Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA) is an anime-centric convention known for famous for its extensive guest list and numerous events. While some cons are more split on eastern and western media, AWA tends to put for focus on specifically Japanese cartoons, comics, and video games. It’s listed as the largest anime convention in the south-east and had over 31,000 attendees this year. If there’s one issue with AWA, it would be that there’s so much programming you don’t know what to do! Now let’s take a look at all the cool things you can expect from this Georgia-based con!
|When it was Established||1995|
|Length of event||4 days (Thursday-Sunday) at the end of September|
|Place / location||The Renaissance Waverly Hotel and Convention Center in Smyrna, Georgia|
|Cost||Pre-reg for all 4 days is $50, which rises to $70 at the door.|
|Hotel|| Renaissance Waverly Atlanta Hotel is the host hotel of AWA. Around $180 a night, it's not the best deal considering there's no free breakfast or internet but the restaurants and bar downstairs are nice. It certainly has a more business-class feel to it so if you like a nicer hotel and don't mind paying for it, it's nice to not have far to go at the end of a long day.|
Just across the sky bridge from AWA is the Sheraton Suites hotel. Often certain panels are held here as well such as karaoke. It's a quieter hotel, with rooms at about $160.
In case neither are available, the Doubletree Suites is just down the road. At $140 a night, it's a cheaper option that also comes with complimentary wifi.
|Company / event message for fans / attendees|| AWA has three goals in hosting its events:|
What to Expect
The party doesn't stop at AWA with its 24-hour programming starting Thursday! Every year there is something to do from watching panels to playing video games, so if you're a night owl, this is a great con for you. AWA is also known for bringing in multiple guests from around the world, and a large number of musicians and industry guests from Japan. The dealer's room and artist alley have a great variety and there are some lovely places for photoshoots. They are a bit strict on dress code, being that bra and panties only are not allowed, and some sort of top must be worn. This doesn't carry over into the burlesque show or cosplay after dark shows thankfully! Both phone service and internet availability can be scarce, which can be troublesome when trying to connect with people at the con. The staff is generally eager to help, so should you have any questions, try asking them!
What to Bring in Order to Enjoy the Event
- Cell phone – aside from obviously needing a phone if you want to be in contact with family and friends over the weekend, AWA has a handy app you can download telling you where and when your favorite panels are!
- Cosplay – there are some pretty scenic places both inside and outside the con, so make use of the nice backgrounds with fitting cosplays!
- Cash – there are a few cash-only bars which are convenient and the lines are short.
- ID – make sure to come prepared, either to drink or those fun 18+ after dark panels!
- Both formal and casual dance attire – whether you like the regal class of a formal ball or enjoy swinging late into the night in a more fun setting, AWA has you covered! There are also classes you can take; so beginners, do not fear!
- Japanese brand fashion – if you are a fan of lolita and hope to meet your favorite designers, Sunday holds an event for the fashion label of the year where attendees can enjoy tea or perhaps a party atmosphere with the designers and staff. Usually, you must wear something from that brand to attend. Tickets are not inclusive with your AWA ticket, so make sure you know who's coming!
- Party clothes – whether it's for the rave or just chilling in your room with friends, make sure you have something you can party in that's not your everyday clothes or cosplay you're worried might get ruined.
- Camera – Trust us, there will be SO MUCH you'll want pictures of, be it the cosplayers you see, the events you attend, or the interesting objects you can find in the Dealer's Room.
What to do While There / What is Available
Whether you like fighting others in the most recent releases or a more personal arcade experience, AWA has a number of games and consoles free to play and they are available 24 hours a day. You can enter tournaments for prizes by squaring up against tough competitors. You also have the option to play casually with friends or by yourself.
The Super Happy Fun Sale which takes place on Thursday is an anime-themed flea market of sorts. Second-hand items are sold at low prices from cosplay to manga to memorabilia. It differs from the dealer's room or artist alley because nothing may be sold that is 'new', everything must be pre-owned.
The Kuma Kuma Maid Cafe is a popular spot for those wanting to enjoy cute service as well as a treat. Your ticket purchase gets you a happy maid for your table and your choice of dessert and beverage. During your time, your maid will talk with your table and perhaps play a game with you. You'll also get to see a short performance put on by some of the maids every thirty minutes or so.
AWA is very idol-friendly and even has their own official idol group (Peachy Parade) so it's no surprise they not only invite idols from Japan, but have a number of idol-themed panels and events. One of the more well-known events is the Starlight Idol Festival. Here, idols from near and far show off their dancing and/or singing!
If you are a fan of Japanese fashion, this is a great convention. There are always different brands present in the Dealer's Hall, and every year, the Saturday fashion show features one or two Japanese brands. If it's not enough seeing your favorite styles on the runway, check out the Sunday Japanese fashion gathering. It varies based on the fashion guest that year, but there is a themed get-together as a separately ticketed event. This year featured Baby the Stars Shine Bright and lolitas came to enjoy a lovely tea party where they could eat, talk, and take pictures with the designers.
While pretty much every convention has its odd assortment of panels, AWA has a staggering amount of industry panels for anime, music, and gaming; both on the American and Japanese side. There are panels on how to brand yourself and Q&As with successful celebrities that help you learn what it takes and how to get where you want to be. For the less motivated, it's fun just to hear how the people you admire got their start and just what it took to get where they are.
The Saturday Night Rave is held in a huge space with a large stage, so there's plenty of room to dance. Water is provided in the back where glow sticks and other fun rave items are sold. This year, Heavy Grinder, Teddyloid, Taku Takahashi, and more performed for over 4 hours. While some raves allow attendees to take to the stage to dance, AWA allows the DJs to select seasoned dancers to help bring about a more spectacular show. While AWA hasn't been known for having a particularly great rave, this year certainly had a large number of very well known and talented musical guests.
You can find some pretty serious cosplay talent at AWA. Both local and non-local cosplay guests host panels and act as judges for the cosplay contest, and a few offer some of their most beautiful and complicated pieces to be viewed in the Cosplay Gallery where attendees can admire and see what they're made of and how long construction took. Notable people like Yaya Han, Coffee Cat Cosplay, Betsy Bon Bon, and others are frequent guests. Because there tends to be a lot of Japanese voice actors and creators of manga, anime, and games, many non-professional cosplayers create beautiful cosplays as well. While there's always a range, you can be sure to find a lot of great cosplayers. Keep a look out for your favorite characters!
Honey's Final Thoughts
As the largest anime convention in the southeast, AWA really strives to stick to what the fans want without becoming more mainstream and less accessible to passionate otaku. While during the day it strives to be a family-friendly convention, there are a lot of fun, sexy panels for the older crowd at night. When it comes to guests you don't see at every con, AWA does a great job of both big names and lesser-known talents that put on a great show. If you're in Georgia near the end of September, make sure to add Anime Weekend Atlanta to your list of things to do!