My Unofficial Guide to Atlanta:: things to do

Continuing my unofficial guide to Atlanta is a list of some of my favorite activities and attractions.  There are so many cool things to do around the city and in outlying areas, so there’s no way I can cover everything… these are just some of my faves. Enjoy!

THINGS TO DO:

Center for Puppetry Arts::
I can’t very well make a list of my favorite things to do in Atlanta and not mention my workplace of more than 6 years. The Center is currently the nation’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to the art of puppetry. There are original performances and guests artists who visit from around the world, a global Museum and Jim Henson exhibits (come see Cookie Monster and Big Bird!), and an award-winning Education department that offers Distance Learning, outreach, and the oh-so-fun Create-A-Puppet Workshop. If you’re around through the holidays, I’d highly recommend seeing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which is based on the classic television show that many of us know and love from childhood. There are shows for families as well as adults (like Tales of Edgar Allan Poe in February 2013) throughout the year, so there’s always something interesting to check out!

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Dad’s Garage Theater Company::
Affectionately just called “Dad’s” — this place is legit funny.  They offer improv comedy shows as well as original plays and are located in Inman Park, so it’s perfect for a “dinner and a show” date night. The improv shows are our favorite ones to attend — we loved the Japanese-style game show Samurai Davis Jr. and Dim Sum’s Super Mega Happy Fun Time Improv Show!, Invasion: Christmas Carol, and Ask Dr. Frapples (a Dear Abby-style improv show). You can also buy snacks and buckets o’ beer.

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Atlanta Botanical Gardens::

Two great times to visit the Garden — Scarecrows in the Garden (October) and Garden Lights Holiday Nights (November/December).

Every fall, tons of local businesses, organizations, and even families create their own scarecrow to be displayed, and it’s a really fun early evening activity to bring your kids to or just visit with some friends. Every Thursday is the Fest of Ale (featuring autumn-themed beer) and local banjo player (and friend of mine) David Stephens performs original songs with his band, Banjolicious. It’s a festive good time to get you in the mood for fall!

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A new tradition we started last year is visiting for the Garden Lights Holiday Nights when my family is in town for Christmas. This year, there are over one million lights in the gardens, along with trains, musical orbs (so cool!), and beautiful flowers. It’s like being in an enchanted, glowing forest. You can have cocktails and cider at the Glow Bar and even buy “Make-Your-Own S’mores” kits to toast by the fire pits! Be sure to bundle up — last year, it was freeeeezing!

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Piedmont Park::
Our own mini version of Central Park… it’s a wonderful green oasis in Midtown. Although the parking is terrible, once you’re there, it’s such a great place to jog, walk your dog (and visit the HUGE dog park), or just lay in the grass with a picnic lunch. In the summer, you can attend Screen on the Green, where a different film plays on a huge screen out on the lawn each week, and in the spring, the Dogwood Festival is one of the most popular festivals of the year. Last March, we ran our first 5K, the Color Run. It started and ended in Piedmont Park and was a big party of colorful dust!
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Zoo Atlanta:: 

I love the zoo. Not just Atlanta’s, but most any zoo will do. (Like that rhyme?) Watching animals is just so entertaining. In fact, mine and Craig’s first official date was to Zoo Atlanta! I haven’t been in years, but have it on my list to visit in 2013.  It’s a smaller zoo than say, San Diego’s, but it’s still a nice place to visit. Two annual events that I think sound really fun are Boo at the Zoo (for kids at Halloween) and Brew at the Zoo (for adults sometime in the fall). Who doesn’t want to play among the pandas and elephants and monkeys?? And they have free parking… a hot commodity in the middle of the city.

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Taste of Atlanta Food Festival::
We love food, so a food festival is the perfect place to take my parents when they’re in town. The Taste of Atlanta Food Festival is a weekend-long festival that takes place in October. There were 75+ restaurants, ranging from fine dining to Waffle House, that had booths set up around the streets of GA Tech’s campus, and there were cooking demonstrations throughout the day. With admission, you receive a number of tickets to exchange for food tastings. The cone of pomme frites below was from the JCT Kitchen booth. Yum! Although it’s only once a year and is usually very crowded, I’d go again… who doesn’t love the opportunity to taste treats from some of the best restaurants in town — all in one place?

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Food Truck Parks:: 

There are 2 locations that I love to visit when the weather is nice — Atlanta Food Truck Park & Market on Howell Mill in the Midtown area and Taylor-Brawner Park in Smyrna. The food truck wave hit Atlanta a while ago, and now they’re everywhere… which is not a problem with me. I love the variety of the trucks at each park, and it’s so nice to have an excuse to sit outside with some friends for a couple hours while we try out an assortment of food surprises. The one drawback about the Smyrna park is that it’s only open every Tuesday (now closed for the winter), so it’s PACKED every week with every person who lives within 15 miles of the park, but I guess that means it’s popular and here to stay. Some of my favorite trucks that frequent the parks are Yumbi (a blend of Asian and Mexican flavors), King of Pops (amazingly fresh, all-natural popsicles – esp. the Chocolate Sea Salt!), Sweet Auburn BBQ, and Champion Cheesesteaks (they also have a small restaurant in Smyrna called Roy’s Cheesesteaks, and they’re the best ever).
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