AtlantaFilter - What should we see?
August 10, 2009 7:34 AM   Subscribe

Atlanta Filter: What should two first-timers do on a weekend trip?

mr. lisp and i are going to atlanta in a few weeks -- neither of us have been. we'll only be there for two days -- so what are the things (sights, touristy stuff, non-touristy stuff, restaurants) we shouldn't miss?
posted by unlucky.lisp to Travel & Transportation around Atlanta, GA (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
In what part of the city will you be staying? Will you have a car? Are you outdoorsy?
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:36 AM on August 10, 2009

Creative Loafing is the local paper that lists events, upcoming music shows, art exhibits, etc. Personally, I'm a fan of the Georgia Aquarium, but here is a list (from their website) of Atlanta's other major attractions.
posted by Eumachia L F at 8:11 AM on August 10, 2009

Oooh, oooh, me too! I've got three days there next month with absolutely nothing planned. Just me, a car, and a downtown hotel, while my wife runs an eco-conference. Outdoorsy me would love to find out what to do, whether it's a hiking trip, bird-watching, visiting an art gallery, or eating at a can't-miss restaurant.
posted by waldo at 8:15 AM on August 10, 2009

Lunch at The Varsity downtown. The Jr. Varsity's out in the burbs are ok if you can't get downtown, but you really want to go to the downtown restaurant to get the real Varsity experience. I was there once years ago and President and Mrs. Carter were a couple of tables over.
posted by COD at 8:19 AM on August 10, 2009

I'd suggest hiking Stone Mountain and visiting Fernbank Science Center's planetarium. I would also get a burger and tater tots at the Vortex (the Little Five Points location, not Midtown), and then wander around the Little Five Points/Candler Park neighborhoods.

If you like good beer and slightly fancier food, I'd suggest Decatur. Try the Brick Store Pub for beer, and the Watershed for dinner. Taqueria del Sol across the street from Watershed has good fish tacos and margaritas.
posted by runningwithscissors at 8:26 AM on August 10, 2009

nth-ing Varsity, but only the one downtown -- the ones in the burbs are just fast food places. The one downtown is an Institution.

Definitely go to the Georgia Aquarium. It is amazing.

Tamarind Seed is one of the best Thai restaurants anywhere. It is down the street from the High Museum of Art, if you're into art.

The Coke museum (or World of Coca-Cola, I think they call it) is actually pretty fun.

Turner Field is a great ball park if you enjoy baseball. As you walk to the park, look at the parking lot closest to the stadium -- site of the former Atlanta Fulton Co. Stadium -- and you'll see a marker showing where Hank Aaron hit #715 to break Babe Ruth's home run record.

Stone Mountain Park is a fairly significant drive from Atlanta, but there's a lot of outdoors stuff to do (oh, and also the huge granite outcropping with the carving of Stonewall Jackson). Bring a picnic blanket and stay for the nightly laser show.
posted by somanyamys at 8:51 AM on August 10, 2009

It really, really depends on what you're interested in, so an update would be helpful for narrowing this down. The area you're staying in would be helpful too, as traffic will make it hard for you to do much in any given day (even on the weekends).

I've heard that the aquarium is just amazing. On the other hand, if you like cheesy historical edutainment, I strongly recommend The Cyclorama. If you want an outdoorsy afternoon followed by a very Southern cross-cultural experience, try hiking at Stone Mountain Park, and then stick around for the evening Laser Light Spectacular. If you want to see some great art from your childhood, stop by The Center for Puppetry Arts (there's a huge collection of Jim Hensen's puppets).

Food-wise, if you want some excellent, indulgent, and inexpensive down-home cooking, make for the cafeteria-style Our Way Cafe. Head on down the road a bit and check out one of the coolest international grocery stores ever, The Dekalb International Farmer's Market (and save room in your bags to stock up on the insanely cheap spices -- just be aware they don't take credit or debit cards).

