Exploring: The Atlanta BeltLine, GA

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Last Saturday, after I’d finished work, the weather was beautiful so the German and I decided to take a walk along the Atlanta BeltLine. It was the perfect day for it, sunny but not too hot, spring really is the best time of the year in this city!

So, the BeltLine is a little bit like the HighLine in New York City. It’s an old railway line that has been turned into a public park. It’s currently a work in progress with only sections of the BeltLine completed but, once it’s done it will be 22 miles of trails, parks and transit options that will circle around Downtown Atlanta, connecting many neighborhoods and tourist spots, however, that won’t be until 2030 so there’s still quite a way to go.

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Exploring: Monday Night Brewing, Atlanta

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A couple of weeks ago our friend Sven came to stay for the weekend, and, when you have a fellow beer guzzling German in the house there’s only one place to go – a local brewery for a spot of beer tasting and a little tour. As you all know, we’ve already been to SweetWater so we thought we’d head to Monday Night Brewing. I mean, who wouldn’t want to spend their Saturday afternoon playing corn hole and sampling every beer the brewery makes?! Exactly.

This place is pretty small and tucked away on a kind of industrial estate but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something special! We rocked up, paid our 10 bucks, picked up our souvenir glasses and 6 beer tokens and we were off. The boys were so excited – beer, beer, beer! We chose our first drinks then went to explore.

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So this isn’t the greatest picture I’ve ever taken but it’s the only one of all 3 of us!

The inside of the brewery, literally where the trucks rock up to take the beer to stores, is turned into a bar on beer tasting days. There are cute mismatched tables and chairs, a fireplace with the signature moustache of Monday Night Brewing on top of it, sofas, a table top slider game and of course, a big screen showing the current football game – you can’t go anywhere in America without a TV screen with some sort of sport on! Oh, and we can’t for get the tie wall – Monday Night Brewing’s trademark is a tie and, if you bring one to the tour and tasting you can tie it onto the wall behind us in the picture. Sadly, the German forgot his but I’m sure he’ll have another opportunity to do it!

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After sinking a beer, we re-filled our glasses and headed outside into the courtyard. If you thought the inside was cute, the outside is even better, especially in the September Atlanta heat! There are tables dotted around, benches, a couple of corn hole boards towards the back and to top it all off, there are strings of lights to make the place look even cuter! It actually reminded me a little of a beer garden back home in England – perfect.

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We spent a little time outside playing corn hole – we had this game at our wedding so Sven knew all the rules. We all played each other, meaning 2 games each. Sadly my skills weren’t their best and I lost both of my matches, the German won both his (good job because that boy hates to lose!) and Sven won one. I blame the fact I had a beer in one hand and a wedding party taking pictures right next to us! Yep, a group of groomsmen had swung by before one of them headed off to get married – see, I told you this place was cool!

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Then came the tour and it began with a line I never thought I would hear – turns out this place was started by 3 guys who met at a 6am…wait for it…bible study group! Not what I was expecting at all! Basically, one of their wives bought a beer brewing kit for her husband for his birthday, he then asked his friends to brew some beer with him on a Monday night – hence the name and the logo of a guy with a tie. They did and it was alright, so they tried again and it got better each time. They starting living for Monday nights and their beer brewing sessions. Eventually, they started inviting their friends around and things got bigger and bigger so they decided to go all the way and start a business and if you ask me, they made a pretty good decision. I’d also like to point out that I bought the German a beer brewing kit for Christmas, so far, it’s still in the box – it needs to be out of the box because that story that you read right there, that my friends, could be Team Richter! In my dreams…

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We finished the tour and headed back for another beer or so, well, for the boys anyway, I was the designated driver! I think they managed to try every beer – my favorite was the Fu Manbrew, the German loves the Drafty Kilt Scotch Ale, it’s forever stocked up in our fridge.

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Sadly, 4pm came around and we had to leave…booo. But, the German has officially added it to the list of places to go whenever we have a visit so I’m sure we’ll be back pretty soon!

Exploring: Wine Tasting in Dahlonega, GA

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Whilst Mama C was in the ATL a couple of weeks ago we thought the perfect bit of exploring for her would be a spot of wine tasting – Mama C is famed for liking a little tipple every now and then! I had better stress that she is not an alcoholic or anywhere near bordering on one, she just likes to have a drink of the alcoholic variety and is always open to trying new liquor like at the wedding in Germany was she dived head first into the rhubarb schnapps and loved it! If that disclaimer wasn’t involved in this blog post my status as best daughter in the world may have just been lost.

