Just got back from a long Labor Day weekend in Atlanta. It’s taken me a while to get it all reviewed, but I wanted to get something posted. We made it a weekend centered around the Atlanta City Pass and catching up with old friends. For many places, the City Pass isn’t that great of a deal --- but Atlanta is one of those places where there are lots of cool things on the pass. City Pass is $74, and we purchased it before the weekend --- that made it much easier to get in and out of all the attractions--- which was wonderful on a weekend where the lines are long! You have 9 days to use the ticket once you use the first one.
Friday night, a couple of us had dinner at Gordon Biersch on Peachtree in Midtown. Was busy, but it didn’t feel like the service suffered. Their local microbrews are really nice. I really enjoyed both the Czech Pilsner and the Marzen. Burgers are excellent. I really enjoyed the bacon cheeseburger --- and the garlic fries alone are to die for. Will definitely go back when I’m in the area --- or consider Gordon Biersch when I find one in another location.
After a leisurely Saturday morning, we wandered about Mid-town a bit and ended up at Front Page News for lunch. They have great outdoor courtyard seating with a good blend of shade and sun. The fountain out front gives off a little mist, which is great for a hot day! They specialize in New Orleans style food, and have lots of options! I just wish I’d had the time / appetite to try more!
We started with fried pickles and buffalo chips. Both were excellent. I wouldn’t have expected pickles with a honey mustard dipping sauce, but they were nice. Buffalo chips were yummy --- not to spicy, but not your average homemade potato chip! At the waiter’s suggestion, I had the Crab cake sandwich. Wow! Good crabcake, with excellent remoulade sauce --- it had a really nice kick to it! Also --- they serve Yuengling beer --- which you don’t find everywhere! Overall, great service, nice relaxed atmosphere --- you sort of forgot you were in the craziness of the city.
Our next stop was the Georgia Aquarium. Being Labor Day weekend, it was packed! The fact that we had pre-purchased City pass tickets allowed us the by-pass the majority of the line. With the city pass, you got expedited entry (wonderful based on the line), a ticket to see the Deepo 4-D show, and a quick dip behind the scenes tour. Keep in mind that my perspective is that of a 35+ year old with no kids. I’ve been to lots of aquariums, and most are the same. The highlights of this one are these --- Ocean Voyager is wonderful. The tank is about the size of a football field and is 30 feet deep --- it’s the largest indoor tank in the world. You walk through a tunnel through the middle of the tank and you are surrounded by everything from sharks, to rays, to fish of all kinds. There is also a big viewing window where you and watch for as long as you want. What’s so special? They have 4 whale sharks --- the largest is about 23 feel long. I’ve never seen another in an aquarium. Their manta rays are huge! To see the different sharks and fish all together is pretty cool. Main tank of the tropical diver is pretty cool --- the colorful fish are the big draw. The smaller tanks aren’t that exciting if you’ve visited others, but are great for kids. Georgia explorer is code for good place to let the kids play --- they have activities and touchtanks with rays and urchins. River Explorer is pretty good, but is really close quarters when it’s busy. Coldwater Quest is also good. Belugas and penguins are cool. The Deepo show was just ok --- good for kids, but not spectacular with the special effects. The quick dip tour was a big highlight. We did the 3PM tour --- which I highly recommend --- it coincided with the feeding of the whale sharks --- definitely cool. You also got a behind the scenes look at the river quest. Was fun overall --- would have been better on a quieter day, but that didn’t make it any less cool. Would go back in a heartbeat.
We headed over to Atlantic Station for dinner to try our Dolce Enoteca. The menu looked good, and we had a certificate from Restaurant.com to save $50 on $100. Décor was really cool --- very old Hollywood with rounded booths and leather tables. There was a Frank Sinatra type singer there --- he was good, but a little loud. It’s hard to talk with your dinner companions when someone is that loud. I started with the butternut squash soup --- it was really good, but the portion was a little small for the price. I tried both the Caesar and bleu cheese salads that others ordered and both were very nice. The Bleu was a really nice combo of flavors. Also had the lasagna --- not sure I’d call it heavenly, but it was really good. Portion was substantial and we ended up taking part of it home. I also sampled the butternut squash ravioli --- which were really good! Overall, it was a nice place --- only complaint --- it was REALLY cold, and there didn’t seem to be anything they could do about it.
