What’s one of the best ways to catch up with friends who live in different cities? Travel together! For the past few years, my college roommate and I have made it a point to get together for an annual trip and travel somewhere new. Last year we chose Atlanta, Georgia.
We stayed in Midtown, which was perfect as it was centrally located and easy to get to the downtown tourist attractions and also close enough to walk from the train to and from the airport. Midtown has lots of culture with the High Museum, beautiful Piedmont Park and tons of restaurants. The park is perfect for an afternoon stroll or bike ride. The views are gorgeous (we even saw a couple getting engaged there). There is a botanical garden inside, but the park is so big, we did not get to that section.
While we were there, the High Museum was under renovation, yet they had the most amazing temporary exhibit that ended just a few days after we left. We were so fortunate to catch the Winnie the Pooh installation full of original sketches from E.H. Shepard. When you enter the exhibit, you are magically transported into the Hundred Acre Wood. With paintings on the walls and artifacts galore, it’s truly a step into a storybook. The exhibit also had replicas of Christopher Robin’s stuffed animals (the originals are on exhibit at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library– it’s free to view and I highly recommend!). This High exhibit also had letters from A.A. Milne and photographs of him and his family. Having loved Winnie the Pooh as a child, this was hugely exciting.
If you are visiting Atlanta, you have to go up to the Sundial which is the bar and restaurant on the top of The Westin Peachtree Plaza downtown. You pay $8 to take the elevator ride up to the top, but you have a credit of that same amount to put toward your food or drink purchase. You can sit at the restaurant for a full meal, or do as we did and relax with a cold drink and snack at the bar. After a long day of walking around in the heat and being on our feet all day, sitting down, relaxing and enjoying the beautiful views of the city were exactly what we needed.
Earlier in the day we visited the downtown tourist attractions, including the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola, which are right next to each other. Word to the wise, remember to leave plenty of extra time for both of these busy attractions. Even if you already purchased a ticket in advance like we did, you will still have to wait in a significant line before entering. Probably because we were there Labor Day Weekend, but the lines were reminiscent of those at Disney World. The new Animal Planet show “The Aquarium” is being filmed in Atlanta which will make it even more popular. The aquarium was definitely worth the wait though. They had beluga whales, whale sharks, penguins, dolphins and more.
While I appreciated the World of Coca-Cola, the lines were extremely long even after you entered the main building. Each section had its own line to wait in once inside. My favorite part was the Milestones of Refreshments, which explored Coca-Cola’s history and advertising over the years. This section probably interested me the most since I work in the advertising industry. It was inspiring to see how this global brand has become such a staple household name. The theater inside showed a six-minute video entitled “Moments of Happiness.” It was touching to see how the soft drink has an emotional connection for so many people. Then of course the experience culminated at “Taste It” which allows you to sample Coca-Cola products from all over the globe. Everyone’s least favorite was “Beverly” from Italy so you are forewarned. Also be careful because your shoes will stick to the floor with every step.
Centennial Olympic Park is also close to the downtown attractions. It was fun to walk through the park commemorating where the 1996 Summer Olympics were held.
As you could have guessed if you read my other posts, we of course stopped at the Atlanta Zoo. The zoo was a far walk from any train station. It was a little outside of the city. We took the train to the closest stop, but still probably had to walk about 30 minutes. This zoo is one of four in the United States to have giant pandas. (This was only the second time I had seen them, aside from at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.) We were so fortunate to see the baby twin pandas celebrating their second birthday! We also learned that the U.S. does not actually own any pandas. They are on loan from China.
We went to an Atlanta Braves game at SunTrust Park as well. The stadium was also a little outside of the main city of Atlanta. We bought a three-day train pass for the whole weekend and it actually wasn’t as useful as we thought it would be. There is no train to the ballpark. Instead we took a bus there, but the bus did not accept the train pass. Next time it would be faster to take an Uber or Lyft if you are visiting from either downtown or midtown.
During our short three days in Atlanta we definitely soaked up as much of the city as possible walking eight to ten miles a day. Onto the next adventure!