For the second time in three years and the fourth time in the last seven, the LSU Tigers will take the field in Atlanta's Georgia Dome representing the Western Division in the SEC Championship Game.
Counting two Peach Bowl appearances (2000, 2005) and three trips to SEC title game (2001, 2003, 2005), LSU fans have invaded Atlanta five times in the last eight seasons, making back-to-back trips for the final two games of the 2005 campaign.
Saturday will be the sixth trip since the turn of the century
Needless to say, a majority of LSU's faithful fan base is familiar with Atlanta. But for those of you wondering what to do when visiting the Peach State, here is Tiger Rag's complete guide to Atlanta.
The city of Atlanta is the ninth largest metropolitan area in the United States with a population of over 4.7 million people. Over 400,000 people live in the actual city itself.
It was settled in 1823 and was named "Marthasville" in 1843 after the Georgia governor's wife. However, concerns that the name would not attract businesses prompted leaders to change it to the more marketable "Atlanta."
During the Civil War, most of Atlanta was destroyed by the Union forces. However, in just a few years after the war, the city began to prosper once more, earning its nickname "The Phoenix City" after the mythical bird that dies and is reborn from its ashes.
Atlanta has one of the biggest sports markets in the United States. The city is home to baseball's Braves, football's Falcons, basketball's Hawks, and hockey's Thrashers. In 1996, the city was selected to host the 100th Summer Olympic Games.
Atlanta can also boast of its economic success. It is home to numerous corporations, including CNN, Coca-Cola, United Parcel Service, and The Home Depot.
Thirteen universities are located in Atlanta, making it a popular city for a younger generation. With the average age of Atlanta residents at 33, there are a large number of bars and clubs from which visitors can select.
Fans trying to get around Atlanta have a number of options from which to choose. The drive east from Baton Rouge to Atlanta is fairly easy and can be made in a little over eight hours. Starting on Interstate 12, drivers will merge on to I-10 at exit 85C heading toward Bay St. Louis. After roughly 100 miles, commuters should turn onto Interstate 65 North at Mobile, driving over 170 miles until they reach exit 171 to Interstate 85. On I-85, commuters will drive for 160 more miles until they reach Atlanta. Overall, the trip is approximately 500 miles.
For fans who would rather fly than drive, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world's busiest airport by passenger traffic and second busiest in aircraft traffic behind Chicago's O'Hare. The airport handles most major airlines and is located just 10 miles south of downtown Atlanta.
After finally arriving in Atlanta, fans may find the easiest way of getting around the city is through the MARTA. Because of the large size of Atlanta's suburbs, many commuters drive into the city, making traffic very congested. However, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, or MARTA, offers a system of bus routes and a rail transit system that allows its passengers to get around most of the city. A MARTA station is located next to the Georgia Dome, providing easy access for LSU fans. The cost of one token is $1.75.
Lodging is a big priority for Tiger fans making the trip up to Atlanta. Fortunately, Atlanta has a large number of hotels at various price ranges.
At the mid to high end of the price spectrum, The Westin Peachtree Plaza offers its guests every type of amenity available. The 73-floor, glass cylinder-shaped hotel is located in the heart of downtown and houses three bars and two restaurants inside. The Sun Dial restaurant on the top floor gives its patrons a revolving view of the Atlanta skyline. The hotel features an indoor pool with a retractable roof, a gym sponsored by Reebok, and a health club with massage therapy.
The guest rooms are also loaded with plenty of features to keep visitors happy. There is a high-speed Internet connection in each room, in-room movies and video games, 24-hour room service, and their trademarked Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Bath in all 1,068 rooms and suites. The average cost for a room with two double beds is $170 per night, making the Westin Peachtree Plaza a pricy option in Atlanta. However, if guests can afford it, they will be pleased with all the hotel has to offer.
Another hotel quite high on the price chart is the Omni Hotel at the CNN Center. This hotel has housed many celebrities, from professional athletes to politicians. The Omni Hotel is located in the CNN Center, directly across from the Georgia Dome. Like the Westin Peachtree Plaza, the Omni is loaded with special features for its guests. A full-service health club, tanning deck, and spa are just a few of the amenities this hotel offers. Upon arrival, each guest receives a Get Fit Kit, which is an in-room exercise kit. Each room also offers room service, high-speed Internet access, and marble floors and granite countertops in the bathrooms. The Omni also has a full-scale restaurant, a lounge, and a coffee shop inside the hotel. The cost for one night at the Omni can easily be over $200, and reservations are at a premium for the SEC Championship Game. However, Tiger fans may want to stop in and dine at the Omni to experience this high-scale hotel.
Aside from the big-name hotel chains, Atlanta offers a number of small bed and breakfasts that are easy on the guests and their wallets. Located across the street from Emory University and only 10 minutes from the Georgia Dome, the University Inn at Emory prides itself on Southern hospitality and personal service. The University Inn features only four buildings and less than 70 rooms, giving them the opportunity to personally attend to their guests.