So, one hot and sunny Saturday afternoon in September we jumped into the car and headed to Dahlonega. North Georgia, and the Dahlonega region in particular is famous for its vineyards and wine tasting, so, after a little bit of research by yours truly, we made our way to Wolf Mountain Vineyards and it was stunning:

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Rachel got a pat on the back from both Mama C and the German for picking this one! The views were out of this world, you could see for miles, catching glimpses of the mountains in the distance, some of the thousands of trees that make it feel like you’re living in a forest in Georgia and of course those all important vineyards and grapes that make the delicious wine.

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Now let’s face it people, we were there for one thing, the wine. We quickly made our way to the tasting room, figuring we could check out the views and vineyards a little more later, and marched straight to the guy who sold the tasting flights. Priorities people, priorities! Three wine flights were quickly purchased and we were ready to rock and roll.

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1 sparkling, 1 white, 1 rosé and 2 reds later and our tasting flight was over…sad times. But we thoroughly enjoyed it, there were some very tasty wines there indeed. With each sample we were given a little explanation about the type of wine, it’s taste and how it was made and when our flight was over, Mama C and I decided to indulge in another glass, opting for the rosé and a seat outside in the sunshine. The German was our designated driver so he was downing wine glasses of…water!

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We sipped our wine whilst gazing out to the mountains. Just below us, a wedding was about to get underway and guests were starting to arrive – it really was a beautiful place to get married. Given the chance of getting married for a third time to the same man (I really don’t think that is going to happen and I am definitely pushing my luck a little there, twice is more than enough!) I would choose somewhere like that. The mountains in the backdrop, beautiful scenery and a gorgeous little pavilion for the ceremony to be held on. Hey, a girl can dream!

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All in all it was an afternoon well spent. I think the German and I might be heading to a few more vineyards up there win the near future – it would be rude not to!

Exploring: Savannah, GA

Exploring Savannah

The German added another year onto his life last weekend (Happy Birthday Handsome Husband!) so we decided to explore somewhere new and headed to Savannah, GA. Being in the same state I figured it wasn’t too far away, although it was still a 4 hour drive, I forget just how big this place is!

Savannah is on the coast of Georgia is the oldest city in the state after being established in 1733, so it’s pretty historical in American terms and it’s been on our bucket list ever since we moved here. So, we set off on Saturday morning and arrived just after lunch. We picked a great hotel right in the middle of historic downtown Savannah called Marshall House, imagine a traditional Georgian house turned into a hotel:

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After checking in and unpacking we headed out to explore Savannah. Jeez, this place is beautiful! It’s packed with cute old houses with beautiful staircases to the front door, little squares all around the city offering benches to chill out on and some much-needed shade from the sun (we managed to pick the hottest weekend of the year to visit, temperatures were in the triple figures people!) and the prettiest trees which line the road and grow together in the middle creating some gorgeous archways across the streets.

Savannah 2We spent most of the day strolling from square to square, checking out the beautiful  houses and of course catching a glimpse of the iconic Forsyth Fountain.

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We obviously hunted out the square where Forrest Gump spent hours waiting for a bus – remember that one? ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get!’ Yep, that famous bus stop scene was filmed in one of the beautiful squares in Savannah – Chippewa Square. The bench isn’t there now and modifications have been made which I was a bit disappointed about, I wanted to sit on it!

We also strolled into the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, a beautiful building both inside and out, right in the centre of Savannah:

Savannah 3After the cathedral we headed to the river where we checked out some shops and of course stopped off for a little drink – it was hot out there! This place has some really beautiful buildings and a lot of history, I loved just walking around and taking the place in. We stopped off at the most amazing candy store – Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. If you’re ever in the area you have to check this place out! It was full of delicious treats and they make pralines, taffy and other tasty treats right in front of you! It was sweet heaven – Ma Cook would have done everything in her power to keep me out of that shop when I was little!

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Savannah’s also one of only four places in the US where you can drink on the streets – somehow the German and I have managed to find ourselves in 3 of them in the last 6 months alone! I have no idea how that happened…

After eating dinner at Maxwell’s (you should go there if you’re in the area, we had the best steak!) and taking in a flight of beer or two we called it a day ready for some more exploring (and the German’s birthday!) the following day!

The next day the German got older, finally got his birthday presents after begging from 6pm the following day because it was already his birthday in Germany and we carried on exploring. We went to the SCAD museum, a definite must see, through the city and its various squares (there are so many we couldn’t do them all in one day!) and visited the Candy Kitchen again for some birthday treats for the German!

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Birthday boy!

