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Discovering Atlanta – Quick Getaway Adventures!

Updated: 4 days ago

If you’ve been following my blog and travels (thank you!) then you know I love to experience places with my kids. I genuinely love to explore, and the teacher in me wants to share the experience and make a great memory for others as well. Atlanta was unexpected. I didn't have a bucket list hope for this fun city, but I've been sent on several work trips, and you know I love to share what I've experienced to make planning easier for others. My kids have made the Atlanta trip a couple of times without me as well, seeing some of the main attractions including Centennial Park, the Aquarium and Stone Mountain. I will add some of their tips below...

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My first Atlanta trip:

I was fortunate enough to attend a NAEYC Conference for work, and my job flew me there to gain insight I could share with our Early Childhood team. One of my coworkers joined, and the entire, although brief trip was amazing. Atlanta had never been on my bucket list. I had no idea what I was missing out on! My coworker had family there, and she was happy to show me all the local spots.

Let's make some great memories in a new place!

Getting started:

One December morning I flew from Melbourne Fl to Atlanta, and Ubered to the Hilton Atlanta Downtown. I was looking forward to some chilly Atlanta weather and had packed to stay warm. The one thing since I’ve moved to Florida, I miss is a good sweater and boots day! I hoped for some history and culture while I was there but looked forward to a few days away from the regular routine.

Atlanta Airport:

If you've never been here before, be prepared for a big travel hub.

Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the major international airport serving Atlanta, Georgia, United States. It is also known by its airport code ATL. The airport is 7 miles (11 kilometers) south of Atlanta's downtown core. It has 195 gates spread over two terminals and seven concourses. The Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal is on the east side of the airport, while the Domestic Terminal is on the west side. The Transportation Mall, a pedestrian tunnel with a series of moving walkways, and The Plane Train, an automated people mover, connect the terminals and concourses. Concourses E and F handle all foreign arrivals. (from the About ATL Airport - Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL/KATL) (

ATL Airport has been the busiest airport in the world since 1998. It flies to more than 150 destinations in the United States and more than 75 international destinations. On a daily basis, the airport sees an average of 275,000 people.

Every day, there are 2,700 arrivals and departures.

ATL is home to Delta Airlines, which is for that reason a great airline to use when coming and going from Atlanta.

What this means to you: Plan to be there early.

If you ae arriving, that is the fun part. Land at your gate, there's tons of food and shopping meeting you right away. Take the escalator or elevator down to the Plane Train and zoom over to the terminal to collect baggage, or get your transportation to the next stop.

When departing, they recommend 90 minutes for domestic flights and 2 - 2.5 hours for international flights. I don't feel 90 minutes is quite enough, I plan 2 hours. Maybe that's some travel anxiety... I've experienced delays and gate changes, so I recommend getting there early to get through security, take the tram and find your gate. Then wait to board in your zone.

Back to trip #1:

I landed, Ubered, and settled in with enough time to get unpacked and find some dinner. I asked at the front desk where to eat and was given a map of the connecting hotel passageways – I did not even have to go outside to get to the food court as the hotel is connected via skywalk to Peachtree Center mall. I followed the directions and walked through the adjoining hotels. Mind you I am a pretty tiny single woman walking in an uncharted place and I was being very aware of my surroundings. I felt safe, and I was impressed with the structural engineering, city views through large windows, and even the lounges in the passing hotels were inviting.

The Peachtree food court had many options for food to eat. I do not eat fast food, and I still had many selections. It was almost 6 pm on a Sunday evening and some of the places were closing. At this particular time, they were also under construction. I stopped in the corner drug store to grab some milk for my tea in the morning – my personal essential. I wandered in close proximity checking out the fitness center and spent some quiet time reading and doing yoga in my room. I mapped out a few places I wanted to see. I called down to the front desk and requested a microwave, and they happily brought one up. They were all so friendly.

I loved walking through the hotels to the Peach Tree Hub!

If you stay at the Hilton, The Marriot, or the Hyatt these corridors lead the way to the food court and shopping galore!

Monday my friend and coworker Sandra was landing around 3:00. I had the morning to venture out. It was a chilly and rainy day, but I came prepared for this. So I bundled up and walked out on to Baker Street towards the Centennial Olympic Park. I got caught in some sports championship parade briefly, but I wandered into the Park enjoying the Christmas decorations and being in a new city. The park is scenic with lots of memorials and landmarks. I planned to do all the "free" things. Right there in Pemberton Place are also a variety of places for the wanderer: The Cocoa Cola Museum, The Georgia Aquarium - Then in my wanderings, I saw the National Center for Civil and Human Rights was free for the day, and I went in.

