Note: This post was was written after leaving Atlanta, where we stayed with family for about six weeks from Dec. to mid January. It covers a few highlights of activities we did while in the area, so it’s a bit longer than our normal posts.
On December 3rd we finally landed at our winter destination of Atlanta, Georgia. We’d traveled from Massachusetts in November, taking about 3 weeks to wind our way down south through the historic cities of Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Raleigh, Richmond, and Charleston. After being on the move for so long, we looked forward to staying with family through the Christmas holiday before leaving for an unknown tropical destination (stay tuned!). With visiting, work, and resting-up to be done, we didn’t spend too much time sightseeing.
Atlanta has long been known as the ‘hub of the South’, a label that dates back to the Civil War. After the war ended, it slowly emerged as the ‘Capitol of the New South’ as well. It was a major railway transportation hub in the earlier days, and today its main airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International, is the busiest airport in the world! Over 79 million passengers fly in and out of it’s gates every year, beating Chicago’s O’Hare by about 18 million annual passengers.
Atlanta is considered to be a top business city and its’ modern skyline reflects that reputation. It contains the world headquarters of corporations such as The Coca-Cola Company, AT&T Mobility, Delta Airlines, Turner Broadcasting and The Home Depot. It’s architecture was purposefully designed to reflect a progressive spirit, and as such, it provided a nice contrast to the other southern cities we’ve visited.
Nestled in the city proper, but outside the downtown area, my daughter, Jennifer, and her husband, Kyle, live in the at quaint and quietly upscale neighborhood called Virginia Highland. Tucked between Georgia Tech and Emory University, ‘The Highlands’, as it’s called, has a long-standing reputation as a bit of a party spot for college kids – with several pubs and bars to prove it. But over the past decades it has slowly evolved into more of a landing spot for many college grads and urban professionals – many whom are helping to restore the beautiful, bungalows and other homes, which were built in the 1910’s- 1930’s.
We unpacked our Honda Element for the duration, and settled into Jen and Kyle’s home, and enjoyed a cozy Christmas with the kids. My other daughter, Heather, flew up as well. It was an unusually cold winter, and on Christmas day we were treated to the first holiday snowfall in Atlanta on record in over 130 years! It blanketed the streets, nudging us to stay inside the warmth of the home. We did venture outside just long enough to take a walk in the powdery white blanket.
Shortly after the holiday, we decided to take a trip over to Stone Mountain Park. The park is about 15 miles outside of the city limits, and touts itself as a ‘Family Destination in Georgia’. It has enough attractions to keep you busy for quite awhile. You can take a SkyRide or Scenic Train ride, do a Sky Hike, see the Visitor’s Center, picnic, camp and even take in a light show! Over the holidays they have a Christmas Village. We decided to skip all of these in favor of climbing the mountain.
As mountains go, its a small one, standing at 780-plus feet tall. There was still snow on the ground, but we were dressed in coats, hats, and boots and enjoyed the efficient hike up the granite hillside. There were many people out hiking – perhaps they were also tired of staying indoors, too? The hike up took about an 45 minutes, and was worth it for the view of Atlanta and the surrounding area.
At the top, there is a small building which houses some historic info, a small snack bar, and a chair lift to the Sky Ride. When the wind started picking up, we decided to head back down. Stone Mountain is a monadnock, which I learned is an isolated rock hill, knob, ridge, or small mountain that rises abruptly from a gently sloping or level surrounding plain.
On our way out, we stopped at Memorial Hall, which contains an impressive array of artifacts and interactive displays that discuss the area’s ecology and geography. We enjoyed walking through, as we love historic plaques, signs and really anything historic.
Getting into our car, we passed picnickers, campers and hikers. As we neared the park’s exit, we saw The Confederate Memorial, which is the largest relief carving in the world. It’s scale is massive, and the three men on horseback are carved skillfully into the granite.
The Atlanta Blizzard of 2011
Atlanta typically gets less than 1/2 an inch of snow a year – really just a dusting. What a surprise – to be there during the biggest snowstorm Atlanta has had in many years. It snowed around 6 inches, which doesn’t sound like much, but combined with the freezing rain that topped it off, and the fact that Atlanta has little to no snow-removal equipment, it shut the city down for the better part of the week!
Even our trusty little Honda Element got to experience his first snow storm! With much of our country experiencing strange weather patterns this year, he may as well get broken in.
The Atlanta State Capitol
A week or so later, we realized our time in Atlanta was coming to a close. This time our adventure took us into the city, where our first stop was the State Capitol building. We knew it was closed on the weekend, but we just wanted to take a look at the outside and grounds. It was completed in 1889, and is a landmark in the history of 19th-century American architecture. In style, form, and plan, it is a perfect expression and symbol of the idea of a Capitol building for the “Capital of the New South. Interestingly, it looks a lot like the U.S. Capitol Building, as well. Coincidence?
It was chilly out, and as we made our way back down the hill to our car, we had to chuckle at the sidewalks, which were literally covered with sand – and resembled a shallow sandbox! It’s our guess that the highway department isn’t used to snow, since a light coating would have done just as well. In any case, it was nice that they were thinking of our safety, which we appreciated.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
Our second and final stop for the day was the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Ironically, it was a few days before Martin Luther King day, so we figured it was the perfect time to visit.
The site covers a few city blocks, and houses the church where Dr. King and his father preached, the Peace Plaza, the Visitor Center and the King Center. In the Visitor Center, Rich and I watched a film that highlighted the life of Dr. King, as well as the profound impact that he made on our nation. You can learn more about this important historical center at the official government website.
That’s about it for our overview of Atlanta! We totally enjoyed our time there, seeing family and getting a ‘taste’ of the Highlands, as well as the other diverse little neighborhoods that make up the city’s fabric. We got a taste of Thai food on New Year’s Eve, delicious local breakfasts at the Edgewood Thumbs Up Diner, and the funky Flying Biscuit breakfast spot. We even had Fish’N Chips at a few neighborhood Irish Pubs, completing the culinary fun.
You might say we packed in a lot during our time in Atlanta. But then, is that surprising? ‘Til next time – happy travels and wait to see where we land next!