We walked along the river, got caught in a little shower (damn rain in high temperatures!) visited the cemetery and of course sunk some birthday drinks! Later we went for dinner at a lovely restaurant called Pacci at The Brice Hotel (the cola braised ribs are to die for!) followed by some more birthday drinks for the birthday boy!

The following day before heading back to Atlanta these beach lovers couldn’t leave without a little trip to Tybee Island! Sadly though a tropical storm was hanging around off the coast meaning the beach was pretty windy! We attempted to lay out for a couple of hours but, without any chairs to sit on we were being hit by sand blowing in the wind…not the most comfortable beach trip ever. So, we ditched the towels and took a walk along the beach instead. It’s a pretty place and definitely worth heading to if you’re in the area!

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Have you ever been to Savannah? What were your highlights?

Exploring: Virginia Highlands Summerfest 2014.

Once springtime hits Atlanta there’s a festival happening just about every weekend in some place or another, whether it’s a beer festival, an arts and crafts festival, a music festival or any other theme you can imagine, you can literally visit one every weekend and they’re always guaranteed to be worth it. Remember that trip we did to the Dogwood Festival with the huge turkey leg?

This weekend, after recovering from our wedding hangovers, we ventured here:

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The Virginia Highlands Summerfest 2014. Virginia Highlands is a really nice neighborhood near Midtown and Piedmont Park, it has some quirky shops, nice restaurants and cute parks to chill out in, personally I like going there anyway, never mind when there’s a festival in town!

So off we trotted, it took us a little while to find a parking space but our luck was in and we grabbed one right next to the main street where the festival was taking place – result! These festivals all seem to run along the same theme – lots of little booths with different artists and companies selling there wares along with those all important beer and food stalls – my favourite!

Yesterday was hot. So hot that even strolling down the street at a leisurely pace turned me a little sweaty! I think the fact that I had my hair down didn’t help – it’s blummin hot under that mop! Anyway, we took in the stalls, the German gravitating to the booths selling photos and prints (he’s a secret photography lover, I’m often a camera widow when we go exploring!), I was very interested in the jewellery and craft stalls, finding lots of pretty things I wanted to buy:

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The booths also provided a welcome break from the hot sun! The majority of the action was on Virginia Avenue – a huge street in the center of the Highlands with live music in a couple of places along the street. These festivals are a great place to meet friends, have a few drinks, do some exploring and chill out for a couple of hours at the weekend.

Then there are the food and drink stalls. In summer, lemonade is king in America and not just any lemonade, we’re talking freshly squeezed very refreshing lemonade that they literally squeeze right in front of you with a very clever contraption that squashes the lemon in seconds! And let me tell you it is super tasty stuff! There’s also the option to add a shot of liquor like vodka but, after partying the night away at a wedding alcohol wasn’t really our friend yesterday afternoon so we opted for the plain version!

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We then moved onto a snack. If you ask me you can’t come to any of these places without trying something tasty! There was everything you can think of from food trucks selling meatballs and fish and chips (Yay!) to blooming onions, falafel, thai food and of course BBQ. We also can’t forget the stall I got a little bit excited about – the Meat Pies stall! There was a Union Jack on it and everything and it sold sausage rolls! It’s been so long since I had a proper sausage roll but after spotting one coming out of the oven I changed my decision to have one, knowing that despite how much someone tries it just won’t be the same as back home and I’d probably be a little disappointed (I’m sure they were very tasty but this British palate is very particular when it comes to traditional British scran!) and instead we went for all American and got a pulled pork BBQ sandwich and it was delicious!

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So there you have it – our first festival of the year. I’m sure we’ll be heading to many more before the summer is up, who wouldn’t want to rock up for some lemonade and tasty treats along with of course the cute stalls and sunshine with friends? Have you been to any festivals this year? What did you think of them?

Exploring: Stout Brother’s Beer Market, Smyrna, GA

So the big brother and sister-in-law arrived the other day and one of my brothers favourite past-times is drinking beer. So, less than 24 hours after he’d landed in the country we took him here:

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Yes, to the Stout Brothers Beer Market in Smyrna. Our friends introduced us to this delight and I knew straight away that it would be a place to take the big bro!

This place is ace. Period. It’s literally a shrine to beer. Everything inside the shop is somehow beer related, obviously there’s the actual beer you can taste, and the stuff in bottles that you can buy, but on top of that there are beer candles, beer shampoo and conditioner, beer shower gel, beer ice cream, beer based snacks like jerky, pretzels, nuts, cheese and other such yummy delights, t-shirts and of course, that essential addition to any beer, a BBQ and charcoal!

