For the July-August issue of Business Traveler Magazine, I wrote a destination feature on Atlanta, Georgia, titled “Southern Exposure.”
While there is certainly much to be said about a city that by most standards is now a top tier destination, word count is always a mindful concern. As a result, sometimes you just can’t tell it all. But when a writer has options such as The Examiner, Harlem World Magazine, a blog such as www.travelinginmyworld.com, and more, the good news lives on a few clicks or pages away.
Interviews for the “Southern Exposure” article included interesting luminaries on the Atlanta scene such as Atlanta City Councilmember, Kwanza Hall, whose district covers the very transitional downtown and the very burgeoning midtown sections of the city. Hall speaks poignantly about the many great new arrivals, including the now in operation, SkyView Ferris—a 20 stories tall, 42 gondola (with six seats each) deep ferris wheel. Located on the south end of Centennial Park, downtown, smack dab in the heart of tourist central, amidst Georgia Aquarium, Coca Cola Museum, CNN Center, World Congress Center, Phillips Arena and more, SkyView is the talk of the town. Seven days a week, spectators arrive to see, to stare and to experience this latest craze.
“We have figured out that if you want to be assured of a short line, come mid-week during the day. Weekends are almost always our busiest times, especially if there are major events in the Centennial Park or the surrounding sports arenas,” explains Jason Evan, of the firm The Partnership, representing SkyView.
Evans goes how to explain that with so much happening in the area, such as this weekend’s Alabama and Virgina Tech game, that the often one-hour weekend wait time ends up being quite entertaining, sometimes including light shows and live music. And with any major city, you can always expect an interesting character or two to surface in the typically well policed and very comfortable environment.
“We are inundated daily with photos people have taken of SkyView, often better than the professional photos we took when it opened a month ago. The passion that the city has shown for SkyView is more than we ever could have expected.”
Also in the Business Traveler Magazine feature, Mark Toro, founder of North American Properties–the new owners of Atlantic Station, talks about urban sprawl’s reversal of fortune by way of a major comeback into the city–one in which he too bought-in. Toro, a true foodie at heart, names a few of his hot spots in the now true-blue foodie town of Atlanta–including a couple hot spots by one of the biggest names on Atlanta’s culinary scene– Ford Fry.
Louis Miller, aviation general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL), speaks of the mass expansion efforts, including the new international terminal and several other changes in the making to create an even smoother flow of traffic, both arriving and departing. This week’s opening of PF Chang’s restaurant on the new expanded food court at Concourse A, along with LowCountry, a new southern style culinary experience from celebrity Chef G Garvin is also new news for the 95 million travelers passing through ATL annually.
And contrary to popular belief about traffic congestion in Atlanta, the bark is far worst than the actual bite, according to statistics provided by Mark Demidovich, assistant state traffic engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation.
But to truly become familiar with a town, you have to speak to and interact with the locals. People such as Gene Kansas, host of Sidewalk Radio.
“Atlanta offers plenty of choices for the cultured business traveler. For those interested in art, I recommend MODA (Museum of Design Atlanta), the only museum in the Southeast devoted exclusively to the study and celebration of all things design. If history is more your thing, visit the Atlanta History Center where Senior Military Historian, Gordon Jones, has curated an array of fabulous Civil War exhibits. Looking for something outdoors? You can’t go wrong at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens where the “Imaginary Worlds” exhibition has currently taken root. Thursday nights are a great time to stroll the garden while sipping adult beverages…now that’s what we call getting down to the business of travel. And, of course, please tune in and tune up on Atlanta’s history and culture before you arrive, by visiting SidewalkRadio.com,” explains Kansas—a man with his finger on the pulse of the city.
“I have been meaning to update you on the rapidly expanding, pedestrian friendly Pencil Factory Lofts community,” adds good friend, Hannah Huffines Amick. Located at the historic intersection of Hill and Decatur Streets, straddling the popular residential neighborhoods of Grant Park, Old Fourth Ward and downtown Atlanta–the live, work, play community is home to the popular hair salon Melange, InTown Market, Marlee’s Coffee and Tea, Nail Studio, Chow Bing, Drafting Table and more. But if you’re looking for the kind of place where “everybody knows your name,” where the food and drinks are good to you and for you, Caramba Café, at Pencil Factory Lofts is the place.
No animal fat, hormone free since 1988 and the use of 100 % vegetable stock gives the guacamole a fresh off the farm flavor that has kept guests coming to this well established Mexican eatery since “Skip was a pup.” Pulled pork smoked for 24 hours is plated up with a divine aroma and the flavor of an era bygone, when animals were raised naturally and tastes like fresh roasted meat, versus a ton of spices needed to flavor. Whether you choose the above, the fish taco, the chicken enchilada in its rich and savory sauce, the clean refried beans, the running theme at this family owned and operated restaurant is fresh. But under no circumstances should you depart without having mom’s flan. Made daily by dad and served by daughter, Mia, while husband Bryan stay in the kitchen it is a rare flan that’s is creamy versus the more often rubbery texture that flans are notorious for having. But it is oh so good!
“Pencil Factory is an excellent one stop shop for business minded locals and visitors. The 30,000 commuters a day on Decatur Street, and countless additional MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority)riders heading into Downtown make for a bustling business cross section. Pencil boasts top notch dining options for business lunches and dinners, not to mention cultural options such as The Village Theatre, which can break up a business trip nicely…or even be rented for company needs,” says Aaron Goldman, President of Perennial Properties, the Pencil Factory’s developer.
But in my opinion, you know you’ve arrived when a Mandarin Oriental Hotel pulls up in a city where The Ritz-Carlton, The Four Seasons and the St Regis have also set up shop. Located in the Buckhead community, Best of all, Mandarin Oriental’s Buckhead getaway is but a short distance from Czar Ice Bar, the one location in the city boasting the presence of a master sushi chef. Chef Saito Saito, is indeed a true culinary genius in terms of the unique and sensational experiences he creates for the eyes and the palate via maki-sushi and sashimi. In between tastings, Czar Ice Bar’s vodka flights will definitely spice up the night around sushi and saki. However, nothing tops the experience of meeting Chef Saito. In addition to his amazing culinary expertise, he is definitely one of Buckhead’s most fun and interesting personalities.