Now that I’ve had a chance to recover from what was a most epic Dragon*Con weekend, here it is – my ‘Dragon*Con’ review. And I would like to start off by saying that anyone who thinks that Disneyland is the “happiest place on Earth” has obviously never been to ‘Dragon*Con’.

For those that don’t already know, every Labor Day thousands of folks from all over the world flock to downtown Atlanta for ‘Dragon*Con’ to celebrate all things science fiction, fantasy, gaming, comics, and pop culture. This year’s convention was my third attending, and my best ‘Dragon*Con’ weekend yet!

Right off the bat, I was quite impressed with how much quicker the preregistration line moved. This year they switched to a barcode system to speed up the previously HOURS-long process of getting your badge, and it really did help a lot.  I was a little worried when I saw that the line wrapped all the way around the building, but it moved at a pretty steady pace, especially once you got inside. The barcodes effectively turned what took about 6 hours last year into a fairly quick and painless process. I was checked in within an hour.

Another vast improvement from earlier years was the iPhone/Android ‘Dragon*Con’ app! Man! Did that thing come in handy or what? In years before, you had to carry your pocket program around everywhere, painstakingly plot out your weekend, and (if you’re like me) fumble through maps for about 45 minutes, wander through 2 wrong hotels before you realize that you mixed up the Hyatt and the Marriott AGAIN… before just saying “forget it” and buying the closest beer you can find to ease your frustration.  OH NO! Not this year.  This year they made an app for that. All the events were listed in easily searchable categories, by day/time or by track, and could be easily added to or removed from the built-in schedule with the tap of a star. You could cross-reference the room number of each event with the built-in map, and even set up a handy alarm to alert you of your next panel.

As for the Con itself, there really is nothing like it. You get that many like-minded people together and magic happens. There is just such a feeling of camaraderie that it is hard to describe in words. I’m probably coming off a little strong, but… I just love ‘Dragon*Con’.  I love the people, and the whirlwind of costumes, and the endless options of things to do, parties to go to, panels to attend, friends to meet, games to play, things to buy, and so on and so forth.

Something that always comes to mind when you think ‘Dragon*Con’ is definitely the COSPLAY. It was amazing this year (as usual). Not everyone dresses up but those of us that do certainly have fun with it! (There are really no words that do it justice, so please see the plethora of pictures.)  I cannot really make a good report on the parade, seeing as I didn’t attend as a spectator this year.  Instead, for my first year ever, I marched in Saturday’s parade with the Trek Trak, as their Orion slave girl.  And that was tons of fun!  The turnout was huge, as it always is, and I was very proud to be representing my all time favorite television show.

Next up: panels.  I’m sorry to say that the lines were long and my timing was way off.  Making it anywhere on time is especially difficult when people are stopping you every 5 steps to take your picture. But that’s ok because, as I discovered, if you really want to get in to any of the big panels you need to block off your whole morning/afternoon to waiting in line anyways. I waited in line for two different Shatner panels for a couple of hours each only to be told the rooms were full. I did, however, make it in to see Friday’s Star Trek: TNG panel with Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner and Gates McFadden. That was pretty sweet. It’s surreal to see your childhood heroes all lined up on stage and get to hear their stories. I also made it to the Miss Star Trek Universe Pageant, which was a ton of fun. Contestants included a salt vampire, a sexy Star Trek pinup girl, the obligatory Orion slave girl… and this year’s Miss Star Trek Universe? A hot, folk singing Tribble! Her rousing ballad about peace amongst Klingons and Tribbles (set to the tune of John Lennon’s “Imagine”) was enough to bring tears to a Trekkie’s eyes.

Last (but certainly not least): The ‘Dragon*Con’ NIGHT LIFE. Which is rocking! Friday night Voltaire played, and he was amazing and funny as usual. However, I think Saturday night was my favorite night this year. The “Gonzoroo” event with Jonathan Coulton, Paul & Storm, and some amazingly cute little woman and her ukulele (who’s name currently is escaping me) rocked the house. The 8th Doctor, Sylvester McCoy even joined everyone on stage to play the spoons with Paul and Storm. And then there was Jonathan Coulton. He was…. wonderful. Amazing. Fantastic! I’ve always wanted to see him live and in person and now that I have I am not disappointed. I cannot wait to see him again! The only thing that would have made it better would have been Wil Wheaton himself joining in the fun.

At the end of each night there was the customary “rave” event.  I don’t know who was on stage for either but at that point it didn’t matter. We just danced until they kicked us out.

It really was such a great weekend.  Had a blast with my friends and met tons of new ones. I met Gates McFadden and Wil Wheaton. (Wesley Crusher was my Justin Bieber. So that’s a pretty big deal to me.) Pam from True Blood gave my Pris costume a healthy look-over and a big approving grin. I bought me some pretty new dice from the vendors’ room, and danced with Cthulhu at a rave at 4:30 in the morning. I learned that the fatigue and pain of an all-nighter can be eased by going “NNNcha! NNNcha! NNNcha!” while dancing through hallways pumping your fist. (And that, in many of these cases, others will flock to join you). I learned that Beetlejuice can pole dance and that Garrett Wang REALLY wants to be the next George Takei. And just for the record, Lion-O of the Thundercats is, hands down, the happiest drunk on the planet.

I feel as though I’m leaving so much out, but to include everything that happens at an event like this would surely call for a small novel. So in an effort to keep this fairly short and sweet, this will wrap up ‘Dragon*Con’ review for 2011. If you have never been, add it to your bucket list.  Because no words can ever do the ‘Dragon*Con’ experience justice. It’s one of those things you really just have to experience for yourself.  I’m already counting down the days until next year, and I hope to see you there!

For more photo’s of Dragon Con’ 2011, see @merrypranxter‘s Flickr page!