So you’re coming to Atlanta for the General Conference session (GCS)! Whether you’re a seasoned GCs attendee or a complete novice, you definitely want to fill your time with enjoyable (and affordable!) memories.
The GCS is one of my favorite events. I get goosebumps when I hear tens of thousands of my fellow Adventists singing “We Have This Hope.” I love watching the Parade of Nations. I can spend hours browsing exhibits and talking to people from around the world. And I look forward to watching Independence Day fireworks among the crowds of people on the Fourth of July.
You could say I love the GCS! And since Atlanta is where I live, I want to let you in on a few local secrets. Of course, there are obvious activities like going to the Zoo or the Georgia Aquarium and eating your fill of fast food. But every city has its hidden highlights—those out-of-the-way places that aren’t listed in any tour guide.
To help you have a great trip, I’ve compiled a list of my family’s favorite places and activities, with a few discounts thrown in to help you save money.
Splurge: If you want to browse upscale designer boutiques and high-end department stores, visit the Lenox square Mall (www.lenoxsquare.com) in the suburb of Buckhead. It’s a luxurious experience, even if you only window-shop.
Steal: If you want quality clothing, shoes, and accessories at affordable prices, try stores called Ross (http://www. rossstores.com/), Marshalls (http://www.marshallsonline.com/) and TJ Maxx (http://www.tjmaxx.com/). These retailers offer both classic and trendy styles for children and adults and at low prices, especially the clearance items!
Splurge: For an exceptional dining experience, try Nan Thai (www.nanfinedining.com/) near downtown Atlanta. The ambience is exquisite, the service is spectacular, and almost anything can be made to accommodate vegetarians. Dressy attire is required, including a suit coat for men, and you’ll need to make a reservation.
If you prefer something heartier, check out one of Maggiano’s (http://maggianos.com) locations. Attire is casual, and you’ll need a reservation only during busy times like Saturday nights.
Steal: Sometimes instead of elegance, you just want homestyle food in a cozy atmosphere. Ippolito’s (http:// ippolitos.net) is a local family-owned restaurant with six locations across Atlanta, offering fresh homemade breads and sauces as well as authentic Italian recipes.
Sweet Tomatoes (www.souplantation.com) is a casual, all-you-can-eat paradise for vegetarians, offering dozens of salads, soups, and breads. There are four locations in Atlanta.
Atlanta’s unique, family-owned Cafe Sunflower (www.cafesunflower.com) offers an exclusively vegetarian menu. They also feature many vegan and gluten-free dishes. For a 10 percent discount, mention that you’re attending the “GC” or the “General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.”
One of my favorite perks of being a pastor’s wife are the trips when I can go along. My husband and I usually try to do at least one thing as a special date for just the two of us. If you get a chance for romance, here are some of our favorite things to do in the area.
SunDial Restaurant. Whether or not you stay to eat, this is an incredibly romantic place to watch the sunset over the Atlanta skyline. The SunDial (http://www.sundialrestaurant.com/) is on the 72nd floor of the Westin Hotel, and it revolves so you get a 360-degree view. The city lights are especially beautiful at night. You can have dinner (desserts are especially delicious), get a cup of hot chocolate, or just sit by a window and soak in the view. Semi-dressy attire is required, and if you plan to eat (instead of just looking), it’s a good idea to make reservations.
High Museum. Inspire your artistic tastes with a visit to the High Museum (www.high.org/) in downtown Atlanta. And if your schedule is flexible, tickets are half price ($9.00 USD) on Thursday afternoons after 4:00 p.m.
Chattanooga Art District, Tennessee. If you can take a day to relax from the bustle of meetings, Chattanooga, Tennessee, is only a two-hour drive away. The Bluffview Art District (www.bluffviewartdistrict.com/) is full of beautiful architecture, historic landmarks, and yummy cafes. Downtown Chattanooga also boasts the highest-rated aquarium in America (www.tnaqua.org) and one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world, spanning the Tennessee River. The bridge ends in Coolidge Park, a great place to picnic, ride the carousel, or tour a classic Southern riverboat.
If you just want to breathe fresh air and see the sky, there are several inexpensive options in the Atlanta area.
Centennial Olympic Park (www.centennialpark.com) is near many downtown attractions and is free except for parking (around $5.00-$7.00 per vehicle). If you’re staying near the GCS, this park is within walking distance. There will also be a free Independence Day celebration on the Fourth of July.
Stone Mountain (www.stonemountainpark.com) is just east of Atlanta and is a great place for hiking, picnicking, and exploring Georgia’s native flowers and trees. Parking costs $10.00 per vehicle for a full day, and outdoor nature activities are free. Paid activities, such as riding a cable car to the top of the mountain, are also available.
For a real nature adventure, take your family whitewater rafting on Tennessee’s Ocoee River for a day (about 2.5 hours from downtown Atlanta). The Ocoee River has exciting Class 3 and Class 4 whitewater rapids, and experienced guides will make sure you enjoy the trip even if you’ve never rafted before. Big Frog Expeditions (www.ocoeeriver.biz) offers rafting, kayaking, and mountain biking—and a 10 percent discount on rafting to GCS attendees. Just tell them that you’re attending the “General Conference” in Atlanta.
If you want to explore the outdoors more quietly, try a cruise along the Tennessee River Gorge. You can view nature and wildlife, take plenty of photos, and just relax. Check out Blue Moon Cruises (www.bluemooncruises.org) to find something you like.
No matter what you decide to do with your free time at the GC Session, I hope you and your family have a wonderful time enjoying Atlanta’s southern hospitality and making unforgettable memories together.
Sarah K. Asaftei is a pastor’s wife and work-at-home mom living in the southern United States. She grew up as a missionary kid, married an Eastern European, graduated from Andrews University with a Master’s in International Development, and spent four years working for the General Conference and the Trans-European Division. She loves writing, traveling, evangelism, and women’s ministry. In addition to writing for The Journal, she coauthors a blog for young pastors’ wives, runs her own marketing firm, photographs babies, bakes homemade bread, and makes yummy granola.