Historic Banning Mills

An hour west of Atlanta is the world’s longest zip line, Screaming Eagle. Surrounded by 300 beautifully wooded acres, Historic Banning Mills offers visitors an adventure resort. The facility offers multiple levels of ziplining courses, high and low ropes courses, Guinness World Record climbing wall, nature trails and more.

I surprised my adventure loving boyfriend with a day at Banning Mills to celebrate his birthday. I opted for us to participate in the Extreme Tour. This provided us the opportunity to fly through and over the treetops with around 24 ziplines and to traverse 20 sky bridges. This tour included the Sky Trek Bridge that is 600 feet long and 190 feet high over the gorge, and Screaming Eagle, which is like stepping off a 30-story building. If you are going to do an adventure course, I highly recommend this tour!

Historic Banning Mills | Banning, GA

That little dot on the bridge is me. I will say despite being terrifying (for me) the view of Snake River from the sky bridges is absolutely beautiful!

The Tall Man has already asked if we can go back to take part in their ropes courses.

In addition to the ziplining adventure, I also surprised The Tall Man by renting one of the tree house rooms for the night and ordered us dinner at the lodge. It was absolutely worth it! If you get the chance, I highly recommend dining at Banning Mills! The food was absolutely fantastic, and the atmosphere was quite intimate. The room itself was perfectly cozy, and had all the amenities of a hotel…but it was in a tree! Plus the view from the porch makes the perfect setting for sipping your hot beverage of choice before heading to breakfast in the lodge.

Next time you are looking for an adventure be sure to add Historic Banning Mills to your list!

What’s your favorite high adventure activity?

May the Force be with you.

Star Wars has been impacting viewers since it came out in 1977. We have all fallen in love with R2D2, Yoda, Chewbacca, Luke, Leia and Hans. But have you ever thought of the costumes as a character by itself? “Star Wars and the Power of Costume: The Exhibition” is the place where you can experience the costumes, see where the designs came from, and George Lucas’ intention with each costume. Plus – the items you see are the actual costumes worn in the films, not re-creations. Very exciting stuff.

Star Wars Exhibit

The Tall Man and I had a chance to visit this exhibit during our weekend getaway in New York City, and it was one of our favorite parts of the trip. We both totally geeked out as we wandered around the exhibit. If you have a serious Star Wars fan in your life, this is the exhibit for them! Take a stroll through this fun exhibit with me.

Star Wars and the Power of Costume: The Exhibition

Which Star Wars character is your favorite?

“Star Wars and the Power of Costume: The Exhibition” runs Saturday through September 5, 2016 at Discovery Times Square. From New York, the exhibit is headed to Denver Museum of Art until Apr. 2, 2017.

#TTownNeverDown

Five years. 1, 462 days. 35,088 hours. 2,105,280 minutes.

#TTownNeverDown

Some times it feels like April 27, 2011 was a lifetime ago, and there are other times when it feels like it just occurred. If you grow up in Alabama, every spring the one sound you hear frequently, unfortunately, is that of tornado sirens screeching through the still air.

We had been warned that April 27th would not be like any other day. Tornadoes are frequent in Alabama in April, in fact not 12 days before one had passed through the south side of the city. But on this day, the conditions were just right for a super tornado outbreak. It was the week before finals during my first year MBA. I was anxious to attend those last classes to gain that one last piece of information that would help me pass my finals. In the early morning hours, the city of Tuscaloosa was awoken by massive thunder storms and sirens, and we would later realize was the start of this infamous day. I moved through my day like any other only paying closer attention to the radar during my spare minutes of studying and with James Spann talking in the background.

Waiting for my night class to start, my best friend called me from Montgomery and told me to head to campus for cover. She said a super cell containing a tornado was heading for Tuscaloosa. I grabbed my books, computer and ran to campus. I called my brother on the way and told him to not mess around; this was going to be the storm to beat all storms.

