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Weekend Fun in Atlanta
Story by Barbara Sachs Sloan
Photos by Peyton Creadick
American Roads Travel Magazine

Even if you only have two or three days to spend in Atlanta, Georgia, there are three places that can make your visit memorable, if for no other reason than their uniqueness.

Georgia Aquarium

This beautiful fish is one of the 120,000 animals featured in the Georgia Aquarium

They swim past as if in a world of their own, unaware theyíre being watched by thousands of visitors, or they eye each visitor closely possibly in greeting, just as curious about their human guests as the guests are about them. Theyíve been in the public eye since November 2005, the main attractions of the Georgia Aquarium [225 Baker St., (404) 581-4000]. In fact, these magnificent creatures have been so popular, the Aquarium has had to cut its visitor capacity twice already to prevent overcrowding. Originally allowing 8,000 guests inside at one time, the Aquarium lowered that number to 6,000 then to 4,000, and the place is still teeming with excited adults and children on a Saturday afternoon. Due to regular ticket sell-outs, reservations to attend are recommended, but this is easy via its website or by phone.

Perhaps, however, being among an eager, excited group of other patrons adds to the immersive experience the Aquarium offers. First of all, visitors are inside an "ark," which is the shape of the building. Second, the set up employs a combination of nonlinear formats designed to fully engage and delight visitors of all ages.

The beluga whales look like they enjoy watching the visitors watch them and put on quite a show, swimming around in an-almost underwater ballet

The Tropical Diver exhibit is set up in a "gallery format" in a tunnel where circular water-windows are mounted in the wall, like living paintings at spaced intervals, and filled with exotic sealife, such as reef squid, seahorses and jellyfish.

The Cold Water Quest is a series of zoo-like "exposed" natural habitats where a California seal basks, otters play and penguins romp; it also features the beluga whale tank with its large viewing window.

The Georgia Explorer exhibit offers open-top interactive "touch tanks" where guests can pet small sharks, horseshoe crabs, sea stars, stingrays, shrimp and more. Adults and children alike play in the pilot house of a shrimpboat and explore the inside of a Right Whale.

In the River Scout exhibit, visitors feel like theyíre underneath a river, in the roots of the trees, able to observe to the side and above them an array of underwater life, including catfish, piranha and other aquatic life native to Africa, South America, Asia and Georgia. Fun for the children are the two short-people alcoves that go "into" the roots for a special "secret" view adults donít get to see.

The two female whale sharks move gracefully through their six-million-gallon tank, which they share with a huge grouper, a school of stingrays and thousands of other fish.

The most dramatic of all is the whale shark tank in the Ocean Voyager exhibit, where visitors can ride a moving walkway through an acrylic tunnel under the 6-million-gallon tank itself and when the ride concludes, enter the theatre to view the goliath grouper, stingrays, hammerheads, whale sharks, and other inhabitants through the 23 ft. tall by 61 ft. wide by 2 ft. thick acrylic window.

The entire tour of all five exhibit areas averages about three hours, with time out for a quick snack.

Hungry visitors can stop in at the cafeteria-style food court, and souvenirs and necessities like water and batteries are available in the two gift shops. Cameras are allowed as long as photographs are for personal use.

Related links:
Construction photos:

CNNís opening news:

How it works, at "howstuffworks" (and make sure you watch the video!):

Stone Mountain Park

Suddenly youíre in the 1800s. Stone Mountain Park is an $8 journey past an antibellum plantation, across a covered bridge, up the path to the stone quarry, down the path to the water-wheel-powered gristmill, and past the "bald" belly-like mountain itself with its giant carvings of Confederate heroes.. The 3,300-acre park is a network of roadways, trails and attractions situated around the 363-acre Stone Mountain Lake. Visitors can arrive by the carload and hit the highlights in an hour or spend several days seeing it all.

The sidewheel steamboat, Scarlett O'Hara, cruises Stone Mountain Lake daily every half hour. It holds 150 passengers, and cruises last about 20 minutes.

