The Big Peach – It’s a Thing
First things first. I thought about jumping into our trip, but I’ve decided that this post might be best served by giving you some insider tips first. At the bottom, I’ll add in a little history, in case you’re curious. I’ll place an asterisk (*) where I’ll add facts.
Atlanta is properly pronounced Adlanna. If you run into someone who pronounces it Atlanna, they maybe live there, but they’re most likely not from Georgia. If you run into someone who pronounces both t’s, they are not from around there and probably need directions.
We run into folks all the time telling us that they are going to “Hotlanta.” Don’t do that unless you mean you’re going to play the Allman Brothers. In that case, definitely do that. If you say Hotlanta in Atlanta, you’re most likely going to get a look. Something akin to farting in church. It’s not a thing and hasn’t been for a while.
These are some other things to know:
- ITP – inside the perimeter (pay attention if someone tells you they were born at Grady or Northside. They are telling you they were truly born inside the perimeter of Atlanta. It’s a thing.)
- OTP – outside the perimeter
- VaHi – Virginia Highlands
- Ponce – Ponce de Leon (there’s an East and a West, so usually you’ll hear, “East Ponce” or “West Ponce.”)
- LFP/L5P – Little Five Points
- EAV – East Atlantic Village
- O4W – Old Fourth Ward
PAY ATTENTION to someone giving you directions if the word Peachtree is involved! There are over 20 Peachtree Streets. And there are also parkways, boulevards and my favorite, Corners.
Georgia has a very high number of counties. I didn’t realize how weird this was until I married a Northerner. The Dane and I were talking about football and I was explaining our high school rivalries. He looked at me quizzically and asked why the counties had so much to do with it. I was perplexed as to what he meant. Of course, where he came from, there are about 60 high schools in one city (not even the whole county). He asked me how many there were in mine. Uh…one.
There are 159 total counties in Georgia (*). Just to put that in perspective…Texas has 254 and Georgia comes in second. There are 39 counties in the metro Atlanta area. Most of Atlanta proper is in Fulton county, but Dekalb is a very close second (lots of counties here are about 20 – 30 minutes from each other. In Atlanta, they are about 15 miles apart [as the crow flies].) All of that matters when it comes to finding “Peachtree Street.”
What does “as the crow flies mean?” It means that the counties may be 15 miles apart if you’re a crow flying directly from point a to point b, but in Atlanta traffic it’ll be an amazing feat if you make an “around the corner” trip in less than 30 minutes. Expect it to take an hour.
Also, there is no such thing as free parking in Atlanta. If you didn’t cough up some bucks when you left your car, except to pay a heck of a lot more when you get back, cuz they’ll put those little things on your wheel.
Please note that you will hear this a lot in a restaurant (*):
Waiter: “What would you like to drink?”
Patron: “A Coke.”
Waiter: “What kind?”
Patron: “Dr. Pepper.”
Calling all soda a coke – that’s a thing. (Don’t laugh. Laughing means you’re a visitor).
One more thing…if you come to Atlanta by plane, please keep in mind that Hartsfield-Jackson is considered the busiest airport in the world. While I haven’t been to all the ones all over the world, I have been to Hartsfield-Jackson. That place is enough to make you lose your religion, so if you are flying in – good luck and keep in mind that it’s worth the trip.
When I was younger, we started hearing the term “Urban Sprawl” as Atlanta slowly crept out of Fulton/Dekalb counties to the surrounding areas. Each time I’d visit Atlanta, it seemed that it was spreading further and further out. For those visiting Atlanta that are not from around these parts, it’s helpful to have some sort of understanding of what people are talking about when they refer to certain things, like Midtown or Buckhead, just to name a few.
Here’s a list of Atlanta areas to reference along with a little bit about what you can expect to find in each one:
Buckhead is known as the Beverly Hills of the East. A must visit in this area is the Swan House. If you visit, you must try the Swan French Silk dessert. It’s also a great area for shopping – Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza and The Shops Buckhead Atlanta.
- Brookhaven – is a residential area just above upscale Buckhead. A must see in this area is Oglethorpe University. This is one you get to by traveling Peachtree Road. You might also like to check out Cinebistro – a cinema, bar and restaurant all in one.
2. Midtown – begins at the end of Buckhead southward to the western edge of Georgia Tech.
Midtown is known as the heart of the arts. This is the area that I’m most familiar with in Atlanta. My time there was magic – going to the Fox Theatre or the High Museum. And who can forget Midtown Music Festival.