As I made it to the MBA Lounge in the basement of Bidgood Hall, there were other students hanging out and studying. I started up my computer, found the radar, turned on the TV to James Spann, and watched as the tornado crossed into Tuscaloosa County. We watched helpless as it moved towards us. We moved across the hall to get away from windows unsure where the storm was going to strike in the city. We watched on my laptop (thanks to internet being one of the items on the generator) as James Spann reported on the storm tearing through the city trying our best to figure out the path based on landmarks mentioned. It only took minutes for it leave our city, and it when it was over we had no clue what was left. As we quietly left the building, the only thing we noticed was broken branches lying on the Quad and the sound of sirens in the distance. There is nothing as helpless a sound as when all the fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars in your city converge to an area a mile away from you.

It took several attempts to get in touch with my parents to tell them I was safe. And that’s when I heard the rumor that Central High School was gone. That was a little over a mile away, and all I knew was my brother was in the apartments behind it. I told my parents what I had heard, and I sat on the steps of my building calling my brother repeatedly until he picked up. It felt like a lifetime, but in fact was about 30 minutes. He was safe.

The hours that followed were a blur. My friends checked for me that my apartment was standing and my car was safe. Those of us in the Lounge went to the grocery store down the street for beer and food. Our dinner that night consisted of chips and Bud Light. We sat in the halls of Bidgood unable to process what had just occurred. My apartment had no water or power, so instead my friend, Rachel, and I slept on the couches in the Lounge. The next morning I stepped out to survey the carnage for the first time ever. I walked the couple of blocks to 15th Street, and the only thing I remember is the smell. The smell of wet, splintered wood and severed gas lines produces a distinctive odor that stands apart from any other smell I had ever encountered.

Not really being able to function in my apartment, I packed a small bag and headed to stay with my Tuscaloosa family. In the days that followed, I’d get up early and head to Emergency Serves on 15th Street to distribute food and go through all the donations. And in that metal warehouse, I saw first hand the outpouring of love and support. It was in little things like someone driving the 45 minutes from Birmingham with a hundred Krispy Kreme doughnuts. It was running into Home Depot to buy tarps for friends and realizing that the gentleman helping me was from Tennessee. It was strangers driving from all over to lend a helping hand in clearing debris.

The hands and feet of Jesus were alive and well in the days, weeks and months that followed April 27, 2011. The people who came may forget that this tornado outbreak ever occurred, but I can tell you their presence was a healing balm on our wide open wounds. The state still has its scar marks in the landscape, and the its people even more. But Alabamians are resilient, and we never let something like this get us down. We come back stronger than ever, and even though Tuscaloosa will never be the same again it is very much alive and beating. #TTownNeverDown

ATX {Austin, TX}

This past weekend I flew out to Austin, Texas for my second National Geographic Expeditions trip. It was my first visit to the Live Music Capital of the World and I had an absolute blast exploring the city with my new friends and workshop buddies.

Welcome to Austin, TX

I flew out Wednesday night after work so I could have the whole day Thursday exploring before the workshop started on Thursday night. My friend Dave also joined me on the trip, so in his bright yellow Wrangler we toured all Austin had to offer. One of our first goals was to find as many murals and pieces of wall art as possible. With the help of a Pinterest  we were able to find quite a number of them. I highly recommend this little excursion during your visit. It provides a great opportunity to see a lot of the city and you get a great perspective of how Austin acquired the tag line “Keep Austin Weird”.

Our assignment throughout the weekend with the workshop was to create a sense of place. The first location for our field assignments was the Texas Capitol building. They say everything is bigger in Texas and this includes the capitol building. Construction started in 1882 and it is the largest state capitol building in the US. The central dome was my favorite part, as well as all the original fixtures in the House and Senate.

Texas State Capitol | Austin, TX

It is truly a spectacular piece of architecture.

To keep with our theme of creating a sense of place, our little group also walked around Lady Bird Lake in the morning light to practice our motion with the runners, bikers and rowers. We then moved to the local farmers market.

In addition to wandering all over Austin, we indulged in some seriously good food. I highly recommend Jo’s Coffee, Royal Blue GroceryManuel’sBotticellis and Ruby’s BBQ.

Ever traveled to Austin, what’s your favorite part?

WELCOME TO NEW YORK!

Home to the Empire State Building, Times Square, Statue of Liberty, The Big Apple is consistently one of the top 10 US tourist destinations.

