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Fernbank Museum Stone Mountain Park
Zoo Atlanta December/January 2010

Downtime Delights
Places to Go, Things to Do
by Susan Flowers

Enjoy a variety of special, seasonal events at the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

Whether you’re an Atlanta newcomer or considering relocating to the metro area, you’ve no doubt been preoccupied with the logistics of moving, such as researching the home market or settling into a new job. But once you have a chance to explore the city and its surrounding area, you’ll discover a wealth of options for your leisure time. Parks, shopping, nightlife, sports and arts & entertainment—Atlanta has it all.

Parks and Play

There’s nothing like the outdoors for weekend fun, and Atlanta has parks and venues that will delight both singles and families. A notable presence rising over east Atlanta, Stone Mountain Park is more than a great site for a picnic or a hike. Visitors can ride a cable car to the top of the mountain, cruise around on a river boat or catch the scenic railroad, and then stick around for the Lasershow Spectacular after dark. Adults and kids alike will enjoy exploring the Park’s Crossroads shopping area with attractions including working glass blowers.

Chastain Park, one of the largest public parks in Atlanta, is home to a 6000-seat amphitheatre where fans enjoy concerts and dining. The park also offers golf, tennis, a horse park, a recreation center, playground and pool, plus 3.4 miles of PATH trails for walkers, joggers, skaters and cyclists. The world-class Zoo Atlanta, located near Grant Park, houses more than 200 species. The zoo’s residents include giant pandas Lun Lun, Yang Yang, Mei Lan and Xi Lan, on loan from China. For a preview, check out the Panda Cam at

Plant lovers will find a natural home at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, where they can wander down paths lined with a seemingly endless variety of flora. The Garden frequently features special exhibits, and families should try to catch the Holiday Train Show, scheduled for December. Kids also will get a kick out of a ride on the Botanical Express, which covers a route encompassing the Garden’s Great Lawn. The Botanical Garden is adjacent to the mostvisited green space in Atlanta, Piedmont Park, which offers multiple attractions, including fishing, swimming, tennis, bird watching and a dog park.

A lesser-known Atlanta green space is the Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s 65- acre Fernbank Forest. More than just a wooded retreat in the heart of a bustling city, Fernbank Forest is home to undisturbed, mature hardwoods. When you’re through with your hike, be sure to check out the museum’s many indoor exhibits, including massive dinosaur skeletons in the atrium.

Downtown’s Centennial Olympic Park lets visitors frolic in the interactive Fountain of Rings in summer and skate on an outdoor rink in winter. The park’s Music @ Noon program provides lunch-hour concerts every Tuesday and Thursday from April through October. The park also offers Fourth Saturday Family Fun Days featuring a different theme every month.


Dedicated shoppers will enjoy visiting Atlanta’s many malls, but the city and its surrounding area have even more options for buyers looking for everything from apparel to antiques.

You’ll want to set aside an entire day for a visit to Decatur’s town square, which features shops carrying apparel, books, antiques, imports and more. Try the Little Shop of Stories for great kids’ books, and check out Blue Moon Designs and Heliotrope for great gift items. Located adjacent to the Dekalb County Courthouse, the square has many outstanding dining options as well, from French cuisine at Café Alsace to an excellent Sunday brunch at Pastries A-Go-Go. Marietta’s town square also offers shoppers the chance to browse through an array of stores featuring gifts, clothing, art and antiques. Take a break from shopping with visits to some of the square’s notable museums, including the Gone with the Wind museum and the Root House.

Antique Row, a cluster of shops in Chamblee, offers some of the best antique shopping around. With a stroll through several stores, visitors can find everything from kitschy brica- brac to high-end items. My Sister’s Closet, Rust ‘n’ Dust and Eugenia’s Antique Hardware are among the many shops featuring great finds. And the Virginia Highland area features shops interspersed with bungalow-style homes. Art, books, apparel, linens, furniture, kitchenware, antiques—this one-of-a-kind destination has it all. From the Atlanta Book Exchange to the Belly General Store, shoppers will be delighted by the selection and unique character of this historic Atlanta neighborhood.


Whether your taste runs to live music, upscale dining or a neighborhood bar, Atlanta has the perfect night spot for you.

Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewery serves up tours and some “sweet” beers.
You might enjoy a visit to the Sweetwater Brewery, a 49,000-barrel facility which offers tours Wednesday, Thursday and Friday starting at 5:30 pm. and from 2:30-4:30 p.m. on Saturday. The 20-minute walk-through leaves plenty of time for sampling Sweetwater’s beers.

For a change of pace, Martinis & IMAX at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History offers the chance to mingle in a sophisticated, upscale atmosphere. Every Friday, starting at 5:30 p.m., the museum presents chef-prepared cuisine in its stunning three-story atrium with live music beginning at 6:30 p.m. To complete the evening, guests also can view a movie on Fernbank’s 72- foot wide, five-story high IMAX screen.

