A very eclectic mix of things I find interesting. Mostly about urbanism, with a slight focus on street art, transportation and bike issues. But I also sometimes post other random stuff.
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Ok journo nerd friends who have descended upon the city that I love to attend the Online News Association annual conference, I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a month now. I was going to give up but this morning at registration folks were still asking me to post it, so here goes (with a disclaimer first: I wrote this during sessions on my iPad, so please excuse the stream-of-consciousness style, post length, any typos, and lack of formatting & hyperlinks - will edit to fix later)
ONA13 is in Downtown Atlanta, which is where most of the touristy stuff is concentrated. The Aquarium, CNN, World of Coca Cola, and the new SkyView Ferris Wheel are all around Centennial Olympic Park, which is minutes walking from the conference hotel. Of those, I’d recommend the Aquarium (one of the best in the world) and a CNN tour (I shouldn’t have to explain the appeal to a bunch of journalists). Everyone I know who has been to the World of Coke ended up very disappointed. You’ve been warned.
All night food options near the conference: Waffle House (founded & based here) and Landmark Diner. Other nearby restaurant recommendations: Alma Cocina and the original Ted’s Montana Grill (with bison burgers originating from Ted Turner’s Montana ranches - Ted lives in the penthouse condo of that building so he’s usually there for lunch himself). Will add others later. UPDATE - Nearby bars: Sidebar, Park Bar, Meehans, Trader Vic’s (tiki bar in the Hilton Atlanta with $5 mai tais + awesomely cheesy live band on Thursdays), SkyLounge (rooftop bar at the Glenn Hotel), Sun Dial (rotating restaurant & bar a the top of the Westin), Slice (pizza place with a bar & lounge-y feel). OTHER ADDITIONS - Breakfast places near the conference: In addition to Landmark Diner & the Waffle House, there’s also Le French Quarter Cafe (breakfast croissants etc - French approved by me, so you know it’s the real deal), Reuben’s Deli (H&H bagels flown down daily from NYC, plus eggs, hash fries, etc), Corner Bakery, Dunkin Donuts…
Top recommendation to see a ton of stuff in 1 1/2 to 3 hours: http://www.biketoursatl.com
My personal top off the beaten path sightseeing recommendation is to check out Oakland Cemetery (get an audio guide and take the tour) - it’s beautiful and you’ll learn a lot about Atlanta’s fascinating history (yes, I’m a big history nerd). There are great rooftop bars overlooking the cemetery with views of the Downtown skyline, Ria’s Bluebird is one of the city’s most famous breakfast/brunch spots (one New York Times columnist said their pancakes were the best he’d ever had), and Octane Coffee is a local favorite coffee shop (with a tumblr dedicated to its hot hipster baristas). Neighborhood: Oakland Cemetery in Grant Park. MARTA stop: King Memorial.
Same MARTA stop, but different direction is the MLK center and the Sweet Auburn Historic District, which also includes King’s childhood home and Ebenezer Baptist Church (where King delivered his sermons), Sweet Auburn Curb Market (tons of great places to eat in there). This is an amazing neighborhood with such important history - it used to boast the most concentrated Black prosperity in the world. Edgewood Ave is also full of great places to go out: Church (it’s a bar) should not be missed (ping pong, the best sangria I’ve ever had, really religiously offensive art, and choir robes - need I say more?), I love Joystick (great slightly more chill place with old school arcade games and great cocktails), myself and all my friends are addicted to the lamb burger at Mother, and my favorite place to go dancing on a Saturday night in Atlanta is Noni’s (most diverse dance floor ever and awesome way to experience the Dirty South). Neighborhood: Sweet Auburn in Old Fourth Ward. MARTA stop: King Memorial
Midtown is where I live, and as journalists, you should all appreciate visiting the Margaret Mitchell house. The author of Gone with the Wind was a journalist first - she was born into a wealthy family that she was pretty much shunned from for her career and husband choices. Across the street is Empire State South, an award winning restaurant with modern southern cuisine. Further south is the famous Fox Theater, which has tours (it’s stunning inside and well worth it); further north is High Museum and the Museum of Design Atlanta (art lovers should also check out Living Wall murals all over the city - one of the aforementioned bike tours is a great way to see them - and the Castleberry Hill art district just a little behind CNN). Also in Midtown is Piedmont Park (the city’s main big park, designed by the sons of the Fredrerick Law Olmsted, architect of New York’s Central Park - who apparently was also a journalist). At the north end of the park is the beautiful but expensive Botanical Gardens, and at the south-eastern corner is the beginning of the Eastside trail of be BeltLine. If you’re into urban design and the idea of New York’s Highline, definitely check out Atlanta’s BeltLine - the Highline’s much more ambitious and potentially transformative cousin (although admittedly perhaps less visually stunning) - very leisurely bike tour available for this too. Neighborhood: Midtown. MARTA stops: North Ave (Fox), Midtown (Margaret Mitchell House & Piedmont Park), and Arts Center (Museums).
