Given the rather extensive (more than ten miles!) amount of walking the day before, we set about making day three of our trip somewhat lighter. We started with the nearby Inside CNN Studio Tour (190 Marietta Street NW), a behind-the-scenes look at the cable news leader. As a former print journalist, I’ve always had a somewhat low opinion of television news. This tour did nothing to change that, but it was a reasonably informative overview of the cable news production process.
The tour begins in an atrium shared with the Omni Hotel. From there, you ride the world’s steepest elevator up eight floors and are led, room by room, on a tour that shows off the CNN and HLN newsrooms, smartboard and green screen technology, teleprompters, and other aspects of news production.
Our guide was very knowledgeable and did a good job of fielding questions, but the tour lacked interactivity. Though the Inside CNN tour wasn’t the time-waster that World of Coca Cola proved to be, it isn’t a must-see unless you are an avid CNN viewer.
Following the tour, we took another MARTA ride out to the Georgia Tech area for lunch at The Varsity, a renowned local fast food chain. The original location (61 North Avenue NW) is home to the world’s largest drive-in, and we arrived in the thick of lunchtime, so we anticipated some crowding. Despite that anticipation, it was astounding to see how busy this place gets. There must have been at least half a dozen registers open and lines more than ten people deep at each one. I shudder to think how much more foot traffic The Varsity sees during the school year.
Despite this, the food proved was very nearly worth the wait. The hot dogs were nothing fancy (and the chili was a bit weak) but are tastier than you can find many places. The signature Frosted Orange had a very synthetic flavor yet still managed to satisfy on a hot day. It was like drinking an orange creamsicle. The onion rings were tastily greasy.
Truth be told, nothing at The Varsity was exemplary, but as others have said, part of the reason you go to iconic eateries is for the experience, and by that measure, The Varsity – and it’s endless bustle – succeeded.
Another bit of walking sent us back toward the Centennial Olympic Park area where we picked up another attraction: the Center for Civil and Human Rights (100 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard). Having toured Greensboro’s International Civil Rights Center and Museum, I was already familiar with a lot of the history. However, Atlanta’s relatively new (opened 2014) addition still managed to surprise.
For starters, this museum is not for the meek. As expected, it documents the deaths of the victims of white supremacist violence quite well. It also gives those willing a chance to step in the shoes of a sit-in protestor and have pre-recorded verbal abuse heaped on you for a few minutes. That, plus some effects taken from Martin Luther King’s funeral, makes for a very affecting experience.
The upper floor of the museum moves beyond the Civil Rights era and looks at human rights progress and abuses across the globe. One wall depicts oppressive dictators, another activists striving to make a difference, and another still shows the status of human rights in every country.
For as comprehensive as all this seems, however, there are several glaring omissions. For instance, the museum does not really address the Holocaust or even Leo Frank, a Jewish Atlanta man whose lynching helped reinvigorate the KKK.
Despite its somewhat narrow focus, the Center for Civil and Human Rights is a powerful representation of some of the darker chapters of recent history as well as those who fought for positive change.
Following this, we took the Atlanta Streetcar (free until 2016!) out to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Though a fitting testament to the man and his legacy, I was quite tired during the time of our visit and shall refrain from trying to offer a review.
Day Three ended at Ruth’s Chris Steak House (267 Marietta Street NW) for a meal to celebrate the good news of the past few months. This Atlanta location of the national chain did not disappoint. The filet I ordered was cooked to the desired medium rare and was quite flavorful, as were the shared sides (creamed spinach, sautéed mushrooms, and sweet potato casserole). The desserts here are equally satisfying: the chocolate sin cake is decadent while the berries and cream are light and refreshing.
As befits an upscale steakhouse, prices are high. All dishes are served a la carte, and it is very easy to eclipse $50 per person. However, you will feel like you are getting your money’s worth. In addition to the quality food and quiet ambiance, our server was very helpful. I was up for a cider (which they did not carry), and he was able to recommend a wheat ale that substituted nicely.
Ruth’s Chris proved to be the perfect venue for a memorable meal. Those in search of an “occasion” restaurant should put this atop their lists.