The upside of wedding season is that, if you’re lucky, at least one nuptial morphs into a weekend getaway. IgoUgo Editor Michelle is back from a hometown trip with a rumpled dress, one less single friend, and the lowdown on what’s going on in Atlanta.
I wouldn’t normally call eating a waffle thrilling, even accounting for eggs and grits on the side. But that’s the beauty of visiting your hometown: the mundane becomes exotic when it’s no longer part of your daily life. I may be out at 4am here in New York, but it won’t be at Waffle House.
Which is exactly where I was at 4am last Sunday in Atlanta, soaking up syrup and atmosphere at that quirky cornerstone of the American South. Stopping at WaHo was my one specific goal (okay, one of my specific goals) while in town for a friend’s wedding. Having worked on a documentary about the Georgia-based restaurant chain, I feel that I can say with some authority that the place’s status as a beloved landmark is well-earned, and sitting there with good friends is my preferred end to the night or start to the day. It’s important that you’re there with good friends so you’re not embarrassed when the waitress calls you out for being a member of the Clean Plate Club. That’s right, and proud of it.
There was more to my weekend visit, though, so here are a few turns on the road that led to this late-night treat—a route I’d recommend for any weekend trip to the ATL.
First, getting to Atlanta was delightful. I used to think it was somewhat of a hassle that Delta Airlines dominates the Atlanta market, but with the airline’s brand-new, post-Chapter 11 bid to reinvent itself in place, these flights were the best I’ve ever had.
While we boarded in New York, the plane’s captain walked up and down the aisle to help passengers store their luggage; I then watched as he filed a lost-and-found claim for a woman who had misplaced something. While navigating the plane (I hope), he narrated a brief audio tour of the eastern seaboard, which sounds kind of annoying, but wasn’t (perhaps because he’d already won me over with his overhead-compartment finesse). The in-flight magazine, this issue dedicated to reinvention, was a great read, and the flight attendants were bending over backwards to please people. One even procured the autograph of a teen idol in first class for an exuberant 12-year-old fan sitting behind me—so maybe not every passenger had as peaceful a flight as I did. After landing, my checked bag was waiting for me at the luggage carousel—seriously.
From the airport, I hopped on the MARTA subway system for the quick ride north to Midtown Atlanta, where Piedmont Park, the Botanical Garden, and magnolia-lined residential blocks peek out from under skyscrapers. I like to visit Piedmont Park whenever I’m in town, and its proximity to unique restaurants, shops, and nightlife makes it a convenient stop. The park itself is a great place to linger or take in free events, including greenmarkets, an adult field day, rock concerts, improv shows, and movies under the stars.
It’s a short drive—or longish walk—from the park to Agnes & Muriel’s, where I got my Southern brunch fix on this visit (an entirely different need than the Waffle House meal, I swear). The retro bungalow’s porch is the perfect spot to chill and try a house specialty like maple pecan banana french toast or chicken biscuit Benedict. If you can pass up the desserts here—and the entrées that sound like desserts—Orleagian Snowballs is just across the street.
After evacuating New Orleans just before Hurricane Katrina, Kenneth Woodfin relocated to Atlanta and started serving up these icy Louisiana treats from his lime green cart. This is his second season as an Atlanta staple, and his snowballs—cups of shaved ice filled with creamy condensed milk and a single gummy bear—hit the spot on a hot day.
And yes, the wedding—my purported reason for this whirlwind tour—was beyond gorgeous and great fun and everything else a wedding is supposed to be. The stunning venue, the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center, offers tours and exhibitions 7 days a week that explore everything from the 1996 Olympics to the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to golfing with Bobby Jones. So even if it’s not a wedding that draws you south, you can follow a local’s itinerary in full.