Every baseball season, every single MLB teams’ SBNation blog will ultimately be inquired upon several times a year by people like myself, who like to travel. With questions about the various cities, regions and locations in which the 30 MLB teams play, and to some of the savvier blogs, even some guides about the locales of the minor league affiliates. What’s there to eat, what’s there to see, how should I get to the park, etc, etc, etc.
It is this Bravesfan / Atlanta resident’s humble attempt to field as many of these questions as possible in one fell swoop, in order to make the aspiring travelers’ inquiries as easy as possible, for those of you who are planning on visiting the epicenter of Braves Country.
This is a general map of The City of Atlanta as it should pertain to mostly visitors coming to see the Braves. It features the MARTA rail line, the basic highway system around the city, the all important Turner Field's location, and selected city/regions surrounding the area - if it's not mentioned, there really isn't any merit going there, IMO. (I'm aware of how barren it looks south of I-20, but that's actually how this city kind of is.)
I would implore at this point for you to ctrl+click this and open this image in a new window or tab, because I will be referencing this map quite frequently throughout the duration of this visitor's guide.
Surrounding Turner Field are "official" lots all given an arbitrary color: Green, blue, orange, gold, red, silver, etc, etc. Parking is $12, but $10 if you purchase parking in advance. Be warned, some days, they will declare "permit only," and it's really subjective to whether or not you flashing cash will still get you into a lot if you don't have a permit. Green is closest to the park, but also the hardest to get out of post game, where as the red lot is a little further away, but has slightly easier highway access. If you drive a
Lexus vehicle purchased from a Nalley dealership you can park in the exclusive LexusNalley Lot, which is adjacent to the Green Lot, but you still have to pay, and still deal with the same post-game traffic.
All around the official lots are unofficial lots where you can park for slightly cheaper rates, ranging anywhere from $5-12. They are supposedly protected, and vary in distance to Turner Field itself, but for what it's worth, I park at a $5 lot that's three blocks west of Turner Field.
Good news for green, and those who like to drink - the MARTA Braves Shuttle is in commission again for 2011. In short, this is how it works: In the center of the city map, where ALL MARTA lines intersect is a place called Five Points. Get off at Five Points, and follow signs through the tourist stop known as Underground Atlanta, to the Braves shuttles. Here, you will board buses that will take you to and from Turner Field's left field gate before and after the game. They start as early as two hours before first pitch, and run anywhere from 60-90 minutes after the games.
AT TURNER FIELD
You CAN bring in outside food into Turner Field. Soft-sided coolers meant for single families are allowed into the park, and obviously no gigantic family-reunion sized chests can enter. Plastic bottled, non-alcoholic beverages are allowed into the park, and people sell them all around the park outside the gates for significantly cheaper than within.
Gates open 2-3 hours before first pitch, 3 when the opponent is on the level of the Yankees or Red Sox, subjective to the Braves' discretion. Typically, the Braves are in the tail end of their BP at this time, but you can easily go watch opposing BP in its entirety.
Don't be discouraged, if you can't find what you're looking for at the Braves' Clubhouse store in Turner Field - for reasons unknown, this is not the official Braves Clubhouse Store. That's at the CNN Center in Downtown Atlanta. Beats me.
Things to Do/See Around Atlanta
Look at any tourist guide, and they'll all pretty much say the same things - The Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola. Both are indeed good tourist destinations to hit, but you're not reading this because you want the same stuff every other tourist is hitting up, you're reading this to find out more.
In all, it really depends on what you're into. If I may be perfectly candid, I will be the first to tell you that Atlanta isn't really the most tourist-friendly city in America. The variety of things to do in this city is a little bland at times, but for those visiting, there's at least something for everyone to enjoy in short capacity. So, with that in mind, here's a little run down of a few things I like to recommend.
Fernbank Museum- A great place to go if you're traveling as a family, and want to get something educational and possibly visually stimulating in on the trip. Located directly between Little Five Points and Decatur on the map, Fernbank has rotating exhibits throughout the year, and an IMAX Theater that has some pretty neat educational films just about every hour.
Piedmont Park - Think New York's Central Park, but smaller. Way smaller. Nothing genuinely that special here except a good place to walk around and take in some of the sights of the city, and watching people play Frisbee, walk their dogs, and hot joggers running around.
Atlanta Botanical Gardens- if you're into plants, or stereotypically just want to take the girls to place with lots of pretty flowers, head here. Located in Midtown, next to Piedmont Park, the Botanical Gardens features lots of interesting foliage, plant-life, and often times, themed artwork.