Fans of The Walking Dead should check out Atlanta Movie Tours. Beer lovers should check out the multiple breweries we have (and I think there’s a company that offers van tours that take you brewery to brewery) and delicious gastropubs (I especially like the Porter in Little Five Points, a quirky neighborhood with thrift, record & comic book stores, and the Brick Store with 100s, nay 1000s of beers on the menu, in Decatur, a cute town accessible on MARTA)
Other eclectic recommendations: the Clermont Lounge (just google it) and Sunday night karaoke at Southern Comfort (try to tell the authentic truckers and southern hipsters apart - not easy)
Stay away from: Buckhead (unless you’re into corporate soulless ritzy areas with malls and financial districts) and the Varsity (yes it’s a famous and old school drive-in, but the food is nasty and it represents & reinforces all the worse stereotypes about Atlanta: a tacky car dependent city with an obesity problem).
Other food recommendations: so many! Just check out Yelp. But seriously, if you’re looking for classic southern fare, I recommend the Colonnade (you’ll need a car or cab). Mary Mac’s Tea Room is closer but not as good and more touristy. The “modern southern cuisine” scene is amazing (think hipster foods like pimento cheese, sweet potatoes etc) - in addition to Empire State South, I love One Eared Stag, and it’s also right off of MARTA (I think the Inman Park station). Vegans can still get their southern fix by hitting up Soul Vegetarian (one in the West End, off of MARTA, the other in Poncey Highlands). The Flying Biscuit is a beloved local chain. Try to get some good BBQ. Tons of celebrity chef owned & run restaurants - quick google search should find them for you. Buford Highway has every single kind of ethnic eatery from South America and Asia you can dream of (you’ll need a car or a long cab ride). Atlanta boasts some of the best burgers in the country (at least according to this WSJ article) - the Vortex is delicious (there’s one in Little 5 Points and the other in Midtown) and ordering a ghetto burger from Ann’s Snack Bar is an experience.
You’re still reading this?! Goodness, you must be really interested in Atlanta. That warms my heart. You should read this most excellent blog post to understand why the people who live here love this city so much. In the mood for something lighter? Here are some spot-on gifs.
“ Business-school literature has long stressed the importance of taking risks and encouraging rapid failure. In the real world of quarterly numbers, though, embracing failure mostly remains a throwaway line in CEO speeches. ”
Two Midtown (Atlanta) events of interest this week: a hackathon & an open house about MARTA station improvements
Two really interesting events in just one week! Both organized (in part at least) by the Midtown Alliance:
- MARTA, Midtown Alliance, and Atlanta Regional Commission are holding an open house to get as much input from the public as possible on an exciting new initiative to improve the MARTA stations in the Midtown area (Arts Center, Midtown and North Avenue) and to transform them into neighborhood destinations. Wednesday, September 11, 2013. RSVP here
- The Midtown Buzz Mobile Hackathon is the launch event of a six-month initiative to build connected mobile applications to improve and enhance the Midtown experience. There are three prize categories (and some nice prizes too):
- Wayfinder - enhance the visitor experience in Midtown as they live, work and play. What are some cool local sites, shops, tours, and other things that make Midtown unique?
- Transportation - make it easeir to travel around Midtown by foot, bike, or automobile. Where are the bike racks? What is my easiest route through the MARTA stations? What are my parking options?
- Wildcard - propose your own idea or grab some from the idea bank.
Today NPR’s Morning Edition had another installment in their series On the Run: How Families Struggle to Eat Well and Exercise,
What I found really interesting is that this story, which was supposed to be about how parents struggle to make sure their kids get enough exercise, ended up being about biking, traffic, and urban planning. One mother talked about how she spends her afternoons in Los Angeles traffic, ferrying her two boys from one sporting activity to another. She explained that her eldest can’t really just bike around in her neighborhood because it’s not bike-friendly enough. The story also profiled two other moms, both in Portland, and I especially loved how both talked about the choices we make for ourselves, for our families, for our cities (emphasis is mine)
Fahrner and her family bike, walk or take public transportation everywhere. For them, exercise is something that happens as they live their daily lives, not something they schedule. Fahrner doesn’t even own a car.
"We basically mapped out where the schools are, where hospitals are, where places to shop are, and so we very conscientiously picked a neighborhood where we can walk to all these things,” she says
So when Fahrner is scheduling activities for her 10-year-old son, she looks at what’s available in her neighborhood, choosing sports at local parks and community centers.
She and her husband used to work 70-hour weeks in the high-tech industry in California, but when their son was born they decided to simplify their lives and moved to Portland.
“It’s a choice you have to make, and, yes, it’s hard obviously,” she says. “You need to look where your job is. But if you cut down your commute from two hours to one hour, you are much happier because you have more time for yourself … and your kids.”
Janelle McAvoy and her family are making the same kind of choices. She bikes to the grocery store with her 4-year-old daughter, Clover, in a trailer and sons Jack, 6, and Everett, 8, on their bikes.
And while she acknowledges that Portland is particularly pedestrian- and biker-friendly, McAvoy believes it’s because of the choices people here are making.
"If people drive more, there’s going to be the bigger parking lot and more space on the roads. If people walk more and ride their bikes more, [there will be] more bike racks because that’s what the people want," she says.