Every morning, University Inn offers a complimentary continental breakfast and has tea and cookie time in the afternoon. This bed and breakfast tries to cater to guests who want a chance to get away from the city and enjoy some time in a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. Although the University Inn creates a traditional, hospitable setting, like the large hotels, each room has a high-speed Internet connection. The price for one night at the University Inn can range from $95 to $175. It also offers special weekly rates. Guests are advised to make their reservations as early as possible because space is limited, but those who can book a room are sure to enjoy true Southern hospitality.
Another bed and breakfast that specializes in a traditional atmosphere is the King-Keith House Bed and Breakfast. This house was built around 1890 by local hardware magnate George King in the Inman Park neighborhood. In 1970, a group of young Atlanta citizens bought the house and restored it to its former image. Today, the King-Keith House serves as a pleasant stop for traveling guests.
Prominent families and business leaders are known to stay at the house when traveling to Atlanta. The house is located due east of downtown Atlanta and is close to the MARTA stop. Guests can call ahead and have someone from the King-Keith House meet them at the stop and drive them to the house. Like the University Inn, the house prides itself on its Southern hospitality and traditional image. Each room is decorated in an antebellum style. Guests will feel as though they are a part of "Gone With the Wind" after stepping into the King-Keith House. Rates vary from $110 to $210 a night.
After checking into a hotel, guests will find a wide variety of food and restaurants to select. From romantic eateries to barbeque houses, Atlanta's restaurant choices are sure to please.
For a dining experience like no other in Atlanta, visitors should look no further than Cowtippers. Opened in 1993, Cowtippers strives to make every dining experience a surprise to their customers. What started as an idea for a "honky-tonk" type steakhouse, Cowtippers features brick walls and aged wood throughout the dining area. However, the menu makes the restaurant stand above all others. Cowtippers still focuses on steak, but it also has seafood, chicken, hamburgers, homemade deserts, and over 25 different types of margaritas. The restaurant started as a community centered restaurant and still embraces that principle today. On any given day, patrons may see a rugby team holding a car wash, a hula hoop contest on the deck, or cotillion planners selling magnolia seedlings. Cowtippers is located near Piedmont Park in the northeast area of Atlanta. Entrees range from $7 to $20, with their cocktails costing around $6 each.
One Atlanta pizza place has excelled above all others. Everybody's Pizza, located across from Emory University since 1971, has been a must for college students and Atlanta residents. Everybody's Pizza is one of the most recognized eateries in the Atlanta area. The New York Times, Atlanta Magazine, and the "Today Show" all agree that Everybody's Pizza is the best place to grab a slice in Atlanta. The restaurant offers to deliver any item on the menu, providing a convenient option for late-night cravings. The menu has a large variety to choose from. Patrons can create their own pizza from a large list of toppings or choose one of Everybody's specialty thin-crust pizzas. The menu also features "pizza sandwiches," a creation started by Everybody's. These sandwiches vary from a Greek vegetable to a cheese BLT. If for some reason visitors are not in the mood for pizza, the menu also features regular sandwiches and salads. A large pizza starts at $14.65 and the sandwiches cost around $9 each.
Every restaurant needs a catchy name to attract customers. But for this Atlanta eatery, its name perfectly describes their food. Pig-N-Chik, located in North Atlanta, is the obvious choice for barbeque and chicken wings. The menu is pretty basic, featuring mostly barbeque pork and chicken. Pig-N-Chik serves their barbeque two ways – on sandwiches and on plates. It also offers full, half, and quarter slabs of their famous barbeque ribs.
Pig-N-Chik also features their chicken wings with their special honey mustard and spicy sauces. Their sides are an attraction for a lot of customers. While Pig-N-Chik has common barbeque side items like coleslaw and baked beans, their Brunswick stew keeps customers coming back for more. Their prices are reasonable, ranging between $6 and $12 an entrée, depending on how many sides a customer orders. Although it is some distance from downtown Atlanta, visiting fans should make the trip for the best barbeque Atlanta has to offer.
For a nice, relaxed evening without a stuffy, pretentious feel, diners should head to Apres Diem. It is located in an average-looking strip mall in Midtown Promenade but presents a fancy look that creates a romantic setting. An attractive feature is that customers can choose where they would like to sit. The outside patio is always a buzz of activity as people walk to and from the theatre district. Apres Diem also has a lounge where guests can sit on cushioned sofas and a small dining nook accessible only through a narrow passageway. The appetizers are a hit with many of the diners, but the entrees are nothing to pass up either. Apres Diem offers pasta and salads, along with Salmon Mignonette and Argentinean Beef Tenderloin. The wine list has an extensive array from which diners can decide. For a romantic restaurant, Apres Diem has fair prices. Dinner for two with wine and appetizers generally costs around $65, making this restaurant an ideal place for romance without costing a fortune.
The city of Atlanta is also loaded with plenty of activities during the day. With the large number of businesses located in the city, donations and sponsorships have made some attractions the biggest and most appealing in America.
