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On the Road Again: Exploring Atlanta by Car Can Be Easy and Fun
I’ve traveled enough to know there are some cities where I don’t want my car. New York is at the top of this list. Also Chicago and San Francisco, primarily because each offers such great public transit options.
But after spending nearly a week in Atlanta, I am proud (or embarrassed) to say that I loved using my car for getting around. It was convenient, manageable and reasonably affordable – once I discovered the cheap ($3 per day!) parking lots across the street from the southern edge of Centennial Olympic Park. With four people to move, individual bus and train fares add up, especially if you have a lot to see.
Getting in was easy. After the morning rush, we used Atlanta’s Perimeter (I-285), which circles the city, to take us to either I-75 or I-85 south (depending on my mood), which then became the Downtown Connector, the main artery for north- and southbound traffic. From there, exits – and the attractions found nearby – are well-marked.
One of the greatest advantages of having a car at our disposal was the ability to venture into Atlanta neighborhoods for meals. It seemed only fitting that following our exploration of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, we sat down for a traditional Southern meal at Mary Mac’s Tea Room, an Atlanta institution since 1945, and a short drive away. There, I enjoyed the House Wine of the South (refreshing sweet tea) while the kids discovered that fried okra, when done properly, is indeed a delicacy.
We enjoyed The Varsity, another Atlanta institution, on a different day. Located near the Georgia Tech campus, the Varsity is as known for its uniform greeting – What’ll ya have? – as it is for its classic hot dogs, burgers, fries and onion rings. And if you like a Creamsicle, then you’ll love the F.O. (Frosted Orange). Unexpected bonus: the rear parking lot offers a great photo op with the Olympic Torch in the background.
Another hit was the Hard Rock Café. Although a chain restaurant, each Hard Rock is an experience unto itself. And this one’s location – just a few blocks away from the World of Coca-Cola and Georgia Aquarium – can’t be beat.
Finally, we benefited from the eagle eye of my daughter, a blossoming foodie. Using an old copy of Food & Wine magazine, she directed us to Sublime Doughnuts, on 10th Street, adjacent to the Georgia Tech campus, and Cacao Atlanta, in the fashionable Inman Park neighborhood, where we delighted in luxurious handmade confections. Without our car, I doubt we would have managed to visit either shop.
One word of warning: My kids are still talking about the $25 parking ticket I received that was written a mere 10 minutes after my downtown meter expired! A $10 lot is better than a ticket, any day.