This year, we've decided to do "guide posts" about the various cities we're playing away/neutral site games in. This one will be a bit different as we typically travel to small(ish) college towns and cities where it's pretty easy to sum the place up in a blog post. Atlanta on the other hand is massive and has tour books about it numbering hundreds of pages, so we'll pretty much just be skimming the surface here. In the future, I hope to have these up a bit earlier before the game so you can plan things out sooner.
Atlanta is, needless to say, the biggest city in the region and unsurprisingly it's the cultural and economic center as well. It's where countless ambitious college graduates across the South flock to work after earning their diplomas (Forbes ranked it as the sixth best city in America for singles in 2009.) It's also the place every band plays in the region even if they aren't playing Nashville, New Orleans, Charlotte, etc. There's good reason it replaced Birmingham as the site of the SEC Championship Game and has hosted the NCAA Final Four: there's tons of stuff to do and it's easy to fly into/out of. To talk to people about Atlanta though, it's a bit like licorice: you either love it or hate it. I've heard very few people say, "Atlanta is just okay." With that being said, I'm firmly in the "I love Atlanta" camp and make it over that way several times a year.
Here's just some of what the city has to offer...
GETTING AROUND: For the game, I highly recommend taking MARTA. You don't have to drive, it's infinitely cheaper than parking (I saw parking near the stadium in the $70+ range last year) and despite what people have said about it and many of its riders, it's fine, especially on game day. 98% of the people on it will be Alabama or VaTech fans, so it's not like it'll be unsafe or anything. There were no issues getting to the game last year. It was a bit congested after the game though, so be prepared to wait. Still, I'd rather wait than drop close to a hundred on a parking spot for a few hours. Taxis were nearly impossible to find after the game, well, nearly impossible to get as the demand was high. MARTA's coverage is lacking compared to that of other major cities, but as a tourist, it'll get you where you need to go probably.
SPORTS: Atlanta has a team in every major sports league but MLS (they do have a 2nd division soccer team though, the Atlanta Silverbacks) and have been rumored to be a possible expansion city for MLS in the future. In addition to having MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL teams, they host the SEC Championship Game in football and have often hosted the SEC men's basketball tournament as well.
Obviously you'll want to check out the official Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game page for all of the official activity and goings on surrounding the game.
On Friday night make sure and check out the Atlanta Alabama Alumni Association's party, which looks to be a sure fire winner with Cornelius Bennett, Siran Stacy and Ahmad Galloway on hand as well as the Alabama cheerleaders. Tickets to that event are $30 ($35 on Friday) and more info can be found at the link above.
On the collegiate side of things, Atlanta is the home of Georgia Tech, who will be kicking their season off on Saturday against Alabama's very own Jacksonville State at 1pm. If I didn't think my girlfriend would kill me, I'd go to that game too as tickets are still available. At $45 a pop, that's a bit steep to watch them beat up on a 1-AA school, but you can get tickets for $12.50 in a group of 10 or more, so maybe we should rally a group together and overload on CFB on the cheap. It's only a few MARTA stops away from the Dome if I remember correctly.
If you're getting into town early enough on Friday and are a baseball fan, the Braves are playing the Reds and you can get tickets here, some of which look to be as cheap as $10 or less if you don't mind sitting on the moon.
If you're getting to town super early on Thursday, the Falcons have a preseason game against the Ravens. Tickets available here.
If you're into NASCAR, there's a race on Sunday in Atlanta.
MUSIC: Atlanta has become quite a hub for music and musicians as well. I'll skip over the acts of yesteryear and focus on those that are still active in the city today. On the hip-hop side of things, massively popular acts like Outkast, Ludacris, Lil Jon and many others call Atlanta home.
On the indie rock side of things, critically acclaimed acts like Deerhunter, Black Lips, Atlas Sound, The Coathangers, The Carbonas, Snowden and many others fill Atlanta's clubs with homegrown talent. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like any of these folks are playing this weekend, but hey, Brittany Spears is playing at the Philips Arena on Friday...and Comer will be heartbroken that Taylor Swift is playing Atlanta on the Thursday before the game. On the night before the game, I'll likely be headed to The Drunken Unicorn to hear The Bronzed Chorus who I'd never really heard of until I streamed some tracks online yesterday and am digging it.
For all of your Atlanta entertainment needs, visit the website Drive A Faster Car. Tessa gives you the need to know info.
BEER: Given the countless threads we've seen on RBR about beer and alcohol, I figured it appropriate to include a beer section as well. The most famous is SweetWater Brewery, which most of you probably know about already seeing as it has wide distribution in Alabama. Other local options include the Atlanta Brewing Company, which I know nothing about. 5 Seasons Brewing also fits into the "I don't know anything about it" category, but hey, it's there if you want to check it out.
As far as places to watch beer and drink football, there's Taco Mac, which Comer and I were recently discussing. It has TVs all over the place and roughly 4 trillion different beers to try (with a wide selection on draft.) Atlanta also has an ESPN Zone, which you know will have eighty bajillion games on the screens and will pretty much have every SEC game on given the deal inked recently. The Brewhouse Cafe in Little Five Points is another place I like watching sports and drinking in Atlanta. Locals, please chime in with your favorites too.
FOOD: Atlanta pretty much has everything under the sun you could want to try, so this is going to very much be a skim the surface type of thing. You could drop $50 per person at the Imperial Fez for Moroccan food and bellydancers or you can go old school and visit the The Varsity drive-in.
I'm likely to head out to Buford Highway at some point and try one of the many awesome and varied Asian restaurants out that way. I've eaten at Penang and Hae Woon Dae before. It's definately a stretch of road worth checking out.
For late night dining, there's R. Thomas on Peachtree Road NW, which not only has awesome food, but has a sort of mini-zoo outside of exotic birds. If you're more in a mood of "Man, I've been drinking all day and really want breakfast at 3am before I go to bed", then head to The Majestic on Ponce de Leon.
For breakfast, try the Flying Biscuit, which has several locations throughout the city (I typically go to the one in Candler Park.) Radial is another place the locals I hang out with seem to love, but I've only found it so-so, but hey, it's always slam packed whenever I go so what do I know. Another place I've really enjoyed the 2-3 times I've been is Sun in My Belly, and there's typically been very little wait there compared to the other two.
STUFF TO DO WITH THE KIDS: I'm not going to go into a lot here, because I'm sure there's others that can chime on this much better than I, but a few things off the top of the head include World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium (which has a really clever logo methinks), Six Flags and Zoo Atlanta.
Once again, I ask that the locals please chime in with recommendations. You might also want to check Wikipedia's article on Tourism in Atlanta.