I love sci-fi/comic conventions. I have probably been to more than 50 of them over the years. As they have become more popular and mainstream, there have been many more choices of events to attend. Overall, I prefer a larger con experience to the smaller, more thematically focused gatherings. That led to attending Dragon Con in Atlanta for 15 years. But I was getting bored and weary with that, and wanted to try something new.
This post will compare DragonCon, which I last attended in 2016, to Raleigh Supercon 2018. For those of you who don’t have a ton of time to read an article, here’s a great video by iShinobi that will show you the highlights of Raleigh Supercon.
And now, on to the comparison. This is arranged alphabetically by topic. If I didn’t cover an area of interest, leave a comment and I will respond there. TL;DR Summary: I loved Raleigh Supercon and would be happy to go back.
Dragon Con vs. Raleigh Supercon Comparison
Art Show – DC
There is no separate art show room at Raleigh Supercon, so DC wins this one by forfeit. Artists Alley in Raleigh is incorporated into the Exhibition Hall with the dealers, fan group tables, and guest autograph tables.
Booze Availability – slight edge to DC
DC gets the edge here only because I couldn’t find a liquor store within walking distance of my hotel. However, it was super easy to find adult drinks – there were even several bars inside the Exhibition Hall where the dealers were set up. There were other places to get boozy drinks scattered around the Convention Center, and of course there’s always the hotel bars.
Branded Merchandise – DC
DC and Raleigh Supercon both have branded merch. I judged DC’s to be of higher quality, and though Raleigh Supercon did have pins, they were not customized by date/location and were not as nice as those that the Hard Rock Café sells during DC.
Charity Auction – Raleigh Supercon
Raleigh Supercon wins this category because the auction was extremely easy to find, you could place your bids online, and you did not have to show up to collect any items you won. They could be mailed to you. What could be more convenient than that?
Cosplay – edge to DC
There were wonderful costumes at Raleigh Supercon, but in scale and craziness they did not approach those of DC. Raleigh Supercon is family friendly so the costuming is more conservative and mainstream. Still, there are multiple costume contests at Raleigh Supercon just as there are at DC and the majority of fans in attendance were wearing at least some costuming flair.
Cost – Raleigh Supercon
I gave Raleigh Supercon the win in this category because my 3-day weekend membership only cost me $45. I also appreciated that this con offers different levels of memberships (if you are all in for autographs, for instance, you can pay more for VIP status which puts you front of line). AND Raleigh Supercon’s memberships are transferable if you can’t go at the last minute, so you can sell your ticket if you wish.
Crowds – Raleigh Supercon
Raleigh Supercon caps membership at the level that the Convention Center can accommodate. This made the con very easy to navigate and pleasant to experience.
Dealers/Exhibition Hall – Raleigh Supercon
Convention centers have greater hall space. There was plenty of room to walk the aisles and shop. I spent more at one Raleigh Supercon than at 15 DCs mainly because I had room and time to look for cool stuff without being squished and pushed along in a mob.
Downtown Area – Raleigh Supercon
Downtown Raleigh around the convention center is clean with lots of new construction going up. There were far fewer panhandlers than in Atlanta and the streets are not nearly as busy with traffic, either car or foot. It felt much safer and we roamed day and night without seeing any sketchy stuff.
Food – DC
There are lots of places to eat in and around the Raleigh Convention Center, but they weren’t really to my taste. I definitely missed the choices in the Peachtree Center Food Court.
Gaming – DC
The tabletop gaming area at DC is probably 10x the size of Raleigh Supercon’s. The video gaming room and arcade machine spaces were about equal. There wasn’t any miniature gaming happening, so DC wins this category.
Guests – Tie
There is a lot of overlap between the guest lists of these two cons. Raleigh Supercon has more wrestling, voice actor, and anime guests than DC.
Heat – Tie
Atlanta and Raleigh are both hot and humid in the summer. No winner here. Bring sunscreen and stay hydrated.
