SKIP THE TRAFFIC, BIKE THROUGH ATLANTA.
Atlanta gets a bad rap for being a motor city. It’s traffic, traffic and more traffic. Well, today we’re dispelling that myth – as we walk, bike, run, shop, eat and visit friends – all without filling up on gas first.
If you’re visiting Atlanta for the first time, you should know that there’s more to this Gone-With-the-Wind city than suffocating traffic, sweet tea, southern belles and stone ground grits. Although, I do highly, highly recommend the Creamy Dreamy White Cheddar Grits and Love Cakes at Flying Biscuit Café on 10th & Piedmont in Midtown. There’s a reason they have a cupid as their logo.
So, since we’re in Midtown anyway, waddle off those grits just a few blocks down and rent a bike where the locals do at Skate Escape. If you’re in a silly mood, and I often am, may I suggest you rent a tandem bike for the afternoon. Daisy, Daisy … on a bicycle built for two …
From here, you’re just a 5-minute ride away from your Atlanta Must-Sees: First, the historic Fox Theatre, with its onion dome, mosque-style architecture in middle of the deep South. Seeing a Broadway show here isn’t enough, you simply must take one of the historic tours, to find out why this odd choice for architecture is here. Just down the street (Peachtree Street, of course. You’ll soon learn that all streets are named ‘Peachtree’ here) is the world-class High Museum, with its bright white modern spiral design and sunny atrium at its center. Now – January 2016, there’s a great exhibition called ‘Seriously Silly!’. (You see how I have a silly theme going on here?) The High is part of the Woodruff Arts Center complex, where you can catch a show at the Alliance Theatre or be uplifted by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Insider tip: If you’re visiting Atlanta in the summer, definitely check out their summer concert series. Usually, they have one free concert in beautiful Piedmont Park. Which is our next stop on our little bike tour.
Beautiful, glorious Piedmont Park. I have a soft spot for city parks. There’s just something about the unnatural natural-ness of landscape design. Art you can walk through. Or bike through, in our case. Piedmont Park was designed by the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, the Father of Landscape Design,. Olmsted also designed New York’s Central Park, the Grounds of the US Capitol, and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. And you can see bits of those parks’ influences here in Piedmont, with it’s windy trails, quiet corners and open fields for cute kiddies and cute puppies to play in. Part of the park is dedicated to the equally beautiful and serene Atlanta Botanical Garden. Next insider tip: If you happen to visit Atlanta over the holidays, you absolutely must experience their Garden Lights Holiday Nights. Millions of Christmas tree lights and giant ‘Orchestral Orbs’ (you’ll have to see it to understand) all twinkling and pulsating to holiday music. Here comes Santa Claus…
But back to summertime in Atlanta. So, we’ve biked around the best of Midtown, now its time for the real Midtown biking adventure: the Atlanta Beltline. Much has been written about the High Line in New York City, that urban park created out of a crumbling old rail line. The Atlanta BeltLine was inspired by that. I interviewed the creator, an engineer from Georgia Tech, whose original design earned him an A on his graduate thesis. Seriously. How many people can say their college paper became a city park?
From school project to urban playground, the Atlanta Beltline officially opened in 2008, but it’s still a work-in-progress. It covers 22-miles in one big loop, sidewalk or ‘belt’, around Atlanta’s downtown, connecting 45 diverse, historic and hip neighborhoods: Virginia-Highland on the Northeast side, Grant Park to the South, West End on the Southwest and Brookwood to the North. Kinda joining everyone together and ‘buckling’ them into one big happy Atlanta melting pot.
It’s a parade of walkers, joggers, bikers, skaters (there’s even a skate park along the trail), cute kiddies and cute puppies. You’ll soon see why locals call the Beltline “Atlanta’s Boardwalk”.
As you cruise along, there’s great views of the Atlanta skyline, wonderful old architecture, like the Old Sears Building on Ponce de Leon. It’s here that you’ll see some great railroad history: an old cargo train station still standing, with a wonderful ‘Head Clearance’ sign. Duck! For eclectic shopping, Paris on Ponce is right across the bridge. Hopefully you have a basket on your bike for all your purchases, because there’s more to see…
The Atlanta Beltline is also an open-air art museum of sorts, with commissioned artists painting massive murals, and displaying their bike-themed sculptures, some made out of those old rusty train rails! There’s also plenty of pit stops, with savvy restaurants opening back patios facing the trail, and when the summertime heat gets to you, it’s clearly time for a Blackberry Ginger Lemonade popsicle at local favorite: King of Pops.
Oh, and if you’re in Atlanta in the Fall, here’s one more Insider Tip: check out the Atlanta Beltline Lantern Parade– a glowing procession of light, music, color and crazy costumes. It is definitely something to be seen.
No matter the time of year you’re here, ditch the car, rent a bike, let the wind blow through your hair, and experience all the sights, sounds, people and pets of the real Atlanta. Just don’t forget to stop for grits and popsicles. You’ll fit right in.