“And now for something completely different.” I get asked a lot about my travel experiences, and I seldom respond publicly just because it doesn’t fit with my sales blog. That said, I decided today, “Why not?” Having just returned from Atlanta, a town which more than many has some travel nuances. So, here goes:
The airport: The Atlanta airport is the nation’s busiest, and one of the largest. That in and of itself makes it a bit of a daunting prospect for some travelers. I don’t mind the airport, although besides its size, there’s nothing remarkable about it – no great eateries that I’ve found (they are all typical airport chain restaurants), and no exceptional shopping. That said, the facilities are nice and well kept, although the seating areas get pretty crowded – seating isn’t at an abundance.
The biggest advice I can give travelers through the airport is, “Allow plenty of time.” From dropping off my rental car today until making it to my gate took 1 hour and 5 minutes. That’s without checking a bag – just dropping the car, taking the tram to the airport, printing my boarding pass, going through security (which wasn’t exceptionally busy), riding another tram to the right concourse, and then walking to my gate. Leaving – getting from the gate to the rental car and exiting the airport – is a similar experience. That said, it’s not an unpleasant experience like some airports – just a lengthy one.
Driving in Atlanta: Hoo boy, this is the tough part of Atlanta travel. There’s not a straight road in the metro area, and the same road can have five different names in a 10-mile stretch. GPS is your friend here, as is time. Atlanta is burdened with a ton of traffic and few alternate ways to get places on surface streets (see the above note about no road being straight). I use Google Maps, and I’ve found its travel time estimates to be very accurate, which is a good thing.
Destinations in Atlanta are referred to in terms of the “Perimeter,” which is the I-285 loop that runs in a circle around the city, so when you hear “perimeter East,” they mean on the East side of the loop. The good news is that, with few exceptions (Downtown mainly), parking tends to be easy and free, unlike many other big metro areas. This is important, because as congested as it can get, Atlanta is very much a driving town. The MARTA train does pick up at the airport, but it doesn’t go many places in the Metro, and frankly, has a bit of a rough reputation.
Eating: Atlanta has a ton of chain restaurants from McDonald’s all the way up to high-end steakhouses, but is a bit thin in terms of locally owned and revered dining (other than the sports-bar type of place). The good news is that whatever type of food you’re looking for, there’s probably a place you’re familiar with. If you like Tex-Mex, I highly recommend Pappasito’s, a chain out of Texas with one outpost in Marietta. It’s worth driving to Marietta from whatever part of the Metro you’re in.
There is a lot more to know about traveling in Atlanta, but frankly, I don’t know it. Know a good tip? I’m all ears.