Stone Mountain- You'll need a car to get there, but another great place to take the family. With stuff as basic as nature hikes, to rides, laser shows, games, boats, trains, etc, etc, as I said, if you've got kids, this an ideal place to spend an entire day.
Six Flags over Georgia- This one doesn't really need much explanation, but if you like roller coasters, and insanely inflated food prices, here you have it. Take a coke can per entry to save some money, if that still works, or go to a local Publix grocery store and sign up for season passes, and go twice, to completely off-set the cost. Typically, if you search for them, you can get tourist package deals, that lump a Braves game, Six Flags day, and Stone Mountain day into one single price, to save a little bit too.
Okay, so I guess the above four can kind of classify as "Class-B" tourist stuff, but anything else I mention in this section, is really subjective to personal preference.
Little Five Points- the heart of the Alternative scene in Atlanta. Weirdos, hipsters, and people watchers all mixed together in an eclectic location. Girls might like the unique boutiques, guys might like the nerdy comic store, or hobby shops. Sit around at the Brewhouse Café's patio and people watch, get cussed out by Vortex staff when you ask to split a check on two Double Coronary hamburgers, and laugh and chuckle with your company while looking at the weird/fetishy stuff at Junkman's Daughter. Accessible via MARTA. Not the most family-friendly place.
Downtown Decatur- lovely area, with lots of unique shops for both men and women, and one of the best areas in the city to bar crawl. Family friendly, and easily accessible via MARTA, too.
Virginia Highlands- A series of neighborhoods, with lots of little clusters of interesting shops and unique restaurants. Easy to walk around and try things out. A few good drinking spots, and occasional live music in the area. I once saw Erin Andrews at Nochetapas restaurant a few years ago, and she said in an interview a long time ago that it was her favorite place to dine in Atlanta. Fairly family friendly area, probably want a car to get around.
East Atlanta- Closer to the I-20 portion of the area is a very good area to do some bar crawling, with lots of different flavors of dining available in a small area. I wouldn't call this area very family friendly, however, it's more of a younger, urban crowd, but there's lots of suds and many live music venues in this area, if that's your sort of thing.
Buckhead- When tourist guides, or the Real Housewives of Atlanta talk about how great Buckhead is, they're really just saying that they like Phipps Plaza/Lenox Mall. Outside of that, I don't really understand what the appeal to Buckhead is anymore. There used to be a lot of clubs, and where Ray Lewis once stabbed a guy 11 years ago, but the clubs are all closed down and replaced with high-rise apartments, and Ray Lewis is still a free man. But aside from these two gigantic shopping malls, there really isn't much else in Buckhead other than a lot of really expensive restaurants, bad traffic, and sparse shopping opportunities. MARTA accessible, and somewhat family friendly during the day.
Mall of Georgia- Directly on the other side of the highway from where the Gwinnett Braves are, in Lawrenceville, way north of the city. A big, gaudy mall, with over 220 stores.
Last, and most certainly not least, the Gwinnett Braves- the Metro area has the luxury of having the AAA affiliates within remote driving distance from the parent club. Don't be afraid to schedule a trip on the tail-end, or a day before a homestand, because there's always a good chance that the G-Braves could be at home to fill in the gaps for your baseball fix. Roughly 35 miles north of Turner Field, and easily accessible off of I-85, go check out and see how Jordan Schafer, Julio Teheran, Cory Gearrin, and the other kids are doing at Coolray Field.
OINK OINK, Diner's Guide
Food. It's my personal rule, that when traveling, NEVER eat anything that you can get at home. No TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesdays, Benihanas, or any chain restaurant found in any McLocation in America. Every tourist guide is going to tell you to visit The Varsity, which is great if you've got kids, for typical hot dogs, hamburgers, fries and shakes, but is often always crowded, and frankly, nothing special.
The following are restaurants that I highly recommend, and go to myself. I will also open the floor to commented suggestions, and add them as I see fit.
Fatt Matt's Rib Shack(BBQ)- located just north of Midtown, and right before Buckhead, beyond Piedmont Park. I swear on this place like no other place in this entire city. I have taken every friend who has ever visited me down here to this place, and they have all liked it. This place bats higher than Pujols, Bonds, Ruth, DiMaggio, Maris, Chipper combined, WITH a higher OPS. The price is a steal, the ribs are saucy and fall off the bone, kind of Memphis style, and there is often live jazz music. Seating is really cramped, tight, and there is often lines in the evening. But so well worth it. Kid friendly, somewhat
Fellini's Pizza(Pizza, duh) - located around the city (My preferences are Ponce or Buckhead). Freshly made pizza, toppings to order, and more often than not, great places to watch people. Kid friendly, although the hipsters might scoff.
