By Jerry Chandler
Preparation, you ask? Is this another article about getting ready for Dragon Con that gets into all that advice about how it’s important to have snacks, hydrate, get rest, shower, use deodorant, etc. that gets written about and talked about every year? Well, outside of that sentence, no, not really. This year I’ll be writing several articles talking about what’s around Dragon Con, not in it. So, no, no talk about how it’s important to have snacks, hydrate, get rest, shower, use deodorant, etc. while at the con or even about getting in some exercise before heading down to Dragon Con so that the (now five day) weekend doesn’t kick your butt like Morten Andersen kicking the old pigskin. However, we will be covering some of the same concepts, plus a few others that, while perhaps too late to make them useful this year, may make future Dragon Con weekends a bit more fun.
Look at that photo up top. That’s a photo taken from a high spot over by The Georgia Aquarium (which we’ll be getting into a lot of detail about later in the month) and Centennial Olympic Park. That’s an area that a lot of people who I’ve spoken to who attend Dragon Con never seem to see. This is somewhat surprising given the opportunity the layout offers for cosplay photoshoots and, of course, this little thing called the Dragon Con Night at the Aquarium.
This is one of the things I’d like to see change. Why? Because there’s a lot of stuff in Downtown Atlanta that’s absolutely awesome to see and experience. How awesome? Since my family changed how we set up our Dragon Con vacation and started seeing more of the area, I’ve seriously considered relocating. Of course, I then somewhat more seriously consider the fact that I’ve got seven more years to go before I can retire from my department with a full retirement intact, and, well, Atlanta does seem to frequently get its summer weather on loan from Hell and I absolutely hate heat. So, for now, it’s just my favorite vacation spot.
See all of that? That’s your standard Google Maps image of what is officially recognized by Google Maps as (in the highlighted section) Downtown Atlanta. Two of those little pink markers just to the right of Centennial Olympic Park are two of the official Dragon Con convention hotels. If all you ever see when you plan your Atlanta trip for Dragon Con is the convention hotels and convention buildings, you’re missing a lot of great stuff in that highlighted area as well as a few really awesome things just outside of it.
Now, I can hear you saying, why are you going to want to leave Dragon Con to see anything else in Atlanta? Well, you might not want to. Then again, you may find some of what I’ll be covering useful if you’re wanting to occasionally find a place other than your hotel room to spend an hour or two decompressing before diving back into the con or even getting a meal someplace other than in the immediate footprint zone of Dragon Con. But there’s an entirely different option to giving up time at the convention that, with advanced planning and preparation, will make your trips to Dragon Con all the more memorable and fun.
There are certain bits of planning that can’t get anywhere near the concept of one size fits all. The usual Dragon Con planning I discuss here and elsewhere typically involves things that most can do with little or no adjustment. This bit here requires a lot of changing based on what your circumstances are, and the changes you have to make from what I do, which may be different than what others can do, will require you to plan differently. This would be what days off you should get.
I’m married and I have two kids. But, I’ve been lucky in that we homeschool. That means that we’re not locked into having to be back home by the first day of school. Now, if you homeschool or have no kids, you can do exactly what we do. Well, other than you poor, suffering souls who teach for a living.
Originally, we went down on Thursday and left on Tuesday. We’d drive overnight on the way down so the car had sleeping kids in it, and then hit various fun stops on the way back up to Virginia on Tuesday. The problem with this was when I realized the Tuesday after Dragon Con was the day I most wanted to not have to focus on driving, being alert, and being awake long enough to drive back to Virginia. That moved our leaving to Wednesday and, occasionally, Thursday. We also started coming into Atlanta on Wednesday morning before con.
No, we don’t stay at an official hotel or overflow hotel, so, no, it’s not as expensive as it could be. But there is the tradeoff of finding nicer hotels along the MARTA line that are further away from the host hotels than some may want to stay in. We don’t mind a ten or fifteen minute MARTA ride from a stop by our hotel to the stop under Dragon Con. That may not work for you. Anyhow…
We gave ourselves time to recover from the drive down before diving right into con, and then time to recover from con before driving home. Whether you drive in or fly in, you might find the extra time makes you feel better on the first day of con and maybe a little less fried when you get home. But who wants to look at the inside of a hotel for all that extra time? That’s what we’ll be covering in various articles this month.
About that time off…
You may need to come into town earlier because you can’t stay later. You may find it better for you to come into Atlanta when you typically do but then stay in town for a chunk of the week after con. That’s where your own personal financial planning will come into play. It’s going to be easier staying after con, because, so long as you work out the basics you have to cover to do what you want to do, you can happily spend more at con. If you come in a few days earlier and you also anticipate spending a lot at con, you’ll have to plan for your next trip(s) more tightly and set yourself a budget for things you want to do before con and then stick to it. Well, you know, unless you find something awesome you can’t do without.
So, looking at hotels you may have not put on your list of targeted con weekend hotels before now and planning your finances differently are going to be things you’ll have to think about. Outside of that?
Start exercising more before con weekend. Walking is always involved with Dragon Con, and it will be involved with the things we’ll be looking at this month. Start eating a little better weeks before con weekend. Seriously, the better you feel before con, the better you’ll feel when down in Atlanta and the longer you’ll be able to burn that candle at both ends both at con and around con. If you don’t have shoes that you feel are comfortable when it comes to doing a lot of standing and a lot of walking, find them and start breaking them in about six weeks out from con weekend. Buy some nice inserts for them as well. Learn from the mistakes of others. Brand new shoes first worn at con can mean a whole lot of brand new blisters and foot aches.
Whether or not you’ll ever expand your Dragon Con vacation to include the things I’ll be looking at this month, go get a new water bottle. A lot of those insulated bottles that hold heat and cold in for most of your day and- BIG BONUS -don’t become soaking wet on the outside from the Atlanta heat and humidity turning into twelve gallons of condensed moisture on the bottle’s surface are dropping from “$screw $that” to “$not $too $bad” in price. You can get durable metal ones that won’t leak or spill when sealed, and, again, the big bonus here, you can stick it in your bag and not have it soak everything else in the bag because of getting dripping wet with condensed moisture. Plus, bigger bonus, it’ll be useful in keeping you hydrated as you explore some of the sights, sounds, and tastes of Downtown Atlanta. Plus, you know, use deodorant and shower. People outside of con will appreciate it just as much as the people at con.
Okay, so I lied when I wrote that “outside of that sentence” bit back in the first paragraph.
Look, I love Dragon Con. I’ll even risk getting heat over saying here that I love Dragon Con more than most. But, trust me on this, there’s a lot more to see and do down there than just Dragon Con and what’s right there within a couple of blocks of Dragon Con. Come back each week and see what I’ll be talking about this month. The things I’ll be covering will make your time down in Atlanta all the more fun and memorable. You may not want to do some of these things every year, and, depending on circumstances, you may not be able to do them every year. But adding them in every so often will be worth the extra planning, time, and effort and then some.
Jerry Chandler is a lifelong geek who, while enjoying most everything fandom has to offer, finds himself most at home in the horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction genres. When not wasting too much time on social media, he can be found writing regularly here at Needless Things, but has also written for websites like Gruesome Magazine as well as remembering to put up the occasional musings on his on blog. He’s been a guest on several podcasts from the ESO Network, Decades of Horror, and the Nerdy Laser. He has also recently become a regular cohost of The Assignment: Horror Podcast.