Location: Silver Comet Trail
Not quite ready to tackle the hills of Atlanta on a bike? Looking for a long, traffic-less ride? Just want to say you’ve been to Alabama? The Silver Comet Trail, a paved path for walkers, joggers and cyclists, starts on the city’s Northwest side in Smyrna and continues 61.5 miles to the Alabama line, where it connects with the 33-mile long Chief Ladiga Trail. That’s almost 95 miles of paved trail! Built over an abandon rail line, the trail runs through suburban backyards, forests, sports complexes and a few restored depots (aka: bathrooms). Hit the trail on a beautiful Atlanta weekend, and you’ll find plenty of people joining you.
Date taken: Nov. 11, 2013
There’s really only one thing you need to know about the first annual Atlanta Cheese Festival — grill cheese meltdown! Yes, eight local restaurants put their best grill cheese forward for festival goers to enjoy and vote on. High Road Creamery got my vote with its creative take — french toast grill cheese with vanilla ice cream. Of course, no cheese fest is complete without pimento cheese, mac and cheese, beer cheese soup and dozen of cheeses to taste and buy.
Location: Chukkar Farm
Date taken: September 15, 2013
Nestled among the horse farms and golf courses of Alpharetta, Chukkar Farm in many ways feels like a step back in time — the green barn, rocking chairs, laid-back atmosphere and beautiful horses. The farm is family owned and run and has been for decades. Events and weddings are often held there. And, on Sundays when the weather is warm, the farm hosts polo matches and welcomes guests to bring a blanket, bring a picnic and come watch. Don’t know anything about polo? Find a friend who does (mine explained to me the unique qualities of a polo pony). Or, chances are you’ll be greeted at the farm by a Chukkar Farm family member, who will happily answer your horse-related questions.
Date taken: July 25, 2013
Location: Bocce ball courts at Midway Pub
Bocce ball — an Italian game that you can play with a beer in one hand and a ball in the other. Through the Atlanta Bocce League dozens of teams are competing at Atlanta bars and parks on any given weeknight (and Sunday). The game’s objective is much like horseshoes or corn hole — get your ball as close as you can to the one, smaller white ball (also known as a pallino, jack or snitch by Harry Potter fans). A little hand-eye coordination may be necessary to post a win, but athleticism is not required. What is required is a cheesy team name that includes a bocce pun: Chewbocce, Invasion of the Bocce Snatchers, Love is a Boccefield, The Big LaBocce, The Lawn Rangers, FreeBallin … you get the idea.
Date taken: July 26, 2013
Location: Melody 2
For those of us born without an ounce of musical talent, a night of karaoke can sounds quite terrifying. But when your solo is limited to a group of your closest friends, karaoke becomes a little less intimidating. Among the international flavors of Atlanta’s Buford Highway sit several private room karaoke clubs. Rent a room. Bring your friends. Order drinks. Select a song, and sing your heart out. There are books and books of songs. Make your selection, enter it into the room’s iPad and soon you’ll be singing your favorite rock song, love song, country classic, ballad or cheesy 80s hit. And, if you’re lucky, your song will not only feature lyrics but an entertaining video as well (don’t be alarmed if you start seeing the same actors over and over).
Date taken: July 13, 2013
Location: Dacula Briar Patch
Growing up in Atlanta, my family would often head a few miles north on Georgia 400, park on the side of the highway and pick the blackberries that were growing wild. Yes, things were different then. 400 was vastly different then. Now, picking your own fruits and vegetables has been so popular that there are websites devoted to helping people find farms. In the Atlanta area, there are plenty of places to choose from. I love picking blueberries — there are no thorns or brambles and in one strategic grasp you can grab a handful of the summer berries. Of course, one of the perks of picking your own fruit is eating as you go. And, nothing tastes better than a blueberry cobbler made with the berries you worked so hard to pick.
Date taken: July 13, 2013
Location: Dick Lane Velodrome
It’s a hidden gem tucked away in East Point. The Dick Lane Velodrome features the second steepest concrete track in the country (36 degrees). The velodrome, built in 1974, offers classes and training opportunities for kids and adults. And, on a few select Saturdays during the year the pro series comes to the track. For just $5 spectators are treated to an evening of diverse (and creative) races — and are encouraged to bang on the boards to cheer on the racers. There’s the traditional scratch race, with a mass start and set number of laps. There’s the unknown distance race, which is just what it sounds like — riders don’t know how long the race will be and wait for the bell to signal the final lap. In the Keirin, cyclists follow the draft of a motorcycle, and in the miss and out race, the last rider on every lap is eliminated. But the crowd favorite could be the Madison, where teammates grab hands and sling each other forward.
