I have reviewed DragonCon and MegaCon individually for a few years now, but I have never placed the two in a side by side comparison along a bunch of dimensions. Why do I feel like this is a valid comparison? Well the conventions are right around the same size (somewhere around ~70k), they are established, and both in the Southeast, so cost differences based on region should essentially be negated.
Anyway, today I’m going to rate these for you – that way if you can only manage to attend one convention, you’ll have a good basis for making a decision. All my dimensions and ratings for each con are summed up in a nice infographic at the end, but I’m going to explain how I rated the cons first. Keep in mind that this is all based on my own opinion, and I may consider different dimensions to be of higher importance than you would.
1. Registration – MegaCon 7, DragonCon 7 … It’s a Draw!
While both conventions have had terrible processes for picking up convention badges / wristbands in the past, taking hours, both have recently made some huge strides in the amount of time advanced ticket holders have to wait in line for their passes. These days if you wait longer than 30 minutes, it’s surprising. Both could still improve for sure, but this dimension gets a nice solid rating for both conventions.
2. Hotels – MegaCon 8, DragonCon 4 … Winner is MegaCon!
DragonCon takes place in 5 hotels – The Hyatt Regency, The Marriott Marquis, The Hilton, The Sheraton, and The Westin. These hotels sell out ridiculously fast. For instance, the Marriott was sold out in 6 minutes for 2015. It is really tough to get these hotels, and just as hard to get into the overflow ones. And the city of Atlanta seems to seriously jack up their prices for hotels on this weekend because there are typically football folks in town for a game, and a few other events. I probably should have rated DragonCon even lower here, but I really like the experience of staying downtown for this con because of the nightlife, so that edged it up just a tad.
MegaCon’s hotels stayed available much longer, and there is a good smattering of options that are cheaper. Last year we stayed at a place for $90 a night and we could walk to the con. This year we stayed at one connected to the convention center via sky bridge for more like $200 a night (but the hotel was pretty swanky). But the point is, they handle the hotel reservations better and the options are more varied. MegaCon is the clear winner on hotel reservations.
3. Food – MegaCon 7, DragonCon 7 … Another draw!
MegaCon’s location this year was in the West Concourse which meant a bunch of food courts in the building. This was super convenient. Additionally, there were plenty of options within walking distance from the con for anyone who wanted to leave the building. That being said, the food court choices were not the greatest food, based on what I tried – not lots of well-known stuff. And in one of the food courts, they had a single soda machine with a ridiculous line, which was fail.
DragonCon has a food court that is huge and attached to several of the hotels via skybridge. There are lots of great choices like Chick-Fil-A and Moe’s. But it is always ridiculously crowded. People sit on the floor or get food to go and eat it somewhere else. Non food court options are good here too since being in downtown Atlanta there are plenty of places to eat.
4. Location – MegaCon 10, DragonCon 8 … MegaCon wins here!
For this, we are talking Orlando (MegaCon) vs Atlanta (DragonCon) here. And let’s be realistic, during the hours you are not at the convention, Orlando has soooo many things to do. You could even take extra days to stay and see Disney or Universal. Atlanta has some good options too, and ties the aquarium into DragonCon by allowing con-goers to purchase “DragonCon Night at the Aquarium” event passes. But ultimately Orlando is more of a vacation destination, and that is why MegaCon gets the win for this dimension.
5. Badge Cost – MegaCon 5, DragonCon 9 … Winner, winner chicken dinner is DragonCon!
The 3 day pass for MegaCon cost $70 this year. The 4-day pass for DragonCon when we purchased it for 2015 (last September) was $70. MegaCon’s cost does not change regardless of how close you get to the show, though at the show ticket prices probably increase a little bit. DragonCon has a price increase scheme that goes up by about $10 every few months until July-ish, and then you pay full price ($130) for your tickets at the door after that. Furthermore, MegaCon charges extra for VIP tickets, and has additional events that are NOT included in the ticket price, such as Doctor Who panels and the Hulk Hogan experience this year. DragonCon’s price includes all panels, concerts, convention sponsored parties, etc. The only thing I can think of that isn’t included is workshops and Night at the Aquarium, but there may be a few others. For me, DragonCon is the VERY clear winner here.
6. Programming – MegaCon 3, DragonCon 10 … a decisive victory for DragonCon!
My biggest complaint about MegaCon this year was the programming. There were one, maybe two available things to see at any given time, and only one or two things at night after the dealer hall closed. DragonCon has like 25-30 tracks of panels, so at any given time you have nothing but choices about what to go see and do. They also have DragonCon TV in the con hotel rooms to catch things you didn’t go physically see. And they have the game room in the basement of the Hilton which is pretty much open 24 hours. Furthermore, DragonCon still has more and better guests, including media celebrities, authors, artists, and voice actors. MegaCon needs to step up their game here.
7. Dealer Hall – MegaCon 9, DragonCon 7 … match goes to MegaCon!
I’ve repeatedly said that MegaCon’s dealer hall is better than DragonCon’s. Both are good, but DragonCons has some traffic flow problems. So many people crammed in a space so small you can barely move, much less look at merchandise. They have tried to fix this by moving the hall location, but it hasn’t helped too much yet. MegaCon uses one large room which means wider isles. It could probably use a few more vendors and maybe be even a little larger, which is why I didn’t give it a 10. I also like that MegaCon’s artist alley is in the dealer hall, because I don’t think DragonCon does this – they do have an artist area, but with the con being so big it is tough to find, and I’d be willing to bet the artists at MegaCon get more traffic.
8. Cosplay – MegaCon 8, DragonCon 10 … DragonCon edges out MegaCon for this!
DragonCon has some of the best cosplay across conventions in the country. The quality of the workmanship I see at DragonCon is just all round higher than it is at MegaCon. Lots of the more famous cosplayers and commisioners live in Atlanta. MegaCon has great cosplay, but maybe just because of the slightly younger average attendee, the cosplay sometimes lacks polish. Both cons are still very good, but DragonCon attendees just go that extra mile with their costumes.
9. Nightlife – MegaCon 2, DragonCon 10 … DragonCon crushes it on this one!
At MegaCon there was an unofficial Cosmos party for an additional charge, a burlesque show each night, and that was it in terms of activities to partake in after the main part of the convention closed for the day. DragonCon pretty much never stops. Some people barely sleep during the 4 day weekend. Multiple concerts every night, movie screenings, stargazing with telescopes, kilt blowing, Night at the Aquarium, hanging in the Marriott drinking and watching cosplay, the game hall … all these and more are options at DragonCon!
10. Family Friendly – MegaCon 7, DragonCon 6 … Slight edge to MegaCon here!
I have seen kids, strollers, munchkins, and families at both conventions. Sometimes in super cute cosplay or where their parents have decked out their strollers.
I feel like I see more kids at MegaCon, and that MegaCon has maybe slightly less adult rated cosplay occurring. DragonCon has a whole track dedicated to Young Adult programming, which is good, and they used to have a child care option, but they have since gotten rid of this feature. Bringing that back seems like it would be great, and adding it to MegaCon would help them as well. It’s just not easy to move around a convention with kids, and always there is a fear of parents and children getting separated. MegaCon tends to be a little bit more Disney centric because of its location, and that and the less adult costuming gives it the small edge on this dimension.
Here is that infographic I promised at the beginning, to summarize all the ratings we just discussed. Hope this was helpful to some people, and if you have anything to chime in on about either of these conventions, please let me know in the comments! 🙂