Trip Reports: Atlanta

Most people wouldn’t call Atlanta a glitzy or glamorous city like New York or San Francisco but it is still one of my favorite cities to visit. There is so much to enjoy and appreciate here as a tourist. My last visit here included an NFL football game, this time was for business but I wanted to stay in the popular Luckie Marietta District. Two newer attractions there include the College Football Hall of Fame and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Before heading to Atlanta, check out the Luckie Marietta District website for the latest information about attractions, restaurants, night life, and any special activities that may be happening. Like many smart cities, they offer a free app. Using the app will help you design a strategy for where you want to go each day.

This time I chose to stay at the Embassy Suites right next to Centennial Olympic Park, conveniently located right on Marietta Street. There are other Embassy Suite hotels in Atlanta but this is the only one in the Luckie Marietta District. If you are traveling from the airport, it is easy to get to the hotel by taxi, shuttle service, or the Marta train. If you are driving, note that the only hotel parking is valet ($30/day).

Hotel

The hotel is eight stories and all of the more than 300 rooms are two-room suites. For a special event or for larger groups sharing a room, the hotel offers Executive suites with balconies and stunning views of the city. Also check out their website for special promotions and packages, especially for Wi-Fi deals because it is not free.

Hotel amenities include a gift shop, business center, fitness center, swimming pool, and coin-operated laundry. The hotel’s design is a large open atrium in the center of the property with all the rooms running circular around it. A nice addition, their seating area in the lobby includes a piano. It was very nice to hear some impressive pianists, not quite as nice when it was children just learning to play.

There is only one restaurant on the premises, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, but the hotel also offers room service 11 am to 11 pm. This restaurant also serves as the venue for the daily complimentary breakfast which includes made-to-order eggs as well as all the other hot and cold offerings found at many other hotel buffets. One nice touch: They also offer coffee to go. In the evening, the hotel offers their Manager’s Reception where they give you complimentary light snacks and a couple free drinks.

The rooms are a bit dark but with all the lights on, it makes you feel more comfortable that this is indeed a two-room suite. This is an ideal setup if one guest is sleeping or a child needs to take a nap. Easy to separate everyone while those who want to stay awake won’t bother anyone else in the bedroom. There are a sleep sofa and a couple chairs, two televisions, a small refrigerator, coffee maker, iron and board, and the most common bathroom amenities as well as a safe in the closet.

Service at the hotel was very good. The front desk was as quick as possible, and even apologetic if it took too long. Same for the staff in the restaurant, gift shop, housekeeping. Everyone makes you feel welcome here.

Perhaps the thing that bothered me the most here was the noise. Sitting in the living room area, it was very easy to hear the noise downstairs because of the open atrium. It wasn’t real loud but definitely noticeable. Of course, you couldn’t hear any noise back in the bedroom area.

For those with Diamond and Gold Hilton Honors status, there is no lounge but Wi-Fi is free and you get bonus HHonors points, as well as an excellent opportunity to receive a room with the best view. For everyone else, reserve a room facing east on an upper floor if you want a beautiful view of the Park, ferris wheel, and some great skyline architecture.

TripAdvisor rates the property in the high 3’s. In my opinion, it would be rated 4 stars in TA if the hotel offered free Wi-Fi to everyone. I would rate this Embassy Suites at a bit over 4 stars, in part because I did not have to pay for Wi-Fi. It is not a new property so it has some signs of age. On the other hand, it is a 5-star property for location. Other benefits include the free breakfast and evening receptions and frankly, the room rate is not very high given their proximity to so many things. There is a lot of value here, especially for a family or two couples sharing a room. For a getaway in Atlanta for a few days, this Embassy Suites is hard to beat.

Restaurants

Because this trip was for business, I did not have much time to enjoy the local restaurants. I did grab quick breakfasts at the hotel but no time for their specialty eggs. Everything else was tasty and warm when it was supposed to be. No signature breakfast item here but you won’t be disappointed either except possibly during their very busiest time which is often around 8 am or a little later.

We had one lunch at Ruth’s Chris. The meal began with a personal-sized loaf of bread. If you can get passed the fattening part, it was warm, fresh, and delicious. I had the salmon sandwich and a colleague tried the steak burger. Neither of us was thrilled. I love salmon but this just didn’t work for me as a cold sandwich. As for the burger, it was the same problem as with many other restaurants – the roll was just too small and soggy for the oversized meat, meaning the burger was slipping out of the sides. Both of us finished our sandwiches with forks.

There are many restaurants surrounding the hotel but I only had time for one nearby quick meal outside. At the rear of the property is a locally-owned restaurant called Kwan’s Deli and Korean Kitchen. Basically it is a fast food type restaurant and no one will confuse the décor of plastic chairs with the luxury leather and linen napkins of Ruth’s Chris. What I loved about this place was the menu. Looking for a deli sandwich? You came to the right place. Prefer some authentic Korean food instead? This is still the right place.

This was my first time in a restaurant where I could order, say, an Italian combo or cheesesteak sandwich along with bibimbap. If you desire some serious Seoul food, this place will hit the spot. A great option, order take out and carry your food over to the Park for a picnic. They are open every day 8 am until 8 pm. You can check out their menu offerings here.

Local Attractions

It would be a shame to come to Atlanta and not enjoy so much the city has to offer. As I said, the Centennial Park is adjacent to the hotel on the east side. Also, the College Football Hall of Fame is directly across Marietta Street and the Civil and Human Rights Center is just up the street.

Other attractions are also nearby, within a couple blocks. For example, check out the CNN Center tour and the children’s museum. In town looking for events? Philips Arena and the Georgia Dome are very close. Same applies to the Georgia World Congress Center. At two blocks away is the Georgia Aquarium. The World of Coca Cola is about five blocks away. Other visitor sites are measured in miles. They include the Atlanta Zoo, Stone Mountain Park, The King Center, Carter Presidential Center, the Delta Air Lines Flight Museum, and the Fernbank Science Center.

For a nice happy hour and a stunning evening view of Atlanta, check out the Skylounge at the Glenn Hotel, one of the Marriott Autograph properties, just a few blocks up the street from the Embassy Suites. However, call them before you go. The Skylounge is frequently booked for private events.

Summary

Atlanta is certainly in the southern U.S. but that doesn’t mean it can’t get cold there. It was very chilly – freezing in fact – when I visited in November but there was an upside: The cold weather opened up the color in the trees. No, don’t expect a New England autumn but the brilliant red, orange, and gold leaf colors made the cold weather much easier to tolerate.

The Luckie Marietta District is a fun place to get away for a few days but there is much more to see in Atlanta. Fortunately transportation is pretty easy unless you want to get somewhere well outside the city. In that case, you may want to rent a car. For more about visiting Atlanta, check out the city’s official website. They may offer some discounts on attractions.

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