After checking out of our hotel fairly early we found that they didn’t do breakfast so headed in to town to grab a bite to eat before getting on with the next leg of our USA road trip, at Peter’s Pancakes and Waffles. The breakfast here is absolutely brilliant, as shown by the queue to get a table here – and as with jut about everywhere in the USA it was a really cheap breakfast too! There was then just about time to head to a few of the many gift shops surrounding this place (half of the town seems to be gift shops). We purchased a couple of gifts, including a genuine Cherokee pot supposedly made by local craftsmen, with a little certificate of authenticity – when we got home we saw a sticker on the box which said made in China! We got this at Wigwam motel and craft shop – so beware that you don’t spend too much money on these items.
Then it was time to head down to Atlanta – partly for pleasure and partly for business.
Day 8 – Atlanta
Driving in to Atlanta was about the busiest road we had been to during our USA road trip so far, and some of the motorways around the area are absolutely mad! The traffic was a necessary evil however due to the road which we needed to get in to town in order to make the stops we wanted to make. The first of these was the Buford Highway Farmers Market – a stop well worth making if you like fresh produce or foods from all corners of the world. Each country which is represented has their own aisle, which includes Korea, Mexico, Thailand, China, Malaysia, Poland, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, South Africa and loads more. This place is huge and a real pleasure to walk around for a few treats for the days to come!
Our arrival (partly due to the busy traffic) was in the early afternoon, so rather than wasting time checking in to our hotel (which by the way was the stunning Hilton Atlanta in Peachtree, with great rooms, service and breakfast – although watch the light coloured carpets, we had to pay a fee when I accidentally spilled a ridiculously purple fizzy drink purchased at the market earlier on the carpet – oops) we went straight to Centennial Olympic Park. To me this beautifully kept cty looked like something straight out of the Jetsons cartoon… for some reason it just feels futuristic!
This park is home to 2 great attractions which are really worth seeing:
1 – The Georgia Aquarium
What a stunning aquarium setup they have here! There are plenty of massive enclosures, including what I have been told is the largest (or at least one of the largest) salt water aquariums in the world, containing whale sharks, and is still the only place I have seen these HUGE creatures – I recommend seeing their feed time talk if you get the chance. The variety of species on display here is vast to say the least from sea dragons and white alligators through to sea otters and jellyfish… Even if you’re not usually interested in aquariums, there is bound to be something here to excite you!
They do also have a dolphin show here which I didn’t get to see during my trip, however my wife was lucky enough to return to the aquarium on another date and said that the show is very impressive – it must be… it had a massive queue when I was here, but I was looking forward to our next attraction!
2 – The World of Coca Cola
I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect from this place, but it is much more than just a collection of very cool coca cola memorabilia (but don’t worry it does have its fair share of this in the first room you get to. The first half is guided with some video, and you really do learn a lot about the surprisingly interesting routes and growth of one of the biggest companies in the world, which started off in Atlanta.
After this you head in to a self guided area split in to different zones. We saw the bottling plant, although this only bottles enough to serve the customers from the experience where you get a free glass bottle at the end (I still have mine)… The real local bottling plant is a huge version of what they have here, but it’s still cool to see the process.
There is also another museum of even better memorabilia and what they call the vault where the recipe is stored – I can’t comment on this as the queue was too big for that area. The final bit which we saw before heading out was the 4d movie – its quite good but there is one bit where you get stung and the effect for this is basically a rod which comes out of the back of the seat and jabs you right in the spine – horrible!
The way out however makes up for it with a massive (and really cool) gift shop, which you get to by going through the tasting room where you can try loads of different flavoured coca cola company drinks from around the world. Some of these were very familiar whilst some were strange but delicious – with a small number being strange and down right disgusting… case in point: Candy Pine Nut from South Africa! A word of advice (something which I noted not many of the American tourists in particular were doing) is just have a small amount from the machines – this way you can try all of the flavours without wetting yourself… although there’s a toilet right next to the tasting room, which is handy!
We finished the day with a visit to our first ever Hard Rock Cafe and the one just up the road from our hotel was brilliant – their local legend burger even features in my top 10 burgers world wide! Be careful with their nachos, it didn’t state it as a starter to share and even between 2 of us I think we could have ordered just the nachos starter and been done for dinner!
Day 9 – Atlanta & Savannah
After getting some work done in the area during the morning it was time to head to Atlanta zoo for a few hours. It’s not a huge zoo, but a really decent size, being laid out fairly well. It’s also quite modern with work on-going… When I was there the reptile house was being re-done (or they were building a second one), however when my wife returned she confirmed that it has now been completed… Their old reptile house had a great collection so I’d like to return and see the improvements.
At this zoo I saw my first raccoon dogs which would have stolen the show as they are incredibly cute, however they do also have giant pandas. I must admit that even though the enclosure doesn’t look quite as nice as the one in Washington, the way it shows off the pandas and keep them happy and relaxed works even better and I actually enjoyed watching them here even more.
We weren’t at the zoo for too long (but it doesn’t take all that long to get around it) as we still had the drive from Atlanta to Savannah ahead of us.
The drive isn’t too bad but it is quite long and by the time we arrived it was already quite late and as such I have very little to say about this beautiful town other than a walk along the river at night is a great way to round off a brilliant day! However there was some wildlife spotting to be done the next day and I hope you will read the next installment of this USA road trip diary to find out more!