually impaired person who uses a white cane and gets lost easily (like, at the drop of a hat) would function. I have attended small and medium-sized academic/scientific conventions for work, and often find those overwhelming enough, while this sounds ten times larger and 20 times more chaotic than anything I have dealt with before. I think I would love attending DragonCon, but it should also tell you something that it would take me a year of planning, scheming and gearing up for the event to start considering the matter. I am interested in hearing about experiences from others with similar issues (either visual impairment or, for want of a better word, navigation/spatial issues.

  8. Yay! I look forward to seeing your updates on Instagram (and still hope to someday join you, haha!)


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