This is where the story really begins.

As a person who has been to many museums and loves history, and appreciates a good exhibit, I was moved by this place. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a place for everyone. I had the chance here to learn so much about our nation's history and had to respect the spirit of struggle and courage that Americans of all faces and races have shown against injustice. This is not just a museum, but a cultural institution that focuses on the achievements of the civil rights movement in the USA, but also in the human rights movement worldwide. I was there for quite some time, taking my time, a luxury I don’t always have but when traveling solo I enjoy more. I read through the exhibits. I sat and watched the clips from the past. The entire experience was a bit overwhelming. I didn’t want to leave at the end.

Also, it was now pouring. I did not have an umbrella.

I went into the gift shop to see if there was an umbrella, (there was not) and purchased books, magnets and a shirt for my daughter. I even bought coffee mugs for my boys. I missed my kids, and hope to be able to share this place with them in the near future. And then, out into the rain I went to walk back to the Hilton. It was during this return walk of a few long city blocks, I realized my boots were no longer up to the job. I must have had a little hole in the toe top and my foot was soaked. Ok! Back to the room, dry off, change and drop off the gift bags because now I was really ready to see the Martin Luther King Jr. birthplace, and monument. I asked the man in the lobby (this had been working for me so far) how to walk there and he told me. He should have advised me NOT to walk there. I was feeling safe all down Piedmont Avenue, but once I got onto Auburn Ave and under the highway area the mood definitely changed. I was approached by several homeless people for money or food, and even witnessed two homeless people arguing, and the argument was escalating as I was walking by. I would advise an Uber when traveling in this area. The good thing was, the rain had let up. (So much for doing all the free things I laugh to myself...)

I started out at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, walking around and decided to catch the tour of his home. Again, because I was a solo traveler, they were able to squeeze one more into the tour group and off I went.

The beautiful home of the King family was well preserved. I loved the timeliness of the kitchen, and seeing how they used to live, back in the days! The home itself is a piece of history. The tour guide did a wonderful job bringing to life the family dynamics and painting how all of this impacted Martin’s upbringing. Giving context to his work and the time he lived in really made him come to life. Along with my morning trip down the Civil Rights lane, I was in a very reflective state.

The last stop was to the Museum, and through the back into the monument where Martin’s eternal flame burns. I was moved. I was alive. Or as I prefer to say “alove”.

I did Uber back to the Hilton, and it had started to rain again, but also the homeless were closing in around me right when my car pulled up. I felt like a movie scene where right as things get hairy there’s a quick get away! Suggestion: Call your Uber BEFORE you walk out into the street.

It had been a wonderful day and I was back in my room around 5 pm and met up with Sandra to walk to the food court for dinner. I was telling her about my boots gone bad when we were eating and she spotted a boot store right from the pizza place we were sitting in. After dinner we walked over, and I ended up purchasing not 1, but two pairs of boots! I would not have wet feet anymore, and Sandra was a great influence. My room had a great view and was very comfortable. I was enjoying my discovering of Atlanta.

The conference was really excellent. If you are ever able to catch a NAEYC conference, it’s worth the time! Sandra and I were training in two different tracks and were able to share what we were learning to really make the most of the experience. In our off time, Sandra and I stayed busy! There was food every night and we were both thinking along the same lines... We visited her sister who lived close by and gave us the tour of the area. She lived in a beautiful Victorian home with her big Rottweiler "Max" who was quickly my best friend. She drove us by the Tyler Perry studios. She took us around showing us the local schools and giving us some area history. The best way to see any city is surely with a local! For Sandra, the family time was a real bonus, and I will say I felt welcomed into the family with open arms :-)

Our favorite night out was surely when we went to the Juke Joint for Diner. Sandra, her sisters, niece, and I all waited for our table to be called back, it was a busy place! The girl time was fabulous, we laughed so much and spoke so candidly about everything under the sun! The food, was by far the best soul food I’d had. Excited for my leftovers! The music – there was live jazz music and it was spot on. Sade, and favorite cover songs made it hard to sit still and eat without moving to the beat. The sax player really knew what he was doing, and the singer’s voice was ever so sultry! The crowd was upbeat, everyone was happy, and we enjoyed our evening immensely. Take me back!!!

