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There’s one part of travel that absolutely sucks even if you’re flying for free. Heck, this part sucks even if you’re a platinum elite flyer. What am I referring to? Yup, it’s the infamous early morning flight. With an alarm set for 3:45am, our weekend got off to an early start, but if there is one redeeming factor to such an early flight, it’s that you get to spend the entire day at your destination.
I won’t bore you with the details of our flight, but suffice it to say, Delta once again met all my expectations: an on-time arrival and a choice of in-flight snacks even for those of us sitting in the back of the plane. I may not have status, but hand me some biscoff and coffee and get me to my destination on time and that’s pretty much all I need on domestic flights.
Now remember, our flight left pre-6am, which leads to quite the early arrival into ATL. Much earlier, in fact, than any of the city attractions open, so both Mike and I were a little curious as to how we would spend the morning exploring. A last-minute discovery provided an incredible option: meeting blogging celebrity Rapid Travel Chai for some invigorating conversation before he jetted off for the weekend.
Mike and I bade farewell to our new friend and got ready to explore the urban jungle of Atlanta. Urban jungle? Well, frankly, after hearing about some of the great adventures Rapid Travel Chai has had, we felt the need to embellish our own plans for Atlanta. Our city break may not have been exotic, but we had high hopes for a fun weekend.
With a stop for grits-done-right and flaky biscuits, we eventually made our way to the CNN Center for a studio tour since we had time to kill before our afternoon attractions opened for the day. Mike is much more interested in news than I am, but unfortunately I was caught up in the moment to see the breaking news footage of the cruise ship tragedy. Being at CNN was quite an introduction to the day’s story, although in a twisted kind-of way, it made for an interesting tour.
We spent the afternoon in the Atlantic Station neighborhood of Atlanta, experiencing two unique exhibits. First, the Dialogue in the Dark experience. If you haven’t heard of it (I hadn’t), it’s this absolutely incredible journey through a pitch-black environment. The whole point is to spend an hour without your sense of sight, essentially to put your feet in a blind man’s shoes. It’s done very well, and before we knew it, Mike and I were trusting our other senses to describe the different circumstances we encountered. In hopes that all of you will try this someday, I won’t tell you where you’ll go or what you’ll “see”, only that I highly encourage you to visit this exhibit.
Afterwards was a stop at the Bodies exhibit. I know this has been out for years, but I had never actually gotten around to seeing it, and was glad we finally made time for it. It’s pretty cool to see the inside of a human body, and even cooler how the exhibit breaks up some of the systems so you aren’t overwhelmed with information. Sensational? Sure! Controversial? Most definitely. All in all, the perfect end to our afternoon.
How is that I had an entire day in Atlanta and only went to three attractions? This is preposterous, compared to my normal travel schedule! I won’t lie…that 3:45am wake-up call (after a midnight bedtime, no less!) meant I was ready for a nap in my cozy Hotel Indigo room.
We chose the Hotel Indigo for exactly two reasons:
- We wanted a free room, and had either Hilton or Priority Club points available.
- We wanted to stay in Midtown.
By default, we were left with the option of staying at the hip Hotel Indigo. The location is 100% perfect for walking through the city and catching MARTA connections and the hotel itself does a great job juxtaposing the historical building with trendy design. Throw in some great service and a bar that offers local Sweetwater beers, and you’ve got yourself a great stay.
Our night continued with dinner and drinks at Tap at 1180, a fantastic gastropub with delicious food and an enticing drink menu. Perfect for when your goal is a good meal and a great place to watch football!
If there’s one thing we noticed about Atlanta, it’s that the city is dead on weekend mornings. It’s hard to believe no one is out and about, but it was a little weird. I always had it in my head that Atlanta was a decent sized city, but you’d never guess it by walking around town on a Sunday morning. We didn’t have far to go to find breakfast at Bab’s, a place that looks like a true hole in the wall but in reality had some great cooking and attentive service.
Our goal for the day was to head to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Mike’s request, for the dinosaurs, and my appeasement for the IMAX feature on the world’s “Greatest Places”. Who says you have to travel far to see other cultures? The film was actually pretty interesting, reinforcing some of the destinations I’d like to visit in the near-future. So many places to go! Unfortunately, the museum itself was pretty much a bust, as it was clearly designed for a viewer with an average age of ten.
We lucked out, and had a beautiful, warm, sunny day so decided to walk from the museum to our next destination: Little Five Points. The neighborhood reminded me a little of the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, and was interesting for a little people watching. The real reason for heading here, though, was for a burger and more beer at The Vortex.
Okay, I need to back up a little here. Burgers are probably my absolute favorite food in the entire world, followed closely by the generic food group of soups. So if someone tells me I can get a mouth-watering burger, I make a trek to get it. Vortex did not disappoint, offering plenty of selections for toppings and condiments, and better yet, they make a variation on the “black and tan” using Left Hand Milk Stout and Wells Banana Bread beer. Yum…
The other reason for heading to L5P (as the neighborhood is affectionately known) was in search of last-minute tickets to Avenue Q at the Horizon Theatre. Unfortunately for us, the show was sold out. Better luck next time, and a good reminder to book in advance for things you want to do.
After a quick stop at the hotel, our night continued with another kitschy-themed restaurant. This time, we headed north to the Buckhead district for jazz music and dessert at Dante’s Down the Hatch. What a place…a pirate ship in the middle, seating areas themed like a port town, and a live crocodile… Truly, an experience that’s made better by live jazz in the background.
Our last day in Atlanta started with a special trip to Empire State South for breakfast, on the recommendation of a friend. I put a lot of weight into a good cup of coffee, and my cortado did not disappoint, but I’m sorry to say the rest of the meal did. Better luck next time.
We made it to the star attraction of Atlanta at opening time: the Georgia Aquarium. What a place! I’ve been to plenty of aquariums, and even Sea World just last month, but the Georgia Aquarium lives up to its hype. Yes, it’s mostly the same fish you’ll see at all aquariums. Yes, it’s crowded. And yes, the dolphin show is overly theatrical. So what makes it worth it? The sheer size of the displays. The tanks are HUGE (and wonderfully well-done). There are so many great places to sit and wonder about the marine life in front of you, with highlights being the beluga whales and whale sharks. My favorite part? Seeing the whale shark tank – it’s literally millions of gallons of water and 100 yards in length.
It may have been a little ironic that lunch was at Legal Seafood, but sometimes, you just have to choose what’s quick and easy.
Our final stop was at the World of Coke, which is every bit as corny as I expected, though more fun than idly sitting around at the airport. We had fun, especially sampling the 60+ sodas from around the world. An international trip without even needing a passport 😉
We had a fantastic time in Atlanta, and it was a fun (and low-stress) trip to start our year off. Our flights were free, our hotel was free, and we even saved money on entrance fees by using a CityPASS. Overall, a bargain for a weekend getaway.