Family Weekend in Atlanta

Although I lived in Atlanta for a few years after college, I hadn’t spent much time exploring the city from a visitor’s perspective.  The city has changed so much since that time so very long ago so I recently set out to explore it with my family for a weekend getaway.

Georgia Aquarium

Our primary motivation for the trip was to visit The Georgia Aquarium.  Built in 2005 as the largest aquarium in the United States, it has state of the art exhibits, whale sharks, very high-tech dolphin show, and an amazing kids climbing area with a multi-story slide and hands-on touch pools.  But the main attraction:  Belugas!

Belugas playing at the Georgia aquarium.

Belugas playing up close at the Georgia Aquarium.

Here is my special secret tip for viewing the belugas up close without the crowds:  One of the private event rooms has a separate viewing area, where it so happens the belugas prefer to  hang.  They seem to like to be away from the crowds as well.  With the exception of one other family, there were no people there but us, since all the other unknowing visitors were crowded around the main exhibit viewing area far far away from the acrobatic animals.

This aquarium is definitely the most spectacular I have visited.  They clearly set out to surprise and delight their visitors with some extra special touches, such as moving sidewalks and the pop-up tunnels in the penguin area which were a particular favorite of my daughter.

Penguin pop-up tunnels!

Penguin pop-up!

 

Play area at the Georgia Aquarium

Play area at the Georgia Aquarium

Stone Mountain Park

One thing I remember fondly from my Atlanta-dwelling days was the hike and seriously steep climb up Stone Mountain.  I thought after a day inside the aquarium, we’d get a little fresh air, experience some natural history and show my daughter what I used to do for fun and exercise.  Speaking of things that have changed, the park now has a zillion new attractions, such as enormous climbing structures, that were unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps?) closed during our Sunday morning visit.  It is now officially, “Stone Mountain Theme Park.”  We opted to stick with the original attraction – climbing straight up the giant quartz dome for spectacular views of the city and the sky tram ride back down the mountain with a view the 1920s era confederate carving on the rockface.

Great views of Atlanta from Stone Mountain Park

Great views of Atlanta from Stone Mountain Park

 Where to Eat

Foodies that we are, one of the draws of Atlanta was the up-and-coming dining scene.  Leon’s Full Service is a supercool spot in the neat little town of Decatur that wasn’t too cool to handle one well-behaved kid for brunch.

We knew Leon’s would be our kind of place when we discovered its past as an art-deco former garage serving “bacon in a glass” with peanut butter dipping sauce on the snack menu as well as surprisingly tasty beer margaritas and other creative brunch items.  Decatur is also a fun town for boutique browsing, house gazing, and convenient on the trip back to town from both Stone Mountain and Fernbank Science Center.

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Leon’s Patio: Great for a lovely Sunday brunch.

Where (else) to Eat:  Fritti 

There were so many great restaurants in Atlanta that we wanted to try. We had reservations at the uber-popular Empire State South.  But sometimes, after a long touristy day with kids, you just need pizza.  On the recommendation of a friend, we changed plans and ended up at Fritti – a  great choice because of its hip location, Inman Park and its delicious Neopolitan-style gourmet pizzas.  It of course, also had plain-old pepperoni for those in our group with less adventurous pallets.

The evening improved even more when we hit Jake’s Ice Cream, also in Inman Park, not too far away from Fritti.  Jake’s has fantastic locally made ice-cream with several Atlanta-only locations and some never-before-heard-of flavors like “Hot Sexy Mexican Chocolate” and our favorite, “Brown Sugah” Vanilla.

Where to Stay:  The Artmore

Since I am always in search of cool, unique boutique hotels, I chose the affordable but chic Artmore Hotel in Midtown.  This hotel allowed us a suite with a separate sitting area (important when traveling as a family), easy access to downtown via the Marta (Atlanta’s subway) station just across the street, a great location in the art district near many good restaurants and highway access.

Despite a disappointing mix-up with our room the first night and that the hotel shows its past as a very old converted apartment building, it proved ultimately a good choice.  It had the best customer service of any comparable hotel I’ve stayed in and went out of their way to make sure we were compensated for the inconvenience.  They provide a deliciously impressive hot breakfast buffet as well (sometimes included in your room package).

Loft View

Upstairs of Loft

Downstairs of Loft Artmore

Downstairs Loft of the Artmore

 

Artmore's Courtyard at Night

Artmore’s Courtyard at Night

 

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