If you like browsing swanky neighborhoods, wander through Virginia Highlands or Decatur.
posted by amelioration at 8:56 AM on August 10, 2009

See also the suggestion in this thread and this one.
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:01 AM on August 10, 2009

The Cyclorama
Stone Mountain
World of Coke
posted by kimdog at 9:09 AM on August 10, 2009

If you do go to the Highlands, check out Murphy's for brunch, or Noche (sorry, stupid flash site with no direct link to the restaurant) for tapas.

(I promise I'll stop soon. It's just that I'm moving back to ATL on Saturday and I'm. so. excited.)
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:13 AM on August 10, 2009

Atlanta is hot as a fiery furnace in Aug/Sept, so plan carefully. The Georgia Aquarium is great for cool indoor fun.

Check for discounted tix, restaurant specials, etc.

Downtown Decatur is great because you can wander around the square, there's great food within a three block radius, and you can chill at various places like the Courthouse on the Square (there's a traveling Anne Frank exhibition inside as well as a small historical museum, for free), the library, Little Shop of Stories, or one of many coffee shops (Try Dancing Goats, a block or two down from the courthouse and next to the Taqueria del Sol and across from Watershed, both great lunch spots). It's also right on the MARTA line -- the station is located underneath the Square.

Stone Mountain is like redneck heaven. I grew up in Atlanta and still live here, and I consider it an anthropological expedition when I go, especially to the laser show. Just go with a "live and let live" mentality, especially when you hear "Dixie" and Rebel Yells and see lots of Confederate flag-waving.

I do a ton of writing about Atlanta, but recommendations are incredibly dependent on where you'll be staying and what you like to do in general. Can you give a few more details?
posted by mdiskin at 9:15 AM on August 10, 2009

Little Five Points is fun to check out. The Aquarium is also pretty impressive.

(Side note: I'm assuming you'll have a car, but if you weren't planning on it, rethink that decision.)
posted by reductiondesign at 9:31 AM on August 10, 2009

My previous AskMe on the subject has been linked already, so I'll just second amelioration's advice to hit the Dekalb Farmer's Market if you're any sort of foodie. For real, we had to buy extra luggage to get all the teas and spices and fruits and breads and cheeses home, and we still saved money. Get the samosas for lunch, and leave a happier person.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:31 AM on August 10, 2009

Response by poster: Update from OP:

we're going to be staying just outside of Atlanta, and plan on driving in to see whatever we decide to see/do.

so, we'll have a car -- and we are totally open to just about anything!

we have decided to hit the high, for the monet exhibit, but that's our only firm plan as of right now.

these are awesome suggestions -- feel free to keep suggesting away!
posted by unlucky.lisp at 10:35 AM on August 10, 2009

Seconding the Dekalb Farmer's Market!
posted by toastchee at 10:39 AM on August 10, 2009

I'd suggest hiking Stone Mountain and visiting Fernbank Science Center's planetarium. I would also get a burger and tater tots at the Vortex (the Little Five Points location, not Midtown), and then wander around the Little Five Points/Candler Park neighborhoods.

If you like good beer and slightly fancier food, I'd suggest Decatur. Try the Brick Store Pub for beer, and the Watershed for dinner. Taqueria del Sol across the street from Watershed has good fish tacos and margaritas.

Runningwithscissors has it, although I'd add that The Brick Store has excellent pierogies primavera and fish and chips. Expect to wait if you get there after 6 or 6:30pm any night of the week, and leave your claustrophobia at home as it's crowded (and minimally wheelchair-accessible). The Vortex is similar in terms of what you should expect. If you go there, try the kari-kari. The High Museum is an excellent destination for art. The Atlanta Botanical Garden is great if you're interested in botany or walking among pretty flowers. As a MeFite, you might be interested in a tour of CNN Center.