The Highlander(American) - If this sounds familiar to you, it's because it was on Guy Fieri's Diners, Dives, and Drive-Thrus. Great place to drink, but the food is all great, featuring a lot of off-the-wall sandwiches. I like their Tavern Sandwich, or Chicken Pot Pie. AND TATER TOTS OMG. Place is often smoky, and definitely an edgy crowd and it goes without saying it is not kid friendly. Located in Midtown near Piedmont Park.
D.B.A. Barbecue- Located in the Highlands. Awesome brisket, and although I prefer Fatt Matt's bbq over D.B.A., this place has some awesome sides that the former doesn't. SWEET POTATO TATER TOTS. Kid friendly.
Cameli's Pizza- Located on Ponce de Leon. If you don't want to drive all the way out to Kennesaw to have a slice of pizza the size of a baby, go to Cameli's in town instead. Gigantic, gigantic slices, toppings to order. Kid-friendly during the day.
The Vortex(American) - Although there's one Downtown, I highly suggest going to the one in Little Five Points instead. Trust me on this one. Also "famous" for being on Man v. Food, and it's Double Coronary Burger, this place is edgy, and if I were a parent, I wouldn't bring my kids here. And also you can't get in unless you're either 18 or 21+, I'm not sure if this is different in the day time. Giant portions, fairly priced, tater tots. Don't ask to split your check, and be sure to actually read the house rules, or they will make you look like an ass in front of the rest of the restaurant.
FLIP Burger (duh) - recommended by Sir Veza. If any of you are Top Chef fans, this should ring a bell, because it was created by the recent all-stars winner, Atlanta native, Richard Blaise. The burgers and creative sides are interesting, and there are some unique options there, but all in all, you're still going for greasy burger and fries. Doesn't make it any less delicious though. The shakes though, are amazing. It's a small place, and there are often lines and waits. Kid-friendly.
Sublime Doughnuts- located near Georgia Tech, 10th Street. Two words - BACON DONUT.
Six Feet Under(Seafood) - newly located on 11th or 12th street near Georgia Tech, it's a seafood restaurant with good fish tacos, but mostly a great atmosphere. The second deck patio is a wonderful place to spend an evening getting sloshed while steaming in the hot Georgia weather.
Taco Mac(American) - This is a local chain, that if I'm not mistaken is exclusive to Georgia, apologies if I'm mistaken. But think TGI Fridays, but way better, and if you don't have it where you're from, it's all good to go. Whether it's on draft, or available through bottle, all Taco Macs boast 100+ beers available/on tap. The food is also typically good for most genres, and they're kid friendly.
Taqueria del Sol(Tex Mex-fusion) - Various locations. If you can get in, some of the best chips and cheese dip in the city. Lines are typically crazy bad if you get there at a bad time.
Bone Garden Cantina (Tex-Mex) - If Taqueria is too busy, try Boneyard. It's kind of the same menu, but their location is a little off the beaten path. Near Georgia Tech. Keep in mind it's run by the same people who run the Vortex, so some of the same rules apply.
Hankook Taqueria (Mex-Korean fusion) - if you've ever heard of the phenomenon of the California food buses, with in particular the Korean taco bus that is one of the vaunted foodie pedestals, then this place is as close as you're going to get on the east coast. Located in a kind of desolate area north of Howell Mill, they're still apt to get lines and crowds at the right times. But the flavors are unique, and the cost isn't bad. Kid-friendly.
Farm Burger - (suggested by djvog) Located in Downtown Decatur. Fresh grass-fed beef burgers with a plethora of yummy toppings like a fried egg or jalapenos that you eat on fancy picnic tables inside the restaurant.
The Nook - (suggested by djvog) Located adjacent to Piedmont Park, this place contains tatchos. That’s right, tots and nachos. Combined. With different styles and flavors. They have other fun stuff, but that’s what you need to know. Parking is limited—-but the valet will usually find a spot for you. Great view of the park on the patio.
Las Palmeiras - carefully located smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood on 5th Street in downtown, this is my personal favorite place to get Cuban food. Very cozy, quiet, intimate location, it's practically like eating in a kitchen. But the food is genuine, carefully made, and fairly priced. The drawbacks are the odd hours Weds-Saturday, until about 9:30pm, with a 90 minute meal break in the middle, and being such a small place, parking is typically limited to street and a few spaces up front.
Papi's on Ponce - (suggested by -InsertWittyNameHere-) located on Ponce de Leon in Downtown, good, fresh Cuban food. My personal experiences have been hit or miss, and it really does depend on which chef you get on any given day. But the location is easy to get to, and the prices are good.
