In mid-November, Abby Wells and I traveled to Atlanta, GA to check out our hotel for the 109th Annual Conference & Expo, learn more about the city and its surroundings, and visit the sites of our educational excursions. We had a wonderful time, and I’m so excited to share what we learned with you!
I headed into Atlanta early in the morning on Wednesday, November 15th, determined to make the most of my short trip! Atlanta’s airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) is easy to fly into, and while quite large, it’s pretty easy to navigate! The airport is a Delta Airlines hub—and luckily, we once again have a great deal with Delta for discounts! Depending on the type of flight, you can save up to 10% on your flight into ATL—click here for more info. The airport is about a half hour from the hotel by taxi or rideshare, but by far the easiest and least expensive way to get to the hotel is via MARTA, Atlanta’s train system. Even at 8am, after being awake for four and a half hours, I found it very easy to figure out, and if you’re confused there are plenty of MARTA employees who can help you out! Plus, MARTA even has an instructional video on their website. If you plan to return to the airport via MARTA, make sure to get a round trip ticket, just $5.00! You can also use your Breeze ticket to travel around Atlanta on MARTA or the streetcar—so you may consider purchasing a Breeze Card in advance. The card can be easily reloaded and costs just $2. You can also purchase one on-site!
The MARTA station is right in the airport past baggage claim, and you can take either the gold or red line to Peachtree Center. When you get off the escalator out of the station (turn left when you come up from the tracks), head into the food court, and you’ll be able to walk right through skyways to the hotel! Of course, you can also head outside, as I did. The hotel is just a few blocks away, an easy walk even with luggage.
If you prefer to take a shuttle from the airport, or rent a car, we’ve got you covered! We have a great deal with Hertz Rent-a-Car, a good option if you plan to perhaps visit the Carter Presidential Library or his home after conference! There are multiple shuttle companies that service ATL—we’re working on finding a deal that will work for you!
I arrived at the hotel within a half hour of hopping on the MARTA, ready to meet my hotel representative, drop my bags at the front desk, and head out for the day. The Marriott Marquis is gorgeous, and we’re so excited for you to see it! Fun fact: the hotel has been used as a set for multiple movies, including the Hunger Games trilogy.
After dropping my bags, I headed out on foot to my first stop, AmericasMart. Just a few blocks from the hotel (and also accessible via skyways), AmericasMart is 76 floors of wholesale showrooms for interior and apparel professionals! They’re the nation’s largest gift, home furnishings, apparel, and area rug marketplace, and people can only visit with the proper professional credentials.
We are lucky enough to be able to hold an educational excursion there, to learn more about the workings of the business and tour some showrooms—PLUS, you’ll have the unique opportunity to shop at their apparel and gift shops, which are not accessible to the general public! Depending on attendees’ preferred focuses, we’ll be holding two sections of the excursion—one focusing on apparel, and one on interior design. No matter what, you’ll have some shopping time!
When I arrived, I met up with my host, Jenny Heinzen York, who gave me lots of background about the company and explained what they do. I got to see lots of showrooms, and learned so much about how the wholesale world works. We ended our tour with a visit to the interior designer library, where designers can learn more about the showrooms and access useful books and catalogues. Ruthie Minick joined us there, and gave me a bit more information about the services they provide for professionals!
After a thorough, fascinating tour, I headed out to my second stop, the World of Coca-Cola! In Atlanta, many attractions are adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park, the center of the location of the 1996 Summer Olympics. With a little time left before my scheduled meeting, I took a quick walk through this beautiful park. It holds the Fountain of Rings, which will be in full operation when we’re there, with automated displays with lights and music! The park also includes the flags of all the countries that participated in the 1996 Olympics, and several light towers resembling Olympic torches. It’s worth a visit! The park and attractions are about a 15 minute walk from the hotel.
Next, I was able to meet with my contact at the World of Coca-Cola, Ashley North, and learned a bit more about the VIP Tour of the World of Coca-Cola that we'll be offering! After our meeting, I headed in to enjoy the individual tour, which includes a quick history presentation from a tour guide, and then an introductory film. I was then able to explore the museum, which includes an art exhibit, history exhibits, and an exhibit showing how Coca-Cola products are bottled, along with many more! And of course, you finish your tour in the Tasting Room, where you can taste Coca-Cola products from around the world! While I’m not a huge soda fan, I really enjoyed tasting all the different flavors from different regions!
Time was short, so unfortunately I did not get to eat at one of the great local restaurants—but a quick stop at the Pemberton Café for a veggie burger (located between the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium) did the trick!
After lunch, it was time to walk over to the Streetcar stop in Centennial Park, purchase a ticket at the convenient machine—just $3.00 for the day!—and head over to the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. The streetcar goes on a loop all day, and brings you to several different convenient locations!
Sweet Auburn Curb Market has been a fixture of Atlanta for over 100 years! I was excited to see the market, which includes not only produce, meat, and seafood vendors, but also multiple eateries. My contact at the Market, Dorthey, took me on a tour around the space, showing off all the great small businesses and explaining the history of the market. You’ll take a similar tour if you join us for our Wednesday excursion! Halfway through, I met Lyn Deardorff, who runs The Learning Kitchen within the Market. She offers classes in canning, cheese-making, bread-baking, fermentation, kitchen skills, and more! On Sunday, you’ll be able to learn to make chutney at our educational excursion!
Dorthey and I ended our tour with a stop at the Just Add Honey Tea Company, which I cannot recommend enough, especially if you’re suffering from a bit of a cold as I was. Make sure if you head over for a visit to pick up a cup!
After a long day, I hopped back on the streetcar and made a stop at the King Historic District, where you can visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Unfortunately, I did not have time to visit the Visitor Center, the Birth Home, or the King Center, but I did have a bit of time to admire the Behold Monument. If you’d like to visit the King Historic District, AAFCS will be putting together an easy itinerary that will give you the exact information you need to spend a day visiting both the King Center and the Center for Civil and Human Rights, located near Centennial Olympic Park. This will be on our “Get to Know Atlanta” page!
From the King Historic District, I hopped back on the streetcar, and got off at the Peachtree Center stop! Of course, the Peachtree Center is connected to the hotel, and it’s very easy to get back to the Marriott Marquis. Unlike the MARTA station, though, the streetcar stop is on street level. You can either cross Peachtree St. NE to head into the Center food court, or you can walk down Peachtree St. NE to the hotel—just two turns on John Portman Blvd NE and Peachtree Center Ave NE and you’re there!
As you can imagine, after 15 hours on my feet I was pretty exhausted, so I grabbed my bags and headed up to my room. The hotel has multiple restaurants—High Velocity, Pulse, and Sear—but as I knew I’d be eating at Sear the next day, I decided to take advantage of the hotel’s version of room service, Fresh Bites. Unlike traditional room service, Fresh Bites allows you to have your food delivered or pick it up downstairs, and packages your food as they would for takeout. The menu is limited, but has some delicious and price-conscious options--and if you’re too tired to stop at a restaurant or just need some time to yourself, I highly recommend the rice bowl with steak!
After dinner, I made it an early night, since I knew I’d be heading out early the next morning! Luckily, the bed was super comfortable and the room was very quiet, so I slept well as the next two days were just as jam-packed!
Check back soon for Part 2, learn about educational excursions here, and register here! #AAFCSac#AnnualConference#Atlanta