Thursday, May 17, 2012

Atlanta Road Trip Part 1

Mark had business in Atlanta this past month, so we decided to all go together and, since we were road tripping anyway, make it a family trip. We did some VERY exciting things on this trip!

First and foremost, Mark took a board certification test in Atlanta and has been studying and preparing for a while and feels he did very well on it. Not that I was surprised by that at all.


So, since his test was on a Sunday, we set it up to give us plenty of time to get down there and do some more studying and preparing as well as some sight seeing. We left here on a Wednesday and drove to Blacksburg, VA for the night. It was a gorgeous drive through the scenery backdrop of many a John Denver song (Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenendoah Valley, etc.).

We stopped at Natural Bridge in Virginia -- saw signs for it and decided to check it out. It is the oldest tourist attraction in the United States and was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. There is a natural big bridge (sort of like the arch that used to be in Zion's National Park in Utah before it fell and made so many Utah license plates obsolete) and all sorts of museums and other attractions.

Kids and Scout and The Natural Bridge in VA

We got to Blacksburg, got a great deal on a hotel, ate wonderfully cheap and delicious combination Mexican meals at a nearby restaurant, read stories together, and got a good night's rest. Halfway to Atlanta!

 Scout is a GREAT little traveler.


The next morning, it was raining (and I hate driving in rain), so we drove around local streets and explored Blacksburg a bit while the storm passed. We saw Virginia Tech (impressive, large campus!), and all of us split a Chipotle salad for a small lunch.

We generally eat a small breakfast and a small lunch and then eat a good dinner. On the road, as much as possible, we pack a bunch of foods for snacks and small meals and try to eat out for only 1 meal a day (usually dinner). Some days we eat out more, given the nature of whatever it is we're doing (like at a theme park or whatever), but when it's like that, we split something for one of the meals so that we don't eat too much, spend too much, or have leftovers. Seriously, we have this down to a science. And to boot, we do all this without eating any crappy fast food!

So, once we got on the road, we spent the day driving through the Carolinas. We saw a lot of signs for these places called "Cook Out" and saw that they were famous for their shakes, so we stopped and got some - they did not disappoint.

Yummy shakes

My cute man with my cute puppy

We got to Atlanta pretty late that night. We rented a very nice studio condo right in the financial district (we love renting houses/condos as opposed to hotels wherever possible, because they're cozy, homey, and have  kitchens). We thought we'd have no problem finding food in a big city late at night, but we were wrong. I think it's because we were in the financial district and everything seems to close early there, but I can't figure out why more wasn't open since it's also right near a college. 

After researching online and driving around for quite a while, we found one place that was open. It was called, "The Varsity." Funny thing is, this place had been mentioned to Mark by one of his clients before our trip and here we were trying it out! It is the world's biggest drive-in restaurant. And it was actually pretty good! Their trademark slogan is, "What'll ya' have?" and the carhop did indeed greet us with, "What'll ya' have? What'll ya' have?"

We ate and got back to our condo for the night. The condo was in a great location and was a really sweet deal -- inexpensive and very nice, pet-friendly condo and free parking space in a nearby garage! Parking in big cities is so expensive and hotels usually charge you near $25/day for the privilege of parking in their lots. We scored on this place -- nice find, Mark!


I really enjoyed our time in Atlanta. We got up and ready, got Scout settled in her crate in the condo, and walked down to CNN! I am a total news junkie and I read several times daily, so I was pretty thrilled about doing this tour. 

Waiting for our tour to begin

 CNN boasts the world's longest, freestanding escalator

About to go inside the stuidios

CNN headquarters

 Dr. Mark poses with Dr. Sanjay Gupta

 The kids and I check out the gift store

I pose with Anderson Cooper

After spending the morning doing the CNN tour, we ate in their enormous food court (so many choices!) and then headed outside for a walk through Centennial Park to get to our next fun attraction. Centennial Park is big and beautiful and there are so many neat Olympic memorials there. Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympics and they built this park for that event and it is pretty magnificent, especially right in the middle of the city like that.

 Centennial Park Fountains

Centennial Park in Atlanta

We then spent the afternoon at the Georgia Aquarium, the world's largest aquarium! Though everyone enjoyed the CNN tour, I'm really the one who totally geeked out there. The aquarium was awesome -- we all LOVED our visit to the aquarium so much!!

