Author Topic: visiting Atlanta: what to do?  (Read 6289 times)

kvaruni

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visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« on: March 01, 2016, 02:25:47 AM »
In the second week of April my wife and I will spend a week in Atlanta. She will be there for a 3-day conference and I'm tagging along as a tourist.

So, what are some of the gems to find, what are some of the great places to eat? We won't be renting a car, so everything has to be accessible using public transportation. Walking isn't a problem, as long as it isn't much more than 1h each way. We will be staying in a hotel near Georgia Tech.

We were thinking about getting the Atlanta CityPASS, along with a MARTA pass for 7 days. We definitely want to do the Atlanta Aquarium and the Atlanta Zoo, and I wouldn't mind doing the World of Coca-Cola and the National History Museum. We're not really big on "culture" or sports, so arts, football museums, or the civil rights centre are not on our list of things to do.

What gems are we missing out on? Any hidden gardens to stroll in? Any animal/technology exhibits we should do? Any places to eat (cheap) food?

norabird

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2016, 10:20:57 AM »
I strongly encourage you to go to the MLK center. It's free and very moving.

themagicman

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2016, 10:34:20 AM »
One of my favorite places to eat is the vortex. It is in midtown (so easily accessible to from Marta) They have the best burgers I have ever had!
I would recommend going to world of Coke and the aquarium. Also the zoo sometimes has "brew at the zoo" nights which are usually fun to go to.
Also the CNN center tour is pretty fun and you are able to see some behind the scenes things. Piedmont park would be a nice area to hang out as well. Let me know if you have any questions!

saijoe

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2016, 10:36:40 AM »
Go to the Cyclorama.  It's pretty cool.  Also, Sweetwater Brewery if you're a beer fan. 

kvaruni

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2016, 11:49:21 AM »
Thanks, some great suggestions. We'll be looking into the MLK center and the Sweetwater Brewery (I love microbrews!). It does look like the Cyclorama is temporarily closed though, so that's not an option. The Vortex sounds amazing. It's right up our alley in terms of food, and it's a short walk from our hotel so we'll definitely go there!

As for the CNN center tour, is this something that makes sense for non-US people who don't watch television?

Le Poisson

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2016, 11:58:15 AM »
I haven't been in Atlanta since the 1990's so very out of date here, but as a Canuck, I enjoyed the CNN tour - but not head over heels. World of Coke was great - the tasting room was fun.

If you have access to a car, go for dinner/lunch at "Billy's Blue Willow Inn" in Social Circle Ga. You won't forget it, amazing food in an old Antebellum house in a quaint town. Stone Mountain park is also nice, but I hear it is now an amusement park more than a natural history site. Things change in 20 years.

AmandaPanda

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2016, 12:29:21 PM »
I agree with visiting the aquarium! Also, it's fun to eat at the Varsity, and it's definitely on the cheaper side.  If you like dreamsicles, get the Frosted Orange as a dessert/beverage. Coke is fun, too.

Zebra

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2016, 05:37:23 PM »
Botanical Garden, Oakland Cemetery

SMCx3

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2016, 05:57:37 PM »
The Voretex is an experience in itself and a great burger. 

If you want the best burger in Atlanta go over to Ponce City Market.  This is a cool local hangout that recently opened in Atlanta.  They have great food choices along with some nice shops. Holeman and Finch is very well known in Atlanta for the best burger.  They recently opened  H & F Burger in Ponce City Market, be prepared to stand in line.  The market has a lot to offer and a great place to kill an afternoon especially if it is rainy outside.

Also check out Antico Pizza located by Georgia Tech.  Great pizza along with some local flavor. 

pjhalifax

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2016, 07:40:40 PM »
I was going to mention Piedmont Park for a stroll but I see that's already been posted...so my other recommendation would be a place called Flying Biscuit for breakfast.

(Also another vote for Vortex.)

BlueHouse

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2016, 08:48:11 PM »
Piedmont park for roller blading and walking. They may have their dogwood festival while you are there. I would definitely hike up stone mountain. It's a nice walk and you get a bit of history too.
Maybe a walk through Virginia highlands for window shopping or through little five points for people watching. Buckhead used to have good nightlife for young people, but that was a while ago.

LeRainDrop

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2016, 09:02:14 PM »
What gems are we missing out on? Any hidden gardens to stroll in?

