Things to do, places to go in Atlanta

R. Kevin Clark
Editor, APWA Reporter

Last year at this time many of you were gearing up for APWA's Congress and Exposition, The Best Show in Public Works, held in San Diego, California. Now the excitement is building for the 2004 edition of Congress to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, September 12-15.

Did they call it the Georgia World Congress Center in anticipation of our event this September? (Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Georgia World Congress Center)

Why go to Atlanta in mid-September? For starters, if you've devoted your career to public works, you ought to devote a few days to our annual conference. It's the biggest and best public works event of the year.

Why else? Well, to be honest, I'm anxious to find that out for myself this September. I've been to Atlanta twice—once on a whirlwind trip down I-75 to Jacksonville, Florida, and the other time just through the airport—and unfortunately didn't get to see much of the city either time. But people I've talked to about Atlanta—including John W. Griffin, Jr., the subject of this issue's "Member Profile"—have nothing but great things to say about the city.

So, with the help of our 2004 Congress Program Preview (which all of you have received)—along with the help of the exceptional staff at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau—let's take a look at all the neat things to do and places to go in Atlanta before, after and during your Congress experience.

First of all, those tours...
Pages 35-39 of the Program Preview describe all the terrific Sightseeing and Technical Tours that will be taking place the week of Congress. The Sightseeing Tours would be a great way for your family or significant other to pass the time while you're attending the educational sessions and walking the exhibit floor. And you can enjoy one of the Technical Tours that Wednesday before you hit the Annual Banquet that evening. The tours are listed below for your convenience—just check out the Program Preview for more info, or go to www.apwa.net/Meetings/Congress/2004/techtours.asp and www.apwa.net/Meetings/Congress/2004/sightsee.asp.

  • Sightseeing Tours, Sunday, September 12: A Taste of the Peach; Covington's Mansions and Magnolias; Shop 'Til You Drop
  • Sightseeing Tours, Monday, September 13: A Walk Through the Park; Atlanta's Legacy of Leaders; Historic Roswell; Atlanta's Famous Firsts; A Stately Taste of Atlanta
  • Sightseeing Tours, Tuesday, September 14: Award-Winning Atlantans; In Search of Tara; Georgia's Stone Mountain Park; Cultural Midtown — The Heart of the Arts; The Art of Antiques
  • Sightseeing Tours, Wednesday, September 15: Tracing Sherman's March; The Good Life in Historic Buckhead; Atlanta: A World-Class Sports City; Andretti Speed Lab; Atlanta's Legacy of Leaders
  • Technical Tours, Wednesday, September 15: Gwinnett County, F. Wayne Hill Water Resources Center; State of Georgia Transportation Management Center; Fulton County Blue Heron Golf Club; City of Atlanta, Nancy Creek Tunnel; City of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport's Runway Expansion Project; City of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Operations

Now let's check out those attractions...
As the good folks at the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau are quick to point out, Atlanta offers a wealth of sightseeing opportunities for everyone from convention delegates staying for a long weekend to vacationing families. With arts, history and sports, Atlanta's attractions are alive with action, excitement and entertainment. Some of Atlanta's most-popular attractions include CNN Studio Tours, Stone Mountain Park, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, Six Flags Over Georgia, Atlanta Cyclorama and Zoo Atlanta (a number of these attractions are included in the Sightseeing Tours mentioned above).

"No matter how many times you've been here, why you've come or what your interests are, there are new and exciting surprises awaiting in the capital of the South," says Spurgeon Richardson, president of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Stone Mountain Park. You know, you just don't see something like this every day. (Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and Stone Mountain Park)

Several of Atlanta's favorite attractions have recently opened exciting new additions. Stone Mountain Park, Georgia's largest attraction, recently introduced two new attractions, Crossroads and the Great Barn, while Six Flags Over Georgia just unveiled their new thrill-a-minute-coaster, Superman — Ultimate Flight.

A must for the outdoor enthusiast and the animal-lover is the Kangaroo Conservatory, an 87-acre preserve just north of Atlanta that offers a taste of life down under from Atlanta's backyard. In town, Zoo Atlanta offers a chance to see 1,000 animals from all over the world including Atlanta's two Giant Pandas, Lun Lun and Yang Yang.

