The Art of Random Willy-Nillyness: Discovering Atlanta ~ A Treasure Close to Home
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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Discovering Atlanta ~ A Treasure Close to Home

We have been to Atlanta several times. But our travels to Atlanta are only to the airport since we have found it to be cheaper to fly out of the airport there then our closest airport in Asheville. These airport trips are just to spend the night before our flight the next day.

In all these times, we never went into downtown Atlanta or even did any sightseeing. We have been meaning to do so because not only have we heard Atlanta has a lot of things to do, but we only live 2.5 hours from Atlanta.

Luckily, I recently had the opportunity to visit Downtown Atlanta thanks to the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta Hotel and the Atlanta CVB. The Hilton Garden Inn hosted us for two night and the Atlanta CVB gave us two (2) Atlanta CityPASSes to visit local attractions.

Atlanta was more than I thought it would be. We started our trip by arriving early on Sunday. The Hilton Garden Inn was next door to the Georgia Aquarium so we dropped off our luggage and headed next door. After the aquarium, we went back to the hotel and, luckily, we were able to take a dip in the pool and hot tub before we had dinner at Legal Seafood that was in the hotel.

Our goal for this trip was to be able to leave the car in the hotel garage and walk to where we needed to be. It worked. We never took the car out once and we enjoyed our trip. The next day, we got up and headed over to CNN for the studio tour. Then the rest of the day, we also visited Centennial Park, the World of Coke and took a tour with ATLCruzers. It was perfect.

After our adventure, we went to have a snack at Stats Sports Bar that is across the street from the Hilton
Garden Inn. We then headed back to the hotel and went to the pool. After the pool, we headed off to dinner at Der Biergarten that is also across the street from the hotel.

The next day we checked out and headed over to the High Museum. Then it was back home. Overall, discovering Atlanta was wonderful. We found out that it is a perfect place not only for families but for couples like us. We didn't even scratch the surface. We are definitely headed back because as willy-nilly foodies, we want to visit several of the restaurants recommended to us by the Amir from ATLCruzers. There were other parts of the city we missed and want to visit including Midtown, the Sweet Auburn district and Inman Park.

But we we did see was wonderful. Here is a recap of the attractions we did visit.

Georgia Aquarium

I would recommend this attraction especially if you have children. I think it is more geared towards kids because there are hands-on activities and touch pools. The shows are geared towards kids as well. But I enjoyed them. The exhibits inside the aquarium are interesting and educational. The aquarium has several exhibitions with different varieties of animals. You can see whales, alligators, seals, otters, fish and sharks. It is pretty amazing. There is also a frogs exhibition and 3D movie for the kids. The Dolphin Show was great except I thought that the story and singing were not necessary. It was a little cheesy but the the dolphins were  great. My favorite part of the aquarium was the Ocean Voyager exhibit. It is the world's largest with 6.3 million gallons of water. It was incredible. A tip if you go is to avoid the windows when you first come in. Just walk straight down the left side and get to the moving walkway. The moving walkway takes you through an underwater tunnel where you can see all the animals in their glory. Besides fish, we saw sharks and manta rays. once off the walkway, make your way to the viewing room. You can sit and watch everything in the tank. That was my favorite part. We watched for at least 15-20 minutes and were never bored. This is a must-do if in Atlanta.

CNN Studio Tour

As a journalism major and obsessive news junkie, I really wanted to visit CNN. Tom, not so much. It was amazing that he actually enjoyed the tour. It was so interesting. Arrive early or go by the day before to get your tickets. We had tickets for the first tour and there were few people in the group. By the time our tour ended, the next tour was packed. Luckily, Tom had gotten our tickets the day before.

The tour takes your behind the scenes of the CNN News Studio. It was interesting to see how the shows are produced. You also can see the CNN and HLN newsroom and watch everyone work. We also watched where guests in the studio ready to go on camera. It was a great tour and I recommend taking the tour.

