Downtown is always crowded with Dragon Con attendees as the pop culture convention showcases fan costumes during the annual parade. This year's parade is Saturday, Aug. 31 at 10 a.m. starting on Peachtree Street. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Dragon Con: how to navigate the pop culture convention

More than 85,000 are expected to attend the annual Atlanta event

They will come brandishing fake swords and toting faux “Game of Thrones” chair spikes on their backs.

Storm Trooper helmets will be as common as baseball caps in The Battery. And, Atlanta summer weather be damned, they will wear those furry Chewbacca suits, because, well, it’s Dragon Con.

Isn’t that reason enough?

About 85,000 fans of science fiction, fantasy and gaming will cluster in Atlanta Aug. 29-Sept. 2 for the annual event celebrating every crevice of pop culture.

Organizers have scheduled about 400 participants — actors, voice actors, comic book artists, writers, scientists, game creators and authors — to contribute to panel discussions and autograph sessions.

It’s overwhelming, we know.

A hip-hop Storm Trooper walked down Peachtree Street at the annual Dragon Con Parade in 2018. Photo: Jenna Eason / Jenna.Eason@coxinc.com

So here are five bits of info to help you navigate what is typically a packed, sweaty, gloriously quirky weekend in downtown Atlanta.

Location, location, location.

Events and activities will be staged at AmericasMart Buildings No. and No. 2, and the five host hotels — Hyatt Regency Atlanta, Marriott Marquis, Hilton Atlanta, Westin Peachtree, and Sheraton Atlanta. If you live in town, take MARTA to the Peachtree Center stop, which has direct, covered access to the Hyatt and Marriott Marquis. If you’re brave (crazy?) enough to try to park, Dragon Con has partnered with Parking Panda to purchase advance spots.

Who’s who.

The guest list is always massive — and impressive. Previously announced stars include George Takei (“Star Trek” and currently, “The Terror: Infamy”); Lana Parrilla (“Once Upon a Time”); David Tennant (“Doctor Who”); Zachary Levi (“Shazam!”); Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca from the last four “Star Wars” movies); Catherine Tate and Freema Agyeman (“Doctor Who”); and David Ramsey (“Legends of Tomorrow”).

Former Star Trek star William Shatner, Captain James Tiberius Kirk, gestures during his conversation with Leonard Nimoy during the Dragon Con convention at the Hyatt on Friday, September 4, 2009. Shatner is a regular at the annual Atlanta convention and appear at the 2019 installment. Photo: Johnny Crawford/ jcrawford@ajc.com

And don’t forget Robert Englund, immortalized as Freddy Krueger from “The Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise, who will be joined by “V” castmates Jane Badler and Marc Singer, who also starred in 1982’s “The Beastmaster.” Dragon Con regulars Gil Gerard and Erin Gray, aka Capt. Buck Rogers and Col. Wilma Deering, respectively, from “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century” (1979-81) will also be on-site.

But Dragon Con is an ever-evolving event, and in recent weeks added more than three dozen new names to the lineup. A trio of Georgia-filmed TV shows will be represented by Christine Adams, Jordan Calloway, Cress Williams, Nafessa Williams and James Remar for “Black Lightning”; Ralph Macchio, Martin Kove and William Zabka for the “Karate Kid” spinoff, “Cobra Kai”; and Cary Elwes, Mark Steger and Shannon Purser for “Stranger Things.”

"Once Upon a Time"'s Lana Parrilla, who played the Evil Queen and Mayor of Storybrooke, will appear at Dragon Con 2019, which will take place Aug. 29-Sept. 2 in downtown Atlanta.

As well, Karl Urban, a “Star Trek” movie alum, also starred in “Thor: Ragnarok,” which filmed primarily in Georgia.

And let’s not forget one of the grandest daddies of the convention – William Shatner, a frequent Dragon Conner and “Star Trek” legend, who will take another bow.

For a full list of guests, visit dragoncon.org.

Tickets, please.

Dragon Con is implementing a new ticketing platform – GrowTix – to facilitate membership buying. Attendees can purchase memberships from computer or smartphone at any point prior to arrival at the convention (including in the registration line). After the completed transaction, fans will receive an email with a unique QR code to be shown along with a government-issued ID to pick up badges at registration. Cash will also still be accepted at registration counters.

Ralph Macchio and Martin Kove, stars of "The Karate Kid," helmed a panel at Dragon Con 2014. They will return in 2019. Photo: Melissa Ruggieri/AJC

Parade across town.

The Dragon Con Parade — kicking off at 10 a.m. Aug. 31 — is another perennial draw. More than 3,000 marchers will follow the route that begins at the intersection of Peachtree Street and Linden Avenue. The parade will head south on Peachtree, east (left) on Andrew Young International Boulevard and north (left) on Peachtree Center Avenue. It will end on Peachtree Center Avenue between John Portman Boulevard and Baker Street, in front of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. The route is close to three MARTA stations – North Avenue, Civic Center and Peachtree Center. As always, parking will be extremely limited in the area. Those who don’t want to brave the crowds and/or heat can watch the parade live on WUPA (CW69); it will also be rebroadcast during prime time.

eSports—it’s a thing.

The expanding world of eSports (organized video game tournaments, for the uninitiated) has maneuvered its way into the Dragon Con universe as well – and to a larger extent than usual. Alpharetta firm Skillshot is working with the convention with a weekend slate of tournaments. As well, professional SMITE and Paladins players will be on-site for meet and greets.

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EVENT PREVIEW

Dragon Con

Aug. 29-Sept. 2. Five-day membership is $140. Three-day, two-day and single-day memberships – $10-$120 depending on number of days and which days – will be available on a day-of basis at the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel. Free, ages 6 and younger. Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, 165 Courtland St. NE, Atlanta. dragoncon.org. Tickets can also be purchased via GrowTix (see ticket info in story for details).

About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for the AJC. She remembers when MTV was awesome.  
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