Sharing my Atlanta travel guide full with plenty of photos of our adventures. I was missing my college roommate, so I booked a flight and spent a long weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. I got to experience the city as a local and enjoy the warm weather in February. Getting back on a plane to go back home was very difficult after a weekend of warm weather and adventure!
A quick life update…
At a family function recently, my cousin asked me what I was up to lately. In the background, I saw a few people lean in to hear my reply. The last few months have brought a lot of change into my life and I am not doing the traditional post grad life thing at the moment. But the more I talk to friends who are doing this adulting thing with me, we are all kind of doing the same thing. In late September, I quit my comfortable desk job because I was bored of the 9-5 life sitting at a desk doing the same thing everyday. My last day was a Friday, and that next week I hopped on a plane with friends to go to Nashville for a girls weekend. Did I mention when I left the state, I didn’t have solid job plans yet? I came back home on a Monday night and by Tuesday afternoon I had accepted a job over the phone. I actually accepted two jobs… With some networking, I was able to get a low level job working at a college in New Jersey. Only problem was that it was part time… Instead I decided to squeeze a three day a week position into two days and get another part time job working retail. That “part time job” ended up being 39.5 hours a week during the holidays. There were weeks I would work 13 days straight without a day off. I was exhausted, but I wasn’t bored so I loved it. Even though I was balancing two different jobs, I found I had more time to do things because to make time for things I had to plan my day minute by minute. I started to work the closing shift at the store and loved it, because it forced me to wake up early and be productive during the day. I had family visit for a few days in January, and was able to take the week off while they were there. In my previous job, if I asked for a sick day or to leave early, work would freak out because what would happen if the phone rang or someone walked in.
So when my cousin recently asked me what I was up to, I could tell that a lot of people don’t understand why I would leave a job with structure, to balancing two part time jobs. It works for me and I understand that not everyone can work every single day and have to schedule in a planner when they can shower or do laundry. This type of schedule won’t last forever, but right now I love this freedom I have. A college roommate moved to Georgia after graduation and she casually suggested I visit her sometime. (She has been asking me to visit for over a year, but I had work and couldn’t get the time off) This time I replied that I would. I notified work (both jobs) what days I could not work and was taken off of the schedule. There was no asking or having to wait for approval, they just took me off the schedule. In a week I will be traveling to Florida for a week and again I didn’t need to ask. I just took off.
This crazy, wacky schedule and direction of my life confuses many, but at the same time I am actually making more money than I was before and have the freedom to travel. I have been talking to a friend from middle school about visiting her in Washington D.C., and now I can in April because I can go anytime she is free for a visitor. But most importantly, I am happy. On the weekends when I was working my traditional desk job, I just sat on the couch on Friday night and didn’t leave it until Sunday night. I started to clean and organize every closet in my house and it was driving my parents crazy. I couldn’t just sit still! Right now I am starting to look at a more permanent full time job, but have already discussed with the store I work at to allow me to work Saturday mornings or a few nights during the week. I am that type of person who needs to always be doing something!
Okay, back to my guide to Atlanta….
So after a spontaneous decision to go to Atlanta, Georgia for a weekend, I started to do some Googling for some fun things to do in Atlanta. It also helps that my friend lives in Georgia, so my response to “what do you want to do” was often “whatever you want to do!” Due to some transportation issues (because the Newark airport is no where near my house) I arrived at the airport at 7:30am to make a 10:30am flight because I had my dad drop me off before he had to go to work. My friend, Casey is a teacher and has a very busy after school life so I wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting in the way of her busy schedule. We agreed I would arrive in Atlanta on a Thursday so we wouldn’t have to waste time traveling or picking me up from the airport on Friday. I tagged along with Casey as she hopped from activity to activity as she does every Thursday night. I slept in on Friday while she was at work on Friday and took a stroll through her apartment development. I was drained after traveling the day before so the snooze was needed! On Friday after school she picked me up and we gave me a tour of where she worked and headed to the mall to do some shopping and catch a movie for a belated Galentine’s Day girls night.
Saturday we woke up early and went on an adventure. We grabbed brunch at Goldberg’s and then were on our way into the city of Atlanta. I quickly realized that Atlanta is a city where you have to drive everywhere. I grew up close to NYC and Philadelphia, knowing you can take advantage of the public transportation systems. If you do visit Atlanta, I suggest renting a car or making sure you have Uber or Lyft downloaded on your phone. There is a touristy part of downtown Atlanta near Centennial Park and is surrounded by suburbs in every direction. On one block you can have skyscrapers, and a block in you are on a street full of homes.
While Atlanta is a driver’s city, everywhere we went I noticed people were walking somewhere. I don’t know if it is the warmer temperatures or if it is just an Atlanta thing, but people like to walk outdoors. For anyone who lives up North, we don’t leave our house during the winter months besides to go to work and then we drag our feet to the food store because we all avoid being in the cold weather. There is a pedestrian and bike path that encircles downtown so you can walk or bike the entire length of the downtown area… it’s 33 miles so obviously you cannot do the whole thing at once, but it allows you to get from one point of Atlanta to another in an unique way. There was a lot of construction when we were downtown and I realized that almost every building we went past was new. Even the developments or homes in the suburbs, everything was new. There is a lot of money being invested in Atlanta and with that a lot of young people are coming in bringing innovation, restaurants and energy into the city. Even though it is a city, there is still a commitment to green spaces. We explored Centennial Park, a park created to honor the Olympics that were held in Atlanta and Piedmont Park that to me reminds me of Central Park in NYC.