The Atlanta Botantical Gardens are beautiful (though there is an entrance fee) and are right next to Piedmont Park, both of which are within walking distance from Georgia Tech under your criteria.  I love walking/running/biking in Piedmont Park for exercise.  It is a very popular place for people to exercise or hang out on nice days.  They have a number of festivals in the spring, too.  Finally, the Beltline, a recent/ongoing redevelopment project, has become a bit hit for walking, riding your bike, socializing, etc.  It has lots of cool art things, restaurants, and overall just a great place for scenery and such.  If you're up for it, check out Krog Street Market.  From Georgia Tech, you would want to enter the Beltline at the cross of 10th and Monroe.

http://atlantabg.org/
http://www.piedmontpark.org/
http://beltline.org/
https://www.facebook.com/KrogStreetMarket/

LeRainDrop

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2016, 09:14:31 PM »
Thanks, some great suggestions. We'll be looking into the MLK center and the Sweetwater Brewery (I love microbrews!). It does look like the Cyclorama is temporarily closed though, so that's not an option. The Vortex sounds amazing. It's right up our alley in terms of food, and it's a short walk from our hotel so we'll definitely go there!

As for the CNN center tour, is this something that makes sense for non-US people who don't watch television?

Sweetwater Brewery is probably not walking distance for you, but it really is cool to tour.  http://sweetwaterbrew.com/

I didn't find the CNN tour to be all that interesting, even though I do watch US news/TV.

I would seriously recommend that you download the Uber app and use it in lieu of taxi if you discover that there are areas you want to visit that are not withing walking distance nor on public transit routes.  I've used UberX (you pick what "level" of service you want, and X is the cheapest) on occasion and have always been happy with it.  I think it may be worth using, for example, if you really want to visit Sweetwater.

I agree with everyone else that the Georgia Aquarium is pretty cool and worth a visit.  World of Coke is also fun.  They are next door to each other, and it's easy and convenient to do both back-to-back.

Cypress Street Pint & Plate is another great restaurant that I think would be close to you.  They have a great patio, too.  https://www.facebook.com/CypressBarATL/

Jimmy John's is a sandwich chain, but it is a great choice for cheap yet healthy lunch.  There's one on Peachtree Street just north of the cross with 8th Street.  https://www.google.com/maps/place/Jimmy+John's/@33.7795819,-84.3848501,19z/data=!4m6!1m3!3m2!1s0x0000000000000000:0x4571fd380520dcbe!2sCypress+Street+Pint+and+Plate!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0xc47525eef24a0f13
« Last Edit: March 01, 2016, 09:20:13 PM by LeRainDrop »

kvaruni

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2016, 05:23:09 AM »
We're back from our trip to Atlanta for almost a month now, so an update is long overdue.

First things first, Atlanta is a great city, weather was lovely all the time (25C, 77F max) with plenty of sunshine, and the city really is very pedestrian-friendly.

We were staying in the Marriott near Georgia Tech, and we did everything by walking and using MARTA. We got ourselves the City Pass, and so got the chance to do plenty of stuff all around Atlanta. On the first day, we walked from the hotel to Zoo Atlanta after stopping in Georgia Tech Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast. This is quite the walk, sure, but it is definitely doable and it showed us quite a few areas of Atlanta. The zoo is nice, albeit a bit small. For its age, the animals have pretty decent enclosures and I would recommend others to visit the zoo when they are around. It didn't make it into our top 5 of zoos though, I'm sorry :).

Next day we want to Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Quite a nice place, but again a bit on the small side. The building is lovely though, and we both liked that an IMAX movie was included with the city pass. Overall, same rating: definitely nice to do when in Atlanta, but not in our top 5 of natural history/science museums.

Then it was time for the headliner: Georgia Aquarium. Quite an impressive place to be honest, and its location is superb. I have been to Epcot and I wouldn't really know whether I would put Georgia Aquarium on the best aquarium ever or whether I would go with Epcot Sea Base. The main hall of Georgia Aquarium is lovely, but it then felt quite cramped when you went into the individual exhibits. Epcot Sea Base then felt a lot more open. Georgia Aquarium has a lot more stuff to do, but then also misses the marks sometimes (a dolphin show, really? a rubbish 4D show, really?). I'm on the fence here :). Regardless, when in (or near) Atlanta, go visit Georgia Aquarium!

Finally we did the World of Coca-Cola tour. Well, again, it's nice. The tasting area is the real attraction though! Plenty of flavours, but again not that much more special than Epcot Club Cool. I really had to try hard to find flavours that weren't on offer in Epcot Club Cool and that you couldn't get in the fancy soda dispensers all over Atlanta. For it's price the tour is worth it though and here and there you can find some treasures. I especially liked the commercials, but that is probably because we normally never ever see commercials (only Netflix). But do skip the 4D show, it's horrible :).