The World of Coca-Cola

I was excited for the World of Coca~Cola because I love Coke. I rarely drink it but love it nonetheless. I was very disappointed. I am glad I did not pay to get in. I was hoping for an insight on the history of Coke and ended up getting one huge commercial for Coke. When you enter you are taken into a room with Coke Memorabilia which was interesting. Then you are ushered into a 6 minute "movie". It was just a huge commercial geared towards kids. It would have been better to have a movie telling us the history of Coke. The rest of the exhibits were okay. I liked being able to take a photo with the Coke Polar bear. And the tasting room was interesting. I liked that you could taste the different varieties of drinks Coca Cola makes around the world. But you can only drink so many free samples. I would not recommend this attraction unless you are a huge Coke fan.

Centennial Park

If I lived in Downtown Atlanta, I would be at this park every weekend. It was such a beautiful space. Not only are there tons of green spaces but many places to relax and just enjoy the natural beauty. For city dwellers, this is a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle. We saw several people with kids picnicking, sunning and many kids were enjoying the Olympic Ring fountain that allowed them to romp through the water and cool off on a hot day. It was warm on the day we visited and I almost ran into the water as well. Take a spin through the park, if you are ever in Atlanta.

High Museum

I am not a huge museum fan. But I liked this museum. We were lucky that the "Girl with the Pearl Earring" was on exhibit because I have always liked that painting. I also liked the variety of art in the museum. They had contemporary art, furniture, folk art etc. That kept my interest. If you love museums, I think you will like this one.


After we visited CNN, The World of Coca-Cola and Centennial Park, we had time to kill. Tom found a tour company that had little electric cars and took you on a tour of Atlanta. Taking this tour was the best decision ever. We walked from Centennial Park to the Underground Atlanta area where ATLCruzers is located in the Tourist Information building. The owners were friendly and the cars were comfortable. The cars seat 5 per car so you have a personalized experience. What we loved was that Amir, our guide , was a font of information. And in 90+ minutes we learned so much about Atlanta and saw areas of the town we would have otherwise missed. The customer service was fantastic. When our car broke down, Amir took us to LottaFrutta across the street an bought us smoothies for the delay. A new car arrived even before we had received our order. Plus, we were able to meet the owner of LottaFrutta and hear how she started the restaurant. The smoothies were delicious and the tour was even better. If you ever visit Atlanta, go on this tour and visit LottaFrutta as well. This tour made us realize that we need to go back to Atlanta!

The Atlanta CityPASS

If you are visiting Atlanta this is a great option to consider. The CityPASS gives you admission to 5 Atlanta attractions. It is quite a value. Right now the pass is selling for $74 for an adult and $54 for kids. The pass will get you  into the Georgia Aquarium, the CNN Studio Tour, The World of Coca~Cola and either the Atlanta Zoo or Atlanta History and the High Museum or the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. I found by having the CityPASS it took us places we might not have visited if they were not included in the pass. We also had an expedited entry at the Georgia Aquarium which was fantastic because there was a huge line to get in. Plus, you save money and who doesn't want to save money on vacation?

I want to thank the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta and the Atlanta CVB for this experience. We definitely learned that Atlanta is a place where we need to take our mini vacations. We are already planning a foodie tour in the fall. We want to go back and explore the Sweet Auburn district. I want to go to the Martin Luther King National Historic Site, tour his birth house and see his grave. Near the World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta is building the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. That should open next year and I want to go see it. I also want to go back and see the Atlanta Zoo, the Botanical Gardens and take Movie Tour that is offered. I only wished we had visited when the Braves were playing because I would have loved taking in a baseball game.

Because it is so close to where we live, it is an easy trip. With so much left to see, we will either have to spend a week or take several trips into Atlanta. Would I recommend Atlanta, yes. I would also recommend the Hilton Garden Inn. I will have another post on the hotel so stayed tuned.

Disclosure: My trip to Atlanta was made possible by the Atlanta CVB and the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta. The Hilton provided me accommodations and the CVB provided me two Atlanta City Passes. All other expenses were paid by me.

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