It’s almost time for the annual Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference…which means the questions and planning are starting to firm up. This year, I am so excited it’s in Atlanta…

For those of you who have checked out this blog seeking writerly enlightenment on southern culture, or perhaps just to figure out what the heck ITP means, welcome! I have lived in Atlanta for 15 years, and I am happy to lend my own recommendations and thoughts to the amazing Romance authors who will soon be coming to my fair city. In my day job for the CDC, I’ve participated in a ton of scientific conferences downtown at the Marriot Marquis, so by now I know the drill.

Buckle up baby, you’re in my city now!

Atlanta_Montage_2

From Wikipedia, top to bottom left to right: Atlanta skyline, the Fox Theatre, the Georgia State Capitol, Centennial Olympic Park, Millennium Gate, the Canopy Walk, the Georgia Aquarium, The Phoenix statue, and the Midtown skyline

The Deal with Transportation:

ITP means Inside the Perimeter. As in, inside the I-285 beltway that surrounds the sprawling metropolis that is Atlanta. Not to be confused with OTP (which either means Outside the Perimeter or Out of Toilet Paper, depending on your frame of reference J). Atlanta’s public transportation system is a meager subway system known as MARTA that unfortunately goes only in two main directions: North/South and East/West, and mainly accesses points ITP. If you plan to come from the airport to the conference hotel and limit your explorations to things within walking distance of the Marriot, you can totally manage this with MARTA. However, Atlanta is a city built for driving and the public transportation system is hard for even us locals to sort out and manage with any degree of efficiency. MARTA claims to reach most tourist spots, but the bus system is also part of MARTA, so in some cases you need to transfer to a bus (and this is where it gets complicated). Taxis in Atlanta exist….sort of. But you usually call one on the phone, rather than flag one down. If you are coming with family who will want to explore the city and surrounding attractions, my suggestion is to Rent. A. Car.

Then, it no longer matters nearly as much whether you are ITP or OTP.

The Deal with Food

I know, we’ve each sold our soul to afford to come to RWA, and dropping a nifty $100 on food every day isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. Luckily, the RWA organizers have chosen a venue with a variety of food options nearby to fit everyone’s tastes and budgets.

Eats for the Poor: The system of downtown hotels that make up the complex around the Marriot are all connected by aerial tunnels to a mall-like food court, with a ChikfilA, Pizza, Chinese, and Mexican fare at your fingertips. If you want a not-too-expensive night out, take the east MARTA line to Decatur, and there are some fantastic inexpensive restaurants on Decatur Square within walking distances of the stop (see below).

Eats for the Indulgent: If you really want to splurge, you might consider High Tea at the Ritz Carlton, Buckhead. My blogging sisters the Dashing Duchesses are indulging in this decadent treat. MARTA to the Lenox stop for this, so even those w/o a car can indulge!

Eats for the Historically Minded: Atlanta eating icons include Mary Mac’s Tea Room and Pittypat’s Porch, which both serve traditional southern fare. If you can find your way to The Varsity, this is an Atlanta fast food icon on North Ave., with famous hotdogs, onion rings, and orange drinks for over 70 years.

Eats for the Trendsetters: My oh-so-trendy neighbor was consulted for these, because alas, I cannot afford this with a family of four. But those who like to set the bar, rather than slide under it, might consider Ecco, Veni Vidi Vici, South City Kitchen, Oceanaire, or The Optimist. http://www.opentable.com/atlanta/midtown-atlanta-restaurants

Eats for Everyone In Between: A short block or so away from the Marriott is a Hard Rock Café, a sit-down Mexican restaurant called Mama Ninfa’s (that has amazing green chile salsa), a Chinese restaurant called Hsu’s (with chocolate-dipped fortune cookies). Tons of restaurants to fit every palate, http://www.urbanspoon.com/ps/9/1959/atlanta-marriott-marquis-atlanta-nearby-restaurants

The Deal with the Weather

thermometer Atlanta is hot, hot, hot in July. Expect 90+ during the day, upper 70’s low 80’s at night. Bring layers you can shed if you venture outside the Arctic blast of the hotel air conditioning system. Atlanta is also notoriously humid, and so far, this year has been one of the wettest on record. Be prepared…your hair is not going to cooperate. Visitors famously complain their hair goes on behavioral hiatus the minute they step off the airplane. I myself am working on year 15 of a Bad Hair Life here in Atlanta. If you want to bring a hat, you might find you wear it more than you think.

