Atlanta, Georgia

Hello, wonderful friends just thought I would stop in and share my four-day adventure to Atlantis … just joking my adventure was in Atlanta, Georgia (but how cool would it be to discover the lost city!).  Atlanta is located in the south-east quadrant of the United States.  Over the past few weeks as I was preparing for my trip many people asked me why Atlanta, what’s there to see and do there?? Truthfully, when my brother and I booked the trip I didn’t know what to expect.  This destination is not considered one of the more “fabulous” places to visit like LA or Florida.  However, I was pleasantly surprised during my stay as there are many sites to explore.  On my first day of vacation, I wandered around the city — yes on foot — to get a feel for the place.  I found Atlanta to be a quaint city, rich in history and culture with an ultimately calming atmosphere.  Did you know that the 1996 Olympics took place there, or that the CNN headquarters is stationed there or only Coca-Cola products are available?? I sure didn’t (– see now you have something to talk about at the dinner table  — the trotting traveller bringing families together since 2017)!

The Sites

One of the first places I explored was the Centennial Olympic Park (in commemoration of the 1996 Olympics).  The stone pathway within the park has names engraved within it personalizing the space — I think it’s the names of athletes that participated in the Olympics but not being very athletic myself or really even into sports I’m not sure who those people were.  The Olympic ring fountain is set in the heart of the park and even though it is nothing like the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas, it is still beautiful to see from above and even more, fun to run through like you would at a water park.  The park overall is a great place to hang out solo, as a couple or as a group of friends.  Families having picnics dot the area along with kids playing tag and football.  If you are on your own people watching is a great activity (not in a creepy way) but I just wonder what everyone’s story is.

The various green spaces are surrounded by popular tourist destinations such as the Georgia Aquarium, The World of Coke A Cola and the CNN building along with the SkyView of Atlanta.  I’d encourage everyone to stay downtown as everything is walking distance; that way you don’t have to worry about cabs, uber or public transportation (and bonus you fulfil your exercise quota of the day — I myself hit 15 000 steps/day)!

Atlanta has a variety of different options for getting around town.  While staying downtown cabs are super easy to come by — the government has regulated the prices so thankfully the cabbies cannot ripe you off.  From business to business it costs $10/one way and ~$35 from downtown to the airport (one way).  While I never used public transport they do have buses and an underground rail system called the MARTA which I understand is a quick and easy option and very reasonably priced.  If you prefer the age old bicycle, Atlanta has several bikes available for rent which can allow you to reach your destination quicker than with just your feet.

One of my favourite sites was a tour of the CNN Studio — I seriously think I missed my calling.  First things first…do you know what CNN stands for? Cable News Network, hmm not a very original title.  The tour was fascinating, you could partake in either a standard studio tour or a VIP tour.  We did the standard tour only because the timing worked out better.  Our tour guide, Megan, was incredibly informative and funny which made the factual part of the tour less dry.  We saw the studios where HLN is filmed and where Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta film their special in-studio broadcasts.  The tour also included visiting the various newsroom where teams discuss each episode of a particular show, news headlines and of course breaking news.  From start to finish a news story typically takes a few hours but with breaking news, it can take as little as 15 min to broadcast.  The CNN building itself was bought by the Turner company in the 80’s and was previously an indoor amusement park — wahoo!  It currently houses the longest escalator in the world spanning 8 floors.  Unfortunately, none of the other amusement park elements remain, I guess we’ll have to make do with the escalator.  The Turner company is responsible not only for CNN but also the Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies.  Unfortunately, none of the news anchors were in the building at the time of our tour so if you are bent on meeting any of the anchors it is advisable to visit the studios during the week rather than the weekend.  The pricing for the tour is reasonable, for more information you can visit http://www.cnn.com/tour/.

The World of Coca – Cola is an incredibly popular site in Atlanta, a self-guided tour that lasts as long as you want.  I think the main attraction is being able to try the different flavours of coca cola from around the world.  I’m sorry to report that Europe has the worst Coca-Cola products — the Italian soda The Beverley is the worst EVER.  It is so disgusting I almost threw up (it tastes like a very very bitter ginger beer with a sharp aftertaste that kicks you in the gut)… I can’t believe people actually pay money to drink this willingly — to parents who want to demote pop in their households this would be a good drink to keep around.  Latin America had some interesting flavours as did Africa but I do have to say that North America is about as good as it gets.  Other parts of the tour included having your picture taken with the Coca-Cola Bear as well as viewing The Vault where the secret recipe is hidden — unfortunately, you don’t get to see the actual recipe.  Overall a fun couple of hours learning the history behind one of America’s most popular drinks but if you can’t participate in the tasting of the drinks then there really is no point in going. For more information on tour times and prices, you can visit http://www.worldofcoca-cola.com/.

If any of you have been to London, England you know that the London Eye resides there — a giant Ferris wheel that gives AMAZING views of the city.  Similarly, Atlanta has a Ferris Wheel called the Atlanta SkyView — this is a fun activity to see the entire city and take skyline pictures.  However, if you are afraid of heights you may want to skip this as you are 20 stories above ground http://www.skyviewatlanta.com/.

The Eats

So… now that we’ve discussed the sites the next thing to talk about is the dining experience.  Overall, any restaurant you go to has extremely SLOW service — it’s like watching a sloth try to win a race — you’ll pretty much pass away with hunger. Once you accept and embrace the slow service you can think more about the food.  My brother and I had two fantastic dining experiences and two dreadful dining experiences.

