For those who don’t know, Anime Weekend Atlanta (or AWA for short) is a large Anime convention that takes place in George’s state capital. It was one of the largest Anime cons in North America in 2019.
Coincidentally, Youmacon in Detroit usually takes place the same weekend as AWA. So last year, I decided to skip out on my annual trip to Youma and head down to Atlanta to try out this convention.
The result? While the con definitely had activities and panels to see, I was pretty disappointed overall. Find out why in this review!
Name: Anime Weekend Atlanta
Date: Last week of October/first week of November (Thursday Oct 31- Sunday Nov 3 in 2019)
Location: Cobb Galleria Center and Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel
Hotel room availability: Difficult (couldn’t find any hotels that were cheap or close to the con, which I’ll get into later in the post)
Weekend Pass: $60-80USD/$100-115 CAD (for 4 days)
Hotel rooms: Around $150-$250 USD/Night (with or without Anime Weekend Atlanta hotel block)
Parking: $5 to park at the convention for the day. Hotel parking price will vary.
Budget: Approximately $300-$400 USD if lodging with 3 other roommates ($100 for hotel, $50 for food, $80 for weekend pass, $30-$50 for gas, $50-$100 for items in the dealer’s room)
Overall costs: Large American cons are always expensive, but AWA felt slightly more
Anime Weekend Atlanta Location And Venue
AWA takes place at the Cobb Galleria Center and Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel. They’re conveniently connected together. And that’s a good thing because that’s the only thing convenient about this con.
If there’s one thing I absolutely disliked about Anime Weekend Atlanta, it’s the damn location.
AWA is located in a hilly suburban area called Cumberland, which is an hour away from downtown Atlanta. While the area has a lot of stores and restaurants, you really need a car here; it’s not pedestrian-friendly at all. Because the roads are so big, curvy and hilly, you end up having to detour everywhere as a pedestrian. For instance…want to cross the road to reach the convention center that’s literally across the street? Nope! You have to walk UP AND AROUND the hill and take the pedestrian bridge.
That’s something you’ll have to deal with when attending this con. Getting to/from the con was incredibly annoying, even if you had a hotel nearby.
On a brighter note, parking is apparently only $5 at the convention, which is pretty good. I feel like you’re better off driving to the convention, parking your car there and driving back to a hotel with a decent price. More on that in the next section.
It’s one thing if hotels for a con are expensive. It’s another if hotels are expensive AND far. In this case, it was both when I attended AWA.
I actually tried to book a convention hotel months in advance. But I suppose I missed out on the hotel lottery for the official con hotel, the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel.
After searching on Google and on the convention website for an alternate hotel, I was disappointed to see almost every other hotel was at least a 15 minute walk to/from the AWA convention center.
Here are the 5 “closest” to AWA con, according to their hotel list page:
- Sheraton Suites Galleria-Atlanta: 13 minute walk (it honestly would be like 5 minutes because it’s literally across the street. But since you can’t cross the road and have to go around, you add an extra 10 minutes to your walk. So dumb!)
- Embassy Suites Atlanta Galleria: 20 minute walk
- Courtyard Atlanta Cumberland Galleria: 21 minute walk
- Omni Hotel at the Battery Atlanta: 16 minute walk
- Hyatt Place Atlanta / Cobb Galleria: 23 minute walk
I know for some cons, the overflow hotels can be pretty far from the con. But I’ve never been to a big convention in a large city where ALL the overflow hotels were that far away from the action.
While the hotel prices themselves are pretty decent, some going for as low as $128 USD/night, when I tried to book online, they were going for well over $250 USD/night! For my Canadian dollars, that’s about $400 CAD/night. That’s a lot of money for a suburban convention.
So I decided to stay at a non-official hotel and went for the Hampton Inn. It was a decent compromise: $190 USD/night and apparently only a 10 minute walk (according to Google Maps).
But when I got there, I didn’t realize it involved:
- Walking along a busy road to avoid getting cut by branches
- Cutting through one end of a mall to another (or through the spooky parking lot at night when the mall was closed)
- Going through another parking lot once you exit the mall
- Going over 2 different highway bridges
I had to do all that every time I wanted to get to/from my hotel to the convention center, and vice versa. Fucking pain in the ass! I was so sick of doing this walk, by Saturday night I just called an Uber back to my hotel.
So if you’re not a local, here’s my advice: Make sure you’re able to get the Renaissance Waverly Hotel for this convention. Otherwise, you’ll be doing a lot of walking if you stay in an overflow hotel during the weekend. If I ever had to go back to this convention (and I probably won’t), I’m staying at a hotel very far away, taking an Uber there and back, and paying ½ the price.
Wait times for Pre-registration badge pickup: 1 hour. Wait times for at-the-door registration: None?!
While I pre-registered for my AWA badge, I still had to wait over an hour to pick it up. That’s fine with me as I’m used to long lineups for badge pickup.
What was not cool was the line-up for walk-in registration. There was no line-up for that. In fact if you didn’t register, you could just literally walk up and buy your badge without waiting in line.
WTF?! Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
So here I am, among many others, standing in line for the longest time waiting to get my pre-registration badge. While others who decided to come last minute, get rewarded by getting their badge right away. I was punished for being loyal to the convention.