So here’s the deal…you stroll in, buy a beer tasting card and choose five different beers to taste from one of the biggest selections I have ever seen! If you tell the guys serving you what type of beer is your favourite, they’ll find ones they think you’ll like. The selection is pretty overwhelming so I usually take this option – it’s just too hard to decide if not! And they’re pretty darn good and finding tasty ones too!

Now before I came to America I wasn’t very big on beer drinking, I could maybe have a pint at a time but if you give me a choice I probably would have said ‘no thanks’ and chosen something else instead. Here though there are so many different beers, fruity beers, IPAs and craft beers that there’s something to suit just about everyone’s taste! I am now a certified beer drinking convert with a Blue Moon at the top of my list!

So, when you walk into the beer market you’re met with this:

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A HUGE array of beer taps, all ready for your tasting pleasure, well 5 of them anyway! The only thing you have to do is choose which ones – tough call I know! We got our glasses and scorecards and the tasting got underway:

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As usual I had some help with my choices and went for these:

Woodchuck Summer Cider
Timmermans Blanche
Monks Mead
Monday Night Brewing Fu Man Brew
Well’s Banana Bread Beer

My favourite was the Monks Mead, but with a HUGE alcohol content it probably wasn’t wise to drink anymore of it on a Sunday afternoon! It was closely followed by the Well’s Banana Bread and the Monday Night Brewing Fu Man Brew. If I went into a bar where these were being served I would definitely order them! They were given four or five growlers when it came to the scores!

The boys tried some dark looking, sour tasting stouts and Becky went for some cider options like me. Now, once you’re done with the tasting it’s time to decide if you want to take a growler home and which beer you want to drink some more of. There was no question of whether or not we’d be taking a growler home, we rocked up with 2 that we’d already emptied from a previous visit and there was no way they were going home empty! So, after a long discussion, the boys chose some sort of dark looking, nasty tasting beer and Becky and I went for a light summer cider. Perfect!

After taking a little look around the rest of the store:

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And buying a packet of spicy candied bacon (that stuff is AMAZING!) we waved goodbye to the Stout Brothers and headed home – my brother was a very happy soul and his beer craving had been satisfied, well for at least another hour anyway!

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The thing I love about the Stout Brothers is that you can try, find and discover beers that you would never think of ordering in a bar. It kind of makes me a little bit more adventurous on the beer front and has helped me to discover some really nice beers! If you’re every in the hood you HAVE to go there! It’s fab! I’m sure we’ll be back there again soon – the growlers are already half empty so no doubt it will be sooner rather than later!

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Exploring: 5 Must See Places in Atlanta!

After living in Atlanta for over a year now and having a million Hotel Richter guests (OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating a tad there!) I think I’ve become a pretty good ambassador for the city when it comes to being a tour guide! Yep, I’ve visited many places 3 or 4 times and know them inside out and back to front! Maybe I should apply for a job in this field? (I actually did that at CNN…it would appear they didn’t want me. 😦 )

So, I thought I’d put together a list of my 5 must see places in Atlanta, then, if you’re ever in da hood for a couple of days and have a limited amount of time, you know exactly which places to head to! I know, I’m just so nice to you guys!!

So here goes:

1. Stone Mountain
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The clue is in the name on this one – it’s literally a mountain made of stone! It’s situated just outside of Atlanta (like with most places in this lovely city you’ll need a car to get there!) but is definitely worth the trip! The mountain itself has the carvings of Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davies and Robert E. Lee depicted on it and is more than 5 miles in circumference – yep this thing is huge! Now, you can either walk up and down the mountain (if you ask me that’s a little bit mad, especially when you see people RUNNING up and down it…RUNNING???? Madness!!) or you can get a cable car – that’s more like it! I’ve been here 3 times now and each time I’ve got the cable car up and walked down – once in 90 degree heat which wasn’t very pretty! But, if you’re a little unsteady on your feet I wouldn’t recommend this and would go back down in the cable car – there are some hairy moments walking down where things get pretty steep! The view at the top is amazing though – you can literally see all of Atlanta and beyond on a good day, checking out Downtown, Midtown and Buckhead’s skyscrapers! To be honest it’s pretty pointless going up there when it’s cloudy – that’s why Ma Cook hasn’t been yet – the weather wasn’t playing ball everytime we planned to go with her! Once you’ve checked out the mountain there’s loads of other things you can do at the bottom – take a walk around it, play crazy golf (I’d like to point out I beat the German and my brother at this!) climb an obstable course, check out the plantation, watch the glass blowers and of course there’s food! We checked out the Campfire Grill – the Po Boy was good!

2. Zoo Atlanta

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TOO CUTE!!

