Sunday, March 15, 2009

Trip to Atlanta

Last weekend my mom and I drove to Atlanta, GA. We left on Thursday and came back on Sunday. The weather for our entire trip could not have been more perfect: sunny with highs in the low 70's. I am thankful we postponed from the previous weekend, which was when it snowed both here and in Atlanta.

Our first stop was Atlantic Station for Dialog in the Dark and the Bodies Exhibition. I was pleased that they extended the dates because originally both were going to end on March 1. Our ticket was for a 5:00 pm entry, but we got there early and although you'd think no one had ever asked to go in early before, they did eventually let us. Our group only had 4 people, and all of us were women. I'm glad, because once you're in the pitch black darkness, you run into each other and touch each other a lot as you're trying to find your way around. They do give you a cane to use, but I still found myself walking with my arms out in front of me. Although I'm not afraid of the dark per se, I did find myself getting nervous in the "dimming room," as I contemplated what it would be like not to have any clue what's around me. The entire experience was very much worth it. I found a great blog entry that does an amazing job of describing it. Here's an excerpt:

Your guide’s voice appears out of somewhere. Asking you to use your ears to follow his or her voice, and the cane to fathom what’s immediately around you, you move through a series of chambers created to emulate a park, a store, a busy street corner, a dock and so on. You use your senses of hearing, smell, taste and touch to identify and explore your surroundings.... The street scene was most difficult and frightening at moments. There are sounds of speeding cars and the voices of pedestrians, all wired to be approaching/departing with spot-on Doppler sound effects.

Next we went to Bodies and although it was interesting, I think I'd heard too much about it and seen too many pictures online so it lacked some of that "ooh, ahh" factor. Hopefully I won't offend anyone when I say that the baby section was the most fascinating. It is incredible how a fetus goes from a tiny speck to palm-sized in just a few weeks!

There were several good options for dinner right downstairs when we left Bodies, but we decided to go check into our hotel. We stayed in Buckhead, an upscale suburb north of downtown. It was very nice. For dinner we ate at Annie's Thai Castle, which was delicious.

Friday morning we started out at the World of Coca Cola. It ended up being my favorite attraction.

I loved all the memorabilia, and the introductory 3D movie was clever. The tasting room, not surprisingly, was the highlight. We found that getting a cup of water from the drinking fountain helped us cleanse our palates in between tastings; otherwise, everything starts tasting the same. Our favorite was Bibo, a very sweet fruity drink from South Africa. Our least favorite was Beverly from Italy. Ugh!! The gift shop has more Coca Cola branded merchandise than you could ever imagine!

Next we headed over to the aquarium. It was crowded just like we'd been warned. It wasn't horrendous, but it was enough to take away a little of the enjoyment. We passed by a lot of windows that had crowds in front of them just because we didn't want to wait. Sadly, the penguin exhibit was closed, and they are doing major construction for a new dolphin exhibit. We did get to see the Beluga whales, the sharks, and the otters. Those pesky otters are hard to get a good photo of! I know this aquarium is the world's largest and all,

but personally I felt that the one I visited in Denver last year was much better. Again, maybe it was due to the crowds. We did pay the extra to see the Titanic exhibit, which was good, but for Titanic buffs like my mom and I, it didn't hold much new insight. I did enjoy the displays of passenger effects though. And we each got "boarding passes" when we entered, with a name and some background about our person. At the end they had a roster of who lived and who perished--my mom survived, but I wasn't so lucky.

After the aquarium, we had lunch, then walked through Centennial Olympic Park to the CNN building for the tour. Our guide was just eh. She knew her stuff, but was seriously lacking in personality. One thing that was neat: my mom was wearing a bright green sweater, so when we got to the green screen part of the tour, my mom went up to it and on the monitor she disappeared except for her head and hands! I learned that they don't use green screens for weather anymore, but rather rear projection.

To wrap up the day we walked over to the Westin Hotel and rode the elevator to the Sundial viewing deck. Unfortunately the glass elevators were blacked out for our ride, as they are doing construction right now. But the view from the top was lovely. We spent about 15 minutes up there.

We walked back through Centennial Park and caught the fountain show. Water shoots out of jets arranged in five interlocking circles--the Olympics logo. Kind of neat. We drove back to the hotel and then walked to dinner--several restaurants were nearby--and afterwards I surprised my mom with a massage at Massage Envy.

Saturday morning, we made our way to the Botanical Garden. We stopped here for just about an hour or so to see the orchids.

Perhaps later in the spring or in the summer there would be more to see. Then we headed over to the Atlanta History Center, where we went on the Swan House tour, the Tullie Smith farmhouse tour,

and stopped in to see the Olympic museum and the Civil War museum. We weren't really up to the large amounts of reading that would've been necessary to get the most out of the museums, so we passed through those quickly. Even so, we spent about 3 hours at the Center. Our guide for the Swan House tour was nice, but not very articulate; the guide for the farm house tour was in costume and much more adept.

For lunch, we went to Souper Jenny's, a place I'd read about on TripAdvisor, and was very excited to try. I was not disappointed. The lunch special for $12 includes a TON of food--two items plus drink, bread, and cookie. In fact, splitting it with someone is not out of the question. I got the turkey chili and the turkey pita, while my mom got the chicken tortilla soup and the tomato-mozzarella baguette. Everything was delicious. My pita was divine.

After lunch we went to the High Museum for the Terracotta Warriors exhibit.

I had "high" hopes (ha ha) when I was given a photograper's pass but those hopes were dashed when I found out it only entitles you to photograph permanent exhibits, not special ones. (The pic above is taken in front of the museum with a cardboard cutout.) We arrived at 3:30 on the dot four our timed entrance, but still had to wait about 10 minutes in line to go up the elevators. It was somewhat crowded, but for me, it kind of lent to the excitement. All these people here to see these amazing artifacts! This was the whole reason I'd planned a trip to Atlanta in the first place! The soldiers were great. You could get up very close to them. I loved the exhibit and the audio tour was excellent. We briefly checked out the Louvre exhibit, but it's really not much. We were super tired at this point. We decided to go to the movies (saw Shopaholic--cute, but very different from the book--and then were lazy about picking a dinner spot; we just went to Chipotle.

Sunday we checked out of the hotel and drove to the King Tut exhibit. Our tickets were for 10am, and we pretty much got in on time. We got the audio tour but frankly I could have done without it. It was kind of dry, and the placards provided enough info in my opinion. Audio tours are always hit and miss like that. I found the artifacts interesting and enjoyed the overall experience of the exhibit, but there was a somewhat anticlimactic ending. The big golden sarcophagus is not on display. I had a feeling it wouldn't be--but I still thought maybe... There was yet another 3D movie (this was our third in as many days) but it was just so-so. The gift shop had tons of stuff to buy but it was all rather expensive. One neat souvenir was getting your name printed in hieroglyphics from this kiosk. It was only a buck.

After that, we drove home. I must add that we stopped at the brand new Ikea in Charlotte. We had a ball shopping in the marketplace (the non-furniture section). I got a wok for $7.99!

So that's our trip to Atlanta. I had a great time overall, but just wish more places let you take photos. If you want to see my photo album, you can do so here.

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