We didn't do the CNN tour, but we did enter the building quite a few times and I would advise everyone who's visiting Atlanta to do so. It has a lovely food court with reasonable amount of choices, and it was the only store where I could find stuff from Rick and Morty, so bonus points right there!

As for food, you guys had given us way too many recommendations so we only had the chance to do a few. We have lived for two years in Canada and are quite fond of Tim Hortons, and we can now confirm that Dunkin' Donuts is the place to be in the US. Cheap coffee, decent donuts, pretty good for a brekkie as a tourist with few other options. We did try two other things for breakfast: The Silver Skillet and Highland Bakery. The silver skillet is a lovely place that hasn't been updated in ages (which definitely adds to its charm!) and breakfast was quite good. Same can be said for Highland Bakery. The granola I had was definitely a good one! That being said, you will pay through the nose for something as simple as breakfast.

For dinner, we went to Vortex, Hooters, Cheesecake Factory and TGI Fridays in the airport. Frankly, we were a bit disappointed by The Vortex. Don't get me wrong, food was good. But just not great. The beer selection was fine, but we just went when seasons were changing so there was plenty they didn't have. Having the tables so close to the bar was also really unpleasant as people were smoking there. The dessert options were pretty lame and not really tasty. And the bill was definitely a shocker. For that price, I would have eaten a 3-course menu with foie gras as appetiser in my home town of Belfast. Tipping is also really getting out of hand in the US :). I still remember the time when people were happy with a 15% tip, and now it already seems to be pushing over 22%. Ouch. Sorry guys ... I wouldn't recommend the Vortex.

Hooters was our best experience. Great food, great service. Simple as that, and definitely a place I would go back to. Cheesecake Factory ... not so much. Cheaper than The Vortex for sure, but the food wasn't anything special either. TGI Fridays then? Same same, maybe a bit worse. Nothing that stands out, and service was atrocious. The best place to eat was in fact Georgia Tech. There were plenty of food trucks out, and in the worst case the Panda Express serves up some pretty decent food for at least a reasonable price.

Overall, Atlanta was great. I loved that we could walk wherever, whenever, and MARTA is really affordable if you stick to stick to something like a 7-day pass. The attractions were all reasonable to great fun. Do get the CityPASS as it is a nice saving, and as long as you keep your expectations at reasonable levels I think most of the attractions are definitely worth a try. Food has been the real bummer. The expensive places just don't seem to live up to their price tag. In the end, we enjoyed the simple places the most such as a Dunkin' Donuts, some reasonably priced meal at a Panda Express or some $1 sliders from Arby's.

Finally, if you are in the Georgia Tech area, do go visit Atlantic Station. It's a shopping area that is so quaint that we had a fun time walking around there. The food options weren't great, but the cinema was really nice and the area is nice to stroll in. There is also a Publix to get some cheap food :).

Thanks again to everyone for the great suggestions! You helped us make the most of our time and we loved our week there!

forummm

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2016, 10:09:47 AM »
Definitely the MLK center. Spend a few hours there. You can also walk a block or two to the house he lived in and the church is across the street. The Sweet Auburn Curb Market is a fun place to see a variety of foods. Its hours are limited so plan ahead if you want to check it out. The aquarium is pretty nice but expensive. If you like animals, I'd put it towards the top of your list. The zoo is decent, but it's a pretty regular zoo. The gorillas and huge snake collection were my favorite.

I think most the other touristy things there are kind of lame. The Coke thing is just a big ad for Coke that you pay for. Never did the CNN tour, but CNN is a crap network and it seems very touristy.

There are all kinds of hipstery places to eat. It's hard to get to a lot of good places without a car.

dandarc

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #15 on: May 10, 2016, 10:32:35 AM »
Nice to see even a 6K poster sometimes doesn't read the last post ; )

kvaruni - love that you went to Atlanta and the highlights food-wise were the national chains - Hooters, TGI Fridays, Cheesecake Factory, Dunkin Donuts, Panda Express, Arby's are all pretty much everywhere in the US.