Another night Sandra and I walked down to Panera after training to eat and see some of the area. The Christmas lights were awesome, and our conversation while walking was great. We walked 1.7 miles down Peachtree (in a well-lit safe environment) to the Panera, and I always say the best way to see a city is on foot. Another great night, and got some exercise.

In my final day at the Hilton and conference, they were setting up an art and fashion market right in the middle of the cross walkway. This certainly had a holiday theme to it and many things caught my eye as I tried to pass through. I did buy a few Christmas gifts in my final moments before heading out. The entire trip had been a success. Now if you know how I typically travel you know this was a very different trip for me! I spent a lot more money on spontaneous items than I normally do. Guess it’s safe to say I was feeling myself and enjoying being grown. Also, it was a work trip, the travel, and accommodations did not come out of my pocket, so I felt a little more willing to splurge on some extras. I think the fact that I was solo took the guilt of trying to keep the spending fair and even also – I was the only one asking and the only one paying!

While we spent a lot of time at the Hotels and the Hub, we were able to see quite a bit of the area around Atlanta and see some of the up-close life. I’d heard a lot about Hotlanta! And that there is a high percentage of people there with Aids, 25.9% infection rate means - More than 1,000 people are diagnosed with HIV each year in Atlanta. What’s more, 50 percent of those people aren’t diagnosed until they already have AIDS. So I wasn’t going there to “meet” anyone. Us ladies talked about this while we were out at dinner, and how as an older single woman your sights change. Before you even go out with someone you used to want a picture. Now you want a clear bill of health signed by a doctor, and a bank statement attached. Ohhh how we laughed. We laughed at our own aches and pains and yet we celebrated the ability to live laugh and love at will!

The Downtown Atlanta Area - and walk from the Hilton

A few shots from the wandering...

Overall: Atlanta outweighed my expectation.

It is well designed and built with engineering creativity.

Atlanta was bigger and bolder than I'd imagined.

The history there was some of the best exhibited and well laid format's I've experienced.

If you have a chance to go - go!

I recommend: (links will take you to the sites)

The Hilton - 255 Courtland Street NE Atlanta, Georgia 30303, USA with 5 Stars.

It was clean, comfortable, and extremely professional. I felt safe as a solo traveler and would also bring my family to stay.

I strongly recommend the National Parks- birthplace of MLK Jr. Do the ranger led tour of his house and gain the perspective of the 1940's - 60's and see how life used to be! You do need to get the tickets at the visitor center, and walk one block to the home, to participate. Time well spent!

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a great place to stop - there were field trips in progress the day I was there, and I wished my own children had been there to understand the presentation of the civil rights movement so thoroughly. I learned! I loved it.

And my favorite place to eat: The Juke Joint.

Yes! Food was better than I'd expected, music was so good, atmosphere 5 stars!

Each trip has a slightly different flavor, and the second trip was also during winter and with coworkers but had a totally different vibe!

Trip # 2:

January 2023 I was with a new company and sent to be a part of a Head Start Institute.

Same scenario, I flew in and Ubered to my hotel, this time: The Sheraton. 165 Courtland Street NE Atlanta, Georgia 30303 (more on this below)

The event I was there for was Tues - Thursday and I arrived Monday in time for a quick settle and walk to the Peachtree Food Court. Still a lot of options, and the construction was completed, but it did seem like many of the previous businesses had left. Sadly, I wasn't connected by the Skywalk. I had to walk two blocks to and from. I walked around a bit, then got back for a planning meeting and dinner. I was meeting my new work team in person after months of collaborating through zoom. Being in person was lovely! The good thing is, this company is based out of Atlanta, so they had all been several times and were looking forward to delicious dinners.

For dinner Monday we chose Mary Mac's Tea Room - And I strongly recommend. Our dinner group was 6 Early Childhood Specialist's and we each ordered something else. The food was soooo delicious. Great portions for low prices. I had enough food for several left-over plates.

For dinner Tuesday, our birthday girl in the group chose The Juicy Crab. This place was also a fun atmosphere with a DJ and karaoke as well as tasty food. They serve each meal with a bib and gloves! While the girls got all their crab mixed in a big, seasoned butter bag, I opted for the tilapia. This was a great experience and we all enjoyed our meals immensely.

