When traveling, it is important to stay flexible. Joe and I recently planned a weekend road trip to St. Louis. As the weekend approached, the forecast for an impending ice storm became more and more confirmed. Joe, the ever present optimist, remained confident. Me, not so much. The morning of our trip, the news showed an ice storm from Kansas to Missouri. SO, we turned to our marriage-saving conversation skills to discuss the matter (see 5 Ways to Avoid Killing Your Spouse While Traveling).
Me- Joe, it doesn’t look good.
Joe- I’m sure it’ll be fine. I’m use to driving on ice.
Me- Didn’t you flip your Jeep upside down during the last ice storm?
Joe- True, but no one will be on the roads this time, so there won’t be any cars to crash into.
Me- That’s because some people have common sense. Plus, I don’t like the cold.
Well, Joe talked to some friends who live in the area. They had been advised to not come into work that day. I promised Joe a road trip to St. Louis as soon as possible, and we made the impromptu decision to go to Atlanta instead. It turned out that we chose wisely! For the first 24 hours of our trip to Atlanta, we explored Atlanta’s Northeast Side.
Here’s how we broke up our three days in Atlanta:
Day 1: Northeast Atlanta
Day 2: Read about Centennial Park
Day 3: Read about Eastside Atlanta
Summary of all 3 days ( read here)
Day 1: Northeast Atlanta
Where to Sleep? The Hotel Indigo
Part of the risk that comes with taking an unplanned road trip is that it is just that– unplanned. Atlanta happened to be hosting an NFL playoff game that weekend, the Atlanta Falcons against the Seattle Seahawks. Hotels had jacked up their prices and there were few vacancies. Fortunately, Joe found us a room in Midtown Atlanta, which ended up a really convenient location.
Right across from the famous Fox Theater, parking was easy, but kind of pricey at $25 a day. The service at the hotel was superb. We had a few room issues, and the staff resolved them right away. The rooms themselves were very nice, although pretty small compared to standard American hotel rooms. I think the bathroom in our camper is bigger than that hotel bathroom! However, we don’t travel to stay in a hotel. We just need a good night’s sleep, and that was given to us in spades. The hotel bar also had a pretty good menu, especially for breakfast.
About thirty minutes northeast from downtown Atlanta is Stone Mountain, a dome mountain of igneous rock. It is the second most visited state park in the United States! 1,686 feet (514 m) above sea level, the mountain seems even taller due to the surrounding flat land. The base of the mountain is more than 5 miles (8 km) in circumference. The fee to enter the park is $15 per carload, $40 for a yearly pass.
Getting to the top of Stone Mountain- There are two ways to get to the summit, a 1.3-mile (2.1 km) walk-up trail on the west side of the mountain or by the Skyride aerial cable car. We knew we would be doing a lot of other walking that weekend so we chose the cable car to go up ($6 per person), and walked down. The walk down proved tough enough on my middle-aged knees. They were screaming at the end. Word of warning, if you do like we did, after you hike down the mountain, to get back to the Skyride parking is about another mile around the mountain.
Once you reach the summit, you can see for miles, even the skyline of Atlanta. It was unusually warm for January in Atlanta (yay for not going to St. Louis), and the top was covered with families posing for pictures, runners flying by making me feel old, and tons of Atlanta Falcon fans. As you can see in the above picture, Joe has his Seattle Seahawk’s jacket tied around his waist. I don’t know if he took it off because he was hot or because he was tired of Atlanta Falcon fans yelling, “Rise Up!” at him.
The mountain had been covered in clouds that morning so the rock’s surface was left with a fine mist on it. Going down was very slippery. There are warning signs and hand rails in areas of slick rock, but that didn’t prevent Joe’s feet from flying out from under him. Luckily he didn’t break anything except his ego. He wasn’t alone, we saw several other spills, primarily runners, on the way down.
Carving Controversy- The humongous carving on the side of the mountain was started by Gutzon Borglum (who later carved Mount Rushmore) in 1923. He abandoned the project two years later. It is the largest low relief carving in the world. The carving depicts three Civil War Confederate Leaders–President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Work on the carving was finally completed in 1972.
After the Charleston church shooting in 2015, many states started removing memorials to Confederate leaders. Some suggested that the Stone Mountain carving should be removed. However, it would take the Georgia state legislature to change law in order for that to happen. Art historians argue that the carving is part of art history, especially since it was first carved by Borglum.
Other things to do- You could easily spend 6-8 hours at Stone Mountain. Besides ascending to the summit, in the winter they have a “snow area” where you can go tubing, there’s a museum, and in the summer they have a laser light show that is projected on the side of the mountain. You can find further information and schedule at stonemountainpark.com.
