Monday, February 28, 2011

World of Coke - A Birthday Wish Come True

Adventure Journal  - Entry Date: January 2011 - Read the full story
For his 8th Birthday, we told Heath he could go anywhere he wanted. His answer? "World of Coke," and quite emphatically. Rebecca recently visited World of Coke on a field trip with her students, and told our kids how cool it was, especially the "tasting room."  Personally, I didn't think the kids would find a museum very exciting. I was wrong.

World of Coke is part of Centennial Park located in Downtown Atlanta, adjacent to the city's world famous Aquarium, CNN Center, the Georgia Dome, and Phillips Arena. Centennial Park was created for the 1996 Olympics. It's an unusually open grassy area unexpectedly planted smack-dab in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world. We arrived late on a Saturday morning, ready to rock.

When we first entered the World of Coke, it was apparent that this was a tribute to the history of the product, a museum. We were ushered into a foyer where a we were introduced to the history of Coca Cola and some of the artifacts around the room, including an original Norman Rockwell Painting.

One of many exhibits depicting Coke's history
 The next stop was the Happiness Factory Theater where we learned the truth about the phenomenon that takes place behind the front panel of a Coke machine. I never knew about... Well, I guess I'd better not let the cat out of the bag. Just let me say, the kids will like it, and it's true, Coke is magic!

The polar bear was a big hit with the kids. 
We had our picture made with one of the the Coca Cola Polar Bears next, but, in our excitement, we forgot to pick it up at the gift shop. From there we wandered through a history of Coca Cola and all the related memorabilia. Think about it. What other product better depicts Americana of the 20th century than Coke? It's hard to imagine any public place during the 1900s that did not have a Coke machine. Just think about it.

The Tribe sampling some European Flavors.
We climbed the stairs to the second floor and enjoyed the show in the 4D theater, a fantasy story about the secret of the Coca Cola formula. Again, this was a big hit for the kids.

After a brief layover in the Perfect Pauses theater enjoying the Coca Cola commercials from our childhood as well as international commercials, we succumbed to the children's demands to visit the "tasting room."

Lainey reacts to Beverly, an Italian endeavor.
The tasting room (taste it!) is what the kids came for. There are a series of soda fountain islands evenly spaced in a large room (with an adjacent restroom). Each island represents a world region and dispenses the Coca Cola products available in that region. We had to try each and every flavor. There is one important lesson we all learned, and that is -- what is good to someone else isn't necessarily good to us. The infamous "Beverly" is a perfect example. If you visit the World of Coke, you MUST taste Beverly, just so you can say you did.

In summary, World of Coke is a great destination, at least for 2-3 hours. It's good for kids, and better for grown-ups. If you're concerned about what to do with the rest of the day, the aquarium or any of the other local attractions should suit your needs. 
This Winter picture of the World of Coke (center) shows the Atlanta skyline from Centennial Park

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Visiting Georgia? See Stone Mountain!

It could be a law, I don't know.  Read the full story
Stone Mountain, advertised as the World's largest piece of exposed granite, is perhaps Georgia's most recognizable landmark. If you are visiting Georgia, seeing Stone Mountain is pretty much a requirement. The rock dome extends 825 feet above the the surrounding landscape, and 9 miles beneath. The vertical face of the mountain features the largest bas-relief sculpture in the World. The sculpture is a memorial of three key Confederate figures: Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis. Mystery and controversy shroud the mountain's jaded history and its' sculpture, but that's something you can research on your own. One note of interest is that when the first European settlers came, they discovered a mysterious wall encompassing the crown of the mountain, similar to the one found at Fort Mountain. The wall has long since been removed, rocks pushed over the edge or carried away by souvenir seekers and vandals.

The park is located less than 20 miles East of downtown Atlanta off Highway 78. Once you pay the $10.00 per car fee for entry to the 3,200 acre park, you will begin to discover a wide variety of things to do. There is a "theme park" area with shops, a miniature golf course, 4D theater,  treetop adventure course, and various other seasonal attractions and events. There are additional fees for these attractions, and it can get a bit expensive.

Additional park amenities include a gondola that lifts visitors to the top of the mountain (for a fee) to enjoy the spectacular view, including Atlanta's skyline. There is a open-air passenger train that travels around the base of the mountain, stopping for a short show and a drop-off site for hikers (the show is seasonal and train may or may not be running and/or stopping at the hiker drop-off. Call the park for information). There is a Robert Trent Jones designed golf course, a lake for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking, a riverboat ride, and an amphibious vehicle rides called "the Ducks". There is also an antique car museum and an Antebellum plantation with a petting zoo.  All these attractions are subject to seasonal (and somewhat random) closures, so make sure to call ahead (don't rely on the website).

A trademark of Stone Mountain is a laser light show that is projected on the sculpture on certain evenings. The music and lights are a real treat, and the show is typically followed by fireworks.

Every Winter, the large sloped lawn at the base of the mountain is converted into a massive snow hill for tubing and play. Known as Snow Mountain, this feature offers us snow-deprived Southerners the chance to enjoy a Winter wonderland with an easy exit. Yes, we like snow, but just in small doses. 

Finally, the park hosts what Woodall's calls Georgia's number 1 campground. This is where *my review takes a bit of a diversion from Woodall's findings. Certainly the campground is in an ideal and beautiful setting, and it should be a fantastic campground, but it's not. It's like a classic car with a custom paintjob, but with tattered seats and a smoking engine. It needs an overhaul! There are but a handful of sites I would consider "good", and none I would consider excellent, or even above average. For more, see my accounts and pictures of camping visits since 2007 below.

In summary, our feelings toward Stone Mountain park are certainly mixed. We love Stone Mountain! We will return! But we are always frustrated about random attraction closures and poorly maintained campground facilities. If you are a tourist wanting to visit Georgia, this is a must-see destination. In fact, it could be a law. I'll have to look into that.

For lots more pictures, accounts of past visits, and a more thorough review of Stone Mountain, click here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Camp Cooking the Old-Fashioned Way

Everyone knows the Richardson Tribe enjoys outdoor activities, especially those associated with camping. One of the luxuries of camping in an RV is a fully functional kitchen. However, an RV's kitchen is inside, and somehow, cooking with a microwave just doesn't produce a real "outdoorsy" experience. Sure, we appreciate the camper's indoor kitchen, but every once in a while, it's fun to do it the "old fashioned" way.

We initially became acquainted with this type of cooking in 2008 while attending "Frontier Days", an annual October event held at New Echota Historic Site in Calhoun, Georgia. For the Cherokee, this village was the brief capitol of their sovereign nation. New Echota was also home of the Phoenix, the only newspaper published in the Cherokee Nation's own language using a type of alphabet developed by Sequoyah, an illiterate (in English) but brilliant native.

New Echota's Frontier Days event is great for the entire family. Lots of hands-on experiences are provided throughout the historical site that keep kids of all ages entertained.

One of the cabins featured a Native American game that required spear throwing. There was also archery and tomahawk target practice at the same cabin. The cabin also had a wonderful fragrance of baked apples and cinnamon seeping through the cracks in the walls. On the hearth of the cabin's fireplace were several Dutch ovens, each containing some sort of culinary masterpiece. The friendly folks demonstrating the Dutch ovens let us sample the food while explaining how the process works. Rebecca was especially interested and asked lots of questions about what kind of cookware and accessories she needed to get started. more