Atlanta’s High Museum of Art caters to the nighttime crowd on the third Friday of every month with Friday Jazz. The museum’s galleries are open late for viewing as guests enjoy live music, food and drinks.

One of Atlanta’s best venues for live music is the Tabernacle, located near Centennial Olympic Park in downtown. Formerly a House of Blues franchise, this converted church dates from 1910 and seats 2,600. Look for Dashboard Confessional and Band of Horses in December. Also harkening back to an earlier era is Highland Tap in the Virginia Highlands neighborhood. With the ambience of a 1920’s speakeasy, this steakhouse features martinis voted “best in the city” by the now-defunct Creative Loafing.

Decatur’s Eddie’s Attic offers the chance to hear performing songwriters and bands in a listening room with state-of-the-art acoustics. Take a break from the music with a visit to the rooftop grill, which features cocktails along with a solid menu. Eddie’s Attic has hosted performers including Sheryl Crow, the Indigo Girls, the Black Crowes and many others. Smith’s Olde Bar also features live music in a relaxed atmosphere. Guests can enjoy Texas Hold Em’ poker several nights a week and team trivia on Thursdays. Smith’s is a must-see destination for fans of University of Alabama football, hosting a ‘Bama-themed brunch every Saturday at 11 a.m. during the season.

Sports fans in Atlanta are faced with an embarrassment of riches. Whether you’re a die-hard fan or a weekend warrior, you’ll find a range of choices for athletic pursuits throughout the seasons.

The city is home to several major professional sports teams: Braves baseball, Falcons football, Hawks basketball and Thrashers hockey. Fans of women’s pro sports can cheer the Atlanta Dream, the city’s WNBA team, and the Atlanta Xplosion, a women’s full-contact football team with games during the spring and summer
  Theater of the Stars
  Die-hard hockey fans can enjoy ice time in the South with the Gwinnett Gladiators. PHOTO: Dale Zanine / Gwinnett Gladiators
Suburban sports options include the Gwinnett Gladiators hockey team and the Gwinnett Braves, a minor league offshoot of the Atlanta Braves with games during the regular season. Motorsports options include Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia, where fans can take in races ranging from karts to the American Le Mans series. NASCAR fans will want to check out the Atlanta Motor Speedway, located 30 miles south of Atlanta in Hampton. Also featuring Friday Night Drags and Thursday Night Thunder, the Speedway is a must for every racing enthusiast.

If you’re more of a participant than a spectator, Atlanta is the right city for you, as well. The Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association (ALTA) has approximately 80,000 members in five metro Atlanta counties, while golfers will find abundant options at public and private courses throughout the area.

Arts & Entertainment

For fans of theatre, dance and classical music, Atlanta has much to offer. A range of professional companies and stand-out venues feature performances that cover the entire spectrum of live entertainment.

The Atlanta Ballet is celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2009, with 50th anniversary performances of The Nutcracker scheduled for December. The Ballet has enjoyed a remarkably consistent artistic vision, with just three directors during the course of its history.

  Theater of the Stars
  Known for its stand-out performances, the Atlanta Ballet celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2009. PHOTO: Charlie McCullers, Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet
Another Atlanta institution celebrates a milestone anniversary this year, as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra completes its 65th season. The ASO has long been recognized for its quality, collecting a total of 26 Grammys. The past season featured concerts by Yo-Yo Ma, and performances scheduled for December and January include Handel’s Messiah, ASO New Year’s Eve, and a King Celebration concert in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Suburban fans of classical music can take in performances by the Cobb Symphony Orchestra (CSO). Upcoming concerts include Holiday Pops, The Irish Tenors: Christmas 2009 and CSO Jazz. Cobb residents also can take advantage of the Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre. Seating 2,400, this outdoor venue offers concerts covering a range of musical genres, plus theatrical performances.

Families will appreciate the world-class Center for Puppetry Arts where you can enjoy a show, visit the Center’s interactive museum, and explore puppetry through workshops open to the public. No theatre is better known in this city than the Alliance, winner of a 2007 Regional Theatre Tony Award. Shows you can enjoy in December and January include A Christmas Carol, Stop and Roll, and Avenue X.

Fans of the Bard should drop by the New American Shakespeare Tavern, where they can order from a British pub-themed menu prior to performances. The Tavern’s Atlanta Shakespeare Company will present A Christmas Carol in December and Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in January.

Most Atlantans know Georgia Tech for great college football, but Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts presents entertainment including concerts, theatre, comedy and dance. Drawing performers from around the world, the diversity of Ferst’s offerings is sure to please. Upcoming performances include concerts by the Moscow State Radio Symphony Orchestra and The Pirates of Penzance by New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players.

Atlanta History Center
Fernbank Museum, Children's Museum, Centennial Olympic Park

Turner Field, Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta History Center, World of Coke
Children's Museum of Atlanta
Turner Field

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