Atlanta is home to the busiest airport in the United States, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International, so it should be no surprise that millions of people visit Atlanta every year. However, many of them miss out on some of the coolest and quirkiest things that the city has to offer. Don't be one of them! The next time you are in Atlanta, make sure to check out these quirky and offbeat sights and activities:

Catch An Indie Film

The Landmark Midtown Art Cinema is a cool, quirky place to catch a indie film and a beer, and one of the offbeat places keeping Atlanta interesting

One of my favorite theatres in all of the USA and arguably the best independent theatre in Georgia, Landmark Midtown Art Cinema is known for showing amazing indie and foreign films. Of course they also show a few regular blockbusters too, if those genres are not your type of thing. Friendly staff, clean cinemas, polite audiences and -- best of all -- cold beer! Popular with the locals but never too crowded, the Landmark is a perfect way to kill a couple hours.

Release Your Inner Child

The Pac-Man Play Arcade is one of Atlanta's coolest and most offbeat places to visit

Remember the good old days of arcade games? They are back thanks to Pac-Man Play Arcade. From the classic games we grew up with like Pac-Man to newer crazes such as Dance Dance Revolution, there is something here for everyone. Bring a few friends and challenge each other to see who can get the highest score.

Adopt A Kid

The Cabbage Patch Kids Babyland Hospital is one of Georgia's most unique places to visit

What, you weren't planning on coming back from Atlanta with a kid? Better think again! Located about an hour outside of the city is Babyland General Hospital, the birthplace of the famous Cabbage Patch Kids. First created in 1978, new Cabbage Patch Kids are still born every hour -- but only during business hours, of course. Adoptive parents get to pick their name and a birth certificate is drawn up right then. It's a very interesting place and process, one that should definitely be on everyone's Atlanta "to-do" list.

Get Your Dwarf On

The original Chick-Fil-A Dwarf House in Hapeville, Georgia is the birthplace of Chick-Fil-A

The fast food chicken chain Chick-Fil-A actually got it's start in the suburbs of Atlanta in the 1940's as the Dwarf Grill (due to its small size) but was later renamed to the Dwarf House. This original location is still going strong, serving thousands of local customers every day -- as well as those few tourists looking for off the beaten path sights or the occasional road-tripper lured in by the sign on the I-75 that reads "Chick-Fil-A Dwarf House." Here they serve much more than your modern Chick-fil-A, including burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese.

Wander Amongst Hippies And Punks

Street art in Little Five Points, Atlanta's most unique and offbeat part of town

The Little Five Points district has been referred to as Atlanta's version of San Francisco's infamous Haight-Ashbury neighborhood or New York City's Greenwich Village. Here you will find a mixture of independent record label studios and stores, new-age shops selling crystals and other assorted goods, vintage clothing stores, novelty shops, tattoo parlors, coffee shops and other offbeat goodies. It is the best place in town for both shopping and people-watching, two often underrated pastimes.

What other offbeat Atlanta sights and activities would you recommend?

  flickr // Bill Dickinson William McKeehan Nicolas Henderson Pawel Loj

Published in United States

Think one Southern city is like all the others? Think again. As these six towns demonstrate, stereotypes and generalizations can’t possibly account for all the distinct, quirky, and amazing towns that blanket the American South!

Asheville, North Carolina has some seriously quirky, offbeat charm

1. Home of the Locavore Aesthetic: Asheville, NC

Nestled between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains lies the town of Asheville, which has earned a reputation for itself as a hub of artsiness, outdoor adventure, and a strong local aesthetic. The city’s downtown is comprised almost exclusively of independent shops and eateries, and the town is filled with artists and musicians from all walks of life (which explains the city’s vibrant busking scene). The city is also a self-described “Foodtopia,” a rich food scene with a farm-fresh bent. And if spiritual exploration is your thing, you’ll be right at home in Asheville, which attracts many a mystical seeker. In short? If you want to expose yourself to unique sights, tastes, sounds, and people, get thee to Asheville.

2. Home of Eclectic Attractions: Birmingham, AL

An odd assortment of attractions has made Alabama’s largest city a popular destination for travelers of all backgrounds. The largest cast iron statue in the world—dubbed “Vulcan”—stands guard over the city, broadcasting to all who enter that Birmingham is just a little bit different. Whether you spend your time at the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, the McWane Science Center (which features exhibits on topics ranging from dinosaurs to space exploration), the Splash Adventure Water Park, the Barber Motorsports Museum (home to more than 1,200 motorcycles), or the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham offers something unique for every kind of traveler.

