Category: Southern Experiences

Mount Cheaha

Take a trip to Mount Cheaha, situated in the Talladega Mountains, and visit Alabama’s highest point at 2,407 feet above sea level. Located in Cheaha Resort State Park, the state’s oldest continuous operating state park, this mountaintop destination is the perfect day trip for anyone in Atlanta or Birmingham.

There are several hiking trails around the park, but none take you directly to the summit. If you desire to reach the summit by foot, then I recommend taking the Cheaha Express and cutting across to one of the roads that lead to the summit. If you would prefer to drive, like us, then there is a road that takes you directly to the summit.

The highest point in Alabama is marked with an observation tower named Bunker Tower. This tower was completed in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. In fact, the Civilan Conservation Corps statue in front of the tower is the only CCC statue in the state of Alabama. The wing to the right of the main tower is home to the CCC museum. I highly recommend taking a look around, as it is very educational.

Have you ever climbed the highest point in your state?

Checking In: Hotel Finial

Checking In is a series for reviewing properties, whether it is a hostel, hotel or other forms of accommodation. To suggest a property please send us an email.

This post is brought to you by Hotel Finial. I received a free stay at Hotel Finial in exchange for writing a review on the blog. All opinions are my own. Thank you for your support surrounding sponsored posts. 

I have mastered the art of weekend getaways. Whether it is a day trip up to the North Georgia mountains for wine tasting or driving a few hours to check out a nearby city, I am always looking for something to do on the weekends. A few weekends ago, I was provided the opportunity to visit a city I had never really explored before and to stay in one of the city’s historic hotels.

Situated on a hill above downtown Anniston, Hotel Finial is located in a Queen Anne Victorian mansion that was built in 1888. Prior to being a hotel, this mansion was home to some of the city’s most prominent families including the McKleroys, Wilsons and Kirbys. Each of these families are honored with suites named after them in the main house.

The hotel features 61 rooms including five suites. Four of these suites are located in the main house, the three mentioned above as well as a Ballroom Suite that is the entire third floor of the main house.

The last suite is The Cottage, where we stayed.

(Check out this video for a walking tour of The Cottage.)

Every morning, Hotel Finial starts off with a delicious Southern breakfast prepared by Charlene, the hotel’s chef, that you can enjoy in one of the four dining rooms. All the dining rooms are located in the main house and include the original hardwood and fireplace from the 1800s.

My favorite part about the hotel, though, is the details! The intricate fireplaces and stained glass really bring character to the main house. And don’t miss Spencer’s Bar located in The Carriage House on the property.

So, whether you are passing through on I-20, traveling on business or looking for a weekend getaway, I highly recommend booking your next Anniston stay with Hotel Finial.


This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through my links.

The Model City {Anniston, AL}

At the foohills of the Appalachians lies the sleepy city of Anniston, Alabama. Located just 60 miles from Birmingham, Alabama and 90 miles from Atlanta, Georgia, this city makes the perfect weekend getaway destination for either city. Check out this list of things to see and do during your next visit to The Model City.

Museums

There are two museums located in the city of Anniston: Anniston Museum of Natural History and Berman Museum of World History, which are conveniently located right next door to each other. We opted to explore the Natural History museum since my mom tried to take me as a kid.

The Anniston Museum of Natural History was established in 1930, has seven permanant exhibits and is a proud member of the Smithsonian Affiliate Membership Program. In addition to the 2,000 natural history items on dispaly, there is also a wildlife garden, nature trails, and open-air animal exhibits. This is definitely worth the visit to Anniston alone.

Wall Art Scavenger Hunt

If you are looking to familiarize yourself with the city of Anniston, there is a great walking tour that will take you through historic downtown and show off various wall murals sponsored by local businesses. It is definitely a fun little scavenger hunt, and you get to walk past some cute antique stores along the way.

Oldest Saloon in Alabama

Did you know Anniston is home to the oldest saloon in Alabama? The Peerless was established in 1899 and joined the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

The Peerless Saloon and Grille is located on the corner of 10th Street and Atlanta Avenue. The Grille is a full-service restaurant that offers some tasty offerings. We highly recommend checking out their Shrimp & Grits and Reuben. Righ next door is the Saloon if you are looking for an evening cocktail and good music. Be sure to take a look at the mirror behind the bar, it has been in the building since 1906.

Mount Cheaha

Mount Cheaha is the highest point in Alabama, and it is only 45 minutes outside of town. It is definitely worth the day trip to say you have been to the top of Alabama.

Hotel Finial

Last, but not least, you will need a place to stay. Be sure to check out historic Hotel Finial.

 

What do you want to see and do during your visit to Anniston?

