Recently Katrina and I had the pleasure of traveling to Atlanta to visit Chase, one of our friends I graduated with at the University of Kentucky. Chase has recently moved to Atlanta taking a job at Jacob's Engineering working as an Urban Designer. Our first day was spent mostly on the road. It was a six hour drive from Lexington, KY where Katrina and I were spending the holidays at her apartment. The drive was an incredible trek through the mountains of Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee. We were even graced by some light snow that made the scenery even more spectacular. I never get tired of driving through the Smoky Mountains!
Once we arrived in Atlanta, we unpacked our stuff at Chase's place and headed to dinner at the 5 Seasons Brewing Co. If you are ever in Atlanta and looking for some really good food (and wonderful beer) this is the place to be. I had the best Portabella Mushroom sandwich with some awesome sweet potato fries, Katrina had the Black Bean Burger with coleslaw, and Chase had some Rabbit Enchiladas. This place goes highly recommended on my list!
Our first full day of Atlanta adventures started out with a trip on the MARTA train. The public transportation in Atlanta doesn't really compare to much larger cities like NYC or Washington, D.C., but it was very impressive nonetheless! It seems as though at every stop there is some type of mixed use development going on and the trains were spacious and comfortable.
Once we were in downtown Atlanta we made a transfer and headed to the Georgia Aquarium to pick up a CityPASS. The CityPASS let us see the most tourist attractions for half of the price it would be to see everything separately. If you have a few days and are looking to checkout lots of interesting things, I would grab it. It was well worth the money. The aquarium was pretty amazing. Although I have been to a few others in Milwaukee and Baltimore this one was definitely worth it. What made Georgia's standout was the huge tanks and the 35' whale sharks they had swimming around. The also had some crazy otters and some rather large beluga whales. It was also interesting to see the divers free swimming with all the sharks and fish in their larger tanks.
After our visit to the aquarium, we stopped at the World of Coca-Cola to take an intimate look at this history of Coke. Once you get inside they show a pretty neat animated (and lets hope fictitious) video of how these little creatures make vending machines work. It was pretty comprehensive and had everything from Norman Rockwell paintings to delivery trucks to old soda shop memorabilia. At the end, they let you sample every beverage that Coca-Cola makes around the world and let you choose a free bottle of Coke that was made there.
Next, we headed through Centennial Park to the CNN Center to get the Inside CNN Studio Tour. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos while we were on our tour, but I did snap a few while we were waiting on the tour to get started. The building is pretty amazing and open. It also boasts the largest free standing escalator and some very state-of-the-art studios. The guide told us the secrets behind making the news and how they use the same 2 or 3 studios for all of their shows by having different camera angles. Being an avid watcher of CNN, I would have never guessed that all of their programming is done in one building.
We then headed to Atlantic Station to meet Chase after work. After such a busy day it was time for some shopping and food. Atlantic Station is a smart growth development which means that it has lots of opportunities to work, shop, and live. If you are interested in learning more about the concept visit SmartGrowth.org We made a few stops at West Elm to look around and the Body Shop to pick up a few things.
All of us then went to a rather nice sushi place called Shout!. This restaurant had a wonderful selection of sushi and Asian-America fusion cuisine. If you visit Atlanta and are into the sushi thing, I would recommend this place.
Once we were finished eating, we decided to go down to Centennial Park to try ice skating. Unfortunately, we were unable to skate, but we did get to see a pretty amazing musical water fountain show in the park and hang out for a while.
The next day was spent touring the city by car with Chase acting as our chauffeur and we got to see a lot of the town. We started at Atlantic Botanical Garden and Conservatory. This was an amazing place. The tree walks, vegetable garden amphitheater, outdoor kitchen, and orchid garden were pretty awesome. The place also had one of the largest conservatory exhibits I have ever seen and is worth seeing if you are a plant geek like me.
We then ate lunch at this cool little supermarket/cafeteria called Alon's. The food here was very awesome as well. It was sort of an a la carte experience that had lots of options. It took everything in me from venturing over to the bakery section to try some cheesecake or pie. I think if I had it to do over again, I would choose that route, but the tuna and yogurt I had was a very nice and light lunch.
Next we ventured off to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History to check out some interesting stuff about Georgia. We also had the chance to see some cool modern day exhibits and some neat science type stuff. The exhibits also featured a sampling of the dinosaur and large mammal species that were thought to have lived in Georgia. There was also an interesting presentation on human migration and an interactive exhibit on water.
We also had the chance to see where Chase spends all of his time at Jacob's Engineering at their office on the north side of town. He showed us the office and also gave us a glimpse of the types of projects he works on. This probably the largest company that I had never heard of!
After our trip to the office, we stopped at the local Taco Mac to grab some beer and appetizers before heading back to Chase's apartment. The food was great there, but a little commercialized. Anyway, once back at Chase's we decided to have another rendition of Frostys, Forties, Flick Fridays just for old times sake. We watched Precious, which was a very heavy, but great movie. I would definitely recommend catching this film sometime.
Our last full day in Altanta was quite exhausting and went well into the night. This was also the coldest day while we were down.
We started the day by stopping at this little taco bar called Cantina Tacqeria or something like that. Contrary to the reviews, this place had wonderful food and exquisite fish tacos. I would say giving this place a try for lunch some time would be a great investment!
We then ventured to the south part of town to see the Atlanta Zoo. This was a very typical zoo set up, but it was somewhat disappointing. The cold weather streak meant that most of the interesting species were inside and were not viewable. However, we did get to see the Panda, which was quite an amazing site and made the whole trip worth it.
Needless to say, Katrina was hard to miss that day because she wore all red!
Once back in Atlanta we headed to Decatur to check out the sights. Once we got there and drove around for a bit we were all hungry again. So we decided to forgo any more exploring and just grab a bite to eat. We chose this cool pizzeria called Zucca's. We had a crazy specialty pizza with some pesto and some bruschetta for an appetizer. The place was reasonably priced and very, very good! I only wished we would have had more time to explore some of the shops and atmosphere that Decatur is famous for...
Our last stop that day was by far the most interesting of the entire trip. The Salvador Dali exhibit at the High Museum of Art. The museum had a last minute marathon of operation to ferry in those who had been postponing the visit. Over Saturday and Sunday the museum was open 31 hours straight.
Like most museum galleries I couldn't take any photos inside, but believe me, they were all amazing. If you ever get a chance to see a Dali Exhibit, DO IT! One of the paintings on display was the Persistence of Memory, which I think is Dali's most famous work. It was much smaller than I thought, but still impressive. The exhibit focused on much of his later works and also tried to paint a picture of the troubled genius. We also got to see a glimpse of the new Dali Museum being built in Florida which is set to open this year. I'll have to make a trip down there soon and put that on my itinerary!
Early the next morning we ate at the Waffle House with Chase and said good-bye to Atlanta (or more like 'see you later'). We were actually chased out of town by a wild winter storm that swept through the south that day and paralyzed the city. But in any case, I can definitely say that the whole experience changed the way I see Atlanta. It is a lot more progressive than I thought and has come a long way since the Olympic Games. I look forward to visiting my friend and the city again when the weather is warmer.