Lunch- Mary Mac’s
Once you spend the morning at Stone Mountain, you’ll need some good southern cooking. Mary Mac’s Tea Room was recommended to us by friends. In 2011, it was named “Atlanta’s Dining Room” by the Georgia’s House of Representatives. Now when you hear “Tea Room”, you may picture tiny little sandwiches with delicate fluffy desserts. The food might make you fluffy, but that’s about as far as it goes. Opened in 1945, the restaurant prides itself in authentic, made from scratch southern fare. Being a southern girl through and through, I can testify, the cooks know their cornbread, dumplings, and turnip greens!
This place is huge! It has six dining rooms, plus a full bar. The walls are covered with photos of all of the famous people that have eaten there. The service was top-notch! We had barely ordered when our food arrived. If you’re new to the restaurant, you’ll get a complimentary cup of pot likker. Think of it as the juice from turnip greens. So if you’re a fan of greens, you’ll love pot likker!
I had the fried chicken, which was okay, but I must admit I’m biased because Memphis has Gus’s fried chicken, and there’s no better fried chicken in the world. I also had the sweet potato soufflé and slaw, both winners. I topped it off with a peach martini (required when visiting The Peach State) and peanut butter pie with homemade Oreo crust. Yum!
Calories don’t count on road trips, do they?
Joe had the chicken and dumplings which I had to sample. I’m afraid to admit that they were way better than I had growing up. Sorry Grandma! He also had turnip greens, fried green tomatoes (a southern must in our book) and peach cobbler for dessert. Next time we’re in Atlanta, we’ll definitely come back!
Next stop- Carter Presidential Library
Less than two miles from Mary Mac’s you’ll find the Carter Presidential Library. I was a little girl when Carter was in office. I remember news of the ups and downs of his presidency. From the monumental piece treaty negotiated by Carter between Israel and Egypt to the high inflation and especially the daily news of Iran holding American hostages for 444 days (we made posters in school promising that we hadn’t forgotten the hostages).
Regardless of your political beliefs, a presidential library is a must see for an history lover like me (read Fredericksburg, Texas: A Whole Lot of History! for our visit to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s home). I was raised to honor the office of the president. Regardless of how you feel about the qualifications of the person in the position, the president is to be respected. See Dad, I was listening. In light of our current political unrest, I needed to say that. I’ll get off my soapbox now.
I loved learning about Carter’s rise from a farm boy to governor of Georgia. His presidential campaign forever changed the way politicians run for the office. I was too young at the time to understand what all First Lady Rosalyn Carter did to raise awareness of mental illness, a topic that had previously been hush-hush. The library also highlights all of the continuing accomplishments of Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter. At only $8 person, a visit to Carter’s library is a bargain! Plan 1-2 hours.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Two and a half miles from the Carter Presidential Library is the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Now normally, we would not have visited this museum, but we had bought the Atlanta City Pass (citypass.com/atlanta), and the Fernbank Museum was one of the City Pass attraction choices. Opened in 1992, this museum includes the geological and cultural history of Georgia, a huge hands-on science discovery area, and a brand new state-of-the-art 3D-capable digital laser theater.
This museum is a kid’s heaven. In fact, I think we were the only adults there without kids. We’re kids at heart, so we had plenty of fun! Because of time, we didn’t get enjoy all that the museum has to offer. Outside is filled with trails and play areas. We could have spent another hour just exploring the 65 acres (260,000 m2) of the largest old-growth urban Piedmont forest in the country.
If you have children, I highly recommend coming here early so they can have plenty of time to explore and enjoy all that the museum’s exhibits and outside areas.
Eat a burger at The Vortex!
Less than two miles from Fernbank is a cool little dive bar in the eclectic Little Five Points Atlanta neighborhood. Even if you don’t want a burger, you have to walk around Little Five Points, an area described as the bohemian center of the southern US.
One of Joe’s Army buddies recommended The Vortex to us, and I’m so glad he did. For one thing, no one under 21 is allowed inside and after being surrounded by kids at Fernbank, I needed to not hear any crying or screaming for awhile.
The Vortex is easy to spot with its giant laughing skull entrance. The restaurant was featured in season 1 of Man Vs. Food. We didn’t try to eat any “The World Famous Coronary Bypass Burgers”! We did see some other diner’s tackling it, but when we left, they still weren’t finished.
I ordered the original Vortex burger with cheese, and it was juicy and delicious. Joe added bacon to his. It was almost too big for his mouth! So if you’re traveling kid free, check out The Vortex!
Stayed tuned for our recaps of Day #2 & #3 in Atlanta. So have you been to Atlanta or want to visit? Please share by commenting below!
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