In the five months I spent in South Carolina, I made two trips to Atlanta, Georgia. To be honest, other than religiously watching the Real Housewives of Atlanta, I did not know all that much about the city – except that it is home to the busiest airport in the world (yes, fun fact!). So, I was excited to see what it had to offer. My first trip was over the Martin Luther King Jr. long weekend in January. This was perfect timing, as Atlanta was actually where MLK Jr. was born and grew up. I journeyed back to Atlanta in May to attend a concert, but also got the opportunity to explore a bit more of the city. Here is what I got up to.
We booked this hotel the day before the long weekend and miraculously scored a very reasonable rate. It is located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, with all of the luxurious amenities that you would expect from a Hilton. The view from our room was spectacular. It overlooked Bank of America Plaza, a notable skyscraper in the Atlanta skyline.
For my second trip, I decided not to stay downtown because I had already seen most of the sites in that area. Instead, I chose a hotel in Buckhead – the ‘Beverly Hills of Atlanta’. This turned out to be a great decision. Buckhead is gorgeous and I thoroughly enjoyed being based there. The hotel itself was quite simple, but we chose a room with two beds and it was very spacious.
I have a huge interest in the Civil Rights Movement, so my priority in Atlanta was to see all of the MLK Jr. sites. These included his childhood home, Ebenezer Church and his tomb. They are all located on the same street and are easily accessible from downtown on the Atlanta Streetcar. When I went in January, it had just opened and was free. There are now fares, but they are very cheap.
There is also the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. One of my American friends recommended that I pay it a visit and I am so glad she did. It is one of the most modern educational centres I have ever been visited. The exhibitions are very engaging and interactive. It is great for people of all ages, even those who do not particularly have an interest in civil rights.
In the same area are the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium – both very well-known and popular attractions. I chose not to visit either of these, purely due to personal preference. All of these attractions surround Centennial Olympic Park. This is a nice open space with grass and a few statues.
Another interesting place in Atlanta is the CNN World Headquarters. We paid $15 each to do a studio tour of it, which showed us what goes on behind the scenes. We did not book our tour in advance. We just showed up and went on the next one. I personally love watching CNN and reading the news on their website, so I was totally in my element. I was hoping to run into Anderson Cooper, but no such luck.
While I was staying in Buckhead, I visited the Atlanta History Center. It was two kilometres from our hotel and my sister and I just decided to walk there. As I mentioned above, Buckhead is a beautiful area, so the walk was quite pleasant. The centre covers a huge area and has several different buildings on it. These range from a museum to several historic farm houses to an old mansion (Swan House).
Both Swan House and the farm houses have actors in them, who play the roles of the people who used to live in the properties. It made me and my sister a little uncomfortable at first, but once we got used to them being there, they added to the authenticity of the experience. Swan House was my favourite part of centre. It is simply stunning. The museum is also great and gives fantastic insight into life in Georgia, both in the past and now. I particularly enjoyed the sections on the Civil War and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
The concert I attended was in Chastain Park. It is the biggest park in Atlanta. Whilst we only drove through the park in a taxi to get to the amphitheatre, it looked very impressive. If I had the time, I would like to have gone back there and had a look around properly. On a side note, Chastain Amphitheatre is a great outdoor concert venue – especially if the concert falls on a clear, warm evening like mine did! I saw Hozier perform there and loved every minute.
I only spent one day shopping in Atlanta and chose to spend that day at Lenox Square Mall. It is a typical, big American shopping centre. It has all of my favourite shops – Victoria’s Secret, Forever 21, Sephora and the Cheesecake Factory! We got there from downtown by catching a MARTA train. It was easy, as the train station is right outside the shopping centre. From what I saw, the shopping in downtown Atlanta is limited.
As I have mentioned throughout this post, I used a combination of taxis, trains and the streetcar in Atlanta. The trains and the streetcar were affordable, easy to use and took me exactly where I needed to go.
All in all, I only have positive things to say about Atlanta. It is one of the few “big cities” in the South and is definitely worth visiting for those travelling in the area.