Four Days In……..ATLANTA

It’s interesting to me that when most people consider a vacation in the southern United States, certain cities tend to come up again and again.  Nashville, New Orleans, Savannah, and Charleston regularly make the cut, yet Atlanta always seems to come up short.  In recent years this has begun to change, though.  For a decade now, Atlanta has been the number one vacation destination for African-Americans, and increasingly the secret of this great city is starting to get out to all Americans

Atlanta has nearly a half a million people, and it’s an incredibly diverse population.  As of 2010 nearly 40% are white and 54% are black.  Interestingly, nearly 13% of the city’s population identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.  When you include the suburban areas immediately around the city, the population of the metro area jumps up to nearly five and a half million people.  When you take into account that the city has, for the most part, experienced this epic growth only in the last 40 years, you begin to understand what a dynamo Atlanta really is.

Atlanta is great city to visit for a long weekend, and four busy days will show you the incredible diversity and charm that Atlanta has to offer.

Day 1

When you arrive in Atlanta, be prepared for traffic.  Unfortunately, the major roadways haven’t really been able to keep up with the ever-growing population.  Traffic jams, and starts and stops, are pretty commonplace.  I would recommend staying in one of two areas, either downtown or in midtown.  Specifically, if you want to stay downtown, I’d suggest the Marriott Marquis for a big and well-appointed hotel, or the Hotel Indigo for a boutique experience.  In the midtown area, stay at the W Hotel.  The Midtown area is “hipper” but both areas offer lots of shopping and entertainment.

On your first day in Atlanta, do something fun and not too overwhelming.  To describe the Georgia Aquarium as “impressive,” is an understatement.   From goldfish to whales, if it’s in the ocean, it pretty much swims in this massive complex.  Practically next-door is the World of Coca-a-Cola Museum.  If you are a cynic you may refuse to go, arguing that it’s crass commercialism/consumerism at its finest, but you’d be missing out.  Coca-a-Cola’s history can be traced to the late 1800s and it’s rise very much mirrors that of America’s.  It’s also a fascinating examination of the diversity of products Coke produces around the world, and, oh yeah, it’s pure eye candy to walk through.

GA

Day 2

Start today with a delicious breakfast at The Flying Biscuit.  Southern cooking and eclectic charm don’t get much better than this, and the apple butter simply doesn’t get any better- anywhere!  There are a few of them scattered around Atlanta, but I’d suggest you go the one in Midtown, near Piedmont Park.  Get there early, because the wait for a table can be lengthy if you wait until mid morning.

Head out for a walk through the park after breakfast.  Piedmont Park really is Atlanta’s answer to Central Park.  It’s a beautiful space and offers amazing views of the city, so be sure to have your camera with you.

From here you can make your way a few blocks over to Atlantic Station for shopping and entertainment, or if you are looking for something a bit different, check out The Center for Puppetry Arts.  Inside this unique museum is a collection of puppets, famous and not so famous, from around the world, and you can learn about the art form in all of its various incarnations.

You’ll probably be feeling a bit peckish now, and you’ll be looking for something filling, yet not so expensive.  IKEA, to the rescue!  Like so many other times in your life when you have the desire, but not the money, IKEA is there for you.  In the same area near the park is Atlanta’s IKEA and a plate of Swedish meatballs, a drink, and a desert, can be yours for less than $10.  While you are there, you can always go for a stroll through the maze of pseudo kitchens, living rooms, and apartments that will always be waaaaaaay cooler than anything you will ever live in.

Head back to your hotel, and get some rest, and change for dinner.  Tonight, head over to the Virginia Highland neighborhood for dinner and drinks.  It isn’t far, but the nightlife with restaurants, bars, live music, and cool restaurants is terrific mix of big city venues with small town accessibility.

Day 3

Today I’d suggest a couple of serious activities.   This morning, make your way downtown, and take a tour of the CNN Center.  It’s the world headquarters of the international news network.  You can take a behind the scenes interactive tour, and learn what happens in a newsroom and how the world’s news is presented.  Tours tend to sellout quickly, so it’s a good idea to make a reservation well in advance.

When the tour is complete walk over to the Marriott Marquis Hotel a couple of blocks away, if you aren’t already staying there.  You aren’t getting a room, but rather walk into center of the lobby, pause and quickly look up.  What you will see will astound you.  The hotel is a skyscraper and the interior is hollow all the way to the roof, dozens of stories above.  It isn’t an empty shaft, though.  The interior curves, giving the appearance of movement, and it really is something to behold.  Architecture fans will be impressed.

Bypass the tourist traps downtown for lunch, and head over to the neighborhood known as Little Five Points.  It’s been described as the Bohemian center of the South.  Vintage clothing stores, funky retailers, and sidewalk poets abound.  Wander in and out of them, but I’d suggest you start at the novelty shop called the Junkman’s Daughter.  Get lost in the racks of outrageous things for sale.  You’ll find salt and pepper shakers, books, clothing, lingerie, posters, and who knows what else.  A helpful hint here is to know ahead of time that parking can be terrible in Little Five Points, and if you use the Junkman’s Daughter’s lot, you’ll have to pay, unless you are shopping there, so shop there, and then wander.

little_five_points

Next door is the Vortex.  The giant skull around the door that you walk through might look a bit daunting to the uninitiated, but inside you’ll find a warm and inviting pub and the best burgers in the city.  A little further down, Mexican, greasy spoon, and vegan eateries can all be found.

From Little Five Points you aren’t far from the Carter Museum.  It’s also worth your time to venture to.  President Carter is a study in contrasts.  He is regarded as both one of America’s least successful Presidents, and as one of our most successful former Presidents.  The museum does a good job trying to explain this contrast, and is full of artifacts from his life.

Tonight for dinner, check out one of the great restaurants downtown.  There is a growing abundance of high-end food choices in the area.  Foodies are in for a treat when they realize that it’s more than just fried Southern goodness.  Restaurants serving cuisine from all over the globe can be found.  When dinner is done, head back to Midtown, and visit the bars and clubs in the area.

Day 4

Today is your last day, so why not start with what Atlanta is known for, Gone With the Wind.  It’s hard to think of a modern novel that is so closely associated with a city and its history the way that book is.  The perfect activity is to take a tour of the Margret Mitchell Museum.  Mitchell was an interesting woman.  She wrote very little after Gone With The Wind, and was often accused of racism, while quietly using a conciderable portion of the money earned from the book to pay for dozens of black men to attend medical school, without anyone ever knowing.  She was also killed by a drunk driver, and in the days that followed was actually blamed for the accident, because driving while intoxicated wasn’t seen as a crime at that time.

From here, travel over to Zoo Atlanta and check out the best zoo in the Southeast, or if you don’t mind a little day trip, make your way to Stone Mountain.  It’s an interesting giant rock carved with the likenesses of Confederate generals, but the hiking, outdoor activities, and views from the top are spectacular.

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Atlanta has changed so much and grown so quickly over the last few decades.  It isn’t the land of Ms. Daisy anymore, and is now a city that holds its own on the international scene.

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Categories: Advice, My View of Things, North America, Thoughts

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