There are a number of other destinations of varying appeal depending on your interests. The Atlanta History Center, Cyclorama (linked above), Wren's Nest (home of Joel Chandler Harris), "The Dump" (where Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind), and Oakland Cemetery are all good destinations for history buffs. If you're into sports, there's The Ted mentioned above, as well as Atlanta Motor Speedway and Road Atlanta.
posted by notashroom at 12:20 PM on August 10, 2009

Dinner at Dante's Down the Hatch in Buckhead is fun - try to get a table/booth on "the ship," and don't feed the alligators. Sooner or later, everybody in Atlanta chomps down at the Buckhead Diner. The Havana Sandwich Shop has been closed for renovations most of the summer, but is now open again I understand - best Cuban sandwich north of Miami. Ray's on the River for dinner & jazz (Thur. to Sat.) or especially, their palatial Sunday brunch - don't hurt yourself at the dessert table!

The Mall of Georgia is one big shopping experience, but a decent place to flee the muggy August Atlanta heat, if you're inclined to shop. Further up I-85 is Chateau Elan, a fake French chateau with a decent restaurant, a good golf course, and a fun hotel. If you're up that way, you're only a little east of Lake Lanier, Atlanta's drinking water source (which has mostly recovered its level now from drastic drought lows), and you might want to visit Lake Lanier Islands for golfing and beach or marina activities, or, for a more natural setting, the 3.8 mile long Laurel Ridge Trail at Buford Dam, and particularly the little park below the dam ("The Lower Overlook Park" on the west side and below the dam, down a somewhat steep dirt road about 3/4 mile long), for a very good picnic spot and fine fishing in the Chattahoochee River, below the dam (license required). If you're coming back south on I-85 from a visit to Lake Lanier, the City of Norcross (exit 99 or 101, I think) has put some money into its Old Norcross downtown area, including a nice little city park (Thrasher Park) a block or so from the old railroad station, which has been a cafe for years. 45 South Cafe (used to be Northern Star Coffee House) is a fun place Thur. - Sat. nights, and generally has music, wine tastings, or other events.

The Botanical Garden is a good place for a morning or evening stroll, but can be oppressive in afternoon heat. If you're a Gone With The Wind fan, don't miss the Pit. The New American Shakespeare Tavern is always a ton of fun, whether you know much Shakespeare, or not - maybe more fun, if you don't! If you can get tickets, an evening of music at Chastain Park is classic HotLanta summer time enjoyment.
posted by paulsc at 12:57 PM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

The King Center for a little history...possibly the Carter Center as well.

Nthing Georgia Aquarium, just don't go on a Friday or the weekend, if possible, unless you like crowds.

@waldo, you can also maybe hike Kennesaw Mountain.

Lastly, Roadside Georgia is one of my favorite sites to find little weekend excursions around GA.

Have fun!
posted by SoulOnIce at 1:03 PM on August 10, 2009

We just did this about a month ago and had a grand time. We stayed in Buckhead and took the MARTA into the city for many of the days. That worked out great for visits to the High and the downtown attractions (Aquarium/World of Coke/etc.). The MARTA was convenient and saved on parking.

I really enjoyed the High but keep in mind the Waterlilies exhibit is literally 3 maybe 4 paintings. Now granted one of those paintings is 3 panels covering about 60 feet in width but still it is a very small number of works.

The Aquarium is big and impressive (the 4D movie is not worth the upcharge if you don't have kids). The World of Coke was also surprisingly entertaining. There are some misses there as well (once again the 4D movie is lame) but there are some really neat stuff as well including a working bottling plant that you can walk through. The tour or CNN Center was fairly lame which is a shame because it has potential.

Vortex served us a good burger and Fat Matt's Rib Shack served us an excellent lunch one day (you'll need a car to get there). The Carter Center is currently closed for rehab but the King Center was interesting. Having GPS was helpful in getting from Buckhead to the King Center.

Lastly, Atlanta can be oppressively hot and humid so plan for indoor activities during the middle of the day. The Aquarium/World of Coke makes a nice one-two punch since they are literally across a plaza from one another.
posted by mmascolino at 2:03 PM on August 10, 2009

2nding Fat Matt's BBQ.
posted by soy_renfield at 7:57 AM on August 11, 2009

Another suggestion I thought of: the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha Mandir (Hindu temple) in Lilburn is absolutely beautiful and well worth a visit. I made an FPP about it.
posted by notashroom at 9:17 AM on August 12, 2009

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