Atlanta and Birmingham

TL;DR | From Coca Cola to deep-fried Oreos and a real hotel, we went all out in Atlanta and packed a lot of fun into a quick visit. We briefly stopped in Birmingham to complete the Freedom Walk and see the 16th Street Baptist Church, both moving places.

We splurged on a Hotel Tonight deal for two days of hot tub glory in downtown Atlanta; after so many campsites and resting stops outside of metro areas, the ability to walk out the front door and interact with people and grab fresh food felt like a luxury.

We’d also visited a lot of meaningful and serious sights across our past few stops (our visit to Birmingham was short, but we were both really glad we took the time), so the tone had been pretty heavy; in Atlanta we definitely enjoyed the opportunity to indulge in some lighter activities.  

We started our only full day in town with a visit to Coca Cola World in Centennial Park, built for the 1996 Olympic Games. There were a lot of happiness propaganda videos (which they move you through so quickly you forget to ask if the joyful mountain climbers were still climbing mountains after getting diabetes from drinking too much Coke), unlimited carbonated sugar, and many interactive lines leading to things like the gimmicky 4D movie about the “secret Coca Cola recipe (neither one of us was particularly impressed by this, especially Emily who hates 3-D “experiences”, let alone 4-D ones). The “highlight” was the vault where the only hand-written copy in the world (except for all the electronic copies and maybe a few other handwritten ones?) of the true Coca Cola recipe lives behind Entrapment-like moving lasers and Ocean’s Eleven-style metal blast doors. Of course such profound experiences are known to dehydrate, so Coca Cola ends the self-guided tour with an endless supply of additional dehydrants in the form of global sodas produced by your’s truly. Meaning Coca Cola. Almost all of them were gross. The ginger beer was okay.

Following our tight schedule for the day, we drove out to the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Georgia State Fair. Going to a State Fair in the South had been on our bucket list for a while, especially after we missed Big Tex and the Texas State Fair by only a couple days. We came ready to eat and throw a few dollars at cheesy carnival games, and discovered very quickly that these fairs don’t quite scale as expected. While there was a big fenced in area, the Fair essentially had the same 5 games and food vendors repeated in 2 block increments. So while we thoroughly enjoyed the deep fried Oreos and found the pizza surprisingly good for a roadside stand, by the 7th deep-fried cookie vendor we started having déjà vu. Stephen missed a couple shots on the abnormally small basketball rims while Emily fell off the rope ladder on the third-to-last rung. Fortunately we remembered where we parked the car and successfully navigated back into town, but not before encountering the “world famous” banana derby – which consists of capuchin monkeys riding dogs around a track. It was a great experience, and one that neither of us feel any need to have again.

Following a brief taco dinner, we walked to the Fox Theater to see The Illusionists live. Stephen had been to Copperfield in Vegas, but Emily had never seen a real magician show so we brought different perspectives to the event. Both of us left thoroughly amazed – if you get the opportunity, find a Groupon (yay discounts!) and check out the show…including the great Fox Theater venue.

We rounded out our stay with some additional time in the hot tub and our first run together since leaving on the trip (we hiked a lot across the Northern Route but easily made up for that with the heavy rib and enchilada Southern Route diet). Suffice it to say that one was more pleasant than the other, and we felt we made the most of our 36 hours in Atlanta.