The Crazy Cuban - located on 14th street in Midtown, between Georgia Tech and Atlantic Station. Locals who remember Kool Korner might want to give this place a try. Their Cubano sandwich just might make you remember the days of Kool Korner, which to me, is a good thing.
GLUG GLUG, Bar / Drinker's Guide
I'm not much of a bar scene kind of guy, but I am a happy social drinker. This will be scant compared to other sections, and I'm going to rely on those of you who comment to fill in the blanks here perhaps.
Sweetwater Brewery Tours- quite possibly the best deal in the city. Between 5-7 on weekdays, and 2-3 (I think) on Saturdays, you can visit the place where Sweetwater is made, and the doors are open for their happy hour. $7-8 gets you a pint glass you get to keep, and anywhere from 6-8 sample coupons. When the weather is nice, the place is ROCKING full, and service might be difficult, but for under $10 a pleasant buzz awaits.
Red Brick Brewery Tours - (Submitted by bthedon) Another local Atlanta brewery that also does tours Wednesday-Saturday. They don't give you as many pours, but they're still good brews, if you like darks and stouts.
Brewhouse Café - located in Little Five Points. Great patio for drinking, and good location to people watch.
Der biergarten- Located just beyond downtown, right down from Philips Arena/Georgia Dome/Congress Center. As its name implies, it's a pretty, outdoor spin on a Biergarten. Giant glasses, but I'm not sure if they serve das Boots.
The Highlander - see food section
Brick Store - located in Downtown Decatur. Perfect place for beer snobs, as they have an ever-rotating menu of available beer, as well as some magnificent fish and chips, and large variety of cheeses.
Meehan's Public House- Downtown or Vinings, I prefer Vinings. Irish pub, with good atmosphere, neighborhoody feel, large variety of suds.
Taco Mac - expand your beer pallet.
ZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZ Lodging Advice
This section's going to be short, because unless you've got a car available, lodging options are more limited.
For those of who you who are going to strictly MARTA your trip:
- Stay near the airport. Sure, the lodging might look and feel sketchy, but the price is probably the lowest, unless you've got a car to drive around in.
- There are many hotels off of the first two stops north of Five Points. The Marriott Marquis is the prime hotel for almost all major events, and 80% of the time, the away team is staying there. Tony LaRussa has been known to eat at the steakhouse adjacent to the Marriott when the Cardinals are in town.
- As long as you stay near the stops, don't be afraid to stay all the way out in Sandy Springs - it's kind of the posh part of town, and there are some good hotels up there, like the Crowne Plaza, or Sandy Springs W.
The ballpark hotels:
Holiday Inn Express, Country Inn & Suites, and a Days Inn. They're all within walking distance to Turner Field, and are often already booked by the time you're reading this. And if they aren't, they're gauging prices in relation to how badly you want to stay there for the convenience of walking to the Ted.
Okay, fine, Gentlemen's Clubs
As demanded by Rhyno18, bpk228480, and BravesFan
I will give no evidence to my savvy-ness to these locations, but these come uh, highly recommended, by uh other people.
24K Gold Room - Located on Cheshire Bridge Road, near the Buckhead region. Have deep, deep pockets. Once saw former NBA player Charles Oakley there. Apparently, he didn't learn from the Gold Club trials back from 1999.
The Cheetah - As mentioned in the comments, and you'll see the banner flapping in the wind hanging from an airplane over the Ted all through the daylight, but bringing your ticket stub will indeed alleviate you from paying a cover.
Pink Pony - North Druid Hills, north of Buckhead. Perfect place to hit up on the way back down from a Gwinnett Braves game. Ahem.
Goldrush -For the lower-budged entertainment seekers. Southside, East Point/College Park region.
Clermont Lounge- Poncey, right near where Cameli's pizza above is listed. It almost doesn't classify as Gentlemen's Club, but honestly, no better place to put this one. Let's just say, some things you see at this place, you'll never un-see. Even the blind can see mental images. My boy jch24 from Cincinnati can attest to this.
And with that, this is my best attempt to put together as comprehensive of an Atlanta Visitor Guide to those of you who are coming for baseball trips. I encourage feedback, and enough recs to keep this available, unless we decide to bump it to a permanent fixture. Recommendations are highly encouraged, and I will occasionally be incorporating them into this guide. Sarcastic, non-relevant comments may be deleted at mine or other moderators' discretion, as this is meant to be a genuine visitor's guide, not glimpse at how OT we can take a thread.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the heart of Braves Country!