By: Michelle Manganiello
After a hectic year of going to school and working, everyone welcomes the summer. We throw our books to the side, disregard our schedule and even forget the days of the week. Out comes our sunglasses, passports and suitcases for the next adventure!
However, this particular summer dream may not be the case for everyone. It may seem like everyone we know is on vacation or studying abroad right now but you. If we really want to get into the science of it, 80% of families in the United States take a vacation during the summer. But if you are not in this percentage during these summer months and you are feeling quite gloomy about it, fear not! Georgia — Atlanta in particular — has many hotspots that can still make your summer shine. It does not take a foreign and exotic experience to make a summer feel complete. You can have a fantastic vacation, with numerous events being free or very low cost, right here in the Peach State.
If you want to get fit this summer, Atlanta has a multitude of options for you. First things first — the Big Creek Greenway. This Greenway runs through Alpharetta, Roswell and Cumming, with multiple entrances in each city. Having personally exercised on the Greenway many times, I know for a fact it is a perfect place to walk, jog, roller skate or bike. The trails are big in width and in distance. Moreover, they offer a scenic and shady view of the forest. If you are not really a suburbs lover, then try the Atlanta Beltline. Your forests and the chirping of birds will be replaced with the sounds of the city, like cars honking and people hollering. However, the Beltline is also a great place to jog, walk, bike ride or skateboard — you just might be met with a little bit more pedestrian traffic because it surrounds the heart of Atlanta. Another little tidbit about the Beltline: you can see a beautiful Atlanta skyline sunset at particular points of the trail, which is another way to experience and appreciate our unique capital.
Alex Tempka, Georgia Tech graduate and now a downtown resident, frequents the Beltline during his free time. “I venture out on the Beltline to ride my bike or to occasionally walk or jog. Stopping at a restaurant is a fine way to end one of these activities. I like the Beltline because you get to enjoy the outdoors while also enjoying the attractions of downtown Atlanta,” Tempka claims.
Want to relax after all that exercise? There are many budget-friendly theatres in the Atlanta and metro Atlanta area. The Picture Show at Merchants Exchange in Marietta has $1 tickets for several morning shows; later movies can be enjoyed for around $2 per ticket. If you want to go old school, there is the Starlight Drive-In Theatre in Atlanta where you can lean back in your car and watch a movie. For ages 10 and older the cost is $9 and for ages five through nine, it’s $1.If movies are not quite your scene, then try out the Georgia Aquarium or the High Museum of Art, also both in Atlanta. You can enter the Aquarium for free on your birthday. As for the High Museum, admission is free on the second Sunday of each month from noon until 5:00 p.m.
Of course, you can’t forget about food. After a busy day of exploring both outdoors and indoors, you’ll have to refuel for the next outing. For this I suggest getting out of your normal routine of Publix, Kroger, Walmart or wherever you usually shop. Instead, try to spruce up your cooking by going to the Dekalb Farmers Market. This world market has everything — produce, meat, fish, cheese, bread, wine, flowers, spices and more. Every product is freshly picked, homemade and at a cheaper price — it doesn’t get much better than that. Oh, but you don’t want to cook your own food, you said? Well, if you are willing to spend a little bit more, you can do some fine dining in downtown Atlanta, at The Sundial Restaurant on top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza. However, this eatery does not just have a spinning restaurant and bar, it also has a 360 degree view of the city and frequent live music. You’ll want to reserve your spot quickly because it is a hot spot and tables can fill up fast.
You may also want to leave the city. In this case, I recommend visiting Georgia’s oldest coastal town, Savannah — a one-of-a-kind city, buzzing with activity and rich with picturesque scenery and history. Consider a swim at the beach of the neighboring island of Tybee; a stroll along the riverwalk filled with tourist shops and ice cream parlors; a visit to one of the historic squares, like Forsyth Park; an afternoon at a museum, like the Jepson Center or an old mansion, such as the Davenport House. It is certain that Savannah has no shortage of activities, whether you want to enjoy or escape the summer sun.
So instead of pouting about being home for the summer, make it a summer for new horizons and adventure. Be a tourist in your own city! Explore the ins and outs of the place you grew up in! Get lost! You can have just as much fun in a summer at home as those who are studying abroad or traveling to other countries. An exotic and foreign experience is not necessary to make this summer one to remember. All it takes is a smile, a camera for photos, and a willingness to discover something new.