There are lots of things visitors can do for no extra charge once inside the park gate. Rowboats are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and private boats can be let down into the lake via a public boat ramp. Hiking and picnicking spots abound. If itís too hot outside, visitors can cool off inside Confederate Hall while enjoying the science exhibits and films which provide an education about the ecology and geology of Stone Mountain and the Civil War battle for Georgia. Every day thereís a free concert of the parkís 732-bell Carillon.

Although fishing is free, guests must have a Georgia fishing license, which can be purchased at the Campground Grocery Store for a day, week or annual timespan.

The gristmill is 100 years old and was relocated to Stone Mountain Park from Ellijay, GA, in 1965. It's on the east side of the mountain.

Owned by Silver Dollar City, the park is also home to a number of attractions that charge admission, including visiting the plantation, a 150-passenger paddle wheeler cruise on the lake, viewing a laser-light show at the mountain-side Confederate Memorial Carving of President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, and riding the rides: train, duck or sky. There are also special childrenís activities, two golf courses and 4D Theatre.

A full listing of the parkís hours, offerings (free and those with additional fees), maps, directions and more is available at its website,

Map of the Park:

DeKalb Farmer's Market

Picture a giant grocery store where every department is as large as a small house, and you might have an idea of the sheer size of Your DeKalb Farmer's Market. Started in 1977 as a produce market, the original open-air facility was destroyed by an ice storm two years later, rebuilt with help from friends and customers, and eventually grew into the world market it is today.

Only a few miles east of Atlanta, Georgia, in Decatur, Your DeKalb Farmers Market (3000 E. Ponce de Leon Ave.; 404-377-6400) is open seven days a week. Going there is an adventure unto itself. A walk-through of every section can take hours, just because you have to stop and examine the huge selection of domestic and imported foods, beverages and gadgets. Turning left from the entryway and going to the far wall, you can start at the milk and dairy department on your left, cross to the meat market on your right, then wander, sample, explore all the way to the other end.

If youíre hungry, the Marketís cafeteria-style eatery offers a variety of dishes, from the exotic to the ordinary: goat stew, curried cabbage, okra, fried chicken, and a variety of other hot and cold foods, sold by the pound. A plateful of five or six small portions can cost under $5. You can accompany your meal with a bottled or canned beverage, such as clear rootbeer or juice. The menu changes daily, depending on whatís available. A sectioned-off area with tables offers a quiet, secluded place to eat before you head back out to forage. And if you donít want to overspend, starting out with a full stomach is a good idea.

The meat section offers beef, poultry, lamb, goat and other meats too numerous to mention. To its right, the seafood section is a study in fresh and saltwater fare. Enormous bins contain lobster and shrimp. You can buy fresh octopus or squid. Itís a meat or seafood loverís dream.

Across from that, the coffee counter features free-trade and organic as well as regular coffees, both ground and whole bean, in a variety of flavors and roast strengths. And beside that section is the kitchen gadgetry and accessory area, where flour sack towels sit next to cooking utensils.

Back across the large main aisle is the bread and pastry areaóracks upon racks of breads from all over the world, made from every possible grain, imported and domestic, again including many organic selections. There must be a dozen different kinds of pumpernickel bread alone, sliced and unsliced.

The produce section occupies an area roughly equal to the entire meat and seafood departments combined. Fruit and vegetables run the gamut from ears of corn to African roots. It is truly a resource for the international palate.

At the other end wall are the spices and seasonings, and running the length of the produce section along its opposite wall are the condiments and beverages. Along the front wall youíll find the flower and plant area.

Checkout is almost crude by comparison to todayís high-tech grocery stores. Wooden booths line the outer lobby, where you unload your treasures through a small opening on the narrow counter, so one of the marketís many international employees can tote them up and bag them for you.

The main website has its history, departments, driving directions and maps

The market doesnít sell online, and remember when you do visit, no cameras are allowed inside.

Barbara Sachs Sloan, M.S., is a professional writer and editor, an award-winning journalist, and a manuscript analyst. Read more about her here:

Copyright 2006, Barbara Sachs Sloan

Peyton M. Creadick is a technical writer in the Atlanta area

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.

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