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Only In Darkness You Can See The Stars- MLK Jr. {Atlanta}

Atlanta is one of those cities I have been hearing more and more about these days becoming more up and coming, and after visiting, I can totally see why. 

(Also, quick side note- yes, I got a haircut! I am have been doing some filming on a show for National Geographic and had to chop about 10 inches off my hair. More to follow on that later, however!)

With Mike's birthday in the first few days of September, and both of us needing a vacation, we decided to plan a trip within driving distance for a week of exploration. Atlanta is only about a 6 hour drive from Orlando, but in order to make the most of our trip, we left before the sun was up on Sunday to get there before traffic settled in. 

We arrived in Atlanta just in time for lunch.

Our lunch spot was for some of the best southern food I have ever had in my life! Truly, I could not recommend this place more. 
 Mary Mac's Tea Room was located inside what appeared to be an older home, where you write down your own order for the server, and in exchange, they provide you with homemade cinnamon rolls, yeast rolls, and cornbread.
For our meals, we feasted on chicken and dumplings, vegetable souffle, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, and collard greens in true southern fashion. 

While all of this food was insanely delicious, the true star was the peach cobbler. Atlanta southern food is nothing to joke about and I could have eaten here for every meal and been one happy camper. 

Before we could check into our Air BnB, we decided to stretch our legs walking around Piedmont Park. There were some really beautiful views of the skyline from here, and it sort of reminded me of our days walking through Prospect Park when we lived in NYC.


 We kept finding pianos popping up throughout the city, so we did a little research. The Atlanta Pianos For Peace, placed several colorful pianos around town to unite the community in shared values of beauty and harmony. I absolutely adored the little artistic touches like these found all over the city. 
There is also some beautiful street art you will find displayed throughout the city as well. 

After checking in to our Air BnB, and looking for some other indoor options (because it was roughly 110 degrees outside), we ventured off to Ponce City Market to visit the food stalls and BeltLine. Once again, I was reminded of Chelsea Market and the NYC HighLine, which we loved when we lived in NYC. 

 We were still pretty stuffed from lunch, but had I not been, you would have found me snacking on some Hop's Fried Chicken and pies. 

The BeltLine is a walking/biking/scooter/etc path that circles around the city. It offers a unique perspective to touring some different areas, and had it not been so hot, we would have spent more time exploring this way.
From here, we had planned to go downtown to visit some sights there and grab dinner, however, there was a giant concert going on, causing us to shuffle our schedule around some. Instead, we ended up taking a little detour past the Fox Theater to our dinner spot. 
Atlanta is truly an artists city! If you are lucky enough to find them, there are several hidden, tiny doors in this city encouraging exploration and community, and we were fortunate enough to find one at the Fox! 
 Ready for some dinner, we arrived at ATL classic, The Varsity Drive In. You have the option to sit in your car where they servers will ask you the classic "What'll You Have?", or you can go in and experience a blast to the past. Whatever you do, make sure to order their famous Frosted Orange Drink. It tasted like those Flintstone Orange Push Pop Popsicles all crushed up into a milkshake, and was the perfect icy treat to cool us down. 

bringing me back to those cheerleading days

onion rings were totally to die for!

The next day was another hot one in Atlanta, but a very meaningful one. We spent a majority of the afternoon exploring the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park and several of his historical landmarks. 

Dr. King's casket was carried in a wooden farm wagon drawn by two local mules during his memorial service
Across the street from the Visitors Center is Ebenezer Baptist Church, which Doctor King referred to as his second home, and spent a majority of his life preaching at.

Also down the road is the home Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in on Jan 15, 1929, and the home of his maternal grandparents. Every piece of the Historical site is free, including a free guided tour of the birth home. We took the guided tour inside, however, per the family's request, photos are not allowed inside. 

Finishing up back at the Historical Site you will find the Eternal Flame. This flame symbolizes the continuing effort to realize Dr. King’s dream of the “Beloved Community,” which was his vision for a world of justice, peace and equality for all mankind. In 1970, Dr. King’s remains were removed from Southview Cemetery to now what is the current King Center campus, and in 2006 his crypt was rebuilt to also include the remains of Mrs. Coretta Scott King. 

