Posted by: Sally Ingraham | November 15, 2009

Pandas, Bowling Balls, Whale Sharks, and Largest Bas Relief Sculpture in the World!

Two days crammed full of adventures have swept me up. My friend and I bought Atlanta CityPasses, which give you 9 days to visit 6 major attractions for a reduced rate. We’re working on getting round to all of them, and not doing too badly.

Inside The Living TreehouseYesterday was Zoo Atlanta day, and the 2 year old was very good and seemed to like the animals. As zoos go, this one was decent. The enclosures were mostly naturalized for the animal’s needs, and seemed to be in a good shape. The zoo started life as a traveling circus that got stalled there in 1889, and grew into a glorified picnic area where visitors could gawk at animals behind iron bars. In the 1980’s the zoo was declared one of the worst in the country, and that prompted people in high places to do something about it.

Mel LanNow Zoo Atlanta is supposed to be one of the best zoos in America. Aside from elephants, a lion, zebras, monkeys, colorful birds, etc., they have a wonderful family of gorillas and are one of the few zoos in the states to house giant pandas – and to have successfully orchestrated the birth of a healthy panda, one of only two baby pandas in captivity in the US. Pretty cool. I remember being far more impressed with the Albuquerque Zoo, but I was probably 2 myself the first time I went there!

By mid afternoon we were back in McDonough, browsing in Bell, Book & Candle where my friend went willingly to search for birthday presents for nieces, and where I of course went joyfully to try and not buy any books. More about my purchases later. 🙂

I was caught completely off guard by my friend’s husband’s suggestion to go bowling that night. I hadn’t been bowling since some childhood friend’s 6 year old birthday party. I remember that I enjoyed keeping score, but don’t actually recall playing. I played last night though, and embarrassed myself for the sake of a good time, doing only slightly better at air hockey and kind of excelling at some other arcade game that involved tossing balls into holes. An interesting evening for sure!

I had a terrible headache by the time we got home, which is why I didn’t bother to post here, and I tucked myself into bed early and slept long and heavy.

JellyfishThat was good, because today the pace didn’t slow down at all. The whole family – mom, dad, and kid, plus myself – went back into downtown Atlanta to visit the aquarium. I was completely overjoyed by this experience, and felt like I pointed and said “WOW” just as often as the 2 year old.

The Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the world, housing more animals than any other in over eight million gallons of water. It was a gift from Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, to the city of Atlanta. It opened in 2005 completely debt free, so it is 100% non-profit. It is a leading facility for research and conservation and is one of the only aquariums to be combined with a veterinarian teaching hospital.

I loved every minute that I spent there, whether I was watching jellyfish in a small tank, or whale sharks swim over my head while traversing an underwater tunnel. I would have loved to go round the exhibits twice, but our day was full and lunch was calling (pleading) to be consumed.

Stone Mountain from Memorial ParkFrom the aquarium we drove outside of the city to Stone Mountain Park, home to what some say is the largest piece of exposed granite in the world. It also has an extremely large carving on it’s side, the Confederate Memorial Carving, which displays hugely Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis. Being both a natural wonder and historically significant isn’t enough for Georgians though – the area surrounding the mountain boasts theme park-like elements, with rides, golf courses, a Christmas Village, a scenic train, and cable cars to the top.

Hiking down the mountainWe chose to hike the 1.3 mile trail to the top of Stone Mountain, and although there were moments of hesitation and near-turning back, all four of us made it. With an elevation of 1,686 ft. the mountain top provided excellent views of Georgia for as far as the eye could see, including the Atlanta skyline and Kennesaw Mountain (another historically important place). It was so clear today that we could even vaguely see the Appalachian Mountains.

Considering how steep the trail was, we were equally relieved to reach the bottom, and found ourselves to be tired, starving, and still far from home. We opted to work out some of these problems at a Steak and Shake, a halfway decent southern chain restaurant that I had never encountered before. Burgers and milkshakes consumed, we made it the rest of the way home.

I am about ready for an ‘off-day’! However, with rain coming Tuesday and my flight back to Maine leering at me from Wednesday, it looks like we’ll have to squeeze a few more things into tomorrow. Botanical Gardens and the Margaret Mitchell House, here we come!


  1. That sounds like a dream couple of days and what great pictures you have, but I bet you’re knackered now.

  2. We visited the Georgia Aquarium on our trip to Atlanta last year, and liked it a good deal. BUT. I have to say that as aquarium aficionados, we’ve visited a lot of aquariums, and our favorite one is still probably the one in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It may not be as big as the Georgia Aquarium, but I think the layout is better (it’s more streamlined so you’re not always walking back into the central room) and it has almost everything the GA has (minus the whales). If you ever wind up in the area, I highly recommend it!

  3. That aquarium sounds amazing! It sounds like you’re having a great trip.

    There are apparently Steak & Shakes in Bloomington, Illinois, where a good friend of mine lived for five years. The only craft store in the area was a Hobby Lobby, which led me to ask her if all the retail chains had rhyming names. I still like to imagine that they do. 🙂

  4. Jodie – I was definitely ‘knackered’!! Awesome word. 🙂

    Steph – I’m pretty sure I had never been to an aquarium before this, unless it was when I was very small. I loved it, and I’ll most likely seek more out. Thanks for the tip about the one in Chattanooga!

    Emily – Hahahaha…! Brilliant.

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