Like, to the awards banquet.

The Deal with Nearby Attractions

Atlanta is an amazing city, and I feel ridiculously lucky to live here. There is so much to do and see! What I’ve provided below is the merest brush with all things Atlanta. If you want to do a lot of sightseeing, City Pass offers an excellent deal that will save you money:

Braves Game: Unfortunately, the Braves are travelling during the week of RWA, but if you are here the Sat/Sun before the conference starts, they are home playing against the Cincinnati Reds. My family LOVES going to Braves Games…a sure homerun.

Aquarium, CNN, World of Coke, Centennial Olympic Park: I tend to lump all these together, because they are all grouped together near Centennial Olympic Park (and the park, at least, is free and fun to visit). The park has amazing fountain shows that you can play in – bring your kids, and a towel. CNN Center offers a fun tour of this news hub, with a chance to “sit behind the news desk”. The GA Aquarium is world renowned for its multiple majestic whale sharks (pretty cool, I must say), and a new dolphin show. Finally, the World of Coke Museum is worth a visit. Sure, it’s an in-your-face commercial extravaganza, but it offers a fun glimpse into the history of Coke. And if you have kids, they will go wild in the international tasting room. Watch out for the sample labelled Beverly, man…I think I lost a few taste buds on that one.

1500-1251gone-with-the-wind Margaret Mitchell House: If you don’t plan a trip to the Margaret Mitchell house, you seriously need to be slapped. It is not walkable from the hotel, but this is important enough to take a cab or try to figure out the tangle of public transportation. She wrote Gone with the Wind, folks. ‘Nuff said.

Decatur: my hometown slice of Atlanta, small-town boutique feel. Take the East/West line east, get off at the Decatur stop. Lovely collection of amazing restaurants and unique shops steps from the station. My favorites: Margaritas on the outdoor patio at Raging Burrito, Spanish tapas at The Iberian Pig (and yum…a bacon-infused bourbon cocktail that is to die for). Also Mac MacGees, an Irish pub famous for its Scotch whisky tastings.

Yeah…probably best to ditch the car.

Little 5 points: Probably best to drive here, then parking and walking around. This is the wild/weird side of Atlanta. Thriving Gay/lesbian community, fun shops, lots of people watching. Favorite restaurants: The Vortex, with famous burgers and homemade tater tots and a front door that looks like you are walking through the mouth of a giant skeleton. Front Page News and Tijuana Garage here have fun outdoor patios.

The Deal with Your Family

What should your family do while you are stalking, er…socializing with your favorite authors all day and evening? Here are my top pics for those who have indulged in a rental car:

- Fernbank Museum of Natural History: It’s pretty spectacular, and very kid-friendly. Dinosaur city, and Imax movies.

- Zoo Atlanta: As a bona fide veterinarian, I know I am partial to the animal experience, but I LOVE Atlanta’s zoo. It is small enough to see everything without tearing a tendon, but action packed. Pandas, big cats, and a beautifully done gorilla exhibit.

-Cyclorama: If you like civil war history, this is worth a stop. It is located in Grant Park right next to the zoo. This is a historic 360 degree artistic viewing of the Civil War. Apparently it spins. Or so my husband says.

- Stone Mountain Park: Atlanta’s version of Mt. Rushmore, but with a civil war theme. A fun diversion, and if you have kids, take a Frisbee and run on the Great Lawn. Or, take the tram up to the top of the mountain and hike down. This is one of my family’s favorites, but beware…it’s OTP. Must have a car to see this!

-Six Flags Over Georgia. Pretty much your usual Six Flags experience. Yet somehow, my kids seem to drag me here at least once a year.

The Deal With Those Antebellum Mansions…

Well, there really aren’t any very close. If you have a hankering to see these, you need to be thinking roadtrip. As in, waaaaaay OTP. Here are some you can see, http://traveltips.usatoday.com/georgia-plantation-tours-24601.html. I’ve been to Stately Oaks, and it’s pretty cool.

 

I cannot wait to meet everyone in July, come heat, humidity, or too much Southern cooking! I hope you all love Atlanta as much as I do, and I stand ready to answer any questions you have as you plan your attack!