3. West Side – the Design District
- Atlantic Station – is like a self-contained area. Don’t want to go into the city? You don’t have to. One thing to see here is Central Park (like the one in New York, but mini sized).
- West Midtown – visit the Goat Farm Arts Center, Westside Cultural Arts Center, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center and King Plow Arts Center
4. Downtown – must see are Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia Aquarium, Center for Civil and Human Rights, World of Coca-Cola, CNN and the State Capitol. If you are in to theater and art, check out Fairlie-Poplar Historic District.
5. East Atlanta
- Little Five Points – this is one of my favorite areas of Atlanta. It’s a funky area with a diverse community. Expect a very BoHo feel when you visit here. If you get a chance, check out the Star Community Bar. At one time, it was a bank. It still has the vault, which has now been turned into a shine to Elvis.
- Virginia Highland – located on Higland Avenue, boasts some of the city’s fancier homes, restaurants and bars. Be sure to visit Piedmont Park.
- Inman Park – this is an area with early 20th century homes and tree-lined streets. It is the oldest planned neighborhood in Atlanta. Near Decatur which is very LGBTQ friendly.
- Grant Park/O4W(*) – If you’re looking for more of a classic south type trip. Visit the Grant Park neighborhood where you’ll find 20’s and 30’s style bungalows, Victorian homes and plenty of places to walk. There are a number of things to do in this area including Grant Park, Zoo Atlanta, Ponce City Market and the Cyclorama.
- Sweet Auburn – or the main artery.This area is the well-known birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Must see the African-American Panoramic Experience Museum (APEX).
- EAV – If you’re going soon, check out the Winter Beer Festival.
Now on to the trip 🙂
The best tip that I can give you about going to Atlanta is start your trip on Sunday if possible. While it’s still busy, it’s not quite as bad as other days of the week and it’ll make it a little easier for you to find your way around.
For our trip, we debated on driving into a MARTA station to park over night vs. parking at the hotel. I’ll try to save you a little bit of a headache. Heard stories about traffic in Atlanta or horror stories about Spaghetti Junction? It’s truly a thing!
Parking at a hotel is expensive. It costs $30 or more a night. Keeping your car at a MARTA station is around $5 – $8 per night. Seems like a no-brainer, right? That’s until you start thinking about having to lug your luggage onto the train. Not fun. The only reasonable solution I could come up with was to drive to the hotel, unload, then drive to the nearest MARTA station to park, then ride back.
Hopefully, if you follow this plan, you won’t do like I did and forget some important things in the car just to really complicate matters.
I learned on this trip that the next go round, I really need to make a list of the things that I have to be sure I have in the room. It’s really difficult to wake up in the middle of the night and need something for heartburn only to realize that you left the medicine kit in the car and you have no clue what’s open at 3am to get something and even if you did, you’d have to walk there to get it.
On that note, I will say that I am not a big advocate of walking around downtown Atlanta in the middle of the night unless you know exactly what you’re doing, where you are going and who you’re with. Ditto regarding MARTA. Err on the side of caution. I will also mention that there is a homeless population in the city. Mostly what I saw were people with mental illness and a few severe alcoholics. Georgia no longer has a very good mental health system, so it’s not unusual to see this population on the streets in big cities.
It is illegal to panhandle in downtown Atlanta. Please know that this does not mean that you won’t get panhandled, because you will. If you remotely look like a tourist, you’re going to be a target. Probably even if you don’t, you will. The panhandlers in the ATL are slick though and they can do it with ease even with a cop standing a feet away (and cops are everywhere on bikes, on foot, on segways, etc).
I don’t know all panhandlers or their motives, but I refuse to be party to any bashing about whether to give or not to give. Sincerely that is a personal choice. Listen to your gut feeling, there’s a reason you have that.
That said, here’s a few tidbits. If you decide to give money, DON’T pull out your wallet. My advice is keep a few bucks or change in your front pockets to give out. Don’t have the money folded together so that you have to reach in and pull out a wad, just make it easy on yourself to pull out a dollar or a couple of quarters.
