Day Three In Atlanta
Posted on August 7, 2022 Posted by Athena Scalzi 36 Comments
My third day in Atlanta was Friday, and I was going to write it up on Saturday, but I drove home on Saturday, and now it is Sunday, so here is my slightly late third day!
I started the day as all days should start: with brunch. After debating between all the recommendations y’all provided in the comments, and some recommendations I saw online, I settled on a place called Poach Social. It was tucked away in a neighborhood outside the busy downtown of the city. The parking lot was small and enclosed by walls, painted with a bright mural.
Poach Social is found inside a small black building, but upon entering you’ll find a bright, open space with a neon yellow sign that reads “FOOD + MOOD”, fake plants, and a wall painted black and white with a chevron pattern. It’s hip! Modern! All the things brunch places tote nowadays. The menu seems to be comprised of a bit of an upscale version of classic Southern foods. And lots of mimosas!
I ended up getting the French Toast.
It was brioche, with a lemon drizzle, berries, and powdered sugar. It came with a little cup of syrup and their Jamaican rum sauce, but I only used the syrup, as the rum sauce tasted too alcohol-y for my liking. It was totally scrumptious. It was also fifteen dollars, which is definitely the most I’ve ever paid for French Toast, but that’s city-livin’ for ya.
After that, I headed to Zoo Atlanta, which was right down the street from Poach Social. I’m still confused why it isn’t called the Atlanta Zoo, but maybe that’s just me.
Once I arrived, I found a parking lot much, much smaller than I had been expecting. We’re talking like three or four rows of parking. There was a sign that said the lot was full, so I wasn’t really sure what to do about that other than hope it was wrong and search for a spot anyways. Lo and behold, a spot! Which I totally only got because someone happened to be leaving right as I was coming down the aisle.
So, I got out and started walking towards the front, only to see a machine where to pay for your parking. I was miffed that I had to pay to park, especially because it’s pretty much the only parking option, since the surrounding area is pretty much totally residential. It was three dollars per hour to park, so I chose hourly pay, but then it wanted me to put in the number of hours. I didn’t know how long it would take me to get through the zoo, so I just chose “all-day” parking, which was twelve dollars. Which is about half the cost of the ticket, which was like thirty bucks. Seems like a lot to me.
Anyways, I finally entered the zoo!
Have you ever wanted to be depressed? Say no more and head straight to Zoo Atlanta! Upon entering, you’ll be greeted with the overwhelming, gag-inducing scent of piss. At first I thought I was just close to the restrooms by the entrance, but those were all the way across the main courtyard area that contained the gift shop, a place to buy drinks, and the restrooms.
I did actually go in them and it took me THREE TRIES before I went into a stall with a lock on it. Then, only one of the hand soap dispensers had any soap in it.
Moving on, I was ready to see some morally-questionable contained animals. First up was the rhino!
And there was no rhino. I figured it had to be in there somewhere, but after standing there for a few minutes there was definitely no sign of it, so I moved on to the meerkats.
And there were no meerkats.
For some reason there were rabbits next to the meerkats, but the only rabbits I saw were these weird statues?
Finally, I did see an animal. There were three elephants standing in their enclosure space.
There was huge building next to the enclosure (you can see it in the background of the above photo), and when I went in it was just a big glass window to view the elephants if they happened to be inside instead of outside. Here’s the view of the inside:
It just looked so… industrial. There was a screen playing a repeating video of all the different things the elephants had as “enrichment”. The video showed a ball on a string they could play with, a water trough they could drink from, and a few other things, but I wouldn’t really say any of them could really be considered “enrichment”.
After the elephants, I went through a section that contained some birds. The bird enclosures seemed a bit on the small side to me (as all zoo enclosures are), especially because they are arguably the most free animals in the world, and now they will only fly around the same fifteen foot box for the rest of their life.
There were definitely some interesting ones, though, like these yellow-faced guys.
Once I was done with the birds, the next area was a kids’ center, with a little train to ride around in, a splash-pad, a carousel, and a climbing adventure course called “Treetop Trail”. The parking lot was visible from this section and I remembered seeing the backside of the climbing thing from the front entrance area.