When a work trip presented me with an opportunity to tack on a three-day weekend I took it. The Tall Man and I spent two solid days playing mega tourists and checking off our NYC bucket list: Times Square, the Empire State Building, New York Public Library, Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial, Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park and more.

Our flights arrived into LaGuardia at 11:00 am on Friday, so we grabbed a cab, checked into our hotel and embarked on our first adventure. Prior to arriving in New York, we decided we would see the Vikings exhibit and the Star Wars exhibit at Discovery Times Square per recommendation of one of my coworkers. Our first exhibit was the Vikings exhibit. If you are a fan of the show, Vikings, or just the Norse culture then we recommend checking this exhibit out. It is very informative and has a ton of awesome artifacts.

From Discover Times Square we decided it was time for a late lunch. The Tall Man selected Virgil’s Barbecue. (I’m looking forward to introducing my man to some real southern barbecue the next time he comes to Atlanta.) After lunch, we wandered around Times Square for a bit before venturing onto the New York Public Library, which opened its doors on May 23, 1911. We were completely blown away by the intricate details inside the building and the architecture in general. I would totally go to my public library more if it looked like this building.

On Friday night, we headed to one of the most iconic buildings in New York—the Empire State Building. Construction on this massive yet beautiful structure finished on April 11, 1931, and it once held the title of tallest building in New York for 70 years. After purchasing tickets, you ride the elevator to the 60th floor where you can stroll through the small exhibit and the gift shop before riding the elevator to the 68th Floor Observation Deck. Take a second and walk through the exhibit. It’s pretty amazing the expense, time and expertise that went into building this iconic building. Lucky for us, the night was clear and we could see all the lights of New York.

We started our Saturday morning off with a lovely stroll down 5th Avenue to Central Park. One of our stops along 5th Avenue was Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, which was completed in 1878. It is a spectacular piece of architecture. After reaching Central Park, we looped back to Times Square for the Star Wars Exhibit, which was is a very cool exhibit. Following the Star Wars exhibit, we explored Times Square a little more. We spent the rest of the afternoon strolling the streets of New York before enjoying a delicious dinner at Madison & Vine near our hotel followed by a delectable chocolate mousse at Benjamin Steakhouse.

The Plaza Hotel | New York City

Sunday morning we caught a cab and headed down to Lower Manhatten. We started with the 9/11 Memorial and a viewing of the Freedom Tower. We then proceeded to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. If you are looking for spectacular views of Manhatten, I suggest you take this hike—it is totally worth it in our opinion. Plus the bridge in and of itself is a pretty spectacular piece of work. Completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridges in the United States. The Brooklyn Bridge also holds a special place for The Tall Man and myself since we crossed one of Roebling’s bridges in Cincinnati on our first date.

Once in Brooklyn, we headed to One Girl Cookies for a small treat and hot chocolate before heading back to Manhattan. Once back in Manhattan, we grabbed our New York Harbor tickets to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Dedicated on October 28, 1886, Statue of Liberty has stood guard of the New York Harbor and welcomed immigrants during Ellis Island’s operations.

That evening, we walked back down to Central Park for a stroll in the snow flurries. Central Park was established in 1857, and today it is an 843 acres park in middle-upper Manhattan area. It was surprising to me how this space makes you forget you are surrounded by a concrete jungle, your only reminder is the honking of passing cars.

Central Park | New York City

Have you ever been to New York City? What is on your New York City bucket list?

World of Coca-Cola

The World of Coca-Cola is the only place where you can experience the fascinating story of the world’s best-known beverage brand, and it is located in the heart of downtown Atlanta.

World of Coca-Cola | Atlanta, GA

I recommend starting with the Vault of the Secret Formula exhibit. Through this multi-media exhibit, you can view not only the vault where the secret formula is stored but also 125 years of history, special moments and memories of this classic beverage. I particularly liked trying my hand at the Virtual Taste Maker to see if I could duplicate THE secret formula. I failed.

Coca-Cola has touched millions of lives. In the Milestones of Refreshment exhibit, navigate your way through Coke’s history. This exhibit is composed of ten galleries and a thousand of original artifacts, some dating back to the earliest days of the beverage’s history.

