The first time in Atlanta was totally legit. My husband had a conference and I tagged along as his baggage / eye-candy. I wandered all over for 3 days and had a great time (if I’m totally honest, the great time might be predicated on being temporarily kid-free) but I did trip upon one of my absolute favorite places in the US– and we keep going back.
The Atlanta Scoop
Traffic — Most times in Atlanta were quick drive-thrus on the way to Florida. I say that, but the very first thing you must know about Atlanta is traffic. Nothing is quick. I thought Chicago had bad traffic, but Atlanta is way worse. We have almost never driven through without massive back-ups. I assumed it was coincidence but we’ve been to Atlanta at least 7 times, they have beautiful huge highways but people literally just crash into each other all over the place, even when the weather is perfect… but when the weather is dicey… oh my…
Coke Museum — Well. The Coke Museum. You literally wait in a very long line to pay $16 and then get the honor of looking at every advertisement Coke ever made. It isn’t the plant or how they make Coke or really even the history of Coke, it is just how they market Coke. At the end, there is a delightful gift shop that I might have loved in 8th grade (I’ll save you the math, late 80s) when I was totally helping Coke’s image and marketing by wearing my favorite over-sized Coca-cola sweatshirt everywhere… I did buy a really sweet old-style wall attached bottle opener from the gift shop. OH! and a huge variety of “free” fountain beverages. We went to this without the kids (thank goodness). If we had paid $64, I would have been frustrated. Not my thing. Maybe if it was $5 a person?
Centennial Olympic Park — Yes! Take a quick walk through! It is inspirational (and free) and beautiful. Great way to stretch legs, get fresh air, and tell stories! The flowers are pretty. Family agrees that this is worth at least one stop.
Aviva by Kameel — MUST EAT HERE! Support this kind of business! The food is amazing but in addition, I watched Kameel personally greet every single person in a line 50 deep. He said hello, gave us a free amazing GF falafel and then, at the end of the line was a young homeless man. He gave the guy a whole soup and told him he loved him. Truly making the world a better place. I will never drive through Atlanta without visiting Kameel.
Shakespeare Tavern — This is it! One of my favorite places in the United States!! A quaint (in other words, run-down) old theater! There is balcony seating for cheap. They play Shakespeare all year. Limited (but very tasty) food, desserts, and drinks (adorable carafes of wine) are extra and served cafeteria style. To say that our family loves this place is a huge understatement. Whenever we are driving through, we check the current show and plan our trip around those tickets. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of Shakespeare, GO TO THIS. It feels like I imagine the Globe felt, the venue is remarkable, the actors are amazing (and funny), and the experience is so worth it! There is reasonable and safe parking across the street at the hospital. Buy tickets in advance online. The show almost always sells out.
When Driving Thru — Atlanta is positioned perfectly for a long first day on the way to Florida (from Chi-town). The only thing I can recommend is staying just off the highway outside Atlanta. Staying inside Atlanta is really expensive, pay to park (even at hotels), restaurants close early or are sub-pair chains, Peachtree Street is confusing, and it just isn’t worth it. We tend to stay before Atlanta both directions (normally Marietta on the way down). We’ve had better luck battling and avoiding the traffic in the morning with a good night’s sleep rather than the very end of a long day.
Miscellaneous Atlanta Advice, Tips, Randomness, and Minutia:
- Atlanta seriously has the longest escalators, like can’t see the top. It felt like the Stairway to Heaven
- Public trans (MARTA) around Atlanta and to the airport is easy- and cheaper than renting & parking
- MARTA doesn’t run all night. Make sure to check times so the last one back isn’t missed
- The homeless population is heart-breaking. Bring some dollars or gift cards
- Peachtree Street is the bain of Nigel’s (our GPS) existence. Nigel sends us the wrong way whenever an address is on Peachtree Street (and everything is on some form of Peachtree Street)
- I skipped CNN and heard good things about Stone Mountain
- Underground Atlanta Shops has the potential to be so cool but it is really rather vacant (as of 2016)
- Piedmont Park, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, & Midtown deserve their own blog!