Each attraction cost a few bucks individually, or you can get a wristband for about ten bucks that gets you unlimited rides on the train and carousel. The Treetop Trail is fifteen dollars and not included with the wristband. I thought that price was pretty expensive, considering a kid’s ticket to the zoo is twenty dollars already, so if you have three kids and they all want to do the trail, you’re looking at a hundred dollars right there.
There was also this sad looking Birthday Party Pavilion:
It was all just so incredibly lackluster.
I didn’t stick around the kids’ area for very long and moved on to the Cloud Leopard, which is one of my favorite animals!
What you see here is just about the entirety of the enclosure. On the other side of the right wall was the tiger’s enclosure. It was also sleeping.
The pandas (all three of them) were also sleeping. For some reason the inside of the glass was wet, I’d guess from the humidity. I looked at the bios of the pandas and one was born in 1997. That was a year before I was born. This panda was literally older than me and was in captivity the entire time. It seems so wrong. This feeling only got worse when I saw the ages of the gorillas (one was born in 1976).
Moving on from the clearly depressed animals in small rooms, I came across this enclosure that I didn’t even realize was an enclosure until I happened to see a turtle inside.
There were a lot of initials and names carved into the bamboo that was all around the walking paths of the zoo. I saw this one and was confused at first why someone put a year that hasn’t happened yet.
I quickly realized what it meant and it’s super fucked up someone would do that into a STALK OF BAMBOO. Not even bamboo is safe from crazy ass fanatics.
The red panda was also sleeping.
The lions were also sleeping but we’re tucked away in a cave for shade.
After feeling like I’d seen just about all the sleeping animals I could take, I entered the reptile house. I thought it would be air conditioned inside, and it wasn’t, but at least it was out of the sun.
And I actually did find the reptiles super cool! They had tons of awesome snakes, and poison dart frogs, and an iguana. I like this lil’ guy:
I tried to take more pictures but the reflections of the glass really got in the way, but I did get one of this emerald tree boa, which is one of my favorite types of snakes:
And whatever this majestic creature is:
A quick side note (as by this point I had basically been through the entire zoo), I noticed tons of food and drink stands throughout the zoo, and every single one of them was closed.
This one was an alcohol stand so I can understand it being closed, but the food truck next to it was also closed.
Aside from the alcohol (which again, I can understand being closed) there were several of these “dippin’ dots”, snack, and drink stands throughout that were all also closed. The only food place I saw open was an actual restaurant the zoo has called “Nourish Cafe” by the pandas.
And to be clear, I was here at 12:30pm on a Friday. There were tons of families and people in general, so I didn’t understand why they’d choose not to have any drink stands open. I surely would’ve bought a water, at least.
Finally, I made it back to the front and went into the gift shop. The only thing I really wanted was a red panda plushie, but it was a hundred dollars, so I put it back. I exited the gift shop and left. I would not recommend Zoo Atlanta.
Clearly, I had a long, hard day of looking at sleeping animals, so I decided not to go out for dinner, and instead had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, which is called “Livingston Restaurant + Bar”.
The restaurant was in a huge room, and quite grand. There was tons of seating, and when I arrived it was completely empty. There was no staff in sight either, so I thought maybe it was closed, but a bartender came around the corner after just a moment. There were tall columns emitting light that were covered with a white mesh fabric to diffuse the light, and a huge chandelier. I found the most interesting thing to be the purple velvet couches.
I decided to start with the cheese board. I like to judge places pretty heavily on their cheese boards.
This one had two kinds of meat, salami and what I thought was prosciutto but it didn’t really taste like prosciutto to me. The board also had four kinds of cheeses, though I should’ve taken a better picture because you can only see two, maybe three of them. Underneath the crackers are the two you can’t really see, one being a blue cheese. The other one was white and semi-firm with a dark red rind. The two visible ones are gouda and cheddar. I quite enjoyed all of the cheeses. The mustard was a dark ale mustard so it was especially strong and could only be handled in small doses. The pickled okra was something I’d never encountered before, but it tasted exactly like a normal dill pickle. And I always love honeycomb.