On Wednesday we went with my personal favorite, a repeat from my first trip: Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint. OMG. Mouthwatering food. We ate so good. The music of course is live and jazzy. The whole vibe just makes my heart happy. It's one of my few favorite places I can eat where I feel like I can't wait to return for more of that same food again. While most of our team Ubered back to the Sheraton, one new coworker friend Tammy and I walked a little way to check out the downtown area a bit before returning. As we wandered around a bit I was back by the Centennial Park and Cocoa Cola Museum. The Children's Museum is there on the corner. It was dark and I was looking at the cool Atlanta climbing blocks thinking about getting a picture when we saw a rat run in front of us. Then we saw another looking for the original. Next think I know it's like a million rats just appeared all over the playground area. How gross. I imagined the people bringing their children during the day don't know how infested the park is with rodents.

Bad Weather Blues...This is where it gets a little hairy. Thursday the work obligation was ending at 12:30, and my flight wasn't until 8:50 pm. I anticipated going to Piedmont Park, Ponce Market, and riding the belt on a scooter to see the area faster. When I saw the weather advisory, I was willing to switch to some indoor activities, perhaps the Aquarium, or the Harry Potter exhibit which was right next to the Juke Joint. But the weather was forecasting tornados. And it seemed severe. So, I stayed put at the Sheraton and had a couple of work meetings using my time to be productive. I will say we camped out in the lobby and watched their news updates while being safe on a low place.

You may know from my other blogs that I don't usually stop for rain, this was definitely a struggle for me, but safety must be first!

How's the Sheraton? On a scale of 1 - 5 I rate it a 3.

Honestly, the pool is great. They are known for the retractable roof over their pool, which is an impressive sight. But it was too cold this time of year to swim. Still a nice place to look at. The fitness center was awesome. My room was nice and clean. But I had some issues I can't get passed and doubt I will stay there again. They agreed on my final day to give me a late check out time of 1:30 (adjusted from 12 noon). When they knocked on the door at 1:30 I was still in a Zoom call, and they kindly allowed e a few minutes to finish up.

When I travel one of my top personal requirements is hot water and good water pressure.

The morning time while everyone is showering there was not a drop of hot water in the shower. I noticed in the nights it was fine, but as I am trying to get ready in the morning this was not good.

--Two nights in a row I asked at the front desk if they could send me up an extra blanket - it was chilly, and my room had a chill to it. They both times assured me they would send someone up - and no one ever came!

-The microwave - is a shared microwave in the hallway by the elevators. I am not sure how I feel about that since it was clean, but I prefer to have my own in my room. I prefer my leftovers.

Honestly, I recommend staying in the block that has the connecting sky walk, which is such a nice touch and gives that extra closeness to whatever you need.

I did like their deli/ marketplace on the 3rd floor. There is lots of seating inside and outside. Again, it was chilly but really pretty and all the skyscrapers give a great backdrop for conversations, meetings, or reading. These are pictures I took from there a few hours apart.

The Georgia Aquarium

In Centennial Park, this is the largest aquarium in the United States, and the third largest in the world. They do some pretty amazing things for conservancy and rebuilding species in decline. Many of the local Hotels offer tickets you can purchase through their front desks, BUT it may end up being a better deal to purchase tickets online through the Georgia Aquarium website. Save $5.00 by purchasing your ticket at least one day prior to visiting. They have a $4.00 off pass for later evening entries, and while I was under the impression they're open nightly until 9:00 pm, my hotel gave me the wrong info. **Check the website!

*Hours of operation vary daily; please check the calendar online before your visit. Purchase tickets online to save money. Choose the date and time of your arrival and arrive within an hour of your selected time.

I loved the shark exhibit

This is the ONLY aquarium in North America where you can see both whale sharks and manta rays.

The huge exhibit is impressive!! 6.3 million gallons of water are contained within this one tank.

Multiple sea life species live together in this aquatic home and I was told by a volunteer they do not know how old their whale sharks are, and that they are very happy eating well and having no predators. Plan to spend at least 3 hours here, but this could easily be an entire day.

The aquarium displays its species and animals in seven exhibits and galleries listed below. Each gallery or exhibit represents a diverse environment. Plan to see each of the galleries. I spent much longer than planned with the sharks, as they feature seven types of sharks and many other fish which all seemed to peacefully cohabitate. They were amazing to watch. I missed the dolphin exhibit all together because my first trip to the aquarium I thought this was only for shows.

Cold Water Quest - Beluga whales, harbor seals, penguins, and sea otters are found here.

Dolphin Coast (looks like a vacation time share invitation to me) - home