Location: Atlanta Underground Market
Date taken: January 6, 2012
My tamale was filled with sweet potatoes, coconut and raisins. It was an interesting combination of ingredients, but tasted quite good. The Atlanta Underground Market is where foodies come to dine and local cooks come to show off their newest creations. The website calls the monthly events “food adventures,” and they certainly are. Find out the secret location, pay $5 at the door, then go exploring to discover and taste what some of your fellow Atlantans have been cooking at home. The portions are small (and only a few bucks), so bring your appetite and adventurous tastebuds.
Location: The Georgia Aquarium
Date taken: December 17, 2012
The Georgia Aquarium is the one place in Atlanta (and the Southeast) where you can touch a stingray, sea star, sea urchin or sea anemone. The aquarium remains a top destination for tourists and Atlantans, so I recommend getting there when the doors open to beat the crowds. You’ll get an up close look at otters, whales, jellyfish and those adorable clown fish. Stare awhile at the giant walls of fish. Crawl through a tunnel to see the penguins. Watch dolphins propel themselves through the air. Take a family photo on the moving walkway. And, don’t forget the giant gift shop on your way out — stuffed sea animals are pretty cute, too.
Location: The Varsity
Date taken: December 17, 2012
No Atlanta blog or list of places to visit is complete without The Varsity. The restaurant has long been a favorite of visitors, Georgia Tech tailgaters and natives (yes, my grandparents used to head to The Varsity when they were dating). When you step up to the long row of registers, know you’ll be asked “What’ll ya have?”. And, I recommend placing an order for a Frosted Orange, onion rings and chili dog (the grilled pimento cheese is pretty good too). Opened in 1928, The Varsity has been a unique place for many reasons — the world’s largest drive-in, the addition of the “lunching pad” and rooms set up with televisions before they were commonplace in homes or businesses. If you dine at The Varsity, you’ll walk out with a little taste of Atlanta history and maybe your very own paper Varsity hat.
Date taken: December 2, 2012
Concerts. Bed races. Beach volleyball. Beer festivals. Food festivals. Cirque du Soleil. The 138 acres now occupied by Atlantic Station have seen a lot of changes in the past 100 years. Opened as the Atlantic Steel Mill in 1901, this Westside neighborhood is now a tourist destination for shopping (only IKEA for hundreds of miles) and dining. And, for locals, it’s a space to live (buy or rent) and work (Creative Loafing’s offices are here) and attend a variety of events. If you can navigate your way in and out of the massive parking deck, it’s a great place to spend an evening.
Location: Tribute Lofts
Date taken: November 11, 2012
When Hugh Malkin moved back to his hometown of Atlanta in 2010, his job with Philips had him working with the Atlanta BeltLine, figuring out how to light its trails and rails. Soon, Hugh started noticing all sorts of events popping up along the BeltLine – events that were spreading simply by word of mouth. Nicknamed “Huge” and the social coordinator among his friends since high school, Hugh saw an opportunity and contacted his long-time friend Adam Wilson.
“Hugh had gotten back in town and was interested in creating some sort of social event site for Atlanta,” said Adam. “He messaged me to see if I knew someone that he could talk to about building a website. I said, ‘You can talk to me.’ We went out for a drink, saw the Social Network and decided to start something. ”
Hugh and Adam have known each other since childhood – their families hung out together and the two Roswell natives became good friends when they were self-described “band nerds” at Roswell High School. With Hugh’s passion for Atlanta events, places and happenings and Adam’s knowledge of software, the two Georgia Tech grads created HUGEcity.us in January 2012 to help connect people with events in Atlanta.
The site, which utilizes Facebook’s public events to create calendar listings, has become one of the most popular places to find out what is happening in Atlanta and in cities around the world. Thousands of people are logging onto the site each day. Atlanta, where HUGE city started, is the only city (for now) with its own e-mail – events hand-picked by Hugh.
“This city has so much to offer, and most people don’t know about it,” said Hugh, who was born in Houston but moved to Atlanta as a child. “Atlanta might not have the best of anything, but we have a little of everything. HUGE city provides people with the opportunity to find out about events, celebrate where they live and share their experiences.”
Next up for HUGE city – creating a mobile app. Adam, a third generation Atlantan, works full-time for HUGE city and is focused on getting the app up and going sometime early next year.
“Imagine sitting at Dark Horse Tavern in the Virginia-Highlands and wanting to find out about events nearby. How do you find out? Facebook has all the events, but no discovery mechanism,” said Hugh. “An app will allow people to pull up all that information up on their phones easily. With all that is happening with technology, it’s exciting – the connections that are being made. Exciting things are happening to connect people.”