I didn’t get through much of this before my entree came; the teriyaki chicken lollipops.
The bartender told me that the chef must’ve been in a good mood, because he gave me an extra piece. I thought that was nice of him.
Unfortunately, I could not even come close to eating these. Before biting into them, I sampled the sauce, and my mouth was immediately on fire. I didn’t realize they’d be spicy! It said teriyaki! That’s usually a really great flavor in my book! Obviously, I’d never ask to be comped for something that is too spicy for me (because I am a baby about spice), so I told the bartender that I wanted to order something else but would keep the chicken.
So here we have the burger:
And I actually really liked it! It was cooked just how I asked, and I found the potato bun to be interesting. I will say that the fries were totally bangin’. They were super hot, crispy, overall very fresh fries.
I asked if they had a dessert menu and the bartender said there were no desserts. I figured that was for the best since I was full anyways.
The bartender also told me that this place used to have “real upscale food, steak and scallops and whatnot”, and ever since COVID they reduced their menu to basically just burgers and chicken sandwiches. I would’ve liked to try it when it was like he said it used to be.
To end my day, I went and saw Nope at a nearby AMC theater. I got an Icee and it was almost eight dollars. I was shocked and appalled, but sacrifices must be made for my red Icee.
The theater was totally packed, which is not what I’m used to. Usually when I go to the movies I’m the only one in the theater. Thankfully, it was one of those places where you buy your ticket and reserve your seat ahead of time, so I already had a seat picked out.
However, someone was in my seat. I told her “I think you’re in my seat” and she scooted one over.
This girl was on a phone call the entire movie. She had her earbuds in so she was talking through the microphone on those, and her phone wasn’t up to her ear. She was actually holding her phone, and on it a ton, and had flashing notifications on, so every time she got a notification, the flashlight on her phone went off several times.
She didn’t talk often or loud enough to whoever she was on the phone with enough to really bother me, but whenever something big would happen she’d tell the person on the phone about it. I was baffled. But it didn’t stop me from hearing the movie, so that’s all that really mattered.
Finally, I made it back to my hotel, set my alarm so I could check out on time the next morning, and went to sleep.
(Side note to this post; I recognize I have a negative bias towards zoos. I have had weird feelings towards them for as long as I can remember. I tried to keep my feelings of ethics regarding zoos mostly out of my review for Zoo Atlanta. My experience with it was negative for reasons other than my morals.)
I’m sad that you didn’t see any of the things that make Atlanta really amazing and part of the cradle of the Civil Rights movement.
There are zoos in every city, but not monuments to the history of the country and our ongoing struggle everywhere. I think you missed out by not visiting the MLK Memorial and museum – it’s fantastic.
You’re a better person than me re zoos. I probably wouldn’t have gone to Zoo Atlanta because all zoos are depressing places. Your photo of the cloud leopard with the comment about the size of it’s enclosure says it all.
But then, good reviews tell it like it is. I’ve learned all I need to know about Zoo Atlanta. Actually, about Atlanta in general.
[Deleted for being an asshole – JS]
[Deleted for responding to a deleted post. No worries, David, you’re good – JS]
Nothing sadder than a bad or sad zoo. Thanks for the review.
I get that going to zoos and seeing all the animals sleeping is a disappointing experience, but there’s something one has to realize about animals.
Left to their own devices, they sleep. A lot.
For example, without food issues, pandas sleep 12+ hours per day on average. And move as little as possible. A panda will sleep for 2 to 4 hours, move as little as necessary to eat (while sitting still) for 2 to 4 hours, then find somewhere to rest before sleeping 2 to 4 hours. ;-)
As bamboo is extremely low in nutritional value and is 99% of their diet, they’re low-energy at the best of times. And midday in August in Atlanta is not the best of times for pandas. They’re mountain creatures most commonly found in cool, misty mountains north of 8000 feet in elevation. So, midday, in Atlanta, they’re going to be asleep.