3. Home of Southern Outdoorsiness: Charlotte, NC

Charlotte’s culture is distinct in that it combines refined, southern hospitality with rugged outdoorsiness. That’s thanks in no small part to the city’s location: The lively downtown sits near the stunning Blue Ridge Mountains. Locals and tourists alike take advantage of this prime location at popular outdoor destinations that range from the refined Anne Springs Close Greenway, Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, and Biltmore Estate to the more adventurous U.S. National Whitewater Center, which offers rafting tours of the area’s Catawba River. Combined, Charlotte’s zest for life and welcoming attitude have earned it a reputation as one of the friendliest cities in the South.

Columbia, South Carolina has some seriously quirky and offbeat charm
Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Akhenaton06

4. Home of Epic Festivals: Columbia, SC

Columbia’s tagline is “famously hot,” and it’s easy to see why. The weather is warm (the temperature rarely drops below 50 degrees in winter), the attractions are popular, and the college sports scene is hoppin’. The city serves as the capital of South Carolina and is home to the University of South Carolina, which makes for an interesting mix of college-town culture and commercial prowess. But what really sets the city apart is its exciting annual calendar of events, including January’s World Beer Festival, February’s Lake Carolina Oyster Roast, June’s Ribs & Renaissance extravaganza, July’s Lexington County Peach Festival, October’s South Carolina State Fair, and December’s Famously Hot New Year.

5. Home of Stately Art and History: Savannah, GA

Art and history collide in gorgeous Savannah, where the weather is fine, the architecture is Antebellum, and the trees are shrouded in Spanish moss. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time while strolling the streets of Savannah’s pre-Civil War district, and you’re likely to feel out of place virtually anywhere in the city if you aren’t wearing your Sunday best. Class and elegance infuse every aspect of Savannah—including its most popular tourist activities, such as the Savannah Arts Festival, the Savannah Tour of Homes, and the Savannah Film Festival. But don’t let all the stateliness fool you; in Savannah, Southern hospitality is alive and well.

Tulsa, Oklahoma has some seriously quirky offbeat charm

6. Home of All Things Retro: Tulsa, OK

Tulsa has been a cult favorite since the heyday of Route 66, which passes right through the city. Today, the town draws tourists who are interested in both what the city used to be and all that it now has to offer. From its iconic oilman statue to its neon signposts, old-fashioned pump stations, and art deco buildings, Tulsa has retro funk on lock. The city is also home to a thriving festival scene—most notably, Tulsa hosts one of the country’s largest Oktoberfest celebrations each fall.

From giant statues, to exciting festivals, to dynamic arts, music, and food scenes, these cities provide a whole new take on the meaning of Southern charm.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 18th.

Published in United States

Be sure to check out these famous sandwiches on your next trip, which are must-tries whenever you visit their region of origin.

1. Chicago's Italian Beef

The Windy City draws large crowds for deep-dish pizza and Chicago dogs, but the Italian beef is a long-time local favorite. Thinly sliced seasoned beef is piled high on an Italian sub roll, dredged in gravy or au jus, and topped with hot or sweet peppers. You can find these bad boys at a local dog stall down the street from your Chicago hotel or other street-food style restaurants around the city.

2. North Carolina's Pulled Pork

If you’ve ever spent time in the Carolinas, you’ve likely caught wind of the BBQ standoff between the eastern and western parts of the state (and don’t get them started on South Carolina BBQ). Visit the state's capital, Raleigh, or stay close to the coast at a Wilmington hotel and check out little hole-in-the-wall joints that boast vinegar-based sauces and a mix of dark and white meat. Or head to the western part of the state, which holds onto the belief that dark meat and a ketchup-based sauce is the ticket. We’ll let you decide.

3. Upstate New York’s Beef En Weck

Buffalo chicken may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of upstate delicacies, but beef en weck is an equally famous local crowd-pleaser. Sliced roast beef is stacked on a salted and seeded bun and served with a side of au jus for a simple but satisfying meal.

4. Georgia's Pimento Cheese Sandwich

In the South, pimento cheese goes with just about everything. Use it as a topping, a dip or the main ingredient of a good ole Southern sandwich. Georgia’s laid claim to the sandwich as the signature eat of the Master’s at Augusta National, but you can find this sandwich on many a Southern menu. Make it your own with additions like bacon or tomato.

