As a certified travel junkie, the list of destinations I plan to visit is nearly as long as the one Santa totes around in mid-December. Despite my best efforts to scratch as many places off that list as possible, there's one thing that I can pretty much count on year-in and year-out... July 4th will be spent in Atlanta.
Well, as you may recall from previous posts, MJ is one of those crazy runner people, and July 4th happens to be when Atlanta hosts the annual Peachtree Road Race. The run is the largest 10k in the world with over sixty thousand participants - no, I am not one of them - and it also ranks as perhaps her favorite race of the year. Which makes no sense to me considering its 182 degrees in Atlanta in July, and the course involves the ominously named "Cardiac Hill."
|One of this years runners. Man I felt bad watching him with donut in hand.|
Still, the Peachtree guarantees me at least one weekend a year in one of my favorite cities, and I've managed to pick up a few solid tips for getting the most of your visit to Hotlanta.
We have one rule when it comes to Atlanta: no driving. I might make an exception for an out of the way restaurant or two, but typically once the car is parked at our hotel it doesn't leave again until it's time to head home. Traffic in Atlanta is like a root canal while waiting in line at Starbucks - simply the worst kind of torture. Avoid it at all costs.
|Seriously, you want nothing to do with this.|
The MARTA rail system is convenient for visiting any of the big attractions downtown, like the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coke, CNN, and Centennial Olympic Park. If you want to hit up Stone Mountain or Six Flags, you're pretty much out of luck here, but we are usually able to get by just fine between MARTA and our own two feet.
|Walking has its benefits. Like getting caught in Olympic Park during a rainstorm.|
The Atlanta public transit has its limits, however, and relying on taxis will eventually break the bank. Thankfully, there's a pretty good solution to this problem...
Where to Stay
When planning a trip to Atlanta, you're pretty likely to end up booking a hotel in one of three areas: Downtown, Midtown, or Buckhead. These are the three most vibrant parts of town, with easiest access to great hotels, restaurants, and things to do. It just so happens, all three also happen to be home to a W Hotel.
|Most comfy pool loungers ever.|
Why stay at a W Hotel? Well, they're awesome for starters. The bigger reason, however comes down to convenience, specifically in the form of their courtesy car service. W Hotels typically have nice shiny SUVs with a driver that will take you anywhere within a 3 mile radius free of charge - of course, you should always tip the driver. The service worked great for us in Buckhead and saved us making the trek to Fado Irish Pub to watch a World Cup match in the killer Atlanta heat.
|The awesome bar at W Downtown|
Of course, the biggest benefit to this is it gives guests access to many of Atlanta's world class restaurants, without the risk of road rage or expense of a taxi. Which leads me to the most important part of this exercise..
What to Eat
In a part of the country where white gravy and fried everything is king, some of the leading chefs of the day are putting down roots in The ATL and doing some remarkable stuff. If the title of Food Capital of the South hasn't already been granted, it's coming any day now.
|Go ahead, spoil your dinner. (At Lenox Mall)|
Over the years, a number of restaurants in Atlanta have made my list of all time favorites. TWO Urban Licks, South City Kitchen, Spice Market, and, of course, The Varsity, are always sure to please. Each visit, I try to scratch at least one or two places from my list, but it seems that names of hot new restaurants get added faster than I can mark them off. This year we paid a visit to a new kid on the block, and one mainstay that's arguably the most highly acclaimed restaurant in town.
|If you haven't been....GO!|
Cook Hall at the W Buckhead was a pleasant surprise. The hotel's former restaurant was uninspiring at best, but this new gastropub with a southern flair had yours truly throughly impressed. Of course, crab mac & cheese is usually bound to do that.
|Crab deviled eggs? Don't mind if I do.|
Meanwhile, in Midtown we finally paid a visit to Empire State South. This place truly put Atlanta on the food map, and it's easy to see why. The atmosphere and food were both spectacular, but it was the precision and care of the bartender that made this one a hit. I watched in awe as this artist took every bit of 5 minutes or more to craft my old fashioned - it was easily the finest I've ever had. So good in fact, I had to watch him make another.
|The opening spread at Empire State South.|
Although Atlanta might not be the first place many would pick for a summer weekend getaway, there are plenty of reasons to put it on the list. From the city's numerous attractions to its ever growing array of amazing restaurants, Atlanta has a little something for everyone. Sure, it's hot as all get out, but that's just a good reason for a Frosted Orange at The Varsity.
Enjoy Your Stay