I loved spending the day visiting this historical area, and I would highly recommend it. 

Ready for a mid day snack, we walked to Krog Street Market to visit more food stalls. We found the perfect southern treat (chicken mac and cheese topped with cornbread and sweet tea) at Richard's Southern Fried.

We had a little down time after this heavy food, and later in the evening stopped by Centennial Olympic Park for a brief visit now that the concert from the day before was over. This park was built as a part of infrastructure improvements for the 1996 Summer Olympics. 

Dinner that evening was a small walk from the park at Der Biergarten. You cannot come here without trying the giant pretzel and various mustards. 

 We also had the schnitzel which was tasty, but I won't say it's the best one I have ever had (although the ones we had in Germany may never be topped anyways). 

Our final day in Atlanta had come, but more importantly, it was Mike's birthday! We celebrated with some homemade cake pops and gifts in the morning at the air bnb before setting out on our adventure for the day. 

One of the best things to do in Atlanta is to visit the Georgia Aquarium, which is free admission on your birthday! In order to get there, we decided we had to get in the experience of riding the electric scooters found sprinkled all over the city at least once, and what an adrenaline rush it was! Most streets do not have a bike lane, and you are constantly avoiding road holes/bumps but the riding the scooter through the hills of the city was so much fun. 

It took some additional time from a simple car ride, but we did not have to pay for downtown parking and before we knew it, we were at the aquarium. 

The aquarium is located right in the middle of all the tourist attractions, including some of the ones we did not do, but would consider if we had more time, like the CNN building and the World of Coca Cola Museum

Getting to the aquarium upon opening was one of the best things we could have done that day. Inside, it almost reminded me of a shopping mall with various exhibits being the store fronts. 

The headliner animals here are their 4 rescued whale sharks, which if you recall, I had an interesting experience while swimming with them in the Philippines a few years back (link here if you haven't seen it). Ironically, also in the same tank are giant manta rays, which Mike and I also swam with in the wild in Hawaii. These animals are so beautiful, and while admiring them, we were approached by one of the aquarium employees. 

We spoke with the employee a bit about the animals, and it came up that Mike worked at SeaWorld here in Orlando and how it was his birthday. The gentleman created some major magic for us, and ended up taking us on a VIP backstage tour to go watch them feed the whale sharks from above the aquarium. 

Since there are 4 whale sharks, each one is trained to go to their lane to be fed by a trainer in their little row boat.

This whole experience was so incredibly cool, and we felt very fortunate to get to see it from such a unique perspective. 

A few months back, one of SeaWorld's beluga whales was sent to the Georgia Aquarium, and when Mike had mentioned it to this employee, he also took us to go see the belugas during one of their training sessions so he could go say hello to her. 

Hi Whisper! 

We are so grateful to this man for taking time out of his day to make a little birthday magic for Mike! It absolutely made our time here even more spectacular. 

Eventually, we made our way through the rest of the aquarium, visiting the precious little small clawed otters, puffins, and penguins. 
they're so cuteeee

hey guys whats up whats happenin wanna be friends!
We also visited the other aquarium spaces before looping back to watch the whale sharks one last time.

We did not have a lot of time at the Georgia Aquarium since we needed to leave mid day to start the drive to Hilton Head, however, if you do find yourself in Georgia and have one thing to put on your itinerary, make sure to check it out. It's one of the most family friendly, indoor, beautiful places to go, and we could have stayed all day if time would have let us. 

Our next stop for Mike's birthday was to Hilton Head Island to stay at the Disney Resort out there. The drive was about 4 and a half hours, but we made a few stops along the way. One of the most spontaneous stops was simply to use the bathroom and stretch our legs for a minute at Metter Georgia's Welcome Center. Funny enough, when we came in, there was a birthday celebration going on for Wanda, who was a part of their welcome committee. We explained it was Mike's birthday too, and she shared her birthday cupcakes with us!

If this does not explain to you the kind of people you will find in Georgia, nothing will. 
Thanks for being such a peach, Georgia! 

For all of our Atlanta recommendations and pro tips, click here

Hilton Head trip will be posted soon, so be sure to subscribe so you don't miss it!

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