You definitely cannot visit Atlanta without taking a trip to the Zoo! This place is amazing and at the moment has lots of little baby animals to check out – there’s nothing cuter than a baby animal right? This is just outside the city but you can take the Marta and a bus to get there if you don’t have a car – phew! I wouldn’t want you to be missing out on that one! I’ve been here twice, once in summer and just recently in the winter. The last time we went we were given half price admission because some of the animals were staying inside because it was so cold. Now, I’m no expert on zoos but I think this one is pretty awesome! For a start they have pandas!!! And not just one panda either – 4 of them along with 2 of the cutest panda cubs you will ever see! Then, of course there are monkeys, gorillas, orangutans (including babies!), rhinos (there’s a baby rhino too!), zebras, elephants, giraffes – you name it, they have it! Oh and we can’t forget the giant tortoises who put on a pretty good show when I visited with my brother and sister-in-law! More about that in a future post! If you want some food after the zoo, just around the corner you can head to Six Feet Under for some amazing fried fish or Tin Lizzys where we had some very tasty nachos covered in queso!! Yum!

3. Piedmont Park
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Piedmont Park is kind of like Atlanta’s version of Central Park only on a much smaller scale! It’s located in Midtown, right next to the skyscrapers and is a big piece of tranquility close to the city! There’s a lake to take a walk around, loads of space for picnics including BBQ grills for you to use, a swimming pool (I think you have to pay to enter this but still, it’s a swimming pool!) sports pitches (we’re talking baseball and possibly football of the American variety!) oh and not forgetting the doggy park! Yep, there’s an area just for dogs where they can be off their lead and make friends with other doggies! If you ask me, this is my idea of hell (being scared of dogs and all!) but it’s heaven for the pooches!! During the summer months plenty of different festivals take place in the park including the Dogwood Festival, Music Midtown and this year Party in the Park, so there’s always something going on! It’s a fab place to chill out in if you’re a little bit fed up of the hustle and bustle of the city! Oh, and if you need some food, Willy’s Mexicana grill is just outside the park – definitely worth a trip for a burrito!!

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When this place opened it was the largest aquarium in the world! I think it’s been oven taken now but believe me it is pretty huge! Located in Downtown Atlanta, it houses more than 100,000 animals, representing 500 species in 10 million US gallons of water! Wowzers! So I’ve been here twice (that’s a surprisingly small number for Tour Guide Richter here!) and each time was just as exciting as the last! They have everything here…dolphins, beluga whales, penguins (they were sooooo cute!), otters, every kind of fish you can imagine, sharks, stingrays, crabs, eels, you name it, they have it! They even have an exhibit tunnel where you feel like you are actually in the water, looking up at all the creatures! Here they have 4 manta rays and believe me, those things are huge!!! There’s also a Nemo flounder fish and of course a Dory from Disney’s Finding Nemo! I LOVE that film!! I could spend hours checking out the little fishies – it’s fab for adults as well as children! Oh and if you’re a little bit peckish, just outside there’s a restaurant called Legal Seafoods – it feels kind of wrong eating fish when you’ve been checking them out at the aquarium, but this place is worth the visit!!

5. World of Coca-Cola
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And a trip to Atlanta wouldn’t be complete without a visit to World of Coca-Cola! This iconic brand was created in Atlanta so it obviously has a huge influence over the city! The company’s headquarters are here and all around the city there are bottling plants and sales centers including one at the end of my street, meaning I am constantly spotting red Coca-Cola trucks! Amazing! Back to the museum! It’s located just opposite of the aquarium so you can technically visit both these places on the same day. I’ve been here 3 times, yep, you read that right, 3 times! I could probably do the tour myself! You can check out the history of Coke, search for the secret formula, see how the brand grew into such an iconic symbol and check out loads of different Coke memorabilia, from Olympic torches and badges to old adverts, Coke trucks and Coke machines! Oh, and we can’t forget the fact that you can try every single drink Coca-Cola makes and sells around the world!!!! Yep, I think it’s around 65 different flavours! The German heads straight for the Mezzo Mix (a mixture of Coke and Fanta that’s sold in Germany) but after a while you kind of get a little bloated (or hyper if you’re my brother who still gets a little bit too excited when he has E numbers!) but it’s loads of fun trying the different flavours! Don’t forget to pick up your free bottle of Coke on the way out too! We can’t forget to give you a food option – Ted’s Montanna Grill is nearby – they do fab bison burgers!!

So there you have it – my 5 must see places in Atlanta! There are many, many, many more places to see but I figured these were the most iconic! Maybe I’ll do another list in the future…

Have you been to any of these places? What did you think? Where would you recommend?