5. New England’s Lobster Roll

You can bake ‘em, boil ‘em, or smother 'em in butter. Or you can add a bit of mayo and herbs to fresh lobster meat for a knock-your-socks-off lobster roll. Eat your way up and down the New England coast on a self-guided food tour. Whether you're staying at a hotel in Bar Harbor or spending a few nights in a Boston, you won't be far from one of these delicious seafood sammies.

6. Texas’s Brisket BBQ Sandwich

If you’ve ever been so hungry you could eat a horse, getting a meal fit for a cowboy could be the next best thing. Not to be confused in any way with the pork BBQ on the East Coast, Texas BBQ is made with brisket, with sauces ranging from a tomato-based sweet sauce in East Texas to molasses-based sauce in the South and spiced rub in the central part of the state.

Tasting these culinary masterpieces in the places where they were perfected is the best way to enjoy an authentic sandwich experience.

  This article was published on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on January 12th.

Published in United States

Many of the major cities across the United States play host to annual gay pride events, often a parade that encourages solidarity, fun, and comradery. Members of the LGBT community may travel far and wide to attend these events, so they want to make sure they will have the experience they are seeking when they go. Here are some of the top gay prides that are known for their memorability.

New York

New York City Gay Pride Parade 2011

There are dozens of gay pride festivals and parades that happen in New York during the summer months, so visitors really have their pick of which to attend. Of course, there is one in Manhattan that’s pegged to the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village in 1969. It’s really the event that started it all. However, there also are celebrations in each of the other boroughs of New York, as well as smaller events in several city parks. Just check a list of events here to get a feel for all the options in New York.

San Francisco

San Francisco Gay Pride Parade 2008

Of course, the LGBT community is huge in this iconic city, so it stands to reason that it would boast the largest gay pride gathering in country. Starting where pioneer Harvey Milk addressed the crowd in the early 1970s, the parade routinely draws more than a million marchers. There really is a whole month of tangential events, and visitors can be part of one or many of them.

Atlanta

Altanta Gay Pride Parade 2007

This city really goes all out for the members of the LGBT community and includes not only a Gay Pride march attended primarily by men, but also an event for lesbian marchers and one for the trans community. Many of the city’s business owners show their support of the marchers with sponsorships, partnerships, and special events during the annual Gay Pride Festival. Plus, the Atlanta event has the bonus of being held at the end of summer instead of at the beginning as a lot of other cities do. This means the heat is more tolerable and visitors don’t have to miss another great city’s event in order to attend.

There are hundreds of gay pride events held throughout the country every year, even in cities one might not think would be a likely place to host a festival. For people who want to attend an event as part of their travel plans this summer, all that’s required is a perusal of this master list in order to find the right fit for them.

  flickr   //   kargaltsev   bastique   lamenta3

Published in United States

Atlanta is home to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International, the busiest airport in the United States, so it should be no surprise that millions of people visit Atlanta every year. As such, there is no shortage of hotels in Atlanta. However, staying at the same lackluster cookie-cutter hotels can sometimes get a bit boring. The next time you are in Atlanta, be sure to throw some freshness in your life by checking out these unique and offbeat hotels:

The Highland Inn

Located in the historic district of Atlanta, The Highland Inn is unique in every sense of the word. Built in 1927, the hotel exudes character while still maintaining its historic charm. They even use the same old traditional metal keys instead of those new digital keycards. The Highland also has a few pet-friendly rooms, so if you are traveling with your favorite furry friend, this is the hotel for you.

Artmore Hotel - Midtown

Although the front lobby of Artmore Hotel - Midtown appears like most any other hotel, guests quickly realize they are staying somewhere unique as they venture further into the hotel. Its theme centers on movie stars of the golden age of cinema, and throughout the hotel are old black-and-white photos and cool artwork. However, it's with the rooms that the Artmore shines! (After all, isn't that what you want most in a hotel, a great room?) The rooms are stylishly designed and complete with a full kitchen, so the hardest part about staying here is actually leaving the hotel and exploring Atlanta.

W Atlanta Midtown

With room names like the "Fantastic Suite" and "Extreme WOW Suite," there should be little doubt in your mind that the W Atlanta Midtown Hotel is doing something different. Each spacious room features a modern design with amazing decor, fashionable new furniture, and floor-to-ceiling windows allowing you to look down on the busy Atlanta streets while also providing the perfect amount of natural daylight.

