Travel pieces and service-y guides about Atlanta are endlessly amusing, and especially when they point out the free stuff many ATLiens take for granted. A recent report by the Associated Press, published widely from Abilene's daily paper to Newsday, highlights all the fun to be had for misers who venture beyond Atlanta's central business districts. States the report: "Many people who visit Atlanta for the hundreds of conventions the city hosts each year never make it out of the few blocks around their hotels. But the city has much more to offer, and some attractions are even free …" Godspeed to any non-English speaking tourist who dares to navigate the city by car, but for those who can find Atlanta's costless havens, the report will guide them well. While it's nice to see kudos heaped upon the city, there's got to be more than five good free places worth visiting.
The report highlights popular tourist attractions like the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial complex, the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, and Oakland Cemetery — as well as the Beltline and Piedmont Park, which we can only hope visitors indulge in. Also, there are compliments: "Atlanta is a diverse, cosmopolitan city that is home to major corporations' headquarters, world-class cultural institutions and restaurants helmed by award-winning chefs. It has a rich cultural and political history, plus parks and trails to keep outdoor enthusiasts busy during the many months of the year when Atlanta's latitude makes it pleasant to be outside." No mention of traffic or crime or shoddy development. Nice.
Of the cemetery and Beltline, the writer waxes descriptive about visceral experiences: "Despite the surrounding busy streets and the clanking and beeping from the adjacent freight rail terminal, the 48-acre cemetery feels calm and peaceful." And … "So far, only the 2.2-mile Eastside Trail has opened, with skyline views and regularly changing public art installations providing added scenery for those who walk, bike and jog along the path." C'mon, man. It's 2.25 miles.
What else would you include on a list of free things that are crucial to the Atlanta experience? A mourning ritual in The Ted's parking lot? A stroll through Underground Atlanta? Scouting street characters like Baton Bob and Suitcase Man?
[ABOVE: Lake photo via Piedmont Park Conservancy]