Back in late November, I headed to Atlanta on a quick trip for a work conference. I hadn’t been to Atlanta in years. Atlanta is…interesting. Downtown is a dead zone on weekends. And I saw more shoplifting in 3 days there than I’ve seen in 3 years in DC. It isn’t my favorite city, but I also didn’t have a lot of time to explore it in the way it maybe deserves.
I (gasp) took the train system – MARTA – into downtown from the airport. Some weird things happened on that train, things I hadn’t even seen in the DC Metro which is saying something. I mean, someone had their pet snake out. In terms of ease of use, MARTA was easy to figure out, very simple in terms of routes and directions, and got me downtown in about 15 minutes flat. I won’t complain.
Hotels, due to the conference, were insanely expensive. Rooms generally going for $90-$130 were $190-$325. So I chose the cheapest Marriott/Starwood Property there was, since I have Gold status with both. The Gold status was useless at the property I chose (hey Marriott – why is this the case at AC Hotels?!?!), but the AC Hotel by Marriott was really lovely.
Atlanta has a huge clubbing vibe, and if you know me, you know that clubbing is pretty much the last thing I would ever want to do. Late nights? Loud music? Lots of people? Hahahah. NO. At least six people when I was checking in came to ask about different clubs. Everyone at the bar was pre-gaming to go clubbing. There was a wedding party that was going to the wedding then clubbing.
The AC Hotel is recently renovated – and I mean completely renovated. Everything is brand new and sparkling clean. The lobby is sleek, the hotel bar is nice (with decently priced food and drink – I had a wonderful Thai-inspired beer with chili and lemongrass and a healthy salad), and the rooms are small but simplistic and very functional. I do wish they were a bit brighter. While they may have skimped on room size, the bathrooms are still decently sized which is really nice.
The other thing I loved about the AC Hotel was the gym. It, literally, is the nicest hotel gym I’ve ever been in. New and clean equipment, foam rollers, medicine balls, exercise balls, free weights, tv’s on treadmills that actually worked! Plus, it was light, airy, had a great water dispenser for bottles. It looks out into the pool/courtyard area which also looked very inviting, though it was cold/rainy when I had free time to check it out.
Plus, the AC Hotel is literally a stone’s throw from the Georgia Convention Center and the CNN Tower…maybe a five minute walk across the park.
Now, my one main complaint is that there literally isn’t anything particularly interesting to eat near the convention center or the AC Hotel…there are a ton of chain restaurants, and fast food, plus one southern place that had amazing reviews but I wasn’t able to check out because their hours didn’t work with my schedule (they weren’t open for dinner). But, seriously guys — there was a line out the door for IHOP. That is where everyone wanted to go! Or maybe it was Pancake House. I don’t know, because I hate breakfast food not at breakfast and you couldn’t pay me to stand in line at IHOP. Sorry IHOP fans out there. I guess it’s a novelty if you live in other parts of the country? Shaking my head. A.line.for.IHOP.
The one thing I did decide to do is head to the Georgia Aquarium. I’ve sort of been off aquariums – I mean, seeing the real thing in real life is so much better and I just don’t know about keeping big things in big tanks anymore. But a friend–who isn’t into aquariums either–convinced me that the whale sharks were worth it.
I will say that most of the animals in the Georgia Aquarium (or perhaps not most, but many), are rescued or injured animals that wouldn’t make it in the wild. And to see all the screaming children (which I promptly ran away from) that excited to see fish and other critters still makes me pause and think that maybe aquariums–for some things–are important and inspiring for kids growing up that may not have other opportunities to see those animals.
Anyway, the Georgia Aquarium is impressive, primarily because of the whale sharks and huge, huge manta rays. They were by far the biggest mantas I’ve ever seen and just stunning. You get lovely views from below and from the side, which is a really fun perspective. No matter how many times you’ve seen these animals (and I’ve never seen whale sharks in the wild), it is still fun to see them swim by you at an arm’s length.
The cost for admission (about $38 I think) seems a little steep, but I can only imagine that maintaining 10 million gallons of water is an expensive adventure. I honestly didn’t spend a ton of time in the aquarium, but the time I did spend was mostly staring at the whale sharks and mantas. There were some other good exhibits, like the lovely lion fish, but school groups were starting to run the place and – well – that was my sign to exit.
Without hesitation, if you have to head to Atlanta and need to stay down, the AC Hotel is a lovely property. And, particularly if you have kids or are looking to get away from things for an hour, the Georgia Aquarium is a good stop, conveniently located just two blocks from CNN Tower and the Convention Center (and about 2 blocks from the AC Hotel, too). The whale sharks are worth it.