Last year was the year without travel for us (for health reasons). It sucked! So this year we decided not to wait until spring-summer and start our travel season ASAP. Our first trip was going to be to… well, at first we thought of Atlanta. But then changed it to Knoxville, TN. And then back to Atlanta at the very last moment (we already had hotel reservations for Knoxville).
And off to Atlanta we went. Day 1 was pretty much driving there. Left late, got stuck in traffic a couple of times, got there late and absolutely exhausted. Got some food at a Mexican-Korean fusion place (nothing to write home about, but it was quick and cheap).
Day 2 – Leonardo DaVinci’s Machines exhibit rocked! Well, at first I wasn’t so sure. It’s a travelling exhibit, you see. So in Atlanta they were in an empty storefront in a regular shopping center. We had a hard time finding it and, frankly, from the outside it didn’t look all that great. But I’m happy we found it and went in. Because it turned out fantastic.
There were dozens of machines (mostly scaled models) that Leonardo DaVinci either invented or improved. Most of them could be touched and explored. One of the most amazing things about it was realizing that we could absolutely build many of these devices out of LEGO, K’nex, and various odds and ends and yes, ducttape.
Another great thing about the exhibit was its Goldilocks factor. It wasn’t too small or too big. The descriptions weren’t too long or too difficult for the Rocket Boy to read/listen to, but not too short or too obvious that they’d be boring for us. There were some scaled models, but also a few full-scale ones. And after 2 hours we didn’t feel tired or overwhelmed. We even managed to figure out how to build this bridge.
But it was time to grab some tea and snacks and go to our next stop. That was something we saw in one of those little attractions pamphlets you get near the front desk at any hotel. And it looked beautiful, but also cheesy. But when we got there, it turned out beautiful and beautiful!
The place was BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. I’m not even going to say anything about it other than it was unforgettable. Between the Rocket Boy and myself we must had taken a hundred pictures of it. And that’s just the outside (no photography is allowed inside).
We decided to end our first full day in Atlanta with a sculpture tour. And so we drove to Suwanee not realizing just how far it was from our hotel. So it took us half an hour to get there. On the flip side, we avoided a terrible mistake of going to the Georgia Aquarium after 4pm.
We got there and again, at first it didn’t look like much. But since we drove for 30 min to get there, we felt that at least we should get out of the car and stretch our legs. Ok, we said, let’s go for a 5 min walk. After all, it’s a very small park, we can see all the way across it from our parking space.
But again, this was such a pleasant little surprise. The weather was perfect and the little park was full of families. There’s no playground in the park, yet the kids were playing – chase, soccer, riding scooters and bikes, and even Hoverboards. There were lots of adults walking, jogging, walking their dogs, playing soccer with the kids, swinging in the hammocks strung up between the trees. There was a small stage, a splash pad with a fountain (turned off for the winter), and the sculptures. So lovely…
Except it was getting dark and chilly (the drawback of travelling in the winter). And we were getting pretty hungry. Time to head back and hunt (mussels marinara) and gather (pizza).
Day 3 was our last full day in Atlanta. We had lots of different ideas, but the weather turned super-cold. Plus by now we realized just how spread out Atlanta is and that getting anywhere meant lots of driving and, likely, being stuck in traffic. So we worked out a plan – aquarium and then an art museum. Fortunately, we didn’t buy tickets to the museum ahead of time. And fortunately we went to the aquarium first.
We ended up spending almost 7 hours there. Which felt like just a few minutes. The place is amazing. Totally worth the admission price (not cheap) and the parking fees (no free parking in the area).
With an hour or so left before dawn, we went for a stroll around the Olympic Park. The line at the Ferris wheel was too long for the weather. Instead, we just walked around a bit and talked about the Olympics and the symbols (the rings, the dove, the laurel wreath, and who Baron Pierre de Coubertin was.
And then Rocket Boy had an unplanned shower at the Rings fountain. So we had to head back to the hotel. But it was getting cold and dark anyway.
The next day, Day 4, was our driving day. On the way back to NC we chose the “scenic byway”. And once again, it started kind of not very promising, but then got a bit wilder and much more scenic as we drove along. I guess that was the theme of the entire trip – don’t let the first impressions fool you. Go ahead and try it anyway!