In Bottle Works, you get a behind the scenes look at an operating Coca-Cola bottling process. Bottle Works showcases some of the same equipment and processes that are found in a full-size bottling plant. You even get a complimentary commemorative bottle as you are leaving the World of Coca-Cola.

Your last stop is the Taste It! room. Here you can try 100 different beverages from five different regions around the world. Beverly from Italy is a fun one to try! But we really liked Inca Cola from Peru and another from Africa.

Last not least, be sure to grab a picture with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear!

World of Coca-Cola | Atlanta, GA

Open Happiness, and visit World of Coca-Cola next time you are in Atlanta.

What is your favorite Coca-Cola product?

Getting Around Atlanta: MARTA Stops & Attractions

MARTA

Atlanta is a big city to navigate, and with the added traffic factor, getting around to see the memorable landmarks can be even more difficult. MARTA is the quickest, most efficient way to navigate around Atlanta, and some of the best attractions minutes from a MARTA rail station.

MARTA Stops and Attractions

Here are some not-to-miss MARTA stops and attractions:

Peachtree Center MARTA Station

Apex Museum
The Apex Museum, just minutes from the Peachtree Center MARTA station, celebrates the historical significance of African-Americans, the Civil Rights Movement, and the profound culture and history of the city’s African-American community.

Skyview
Get off at the Peachtree Center MARTA station for Skyview, another big Atlanta attraction, located near Piedmont Park. It offers one of the best ways to see the city lit up at night as well as panoramic city views during the day. Visitors can also visit the Ferris wheel during other big events, such as Music Midtown.

Atlanta Streetcar
The Atlanta Streetcar, a new addition to the Atlanta public transportation system, is the 21-century symbol representation linking Atlanta to its past with train and rail transportation. Functioning as a piece of the MARTA system, the Atlanta Streetcar, now in Phase One, shuttles passengers on the East-West route to several other area attractions and landmarks.

Inman Park/Reynoldstown MARTA Station

Atlanta BeltLine
The Atlanta BeltLine is one of the biggest developments to hit the city in recent years. With planned hiking trails, parks, and neighborhood strengthening programs in place around the city, the BeltLine is a must visit. Take advantage of the free year-round tours of the 22-mile railroad corridor encompassing Atlanta. The tour leaves from the Inman Park Station on Friday and Saturday mornings.

Little Five Points Shopping District
Little Five Points is one of Atlanta’s alternative neighborhoods. Lining Moreland and Euclid Avenues, storefronts and consignment shops sprinkled throughout the small district, it is easy to see why the small district attracts Atlanta locals.

Shops like Junkman’s Daughter and Criminal Records or restaurants like Vortex and Savage Pizza lend an eclectic vibe similar to the Haight-Ashbury counter-culture in the 60s and 70s, but without the psychedelic tie-die and drugs.

Arts Center

MODA
Unifying design and functionality, MODA or Museum of Design Atlanta, incorporates the best parts of design fused with functionality. It enriches the local community through exhibits and educational events for all. Exhibits range from the art of 3-D printing to sustainable architecture.

Discover exhibits highlighting the best in functional design and art, or if creation is your fancy, consider immersing yourself in a creative design class offered at the museum.

Center For Puppetry Arts
Children love the Center for Puppetry Arts. A community favorite in Atlanta, the center is known for their lively shows and hosted events throughout the year. The center really comes to life during the holidays with puppet shows such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty, The Snowman.

Additionally, the center is also a focus the performance industry with knowledgeable staff leading on-site workshops and museum tours.

Atlanta, a hub for multi-cultural dining, events, and history, is brimming with activities and excitement for locals and visitors. Don’t miss the most iconic places in Atlanta: World of Coke, Georgia Aquarium, or CNN Center. Visiting Atlanta? Explore Atlanta like the locals do.

 

About Holiday Inn Express® Hotel & Suites Atlanta North-Perimeter/Dunwoody

Neel Shah is the principal of The Holiday Inn Express® Hotel & Suites Atlanta North-Perimeter/Dunwoody located directly off Georgia 400 and I-285. This means they’re just minutes from several corporate offices and training centers. Additionally, Buckhead, Sandy Springs, Roswell, the Dunwoody Medical Centers, Northside Hospital, Children’s Health Care, St. Joseph’s, and the Dunwoody MARTA station are nearby. Enjoy a memorable stay at our modern Perimeter hotel, part of Atlanta’s upscale corporate Perimeter Center. With our courteous staff, reasonable rates, and terrific amenities, this Atlanta Perimeter hotel is the place to “Stay Smart” in the Perimeter Center area.

