If I had my way, I’d travel as much as my bank account would allow. But at this point in my life, that’s not entirely practical, so I have to find ways to ease the pain in betweeen trips. Recently my friend Tim from North Carolina and his boyfriend came to visit me for a weekend in Atlanta, and I realized that it can be fun to be a tourist at home. I didn’t get to go with them to the Georgia Aquarium, the biggest in the world, because I had to work. However, I was able to meet them for dinner at Vortex, a restaurant known for juicy burgers and an eclectic mix of waitstaff and customers, and a no-nonsense attitude. There are two locations, but for the full experience, I highly recommend the Little Five Points location.

The next day we went to the Varsity for lunch. Their website says they are the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, but if you prefer not to eat from a tray hanging off your car window, there is more than enough seating inside. When you walk inside, you will be greeted by the sound of a dozen or so employees enthusiastically yelling “What’ll ya have?!” and waiting to take your order. Don’t come here expecting to eat anything healthy. The Varsity sells greasy hamburgers, hot dogs, chili dogs, and all the traditional sides. They even sell a dessert called fried pie – I’m not sure how that works exactly. My favorite item on the menu is the frosted orange, which is sort of like an orange slushy but thicker and very tasty.

From there, we decided to get a little culture and visited the High Museum to see the Dali exhibit. I don’t know a lot about art, but since Dali was from Spain I’ve learned a little about him in Spanish classes. The exhibit was his late work, which included a lot of pieces I wasn’t familiar with but were definitely intersting. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take any pictures because they don’t allow any photography in the Dali section. Try to get there early because they assign time slots for the Dali section, and our mid-afternoon arrival meant waiting almost 2 hours to get in. The exhibit is at the High through January 9, 2011.

Dali exhibit at the High Museum in Atlanta

We finished the day with dinner at Loca Luna for tapas. There were 7 of us at the table, so there were definitely enough dishes to go around. Several of us also tried the drink special that night which was some wonderful tropical drink served in an actual coconut. Delicious! The restaurant has a great atmosphere complete with fun Latin music and a big inviting porch.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how many great things there are to do in your own city. For those of us who can’t travel as much as we’d like, going somewhere new at home can help you get by in between trips. A big part of traveling is breaking out of your comfort zone, and when you can’t hop on a plane, you can try a new restaurant, go to a museum, or play tour guide to an out of town friend to do something out of the ordinary.

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25 comments on “Being a Tourist at Home in Atlanta

  1. Kieron

    I think a lot of us travelers (myself included) have seen more of other countries than we have of our own backyard which is a little bit sad.

    We’ll be exploring a lot of our own city and maybe 1-2 interstate trips to keep ourselves sane while we furiously save for our RTW trip.

    1. Ali Post author

      I totally agree. There’s defintely more of the US I’d like to see, but sometimes it’s too tempting to go somewhere far away and completely different. Doing some local and semi-local travel seems like a good plan while you get ready for your RTW!

  2. Mike

    I totally agree. I live about 40 miles north of Atlanta and there’s just so much I haven’t seen. I know it’s the same whatever city one lives in. Oh yea, Vortex! Yum!!

    1. Ali Post author

      I’ve lived here for 15 years & had never been to the High Museum. Vortex is good! Nice to meet someone else in Atlanta.

  3. Andrew

    That ability to ignore your hometown doesn’t really go away when you live somewhere else. I certainly have seen a lot of my little corner of Germany, but with a day off often the couch is just too attractive. Or I get into going to the few places that I always go and don’t branch out.
    Great post. Dali was a pretty remarkable painter, with a great mustache.

    1. Ali Post author

      I guess it’s just too easy to not think about exploring when you’re there all the time. Maybe that’s why it was easier for me to be tour guide for my friends in order to see new places.

  4. Christina

    MMMMMMM Varsity Peach fried pies!!! Gotta love staycations :-D

    1. Ali Post author

      Ha! Thanks for stopping by Christina! Hope you’re doing good!

  5. Scott No

    I’ve lived here for 20years!
    I had never been to the High Museum too!

    1. Ali Post author

      Go check it out! Thanks for checking out my blog!

  6. Traci

    It’s so true that we often only consider far-away places to travel to – even though I’ve been to many U.S. states, I’ve actually explored very little compared to trips to other countries! However, since our dog is old and hasn’t been in the best health for a while, we’ve been sticking close to home, so I can identify with being a tourist in Atlanta. Beginning to ride a bike has also made me see much more of the city than I would simply passing by in a car – some things I never would have noticed!

    Love the Vortex – I have photos of being there recently on my blog also :)

    1. Ali Post author

      There’s definitely so much we miss when in a car, especially if you’re the driver. I’ll check out your photos!

  7. Jaime

    Okay when I visit you (cus I am at some point…lol) I want you to take me to that burger place. Ahhh I love love LOVE BURGERS~

    Yeah I love when visitors come because it seems like that is the only time I become a tourist in Houston. I will admit though I think I have seen a lot of what Houston has to offer. This city is HUGE and has everything one can need & well I love HOUSTON!!! Now you make me wanna get out there and see more.

    1. Ali Post author

      There’s an air mattress waiting for you Jaime :-)

  8. Andi

    You need to drive 3 hours north and come visit me in Charlotte!!! :)

    I LOVE the Aquarium. I dove with the whale sharks there and it was AMAZING!

    1. Ali Post author

      3 hour drive or a Delta mileage run flight? Hmm….

  9. Nick Laborde

    I’ve lived around Atlanta for almost 5 years and my only experience of the Vortex and the Varsity are from the food channel.

    1. Ali Post author

      Hmm….we might have to add those to the list of upcoming ATL travel tweetups….

  10. Kirsty

    Poi and I had been discussing this recently, we have seen so little of the UK that it seems strange that we have started travelling. I guess you take your own backyard for granted a bit. We have said that when we return we’ll do some of the touristy things. :-)

    1. Ali Post author

      Definitely, I think sometimes it’s too tempting to go somewhere that seems more exotic than our backyards.

  11. Tim

    I am so glad I could help ease the pain a little until your next trip! I had a blast, as always! Thanks for being my tour guide/hotel/chauffeur (cause we all know how much Tim loves driving in the ATL). I’m still waiting for your trip to GSO… We will probably have to hit the Yadkin Valley (aka. wine country) since everything is closing down for the winter. I know it’s not your favorite thing but it is a lot of fun, especially after your second or third tasting. Hope to see you soon! HUGS!

    1. Ali Post author

      It was lots of fun, I always enjoy hanging out with you. I’ll make a trip to GSO early next year I’m sure. Hugs to you too!

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