For the history buff, the scientist or the art enthusiast, Atlanta's museums highlight the arts, the Civil War period, Atlanta and Georgia history, science and technology and African-American history. Art lovers may study an impressionist painting or a contemporary sculpture at the High Museum of Art; enjoy the graceful Atlanta Ballet, the oldest continuously operating ballet company in the nation; or enjoy the Grammy Award-winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Recreational activities include train excursions, water and amusement parks, golfing, tennis, auto racing and more. Visitors looking to experience the legacy of Atlanta's 1996 Centennial Olympic Games can bike the trails of the Georgia International Horse Park, dive into the Olympic swimming pool at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center or play tennis at the Lincoln Tennis Center at Stone Mountain.

The beautiful Centennial Olympic Park and the Atlanta skyline (photo courtesy of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and Centennial Olympic Park)

Centennial Olympic Park
A special mention goes to the Centennial Olympic Park, since that's where we're holding our Get Acquainted Party on Sunday, September 12. The former social center of the 1996 Olympics, the park features a lush landscape, exquisite artwork, inspiring statues and the Fountain of Rings, the world's largest interactive fountain which shoots water to the beat of music. Today the Centennial Olympic Park is downtown Atlanta's most famous gathering place, and is sure to be an unforgettable venue for this year's Get Acquainted Party.

Don't forget about sports
A quick visit to the websites of the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Falcons revealed some encouraging news. If you come to Atlanta a little early, you can see the Braves play (at Turner Field, built as the Olympic Stadium for the 1996 Olympic Games) on September the 6th (1:05 p.m.), 7th (7:35 p.m.), 8th (7:05 p.m.) and 9th (7:35 p.m.) against the Philadelphia Phillies, and again on the 10th (7:35 p.m.) and the 11th (7:05 p.m.) against the Montreal Expos. Don't even think about skipping the opening day of Congress on the 12th to catch the afternoon game between the Braves and the Expos—you're coming to Congress for the education and networking, remember? Besides, I have enough to be concerned about covering the conference for the November Congress highlights issue. Don't make me come after you.

If you're a football fan and want to see the Falcons play at the Georgia Dome, you'll be taking your Atlanta vacation after Congress is over. The Falcons play the St. Louis Rams at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 19. Just go to their website—www.atlantafalcons.com—to check out ticket prices (and to see how tough it might be to get a ticket for that day's game).

Dining in Atlanta
I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few of the great restaurants in downtown Atlanta—where most Congress attendees will be staying—that were pointed out by the folks at the bureau ("You haven't seen Atlanta until you've seen our dining," they said). Enjoy bison burgers at Ted's Montana Grill, co-owned by Atlanta mogul Ted Turner. Or, visit Ray's in the City for seafood, travel to the top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza to the SunDial, or visit Luxe, serving thoughtful, organic cuisine in a historic building.

Atlanta has...

  • 130 retail centers
  • 57 public golf courses
  • 54 public parks
  • 100 streets with the name Peachtree
  • Largest toll-free telephone dialing area in the world (7,000 square miles of toll-free calling)
  • Largest suburban office park in the United States, Perimeter Center (3.5 million square feet of office and retail space on 400 acres)
  • Largest cable-supported domed stadium in North America, the Georgia Dome
  • 14th largest mall in the country: The Mall of Georgia
  • World's largest bas-relief sculpture and the world's largest exposed mass of granite at Georgia's Stone Mountain Park
  • Largest federal regional concentration outside of Washington, D.C.
  • Largest 10K race in the world, the annual Peachtree Road Race with 50,000 runners
  • Oldest continually operating ballet company in the nation, the Atlanta Ballet since 1929
  • Longest escalator in the Southeast at MARTA's Peachtree Center station, 192 feet
  • Largest unsupported escalator in the Southeast at CNN Center, eight stories tall
  • Largest hotel in the Southeast, the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, 1,671 rooms
  • Tallest hotel in the western hemisphere, the Westin Peachtree Plaza, 73 stories; 723 feet tall
  • Tallest building in the Southeast, Bank of America Plaza, 55 stories; 1,023 feet tall
  • Second-largest theater organ in the nation, at the Fox Theatre
  • More shopping center space per capita than any other U.S. city except Chicago

Obviously, Atlanta beckons with exciting opportunities and experiences for everyone to enjoy. But ultimately, what could be more exciting than attending our annual Congress? We'd love to see you there. Make plans now to attend the 2004 APWA International Public Works Congress and Exposition, September 12-15. The APWA staff and the Atlanta Chapter have some great things planned this year. In short, it's going to be a terrific event, held in a terrific city.

Kevin Clark can be reached at (800) 848-APWA or at kclark@apwa.net.