(Like A Local)
One thing I always try to do when I visit a new city, is to avoid chain restaurants and try to eat like a local. It is rare to see me at a Hard Rock Cafe or a Panera when I am visiting a new city.
Goldberg’s Bagel Company & Deli
We went here every day I was in Atlanta. On Sunday morning when I ran in to grab bagels for us, the same guy at the check out knew who I was and mocked me for coming in every day. Goldberg’s is a New York Deli with a touch of Southern Hospitality. We went for brunch on Saturday and the staff was so sweet and the food was delicious! We grabbed bagels from Goldberg’s every other day I was there, too!
Out of no where, my friend asked me if I was the one who liked the book, To Kill A Mocking Bird. I told her I was, but was very confused about the question. The book took place in Alabama, so I was confused why we were talking about the book but quickly forgot. On Saturday night, we decided to have a girls night in like we did in college every night. We went to get takeout at OK Cafe, and my friend brought me into the waiting area to get a table and pointed. There in a frame was a letter from Harper Lee to the owner of the restaurant and the name OK Cafe is borrowed from the To Kill A Mocking Bird. In the center of the restaurant is a giant, life size tree and anyone who has read the book knows the literary significance. The OK Cafe was packed and has your Southern Hospitality and the Southern food which is why I keep traveling below the Mason Dixon Line. One side of the OK Cafe is the sit down restaurant, and through another entrance is the Take Out. In a buffet style, you can pick up a container and fill it up as you pay at the end by the pound. It had all of your traditional comfort food with a Southern twist. We filled up our trays and brought them home to eat on the couch and fall asleep watching chick flicks.
We of course grabbed Chick-Fil-A on Thursday night as we were running around on our way to the gym. There are Chick-Fil-A locations up North, but it’s like a religion down south with multiple drive thru’s. There is almost a Chick-Fil-A on every other block.
The local pizza place. We ran out of time to grab a slice, but after hearing everyone talk about it, it is on my list for next time!
It’s another restaurant that was on our list that we didn’t get to, but it is in this cute shopping center called the Jubilee at Vinings. If you are looking for a little shopping and a place to eat outdoors, this is the place to go!
Yes, it is a food store. But run in and grab their store brand cookies. On Saturday, we ran into the store to grab drinks and a container of cookies to snack on. I have heard my friend rave about these cookies since I met her, but after one cookie I am hooked!
Things To Do
There is 22 miles of abandoned railway that encircles downtown Atlanta and in the effort to rebuild the area, Atlanta made it a walking and bike path investing in green spaces and mixed uses. We walked some of it on Sunday and we were surrounded by people walking their dogs, families biking and people just out for a walk. I don’t think I have every thought, “Let’s go on a walk today” but in Atlanta they do that and it is really easy to do with the Beltline. The Eastside Trail is two miles of hiking that connects Piedmont Park and Ponce City Market,which is what we did.
Ponce City Market
In the old, historic Sears, Roebuck & Co. building, is the now Ponce City Market. It still has it’s brick and steel structure, but it is completely renovated to have upscale shops (West Elm, Williams Sonoma, J. Crew, etc.) and a food hall. Keeping with the here in Atlanta, we like to spend all of our time outdoors theme, there is a focus on green spaces and the Beltline goes right through it. It was full of young people and families walking around and socializing with each other.
A theater dating back to the 1920s, is worth visiting for its architecture and the shows. It’s one of those things in Atlanta that you have to at least drive by. It is still a popular spot with locals and tourists today.
The Centennial Park is located in downtown Atlanta surrounded by the big tourism attractions. It was built in 1996 for the Olympic games as part of the infrastructure improvements to the city. My favorite part is the Fountain of Rings interactive fountain. I saw kids and adults running through the fountains as the water flowed in different patterns and heights. I had to run in and have some fun too!
The World of Coca Cola
The Coca Cola Headquarters is in Atlanta (good luck trying to find a Pepsi product!) so it’s a big touristy thing to tour the factory. I chose not to, but apparently it is a big Atlanta thing to do. Guys, it looks like I’m in a Coca-Cola ad! #TasteTheFeeling
I didn’t have time to visit, but it is the largest aquarium in the United States. Another popular tourist attraction.
High Museum of Art
One of my favorite, short lived shows on tv was the Red Band Society. They ended up cancelling the show, but it was filmed in the High Museum of Art. There wasn’t an exhibit that was all that interesting to me, but it is a prestigious museum in Atlanta. Outside of the museum, it has large statues that are created for kids to play in too, so we walked around the museum and it is must walk by at least!
Near Centennial Park, there is a CNN building you can tour, we decided to walk through the lobby section and not do the tour because of time but it is cool to walk through too.
MLK Jr. Birthplace & Memorial
One of the places I needed to go to was to visit the MLK Jr. Memorial. You can take a tour, but we just drove around the part of town MLK grew up in and got out at the home he grew up in. I was happy we went because while downtown Atlanta is booming with new shiny buildings, a few blocks in where MLK grew up, you can still see the inequality and poverty that still exists in this city. It has been a few decades since we have won civil rights legally, but we have a long way to go before we actually achieve civil rights for all.
I already have plans to visit Atlanta and my friend, Casey again! If you have any questions about Atlanta about things to do and eat, feel free to leave a comment and I would love to answer them!