When we first arrived in Atlanta it was well past 11 pm, so we decided to order room service.  That was a terrible idea — the pizza looked like something that was frozen previously and could be bought at any local grocery store.  Needless to say, we were not impressed or full.  We vowed the next day we would eat somewhere else — so at lunch, we ended up at the hotel restaurant called Sway, to our dismay it was the same place that had provided the room service the night before — GROSS.  My brother’s chicken breast was dry — actually dry does not adequately describe it — more like gnawing on cardboard.  Overall the food was not satisfying — mainly because it was bad.  Their new restaurant slogan should be, Sway… the restaurant that sways you away from eating.  If I had to point out one positive, the coffee was decent — but that could be because I was desperate for caffeine.

Our second terrible dining experience occurred at a small place called Cuts.  To start the lighting was terrible — you could barely see your dining partner OR the food you were eating.  The music that is normally supposed to set the mood of the establishment was extremely loud so that you were basically yelling to be heard.  The food, although reasonably priced was mediocre at best.  The French dip sandwich was lacking in flavour and was dry.  The apple cobbler was the only good part of the experience — but I think it would be very hard to mess up apple cobbler.

Our best dining experience was at the Sun Dial restaurant at the Westin Hotel.  The restaurant is located at the top of the building, which is actually the tallest building in Atlanta.  This restaurant is fantastic for so many reasons — first, it revolves so you end up with 360º views of the city.  At night the city lights look spectacular.  You might be asking if you feel nauseated eating in a moving restaurant.  The answer is no, you don’t even feel the rotation and to see the entire 360º view takes about 1 hour.  Second, the food is delicious.  Disclaimer — if you are a vegetarian it might be a good idea to skip this portion of the blog — I’m not a vegetarian so pretty much all my meals consist of some type of meat or chicken.  At the Sun Dial, my meal consisted of butternut squash soup, half rack of lamb with asparagus & sweet caramel crunch for dessert.  Each bit of any of the courses felt like you had died and gone to heaven. The meat was tender and perfectly cooked — each bite was juicy and evenly seasoned.  The butternut squash soup was delightful — not very heavy and seasoned with pumpkin and cinnamon.  The dessert was a sweet mix of chocolate, caramel and peanuts with a drizzle of caramel and chocolate sauce.  The only downside was the cost, this is definitely a place locals would go only if they are celebrating an important milestone in their lives.

Our final dining experience was Room  At Twelve, this restaurant was beautiful with adequate lighting and soft music allowing for great conversation, unlike Cuts.  The steak was tender and the cheesecake was a delightful way to end the meal.  Our server, though slow was humours with great recommendations on what to try.  The service there was the best compared to any other in Atlanta.

The Stay

During my stay in Atlanta, I called The Hyatt Regency my home.  While it was clean and well decorated with glass old-school elevators the overall experience was nothing to write home about.  For the cost of the room, I expected more so that was disappointing.  The rooms could have used more light and don’t expect any mints or chocolate on your pillow after turndown service.  The Dasani water provided in the room is $5/bottle.  It was helpful that wireless internet was complementary along with a mini fridge and a safe in each room.  Although, truthfully it’s fairly standard for hotels to have internet, a fridge and a safe. I think, if I were to visit Atlanta again I would stay at the Westin.  Just walking through the lobby to go to the Sun Dial it felt very luxurious.

The Flights

I have flown several times to several different locations, some exotic and some mundane but I can assure you that direct flights are ALWAYS better.  From Calgary there were no direct flights available when I was booking so I flew to Toronto first, had a 3 hour stop over and then finally flew to Atlanta.  The day was exhausting since it spanned almost 12 hours.  I flew with West Jet and their partner Delta Airlines.  Having a connecting flight also means an increased risk that your luggage will not make it to your final destination. I’ve always had great experiences with West Jet so I recommend them over Air Canada any day.

Coming back I realized that I’m not really a night person — while waiting to disembark the air craft I read that the overhead compartments can hold up to 160 lbs… My thinking — Oh wow I can fit in there! since I’m significantly less than 160 lbs soooo I can go with all my friends on their trips and be in their carry on — what a great idea… humm it could get really squishy in there and I’m slightly claustrophobic so this is probably only a good idea in theory not in execution.

The Shopping

If you read my “About Me” page you know that I love shopping — I probably belong in shopaholics anonymous.  However, in Atlanta there isn’t much in terms of retail therapy and with the Canadian dollar not at par with the American dollar it can be very expensive to shop in the states period.  My hotel was near the Peach Tree Center which sounds like it could be a really interesting place to hang out…unfortunately there were only a few stores and those were closed before the mall itself closed.  So all in all, if you’re looking for a shopping vacation, Atlanta is not your destination.

The Weather

Because Atlanta is located in the south I was expecting the weather to be warm, however during my stay between March 2 and March 6 the highest temperature was +18ºC with a low of +7ºC.  It seems that these are the typical temperatures you can expect there at this time — so don’t pack your summer dresses, the evenings can be chilly.

My overall experience in Atlanta was wonderful and I would encourage anyone who would like a “different” vacation destination to visit! I would give it ♥♥♥ out of 5!

XOXO

Trotting Traveller ♥