YEAR OF TRAVEL: 2013
HOW WE GOT THERE: Delta (how else?) from Tokyo/Narita
FLIGHT HIGHLIGHTS: Since its merger with Northwest, Delta has kicked up its service with more smiley flight attendants, slick inflight entertainment, and an easy-to-navigate kiosk check-in. Another uplift is its inflight Sky Magazine, where I enjoyed 1 City 5 Ways section, profiling a city through the eyes of a number of types of tourists – culture vultures, hipsters, jet setters, foodies, and a travelers with kiddos. It makes me think, why leave out the “carefree retiree”!?
Atlanta has always represented the spirit of the new South. Today, it’s more vibrantly spelled. With its ‘new-found’ Beltline project – a former 22-mile railway corridor ecologically converted into a pedestrian walking/biking path – Atlanta has emerged as a connected, more liveable city. Running the Beltine one morning, I thought I was jettisoned to a progressive European city.
I used to live in Atlanta over 10 years ago. Each subsequent time I return, I’m impressed with city’s progress. While preferred by residents from the greater South, it’s attracting transplants from around the country, including a hip creative class. Studio execs I spoke with in LA quickly pointed out that the city of Los Angeles is losing TV business to, guess who, Atlanta.
Atlanta is often mentioned as a better city to live than to visit since its neighborhoods is spread apart, away from downtown. Sure it lacks the awesomeness of New York or the historical charm of Charleston. Without an army of lost tourists, what you’re bound to experience is a real slice of Americana.
* Despite great walking areas – like Piedmont Park, Beltline – Atlanta is not a walking city. As such, rent a car at Atlanta Hartsfield airport for freedom.
* Safety can be an issue in some neighborhoods. If possible, explore the evenings with a friend and park in well-lit parking lots
* During spring, you can visibly see yellow layers on cars. To my dismay, it’s not vanilla icing. It’s pollen. For those who have never experienced allergies in their home cities, you might immediately notice some sneezing. Grab a Claritin.
* Don’t let the name fool you. Atlanta has over 65 streets with the name Peachtree in it. The name is trademark of the city, but peach trees interestingly are not native to Atlanta.
Virginia-Highlands for its walkable bar scene. Inman Park for its historical bungalows. Old Fourth Ward and East Atlanta for its edginess. Decatur for its indie vibes. And Midtown for its nightlife.
- JCT Kitchen – Arguably the best fried chicken in all of America. That’s right, it’s a bold claim, and you won’t be disappointed. An early evening booking is a must, as the birds do fly away early on most nights.
- Serpa’s – The most delicious modern Southern restaurant in town. And Atlanta has many. Every dish tried was flavorful, well-presented, and downright yummy. The fried oysters and grits stand out.
- Canoe – Tucked away outside the city center, Canoe is worth the drive for a special meal (read: anniversaries). Start the evening early with a perfectly crafted cocktail, and find an Adirondack chair facing the banks of the Chattahoochee River. Immediate bliss.
- The Optimist – Based in hip West Midtown, this spot is known by the locals for its delish seafood menu. I recommend skipping the main restaurant for its oyster bar area. First, it’s just more lively with stylish Atlantiens joyously twirling wine glasses. Second, the food is served tapas style, allowing you to sample often, and ultimately making the damage easier on the wallet.
- Little’s Food Store & Grill – Imagine walking into a local grocery shop in 1929. Yep, that’s what this unpretentious place in Cabbagetown feels like. Serving up some of the best burgers in town, you’re bound to be amongst an eclectic crowd. Grab a root beer to accompany your meal, and let the ambiance take you away into history.
Downtown’s Golden Triangle: World of Coke/CNN Center/Georgia Aquarium – No trip to Atlanta is complete without visiting its world famous sights. Within a one-block radius, these institutions can all be experienced in the same day. They are all impressive in its own right.
Midtown Greenery: Atlanta Botanical Gardens and Piedmont Park – If the day is gorgeous, head to the lush midtown quarters. On Thursdays, May-September, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens hosts the weekly Cocktail in the Gardens where you can rub shoulders with contemporary southern belles.
Other Entries In Our “Stopover” Series:
Lead-In Photo: Katherine Welles/Shutterstock.com
Skyline Photo: trekandshoot/Shutterstock.com