World of Coca Cola
Our first stop on Sunday morning (we had stopped by when leaving the Aquarium the day before and swapped our City Pass Ticket for Coke tickets we could use the next morning) was the World of Coca Cola. Later in the day, the lines get long, but in the first couple of hours (and last couple of hours of the day) the lines aren’t bad at all. Getting through the xray machine took the longest. The first stop is a look at toms of the artifacts and advertising from around the world over the years. It’s a nice intro – although if you aren’t interested, is a little slow. The Happiness Factory movie is kind of fun --- watch for the odd little things in the movie that your kids will never notice. You can see how a bottling factory works, check out some of the advertisements through the years, and wander through the pop culture gallery. The 4D movie is really cool --- it beats the movie next door at the aquarium hands down – this one truly is fun for all ages! The Taste it room is definitely fun. You can try the different sodas from around the world. Some are definitely better than others, but worth trying. The tour is $15. It’s a good tour, but if you aren’t into the history and understanding you’ll be a little bored. A couple of us really like it, others were less impressed. Not sure I’d go back, but I’m glad I did it.
After leaving Coke, we wandered through the part to get to CNN. We were pleasantly surprised to find a music / fountain show at the Olympic fountains --- was definitely a nice break. Not a lot to do, but a nice place to get outside in the city and enjoy the outdoors.
Inside CNN Studio Tour
We also stopped in at the CNN Studio tour. We traded in our city pass tickets for tour tickets. The tour is a 55 minute guided tour ---- because they leave every 10 minutes, sometimes you get backed up along the way. You see both mock sets and real ones, as well as seeing where things happen. One planning tip --- if you want to see something happening – go during the week. We visited on Sunday and it was pretty quiet. Note --- you’ll walk down 8 fights of stairs along the way, so if that’s an issue, you may not want to do this tour. Bought on it’s own, it’s a $13 tour --- but it is in the city pass as well.
After a busy morning of tours, we were all ready to sit down and get a bite to eat. We stopped in at Dantanna’s downtown and were really glad we did! The food was wonderful. In addition to larger items they had lunch specials including the ability to pick any soup and salad combo. I did their she-crab soup and the wedge salad. I love she-crab soup, and really wasn’t expecting much – but this was wonderful! It was rich and creamy with lots of crab meat. The wedge salad had tomatoes, bacon and the required blue cheese. I mentioned I love blue cheese, so they gave me extra crumbles. Was wonderful! If their lunch is that good, I can only imagine how good their dinner is.
Since we had the City Pass, we also decided to check out the zoo. The city pass includes general admission, express entry, and a ride wristband. It is possible to get there from the aquarium on the bus, but it take a while and buses are about 45 min apart. Leaving, you catch the bus exactly where it lets you off. It was very much like other zoos. Pandas made it cool --- and some of the enclosures were really neat. If you have the time or have kids, it’s worth checking out, but otherwise, I probably wouldn’t do it again. One of the things I found the oddest --- late in the afternoon when it was really hot, all the concession stands were closed and the vending machines were out of order. You’d think they take advantage of the weather to at least have drink carts out.
We finished out our City pass exploration with a visit to the botanical gardens. It was fun to wander through and check things out. The orchid center was definitely worth the trip --- it was really cool. I don’t know that I’ve seen that many different orchids in one place anywhere in the US. The canopy walk was a different view, but wasn’t all that exciting. Normal admission is $15. For a local, it would be a great place for a picnic!
One note --- we got around largely on public transport. For 3 day passes, they run for 3 calendar days, not 3 elapsed days. We didn't start using them til Friday evening, but they were no longer good Monday afternoon when we were ready to go back to the airport.