John and I were ready for a change of scenery and so we scheduled a week in Atlanta. I lived in Atlanta for decades and my three grown children are here, in addition to a number of friends. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Atlanta is still a vibrant city with lots to offer.
Bicycling through Atlanta’s six linear parks
One of the joys of returning from our year of around-the-world travel was reconnecting with my bicycle. John and I have resumed our habit of regular rides since returning home and it’s a great pleasure to ride in Atlanta.
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I did not know anything about the series of six linear parks in Atlanta’s Druid Hills area until around the time I moved away. The parks were developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Frederick Law Olmstead and his son, Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. I had heard of Olmstead, Sr. before as the designer of Central Park in New York and as the “Father of Landscape Architecture,” but knew little about the creation of both the parks and the now-historic Druid Hills neighborhood until recently.
Since John and I are staying at a little place just south of Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, we have an excellent place to walk or cycle just steps away. Just off of Piedmont Park is a newer addition to the city, The Atlanta Beltline. The Beltline project started twenty years ago as part of a Georgia Tech graduate student’s thesis. The idea was to develop an abandoned rail line in the city and make it into a pathway for unmotorized vehicles and pedestrians. The Beltline is a madly popular area that is dotted with graffiti and other artwork, in addition to shops and restaurants. It can be fairly quiet on weekdays and early mornings, but on weekends there are people of all ages, colors, shapes, and sizes engaged in pushing strollers, walking dogs, riding bicycles, running, and more. At busy times, the traffic, in its various forms, can be hard to navigate, and a bike bell is a must – but it’s a great place for people watching.
The Beltline, in turn, leads to the series of parks, which end near the historic city of Decatur. The entire ride is almost all through dedicated bike paths and parks and it stretches out to about six miles. We reward ourselves for cycling out to Decatur with a refreshing iced tea from Jimmy John’s, consumed outdoors at a table on the sidewalk.
Riding to Centennial Olympic Park
Another adventure I never took the time to enjoy while I lived here was riding my bicycle from the Piedmont Park area to Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta’s downtown. I had the chance to run some of the streets that are on the bike path to downtown several times when I ran the Georgia Half Marathon. I also know the downtown area pretty well from my years working in the Georgia-Pacific building at 133 Peachtree Street.
Hiking Stone Mountain’s Cherokee Trail
One of my favorite hikes anywhere just happens to have been about a fifteen-minute drive from my home in the years I lived in Atlanta. Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park is the top tourist attraction in the state and draws an estimated four million visitors per year. Most visitors participate in the park’s many attractions: laser shows, a Duck Boat ride, a train ride, and in the winter, there are Christmas events and a “snow mountain,” which offers a tube ride on man made snow. John and I, however, take the path less traveled and walk the Cherokee Trail, a hike that circumnavigates the mountain and is about five miles in length. The Cherokee Trail offers lovely views of the back side of the mountain that others never see, and also takes walkers past a grist mill and an authentic covered bridge that originated sixty miles away in Athens, GA, and was moved to Stone Mountain in 1891. I never tire of the solitude and beauty of this part of Stone Mountain.