Hotel – Raleigh Supercon
We stayed at the Raleigh City Center Marriott, on points. There was no land rush for booking, and no legacy system keeping us out. The longest elevator wait I had was 12 seconds. The newly remodeled rooms had hardwood floors, 56” Internet ready TVs, and refrigerators. The staff was absolutely wonderful. CAVEAT – I heard many bad things about the Sheraton next door, which I totally believe because we ate breakfast there one day and they couldn’t even get that right.
Music – DC
Raleigh Supercon doesn’t book bands, so that gives the win to DC. There were DJs spinning all day and night long at Raleigh Supercon, however, so there was that level of music.
Official Parties – Tie
Both cons have “theme” parties which are essentially dark rooms with really loud music and nothing interesting going on. Ergo the dead heat.
Panels – Raleigh Supercon
Because of the attendance cap, you can actually get in to see panels of interest, and there are no ridiculous lines strung out into the street where you have to wait for hours. I went to two different panels and both had open seats. Also, panels started as late as midnight, in contrast to DC where there are very few panels in the evening hours.
Parking – Tie
Both cons take place in downtown areas where finding parking is a challenge.
Phone App – Raleigh Supercon
Raleigh Supercon’s phone app is cleaner, simpler and better organized than DC’s. It also doesn’t crash and update constantly. Even though it lacks schedule/social sharing and other DC app features, I still give it the edge for usability.
Photoshoots – Raleigh Supercon
The space for photoshoots at DC has continually shrunk and DC has made no official effort to support this popular activity. Raleigh Supercon, by contrast, puts photoshoots on the programming schedule and provides a con photographer for them. There are also plenty of open places around the Convention Center that are group photo friendly.
Registration – Raleigh Supercon
We had a very short wait to pick up our badges on Thursday. Our QR codes were scanned by staff with iPads. Badges are not personalized so the lines weren’t slowed by ID checks and name matching. Show a code, get a badge. Super simple, Supercon! For those who arrived later during the weekend. Badges were issued at the convention center and from what I could see, those lines moved fairly well too.
Safety Concerns – Raleigh Supercon
At DC, there is danger of assault, injury from thrown objects, as well as a high level of theft. None of that is a problem at Raleigh Supercon. Everyday awareness is all you need to stay safe there.
Shuttle Bus – Raleigh Supercon
In contrast to the DC buses that never run on time, the city of Raleigh has its own FREE electric bus that runs a constant loop around downtown that can take you to attractions and restaurants that are a little too far away to visit on foot. The bus also runs right by another of the con hotels and stops right in front of the Convention Center.
Special Events – DC
Both cons have Wrestling, Burlesque, RHPS, Karaoke, Kid’s Activities, Speed Friending, etc. I’ll give DC this category by factoring in Night at the Aquarium, Robot Battles and DragonCon TV.
Spectacle – DC
DC has 3x as many attendees, and is epic onthose numbers alone. Also, there is no parade at Raleigh Supercon. DC is the clear winner here.
Tracks – DC
There are far more panel tracks at DC. Raleigh Supercon has 7-10 activities happening at once, vs. DC’s multitude.
Venue & Vibe – Raleigh Supercon
The Convention Center was such a pleasant place. You could take photos anywhere, sit on the floor, loiter, etc. without being hassled. The staff were friendly and helpful, not the grumpy, aggressive types encountered at ATL’s America’s Mart. The center was kept clean all weekend. There were no high-strung hotel security guards on the prowl because there was nothing to police at the hotels. I saw no drunks, no fans being taken to the hospital, no one getting into fights, or having any kind of personal drama meltdown (you know, the type of behavior you see at DC every 15 minutes). It was truly chill.
Walking – Raleigh Supercon
Everything is in one place at the Raleigh Convention Center, so there is far less walking than between all the con venues of DC. And, Raleigh is flat, so you don’t have those tiring Atlanta hills to deal with.
DC – 10
Raleigh Supercon – 14