Vulcan, The Keeper of Birmingham

Situated on top of Red Mountain in Birmingham, Alabama sits the world’s largest cast iron statue: Vulcan.

IMG_4162

Now you are probably thinking why does a classic southern city have a Roman god as its symbol?

Birmingham, founded in 1871, has a deeply rooted history in the steel and iron industry. With rich veins of coal, iron ore and limestone this city boomed as an industrial city. To help advertise the city and state, Birmingham officials funded the building of a cast iron statue to be revealed at the 1904 World’s Fair, and thus Vulcan was born. Designed by Giuseppe Moretti, Vulcan was revealed on June 7, 1904 and moved back to the city in 1905.

Since his move to Vulcan Park on Red Mountain, Vulcan has been the keeper of Birmingham.

If you are looking for a unique perspective of the Magic City and want a history lesson of it’s industrial history, check out the Vulcan Park & Museum. The museum offers an interactive experience of Birmingham and Vulcan’s history.

What is your favorite sight in Birmingham?

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?

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?

XIV

In January 2010, Coach Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide gave me with an early graduation present … a National Championship. In January 2012, I received the same gift when the Crimson Tide rolled over the LSU Tigers in New Orleans for Alabama’s 14th National Championship.

2011 National Champions

The 2011 season was an emotional season for Alabama. It was the season following the traumatic tornado that tore through the city in April of that year. We started the season number 2 in the country, and we fought hard all season until we faced LSU on November 5th. It was a night game in Bryant-Denny, but the Tigers prevailed and pulled out the win. Despite the loss, the season worked in Alabama’s favor for us to reface our rivalry in New Orleans’ Superdome for the 2012 Allstate BCS National Championship game.

Houndstooth Ribbon

Out of my group of friends, a couple of us were lucky enough to receive the golden tickets and the rest were determined to be in the city for the game. So we booked a hotel room and drove down to Louisiana the day before the game. Upon arriving in The Big Easy we immediately headed out for some delicious Cajun and Creole food at Olde N’awlins Cookery. After stuffing ourselves on seafood and gumbo, we headed out for a night on Bourbon Street.

The next morning, gameday, decked out in crimson, white and houndstooth, my friends and I headed out to explore what we could of New Orleans. First on our agenda was food, so we stopped into Central Grocery Company, a small, old-fashioned grocery store with a sandwich counter that was founded in 1906, to grab a muffuletta. We took our yummy sandwiches down to Jackson Square to people watch and soak in the gameday atmosphere. We then headed to Café du Monde, a necessity when in NOLA, for some beignets and something warm to drink. We explored the French Market for a bit before heading back to the room for a quick nap before kickoff.

Now, if you know anything about Louisiana, LSU is THE state school and it’s only a 1.5 hours from New Orleans making this game a home game for LSU. The number of LSU fans definitely grew while we were taking our naps, so we quickly grabbed a photo in front of the Superdome before heading to our seats. This game will go down as one of my favorite Alabama games, and we left no doubt that the Crimson Tide deserved that National Championship when we defeated LSU 21-0!

The next morning we drove back to Tuscaloosa to finish out our final semester at The University of Alabama. Despite it being a super quick trip, New Orleans is still one of my favorite cities to visit.

What are your favorite things to do in The Big Easy?

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

My hectic work travel schedule kicked off with a super quick trip to Nashville, Tennessee. I was in Nashville for less than 24 hours, but during that time I was able to see one of the sights I had missed during the summer I lived there: Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

It actually worked out perfectly because my breakfast meeting was at the Hall, so I just walked down stairs after we finished to participate in the tour. They say the tour takes around two hours to complete, and I absolutely believe it. I, unfortunately, had to get back on the road to Atlanta so I was only able to be there for an hour. But what I saw whet my palate, and I’ll definitely be back!

The museum has the perfect mix of permanent and traveling exhibits. The traveling exhibits change on a regular basis, so be sure to check the list before you go!

I thoroughly enjoyed the “Sing Me Back Home” exhibit. This exhibit tells the story of country music starting with the nineteenth century through modern day. You get the full grasp of how much this genre has changed and grown over the years.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum | Nashville, TN Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum | Nashville, TN

If you are a Johnny Cash fan, I highly recommend you make a visit before the end of the year. The “Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City” Exhibit is quite an interesting exhibit that provides 16 listening booths that provide history of how these artists changed country music in the 1960s and early 70s.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum | Nashville, TN

One of my favorite sights was the Wall of Records as you descended the stairs between the second and third floor.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum | Nashville, TN

The last stop of the tour is the Hall of Fame rotunda. The rotunda is round in shape to ensure that every member is recognized as an equal. It is a very cool experience.

What is your favorite Nashville museum?