Aloft Atlanta Downtown

Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, Aloft sports a modern design that relies heavily on rich, vibrant colors -- but not so much that it becomes distracting or overwhelming. This same sense of style is also evident in their rooms, which feature an interesting mix of non-traditional colors. Aloft is also both clean and affordable, two very important features when it comes to choosing the right hotel.

Hotel Indigo Midtown

Hotel Indigo in Atlanta, Georgia

Behind its rather traditional, nondescript exterior shines the unique, artistic flare that the Hotel Indigo chain has become known for. Each location is styled and furnished in a way that compliments the local culture and history, and the Hotel Indigo Midtown Atlanta is no different. Inside each room, wood floors with plush rugs compliment the vibrant color scheme and bright murals.

Mandarin Oriental

Combining Oriental luxury with Southern charm, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is my favorite 5-star hotel in all of Atlanta. Their spacious rooms are immaculately furnished with unique, stylish artwork, furniture, and decor. Some of them even have terraces, allowing you to enjoy the sunrise or sunset (depending upon your room) in all its glory.

  flickr // mikeschinkel

Published in United States

What comes to your mind when I say "squeal like a pig"? Probably the movie Deliverance, right? The subtle strum of a melodic banjo; serving as a battle cry for an entire legion of disenfranchised, subhuman, rapacious country folk. A group of people hell bent on waging a war on every pompous city slicker that dares to come into the backwoods and disturb their rustic way of life. The imagery strikes such fear into outsiders that every change in wind direction, or rustle of leaves, causes glutei maximi to tighten shut with herculean force.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly where you need to go for your next vacation! The classic squeal like a pig scene was shot on the banks of the Chattooga River. The Chattooga is a tributary to the Tugaloo River that forms part of the border between Georgia and South Carolina. These unpredictable waters make for some of the most scenic white water rafting trips east of the Mississippi River.

My good friend Rome and I (I'm Ice by the way, hello everybody) decided to take a rafting trip down the Chattooga as part of our ongoing travel show called Give Us The Strength.

We were accompanied in our raft by a tour guide and another party of two that were just as enthused as we were to fight the intrepid rapids ahead. We all took our seats on the large blue raft and paddled out of the shallows and into the mischievous downstream current.

The first few minutes on the raft were strangely alluring and calm. Even with all the other rafters on the river, all I could hear was the sounds of nature and my paddle occasionally dipping into the cool, clear water. It was one of those moments where everything slows down and all of your senses heighten. The air was so light and refreshing, the light breeze danced through the leaves as they rattled with delight. The birds chirped fervently and I swore I could hear the notes vibrate and bellow around in their throats before they opened their beaks to sing their songs for the world.

Then it happened. The guide told us we were approaching our first set of rapids. It was a spot in the river aptly given the name "seven foot falls." It was given this name because when the river is low and you can see the bed, there is a 7 foot drop in elevation. I liken it to a waterfall completely contained in a river. Our river guide began barking orders at us in an effort to straighten out the raft and launch us through the rapids to the calm swirling pool on the other side. This was the test we had all been waiting for. We paddled with all our might to the precipice of the cascading white water and shifted our weight in an effort to maintain our respective centers of gravity.

Needless to say, I wouldn't be typing this if we made it through unscathed! Our raft went sideways at the back end and basically capsized sending all of its contents (with the exception of the wise tour guide surprisingly) hurtling towards the water. I plunged into the cool torrent and began swimming for what felt like my life at the time.

When I finally got my head above water, I was totally surrounded by darkness. I had no idea where I was. I could hear all of my fellow rafters, but I could not see anything. I thought to myself "Oh no! I'm in a cave! I went under and came up in some underwater cavern and nobody will be able to find me! This is how I am going to die."

Just before I was about to start screaming for dear life, I heard splashing heading in my direction. Then in an instant, the comforting day light was shining in my face again. Rome, who had looked around for me after the raft flipped and couldn’t find me, came to the conclusion that I was in the one place that nobody had looked yet. Under the upside down raft!

Apparently the raft flipped over and landed on top of my head. When I came up, I came up under the raft, which explains why I had the headroom to come up and breath, but was also surrounded by darkness of the raft’s empty hull. Rome saw the "deer in the headlights" look on my face and began laughing hysterically at me as he put together in his own head the pseudo realizations that I must have been facing.

At any rate, we flipped the raft back over, boarded again and continued with the trip. The rapids were thrilling, the scenery was amazing and the cost of the entire trip was very affordable. White water rafting is definitely nature's roller coaster. Oh, and guess what!? We weren't accosted by loathsome hill folk. How cool is that!

Published in United States

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