If you decide to give to a panhandler they might buy alcohol or drugs. They also might buy toothpaste and a toothbrush. My point is that you have no way of knowing and no way of controlling. If you give, yes, that’s going to encourage them to ask someone else for money. If you don’t give, guess what, they are going to ask someone else for money. The main thing is to keep in mind that they are human beings. If you see them, say hello if you’d like. If you don’t want to give, tell them no firmly. Others have told them no before and others will tell them no in the future. By firmly, I mean, just say no and move on. Don’t say, “No, I don’t have any money on me.” That means you have money that’s not on you and you might get a response you don’t know how to answer. Pandhandlers know that if they make you uncomfortable, you might give them money. It feels weird just to say no, most of us want to qualify that with something else. Don’t do it. If you have a big heart and you do this, you’ll end up in the pharmacy at an ATM with a panhandler waiting outside for you. Just simply say, “No.”
One of the homeless women we saw while we were there slept in the park outside our hotel. Each time we would see her, she would be in deep conversation with no one. The Dane asked me about it. I told him that from what I observed, she was engrossed with someone who she could see that no one else could, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t very real to her. I can understand how this might be frightening to see for someone watching her, but it doesn’t mean she isn’t a human and worthy of compassion. That may not mean go up and strike up a conversation. It’s quite possible that she could have been a paranoid schizophrenic (just a guess here). In that case, I would allow her to approach me. Which she did. I can tell you that she was quite ill, but surviving the best she could. If mental illness/homelessness frightens you, plan trips to the park during daylight hours. If you want to do something nice, but don’t want to give money, you can always give them a cup of coffee on a cold morning or a bottle of soda on a warm afternoon. However, carrying a few quarters around is a little easier.
Another word of caution regarding Underground Atlanta which is not far from this area. As a Georgian, I will tell you that the word on the street is to stay away from this area. You’ll see others tell you about what a great visit they had here. It may be true that they had a great visit…years ago. Throughout my lifetime, Underground has gone through changes. At times, it’s a popular place to go and at others it’s a place to go if you want to fall in harm’s way. For a few months now, I’ve been hearing from a buddy of mine (in the know of all things Atlanta) that there is some interest in revitalizing Underground. I point-blank asked him if he would go there now. His answer? Absolutely not.
Here’s our view of Atlanta
After getting our things in the room at the hotel, our next stop was The Hard Rock Cafe. The one in Atlanta opened in 1992. Inside, we found Elvis Presley’s motorcycle, Charlie Daniel’s fiddle and a whole area labeled “Atlanta Rhythm Section.” The Dane asked me how I liked it because I’d never been to a Hard Rock before. I told him, “It’s great, where else could I eat a hamburger with Jimmy Page’s pants, Ella Fitzgerald’s dress and Madonna’s leather jacket?” He laughed and said something he says a lot, “Anyone ever tell you you’re weird?” Incidentally, the food was great.
On our way back from The Hard Rock Cafe, we decided to see Woodruff Park, which was Central City Park when I was younger. It’s a 6 acre park on Edgewood Ave, between Peachtree Street NE and Park Place NE. There are two fountains, a pavilion, and the ATL playground.
During the day, the weather was pleasant and a little humid. At night, it was a little chilly.
After changing, we walked to Centennial Park for the Chinese Lantern Festival. The Festival was part of a continued effort to celebrate the parks 20th birthday.
The reviews I read stated that there were 25 handcrafted lanterns and a 200-foot dragon. We were able to witness a chengdu face-changing dance. If you’ve never seen this, there are a few on youtube. It was amazing to watch. We learned a great deal about the Chinese culture and one of the people we met there told me that this was what it was like to celebrate a Chinese New Year.
The festival marks the end of our first day in the ATL. We had a blast, but were majorly tuckered out making our trek back up hill to our hotel. For this, we stayed on the main road (Ted Turner), which was well lighted and heavily traveled during our walk back.
Stayed tuned. Our trip continues…
- Why there are 159 counties: Legend states that we have so many counties because farmers wanted to be able to drive a mule-wagon to the courthouse and back home within a day. I believe it had more to do with how government worked. In the 1930’s, Georgia was very rural. Rural Georgians wanted a say in who became Governor, so they set up a system so that the Governor was elected by how many counties they carried, not by how many votes. That all changed in the 1960’s when the Supreme Court ruled the county system unconstitutional.
- Georgia is the home of Coca-Cola.
- A warehouse fire burned the Victorian homes in this area in 1917. For many years, this area was on an economic downturn, however, in recent years there has been interest in revitalizing this area and it’s made a come back.