We saw some crazy frogs and lots of neat fish, too, of course! The kids just ate this place up. It was really so much fun. There were SO many neat exhibits and we even got to see a dolphin show. What a place!

This is one of many crazy frogs we saw. Isn't he funny?

 Visiting the Coral Reef Fish

 The family under the tunnel ocean aquarium - so cool!
You can see the slowly moving sidewalk near us - 
That's how you "travel" underneath the tunnel.
So neat!

We figured out to turn off the flash for a better picture

Mommy and kids enjoying the aquarium

 Daddy and kids enjoying the aquarium

 We loved this big window -- so peaceful

 Wow. Just wow.

Hey, they're on the moving sidewalk! 
This was our very favorite part of the aquarium.
Thing 2 LOVED this especially.

The kids crawled underneath this tunnel, so that . . .

they could pop up all close and personal to the penguins!

 The dolphin show was great -- both cheesy and awe inspiring!
And man, are those dolphins cute!

There was a children's area where the kids could touch stingrays
 and baby sharks and starfish and all kinds of neat things!

Mark and kids outside the Georgia Aquarium

Stacy and kids back at Centennial Park

So, after a lovely afternoon at the aquarium, we strolled back through Centennial Park and got a fantastic seafood dinner at McCormick and Schmick's (our appetizer was comprised of big shrimp wrapped in bacon and stuffed with pepper jack cheese - delicious!). Yummy! 

Then, we walked back to our condo, where Scout was ECSTATIC to see us (and to go out and go potty), and we walked all over our neighborhood, exploring the parks, fountains, sculptures, signs, streets, etc. Atlanta is a pretty neat downtown city. We liked it. It doesn't feel as safe or well-lit as New York and Boston do, but it's not terrible either. 

We went back to the condo and got ready for bed, kicked back, and watched some hilarious Big Bang Theory episodes before hitting the hay. A great first full day in Atlanta!


Dr. Mark said...

Great recap on our first few days! Looking at the pictures I'm reminded how great the weather was while we were there. The south could have been so much more brutal.

You forgot how the carhop at The Varsity laughed at me when I asked where I could buy milk in Atlanta--it was right behind us!

Robynne said...

How fun! I love road trips and exploring new cities!! :)

Vivian said...

The aquarium looks fascinating. Glad you enjoyed it and I look forward to the rest of the report.

Vivian said...

PS. In the interest of accuracy, it was the "Wall Arch" in Arches National Park that fell in Aug. '08. The iconic "Delicate Arch" is still there.

Boquinha said...

I did not know that! Thank you for educating me on that. All this time, I've thought it was the iconic arch that had fallen. Huh. I'm glad you said something!

Lindsay said...

Love it. I love going on road trips. Looks like you guys had a great time.

The Magic Violinist said...

I think you may have gotten better pictures than I did. ;) And cute picture of Scout at the hotel! :D

Emily Foley said...

What?! Delicate Arch fell? When did this happen? Dave and I hiked there when I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with Isaac. It was brutal.

Good shakes at a crappy fast food joint. They're not totally worthless, I tell you!

We had that same problem with restaurants closed in Boston and in San Francisco a few years ago. Downtown stuff is apparently not all-night like the suburbs have.

Oooh, cool escalator! Also, I've had a crush on Anderson Cooper since 7th grade. Love him.

That frog looks fake! I've actually heard about that aquarium and it's on my life list to visit. It looks amazing! I love the big wall of fish at the Albuquerque Aquarium too, it's soo cool. We did a moving walkway at an aquarium in San Francisco when Isaac was a baby (18 months or so) and he laid down on it and watched from there. It was so weird/cute.

Looks like so much fun! I feel like you have more to tell us....can't wait! :)

Boquinha said...

No, Emily, read the comments. Vivian said it's still there! I mixed them up. I'm glad she said something.

Yeah, Anderson Cooper is kinda good looking. ;)

I know! That frog totally looks fake - it's crazy! And so grumpy! You should totally visit Atlanta -- between the love of Coke and Aquariums and Anderson Cooper, you'd be set.

J Fo said...

I wish I could have tagged along. Looks like a great time!

Dave Johnson said...

How have I never eaten at a Cook Out?

I don't know why, but we expected the aquariums in Boston and Baltimore to be the best, but we found that Dallas actually had the larger exhibits, and it looks like Atlanta is even bigger than that - that window is HUGE. As always, you guys make the most of every stop.