Atlanta. The ATL. Hotlanta.
The last one is the most accurate way to describe our weekend jaunt to the capital of our neighbor state to the north, Georgia. It was just short of 100 degrees when we hit the road Friday afternoon. Visiting Atlanta was on my summer bucket list and after spending the day there for work in early July, I was eager to return and explore. It would have been nice if it had been a bit cooler but we made the best of it anyhow.
I admit I didn’t really know much about the city, besides the fact that its airport is the busiest in the world (and also the most annoying). After doing a bit of research (aka searching it on Wikipedia) I discovered it was originally founded in the mid-1800s as a railroad terminal, originally called Terminus, linking Savannah with the Midwest. Makes sense, since its kind of in the middle of nowhere.
We got into town shortly before 8pm on Friday and checked into our hotel, the Hilton Atlanta in Downtown. I booked a king suite and it was nice and spacious, with a pretty view of the city (better than getting a view of, say, the parking deck, like my luck usually falls). We unfortunately ended up next to a wild, rowdy group of guys who came home at like 5am and then were up and loud again before 10am. Beyond that, the place was nice and affordable.
Since we got in kind of late, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a nearby restaurant, Max Lager Brewery, and then called it a night, since we had lots to get in the next day.
Our first stop Saturday morning was the Highland Bakery in the Old Fourth Ward. We walked there, because it was only a mile away. But a mile in 100 degree heat feels like death. I’m sure Joel was thrilled with me at that point. When we walked back, we headed to the hotel to enjoy the air conditioning and freshen up before going to see the sights.
Once we had chilled a bit, we headed over to Centennial Park.
Before long we were ready for air conditioning again, so we bee lined for the Georgia Aquarium. I haven’t been to an aquarium in a long time (I think since the Baltimore Aquarium in 2006 or 2007) so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I definitely wasn’t expecting to to be so expensive ($85 bucks for the two of us) but Joel said that price was worth being cool and we enjoyed the exhibits.
(Aquarium photos by Joel Addington)
Joel was disappointed after we saw all the exhibits because it meant that we had to go back out into the heat. We meandered back through Centennial Park, people watching and checking out some of the “attractions.” I had briefly considered going on the Skyview ferris wheel, but we had been outside for long enough. So back to the hotel we went again to cool off and get ready for dinner.
I made dinner reservations at the Spence in Midtown, so we took the MARTA train into the neighborhood to explore a bit for going to eat. By the time we got there, I decided to push back our reservation so we weren’t rushed. We took our time wandering around Piedmont Park (which seems to be Atlanta’s version of Central Park). It was a little after 6pm at the point, which was a lovely time of the day to be in the park. The sun was starting to set, which bathed the park in light.
We stopped for a few beers, waiting for it to cool a bit, and then walked the rest of the way to the Spence. We really like the entire Midtown neighborhood. It was a nice mix of hip, urban corridors and beautiful old homes. I loved the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail too, and its funky art. I love the idea of Rails to Trails and they really took this one to the next level.
After dinner, we hopped back on the MARTA and went back to our hotel room. We walked probably a good seven or so miles that day, so I was ready to put my feet up at that point!
Sunday we opted for brunch a little closer to the hotel, at Poor Calvin’s. I told Joel we should get there around 11ish. By some miracle, we actually left shortly before 11 and got there about 15 minutes later… only to discover they didn’t open until 11:30am. Oops. This is why we are just late to everything — at least at that point the places we go are open.
After we gorged ourselves on food, we headed to SunTrust Plaza area in Downtown. Joel wanted to check out a neat-looking arch we saw on our first night there. We were walking around it, checking it out, when a nice homeless man from the neighboring park came over and gave us a history lesson. Apparently the arch is the Carnegie Education Pavilion, taken from the front of the old Carnegie Library before it was demolished. Each of the four sides are inscribed with one of the words from the phrase “The Advancement of Learning,” while the interior has the seals of all the Atlanta colleges and universities on the ground. After our lesson and a photo op, we crossed the street to get a better look at the sculptures across from the Pavilion, “Ballet Olympia,” before heading on to the last stop of our trip.
When in Atlanta, visiting Sweetwater Brewing Company is a MUST. They have limited hours, so we opted to go Sunday when they opened from 2:30-4:30 pm. It was tucked away in an industrial area of the city. We got there shortly before 2:30 and the parking lot was already filling up, so its clearly a popular place with the locals too. The place has an awesome vibe and, of course, amazing beer. We opted for the smaller souvenir glasses, which came with a few tickets each and capped off our trip in a wonderful fashion.
While we were there, we read up on the Chattahoochee River. We knew the song and I remember driving over it on I-10 in the panhandle, but I didn’t realize it went up as far as Atlanta. In fact, we had just been talking about how Atlanta doesn’t have a river. The city was built above the river — rather than around it — but its there nonetheless. The company is environmentally friendly and gives back to the community, so they’re not only about good beer.
My main takeaways from Atlanta? Amazing food (reviews to come). Very green (color-wise, not sustainability-wise. Although they might be sustainable too). Pretty walkable. Lots of awesome public art. Very southern! Everywhere we went, people asked where we were from. Clearly, not Atlanta. I give the city two thumbs up though, and would love to visit again one day (in the cooler months please).