I personally did not enjoy Vortex the one time I went.  The food was great (although overpriced), but the service was terrible.  Maybe just a bad draw that day for us, so with you on that one.

forummm

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #16 on: May 10, 2016, 10:49:12 AM »
Nice to see even a 6K poster sometimes doesn't read the last post ; )

kvaruni - love that you went to Atlanta and the highlights food-wise were the national chains - Hooters, TGI Fridays, Cheesecake Factory, Dunkin Donuts, Panda Express, Arby's are all pretty much everywhere in the US.

I personally did not enjoy Vortex the one time I went.  The food was great (although overpriced), but the service was terrible.  Maybe just a bad draw that day for us, so with you on that one.

Ah, I see. No, I did not read it. Since I live in Atlanta, I didn't have a lot of interest in what touristy things to do here, and I assumed that it was another list of suggestions. Glad you had a good time.

HipGnosis

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #17 on: May 10, 2016, 11:40:17 AM »
Go to the Cyclorama.  It's pretty cool.  Also, Sweetwater Brewery if you're a beer fan.
Ummm... from their website;
construction on the Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker Cyclorama Building began in early December 2015 and is expected to be complete in 2017. 
The History Center intends to restore The Battle of Atlanta painting to its full hyperbolic or hourglass shape, size and overall height, and to re-create the 128-year-old painting’s original visual perspective, both of which have been lost for nearly a century.
The plan is to open the building in 2017 to allow the public to view the ongoing restoration of The Battle of Atlanta painting, with a full opening and dedication following in 2018.

LeRainDrop

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #18 on: May 10, 2016, 12:24:53 PM »
kvaruni - love that you went to Atlanta and the highlights food-wise were the national chains - Hooters, TGI Fridays, Cheesecake Factory, Dunkin Donuts, Panda Express, Arby's are all pretty much everywhere in the US.

I personally did not enjoy Vortex the one time I went.  The food was great (although overpriced), but the service was terrible.  Maybe just a bad draw that day for us, so with you on that one.

Yeah, bummer on the food choices -- you picked almost all generic national chains that are nothing special, and the one local place you did pick, The Vortex, is totally overrated.  There are a ton of great, reasonably-priced restaurants in the city, so I'm disappointed for you that you didn't get to any of them.  I am, however, very glad to hear that you enjoyed your visit!
« Last Edit: May 10, 2016, 12:26:34 PM by LeRainDrop »

patchyfacialhair

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #19 on: May 10, 2016, 01:58:29 PM »
I can think of a couple of reasons OP likes Hooters, but man those are some rough food choices. I mean...Hooters? In my unqualified opinion, they have the worst food of any chain restaurant.

When I travel (which is now around once a month to visit the wife where she's working), we hop on Tripadvisor* and search the top restaurants in the area. We haven't been disappointed yet, as it allows us to find awesome locally owned restaurants.

*I don't have any association with Tripadvisor, but I find that the top restaurants in each city are pretty reliable. I don't have the best luck finding good places on Yelp/Google.

Le Poisson

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #20 on: May 10, 2016, 07:00:51 PM »
Well - he left out Ruby Tuesday's which was where I ate a lot down there...

HairyUpperLip

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #21 on: May 10, 2016, 08:20:41 PM »
lol yeah I was surprised at the dining choices....

RonMcCord

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #22 on: May 10, 2016, 08:30:16 PM »
And not even one stop at someplace regional like Waffle House or Chik-fil-a. 

Zamboni

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #23 on: May 10, 2016, 08:34:47 PM »
Pitty Pat's Porch for some pie, and don't forget to tip the piano player ;-)

kvaruni

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #24 on: May 11, 2016, 01:45:22 AM »
All the chains , I know. I'm also the kind of person who will defend McDonalds for having some pretty decent food when traveling. To be honest, we didn't really care for any of the fancy dining so all things we did were pretty great. Some of the choices might seem a bit odd, but I guarantee there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of them :). Too many episodes of The Big Bang Theory left us wondering what all the fuss was about with The Cheesecake Factory, my wife had never been in Hooters (and again, great food and service, don't care what others say :)), and TGI Fridays ... well, we weren't thinking (literally, I was having a migraine).

As for using TripAdvisor, it can be a hit or miss. Vortex is right up there on #11 ...

We would have loved to add a Ruby Tuesday's or Applebee's to the list but sadly they were a bit too far :p.

forummm

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Re: visiting Atlanta: what to do?
« Reply #25 on: May 11, 2016, 07:58:12 AM »
I guess if you want to experience America, eating at chain restaurants is sort of an "authentic" experience for what many Americans do. But I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've eaten at a national chain restaurant in the last 5 years if I exclude road trips (where options are limited).