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11-13. Play tourist
Fifth-generation Atlantan Charles Bethea checks out three classic spots.
11.The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Sun Dial Bar
“It’s like an adult Disney ride,” says Audrey. I’ve taken my girlfriend here, 723 feet above Peachtree, to show her Atlanta looks pretty from up high. (She wants to move to New York.) We’re sitting on a slowly spinning platform, which does one revolution every thirty-five minutes.
The signature Peachy Westin arrives in a tall take-home glass. “Why is it frozen and giant?” Audrey asks. Indeed, it looks and tastes like something from a cruise ship. But the Mose Davis Trio is doing a competent version of “Every Breath You Take,” and we settle into pleather chairs, searching for Cabbagetown below. Soon, I’m dizzy. Back at street level, Downtown never felt so good. westinpeachtreeplazaatlanta.com
12. The Varsity
My carhop, wearing a white jacket that says “Orange You Glad,” is the youngest of the four graying men working the lot at 2 p.m. on a Monday. My Honda Civic is sandwiched between a Ford F-250 and a Chevy Tahoe. Late lunch, solo.
I roll down my window and, having been given the requisite greeting—“What’ll ya have?”—I order exactly what I used to bring my grandmother: a glorified hamburger, onion rings, and a peach pie. It arrives on a tray that clips to my window, and I eat, watching the four men laugh and run mediocre (if we’re more honest than nostalgic) meat and fries in and out of the building that since 1928 has hosted everyone from Muhammad Ali to Sonny Perdue. Straight ahead sits the Coca-Cola building. Over yonder is the Capitol. This is Atlanta. thevarsity.com
13. The World of Coca-Cola
There are thirsty pilgrims from Russia, Israel, and St. Louis. Ads saying “Open Happiness” in nineteen languages. A Norman Rockwell painting of a boy and his beloved Coke. The stuff was invented a mile from here, the guide says. Someone asks if there was cocaine in it then: “No, no, no,” the guide responds with a perma-smile. I pose for a picture with a seven-foot polar bear, then enter a reimagining of John S. Pemberton’s pharmacy, where Coke emerged in 1886—its still-secret formula locked in “The Vault” we pass. Much here is devoted to this secret. It’s a clever marketing campaign. And gets you thirsty. worldofcoca-cola.com
This article originally appeared in our April 2013 issue.