For more information visit: http://www.PERIMETERHOTEL.com

 

Southern Exhilaration was not compensated for this post. 

Georgia Aquarium

Did you know Atlanta is home of the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere?

Georgia Aquarium | Atlanta, GA

The Georgia Aquarium, located in the heart of the city, is among one of the world’s state of the art exhibits. The aquarium offers a fun and educational experience for all age groups! There is always something going on at the Georgia Aquarium, so I highly recommend checking the website to see how you can get the most out of your visit.

The Georgia Aquarium is divided into four main regions: Coldwater Quest, River Scout, Ocean Voyager and Tropical Diver. The aquarium also has a theater (Deepo’s Wondershow), a hands-on-experience for parents and children (Aquanaut Adventure) and a dolphin show (Dolphin Tales) that are also available with general admission.

Take a stroll with me through the Georgia Aquarium.

For a little extra, you can experience a Behind the Seas tour of the aquarium. SO much fun!

What is your favorite aquatic animal?

Tourist at Home

This past weekend, I had the privilege of hosting The Tall Man in my home city of Atlanta. It was so much fun exploring some of the sights and just getting to show him around the places I work, live and hang out. After touching down in Atlanta, we headed out for a delicious dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill followed by a movie at home.

Saturday was the real introduction to Atlanta. After breakfast, we headed downtown for our adventure. We had tickets to the Georgia Aquarium and I surprised my guy with behind the scenes tickets. If you ever get the chance to do the behind the scenes, we highly recommend it. The Georgia Aquarium is such a fun place to explore and see, and it’s fun to brag that Atlanta is home of the largest aquarium in the US.

Georgia Aquarium | Atlanta, GA

After checking out all the fishes, we headed across the park for an impromptu visit to World of Coca-Cola. It has probably been eight years since I last visited the World of Coke, and they have definitely added a lot of cool features. The Tasting Room is still a favorite, but we particularly like getting to see a functioning full-size bottling plant.

We topped off the day with a trip on SkyView Atlanta. This was a first for me as well, and it was fun way to see the city of Atlanta at night.

SkyView Atlanta | Atlanta, GA

On Sunday, we headed out to Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield to hike a portion of the trails before heading back to the airport. We definitely want to hike more of the trails the next time The Tall Man is in town.

It was another whirlwind weekend, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.

A Weekend in New England

First trip of 2016 is in the books, and this one included crossing Massachusetts and New Hampshire off the bucket list! Now if you know anything about me, cold weather and I are not the best of friends. But it’s funny the things you’ll do to spend time with the people you care about, including flying to New England in January. Luckily for me, I picked the one weekend where it was colder in Atlanta than my destination.

I flew up to Boston on Friday night after work, and The Tall Man met me at the airport and then whisked me off for a romantic dinner at Ecco Boston. If you are ever in town, we highly recommend it! Seriously good food, and we thank my friend Keri Ann for the suggestion. After a relaxing dinner, we headed north to The Tall Man’s home. Saturday morning was lazy, which was perfect since it had been a little over a month since The Tall Man and I were able to spend time together in person. The highlights of Saturday included meeting his family, going bowling with a friend, and then a Mexican date night.

Sunday we headed down to Boston! Now, apparently the weather missed the memo that it needed to be sunny and pretty, and instead it ended up being grey and raining sideways. Despite the weather, we still had a great time checking out some of Boston’s sights. Our day of touring started at the Old State House, then we headed to Granary Tavern to have lunch with my cousin and his family. After lunch we followed the Freedom Trail to Old North Church and Paul Revere’s House before heading back to the airport.

It was quick 48 hours, but I’m already looking forward to my next trip to Boston.

And because I’m a terrible blogger, this is the only picture I managed to get during the weekend!

Boston, MA

So I’ll just conclude by asking, what’s your favorite thing to see/do in New England?