In August 2013 I traveled to Atlanta, Georgia for a conference and a family reunion just a few days later. When I travel for conferences (which is not infrequently), I always try to explore the local area where the conference is held, but having a little extra time made it even easier to check out the local attractions.
Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site
The last day of my conference also happened to be August 28th, the 50th anniversary of the I Have A Dream speech. Atlanta was Martin Luther King Jr.’s home, so I definitely wanted to check out the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. And it was very impressive. The site is actually multiple locations, including the visitor center (which I recommend starting at, as it’s a great primer and has maps and schedules for all of the sites), the birth home of MLK, Jr., the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change (which includes the tomb of Dr. King), and the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Since I was there for a major anniversary of the I Have a Dream speech, there were extra events were scheduled. I was able to attend a very moving event at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where all in attendance held hands and sang We Shall Overcome. It certainly brought tears to my eyes to think about how far our nation has come since Dr. King’s time, but how far our world still needs to go to achieve peace and basic human rights for all.
While I was visiting the King Center, I watched as one gentleman prayed, bowed, and did yoga in front of Dr. King’s final resting place. While observing the Eternal Flame, I was even approached by a local news station for a comment about the experiences of the day and what they meant to me. It was tough not getting choked up while thinking about all of the things I’d observed and experienced on the historic occasion. It was all certainly very moving.
My conference was at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, so I stayed downtown, and only a few blocks from the Centennial Olympic Park. I was a child when the Olympics were held in Atlanta, and I watched them on television. Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to go to the Olympics, and someday I’ll make it happen. But it was fun to meander through the Olympic Park and see the fountains and artwork that were commissioned for the games. I spent a considerable amount of time just wandering through and enjoying the sites.
My husband flew in at the tail end of the conference and we had about a day and a half together to explore the city before heading to our family reunion. World of Coca Cola was on our list of must see attractions for Atlanta, the birthplace of Coke. The tour was a bit cheesy, but the vintage signs and memorabilia were neat to look at. And our absolute favorite part was the tasting room. It was fun and delicious to taste sodas from all over the world. So this is definitely an attraction to visit thirsty!
One other little tip, there’s a promotion in Atlanta called the Pemberton Place Promo, where you can get a discount at the aquarium or at the World of Coke, by showing your ticket from the other location. It’s a great way to saves a bit of money and visit both attractions.
I was extremely impressed when we visited the Georgia Aquarium, as it greatly surpassed my expectations. This is definitely a site for all ages, as I know that our niece and nephew would love all of it. But Mike and I don’t have children, spent a couple of hours wandering through the different exhibits, and could have spent several more hours. The variety of the marine life and the quality of the displays is top-notch. This is not a cheap place to visit, but is absolutely worth the price of admission.
Before visiting, I assumed that the aquarium would only have salt water fish. This was definitely a mistaken assumption. The aquarium has several different exhibits that focus on different types of marine life. When we visited, they included an exhibit focused on fresh water fish and mammals, a dolphin exhibit, a cold water exhibit, an exhibit about frogs, and others. The aquarium is set up with each of the exhibits off of a central area, so you can choose which exhibits to visit, and in the order of your own choosing. It really is worth a trip to see.
There are two restaurants in Atlanta that stand out in my mind. The first is a drive-in mecca, The Varsity. We went to the original, located downtown, and were greeted with the “What’ll ya have?” that all diners at The Varsity are bound to hear. Mike tried the naked dogs and onion rings. I tried the chili cheese dogs and a frosted orange. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was really fun too. We love The Varsity so much that we make sure to swing by the airport location any time we fly through Atlanta.
The other memorable restaurant that we tried was Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles. We, of course had to try chicken and waffles, so we ordered The Midnight Train. The waffles were crisp, buttery, and sweet, while the chicken wings were crunchy, seasoned to perfection, and absolutely enormous. I have never before seen chicken wings that large before. I heartily recommend this establishment at any time of day any or night.