Not cool at all!
Anime Weekend Atlanta Atmosphere
People were really friendly and fun to talk to. The con seemed like a good combination of being family-friendly while having a party atmosphere later in the evening. There was a party going on the hotel lobby during the rave hours, but nothing crazy like you would see at Anime Central or Katsucon.
It was easy to talk to people there. I had a funny conversation with a girl who said the city of Atlanta completely shut down once…after receiving a whopping 5 centimetres of snow. As someone who lives up north in Canada, I found that adorable!
Anime Weekend Atlanta Programming
Anime Weekend Atlanta has a decent amount of programming and activities. Here are some highlights:
AWA con did not disappoint when it came to the dealer’s room! It was huge and full of vendors and artists, with big industry giants present as well (e.g. Crunchyroll, Funimation).When I went in 2019, there was a Fate/Grand Order touring panel which had all these cool displays, including this awesome bike! You’ll have lots of Weeb stuff in the dealer’s room.
Oh, and lots of slimes!
There weren’t too many memorable panels I went to. I met up with some Persona cosplayers who invited me to a “scientific” Avatar: The Last Airbender panel, which was…interesting to say the least. On Saturday night during the rave, there was a huge panel where random stuff started happening, which was also strange.
Like many big cons, Anime Weekend Atlanta had two raves: one on Friday and one on Saturday. They were pretty good to say the least; the rave had lots of space and big screen displays. And they went to about 3 in the morning, so you could dance all night if you wanted.
Video game room
The video game room at AWA con was very lackluster. It was located on the bottom floor of the convention center, in a tiny little room. Not only did this mean there were very few games to play, having that many attendees in one room meant lots of…con funk. And from what I remember, the video game room closed relatively early as well.
At Canadian cons, I expect video game rooms to be smaller. But at American cons, my standards are higher and sadly, AWA’s video game room felt like an afterthought.
Cosplay Photoshoot Opportunities at Anime Weekend Atlanta
Being surrounded by highways, large arterial roads, malls and parking lots, you won’t find too many nice areas to shoot at AWA.
I noticed a lot of cosplayers took photos on the pedestrian bridge I had to use to reach the convention. But I wouldn’t recommend going there as a lot of people (like me) need to walk on the bridge.
With that said, Atlanta itself is a nice city with beautiful greenery. I’m sure there are tons of scenic areas within the city that would be great for photoshoots. Although at the con itself, I didn’t see many photoshoot opportunities worth taking advantage of.
It’s worth noting that AWA con is one of the few cons (so far) to implement a photography pass. So if you want to charge for photoshoots at the convention, you’ll have to apply and register for a photography pass. In 2019, it was $110 USD and it comes with the 4-day pass. I actually made an article regarding photography passes and whether they should be a thing. I tried to get a hold of AWA regarding photography passes, but they never got back to me. 🙁 Guess I’m not #cosfamous enough!
Food And Drinking Options
Fortunately, there are a ton of food options in and around Anime Weekend Atlanta. Inside the convention center itself, you have fast food options like Subway and a Chinese restaurant.
Although you gotta walk past a couple of bridges and parking lots to get there, Cumberland Mall is close to the convention center. Like most malls, there’s a food court with lots of cheap dining options. That’s where I ate most of my meals during the con.
There are lots of restaurants outside of the area if you’re willing to navigate the suburban highway landscape!
As for drinking, there is a sports bar around the convention center called MURPH’S where you can get your drink on! As well, there’s an alcohol store called Total Wine & More nearby.
Summary of Anime Weekend Atlanta
- 4-day convention means you get an extra day of Weebing!
- Rave was pretty nice and fun
- Good, enthusiastic crowd and atmosphere
- Dealer’s room had a lot to offer with big industry panels
- Decent programming and activities
- Overflow hotels are all far away from the convention centre, taking away the usual perk of staying close to the con
- Awkward location in a suburban area that’s very non-pedestrian friendly; walking around is a huge hassle
- Video game room is super tiny; felt like an afterthought for them
- Spent over an hour to pick up my pre-registration badge while at-the-door attendees got theirs right away (might be one-off situation though)
As nice it was to visit Atlanta and trying out a new con, I didn’t enjoy AWA that much. I feel like the con didn’t offer much compared to other big U.S. cons I’ve been to.
I’m used to huge video game rooms at American cons like MAGFest and Youmacon. Even HolMat has a nice video game room. But the one at AWA? It was TINY. And really smelly (not blaming the attendees, the room was just badly ventilated for being so small with so many people).
All the hotels seem so far away yet they were still expensive.
I was happy to see others at the con having a good time at AWA. But it just wasn’t for me.
If I was a local that lived in Atlanta or somewhere close to Georgia, AWA would probably be worth the drive. I’d drive to the con and drive back to a much cheaper hotel further away, since the overflow hotels are far anyway (by foot).
But as an international attendee like me? Probably not worth the flight down to Atlanta.
I do like the city of Atlanta though! They have the best aquarium ever and I got to try Southern food for the first time (grits, muffuletta, gumbo)! I’d like to visit the ATL again for Momocon or Dragon Con, if/when life returns to normal again.