Built for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the Centennial Olympic Park draws over three million visitors each year. Located in downtown Atlanta just a few blocks from the Georgia Dome, the park is large enough to cover Turner Field three times. The park plays host to many concerts and festivals during the spring and summer months, but it also has a lot of winter activities for visiting SEC Championship Game fans. During the day, fans can ice skate in the only outdoor skating rink in Atlanta. For children, the park also has a smaller rink. At night, Centennial Olympic Park puts on "Holiday in Lights," complete with lighting displays and holiday concerts. The park also features a walking trail, allowing guests to stroll through the park. A café located inside the park gives fans an easy option for lunch. Most of the activities are free of charge and offer guests a pleasant, relaxing time.
One of the biggest attractions to come to Atlanta is the Georgia Aquarium. The aquarium opened on November 23, 2005, just in time for the holiday season. Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot, donated $200 million for the aquarium's construction. Shaped like a ship, the Georgia Aquarium has over five million gallons of water and 55,000 aquatic animals from over 500 different species. The aquarium is divided into five sections: Georgia Explorer, River Scout, Cold Water Quest, Ocean Voyager, and Tropical Diver. Each area has an interactive educational center where kids can learn about the different species of animals in the aquarium. The price of admission is $29.50 for adults, $22 for children, and $25.50 for senior citizens, but some hotels offer aquarium and hotel packages. With its new technology and interactive exhibits, the Georgia Aquarium is quickly becoming one of the top attractions Atlanta has to offer.
For those SEC Championship Game fans who want more, the Underground may be the perfect spot. Covering six city blocks and 12 acres, Underground Atlanta is the premier shopping and entertainment area in the city. Located at the Five Points stop on the MARTA, Underground Atlanta features a number of stores, restaurants, and nightclubs for visiting fans. Over six million people walk through Underground Atlanta each year.
With its sponsorship of LSU athletics and its tradition in the South, Coca-Cola has become a favorite soft drink among Tiger fans.
At the World of Coca-Cola, guests can get their caffeine buzz and see how Coke is more than just a soft drink. The World of Coca-Cola is located across from Underground Atlanta, a short walk from the Five Points MARTA stop. Visitors can take a tour and see everything from the history of Coca-Cola's advertising to the bottling process itself. At Club Coca-Cola, guests can sample over 20 different international beverages The Coca-Cola Company makes that are not available in the United States. Most of the entire first floor is dedicated to "Everything Coca-Cola," a large retail store with every type of Coke memorabilia imaginable.
Visitors are advised to come 30 minutes early on weekend peak hours. Those wishing to experience all that is Coke should bring their cameras and their thirst because the World of Coca-Cola is sure to leave them feeling refreshed.
With a youthful crowd and an active city, Atlanta's social scene rivals most other places. Whether you're in the mood for a traditional sports bar or maybe something a bit more unusual, Atlanta covers it all.
Located in North Atlanta, Frankie's sports bar has become one of the hottest places to watch football and have a beer since it opened in 1995. Frankie's is owned by the same company that owns the favorite Atlanta restaurant Jock & Jill's. USA Today named Frankie's the #1 Sports Restaurant in Georgia. Along with 200 televisions scattered across the area, Frankie's also has a collection of sports memorabilia. Autographed jerseys from Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice line the walls along with the signatures of Ted Williams, Michael Jordan, and Wayne Gretzky. Guests can play Golden Tee, watch football, and have a beer at the same time. For Tiger fans without SEC Championship Game tickets, Frankie's is the best place to catch the game.
An interesting twist on the sports bar concept is the Brewhouse Café. Upon entering, guests will feel as though they are in England rather than Little Five Points. The Brewhouse Café provides its guests a warm atmosphere to watch soccer matches from across the globe while sampling all types of international beer. The menu reflects the international appeal. Bangers and mash, and fish and chips are two of the specialties the Brewhouse Café has to offer. Their specialty drink is called the Pain Killer, which comes in three levels of strength depending on the drinker's "pain" tolerance. The Brewhouse Café provides an escape from the traditional sports bars and welcomes its guests into a bar like no other in America.
Catering to what it calls the "Martini group," East Andrews Neighborhood Bar has brought European charm to the Buckhead area. East Andrews has a healthy list of martinis, but it also has a wide variety of wines and other spirits to select. Next to the bar is the Café at East Andrews where guests can sit down and enjoy a fancy meal in the sophisticated interior or the ivy-covered patio. East Andrews also features Andrews Upstairs, a concert venue specializing in upscale performances. For a touch of class and sophistication, East Andrews is the perfect spot.
Fans wanting a high-energy dance bar rather than a stuffy atmosphere should head over to the Hole in the Wall. This bar in Buckhead doesn't open before midnight, but once the early morning hours start, so does the party. Neon signs, chaser lights, and sticky floors create a resemblance to the Tigerland bars. The disco ball and dance pole are designed to attract the 20-something crowd. The Hole in the Wall does not charge a cover, making it an ideal spot for partiers not ready to call it a night. The atmosphere and energy that the Hole in the Wall offers will stay in the memories of each guest – if they can remember anything from that night at all.