Big cats are even worse than pandas when it comes to being sloth-like.
In the wild, a snow leopard will sleep or rest some 18 hours per day. A lion 16 to 20 hours per day, a tiger 18 to 20 hours per day. Some dominant male lions will sleep 22 hours per day in the wild.
And most big cats are more active at dusk, dawn, and night, so again, midday isn’t a good time of day to see non-prey animals not sleeping.
So, I get wanting to see animals doing interesting things, but the fact of the matter is that if you see a big cat sleeping in the zoo, well, you’re seeing it behaving relatively naturally. ;-)
Thank you for your candid appraisal of the zoo. I like how you describe things in general. I hope you continue traveling and sharing your adventures.
I have to wonder if there’s anything worth going to Atlanta at all for, honestly….
You would make an awesome mystery shopper, if you like side gigs. You’d be doing the high end ones in no time.
Hope springs eternal-I would have seen “Atlanta zoo” and thought, I bet this is a really nice one, I hope they’re really into animal conservation!
I really appreciate you show the good and the bad. That french toast has me drooling!
I’ve been to a lot of zoos in my life of varying quality, but I have to say this one sounds pretty bad. I would definitely have felt ripped off for what you paid vs. what they are putting out for patrons.
So many better zoos:
San Diego Zoo
National Zoo in D.C. (free!)
Plus zoos really worth seeing in London, Edinburgh (if you can walk up and down steep hills), Amsterdam, New Orleans to name a few.
We once stayed at a pricy hotel next door to the Edinburgh Zoo and heard the lions roaring all night, which was somewhat unsettling.
I’m sorry the aquarium and zoo didn’t work out well. Much closer to home for you, I’ve had better experiences at the aquarium in Newport, Kentucky and the Cincinnati Zoo. Once I went to Opera at the Zoo. There were four singers doing the most popular opera songs and some comedy numbers. In between songs the zoo employees brought a few interesting animals onto the stage and talked about them. It was a night so it was cool, and it was in the botanical garden area so it was very pleasant and fun overall. It’s just a once a year event but it’s not far from you so it might be fun to check out.
Focusing on the positives, that French Toast looks delicious and I might like the rum sauce. The cheese plate also also looked good. I don’t eat meat but I’m really into everything else on that plate so I would have just asked them to hold the meat. I would probably also have ordered the picked fried green tomatoes. I hope they were pickled then fried rather than fried then pickled.
It is really interesting to see Atlanta through the eyes of a visitor!
I was born in the suburbs and live in the city now, and there’s places I think would have been more fun/interesting/exciting for a visitor with a car and a few days, but your descriptions of the zoo and aquarium are pretty reasonable. I wouldn’t suggest either to someone visiting which is annoying because they’re obvious choices!
If you’re ever back, The Center For Puppetry Arts is something Atl has that you won’t find elsewhere, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is good, and if you stay next to the Fox theatre again and they’re doing behind the scenes tours, it’s a fun hour.
*by “reasonable” I mean “accurate for most days”
Am I the only one, but I don’t understand the “DT 2024” carved into the bamboo? What did it mean? You mention it’s super effed up.. is there a nice way to explain it here? I guess I’m one of those clueless ones…
Your zoo trip sounded sad. Sorry it couldn’t have been better.
@Louis: 2024 is the next Presidential election year. Does that help?
I get the zoo ambivalence, but I also am spoiled by two good ones near me. One has vast… tracts of land, for large habitats (and does conservation work). The other is smaller, but is aware they’re small and doesn’t have the room for, say, elephants. They also have better luck breeding some critically endangered species than some larger zoos, and will also take in rescues – two much-missed tigers had been raised in a basement. Their “retirement” in NC was spent in the sun with enough food.
Zoo as a concept; tricky. While I disagree with locking up animals for amusing the gawping masses, it’s better than idiot humans going out and killing them all.
Also, some zoos are brilliant at education and conservation, BZS and Australia Zoo spring to mind.
In general, I won’t go to private zoos, which it looks like Zoo Atlanta is? OTOH, since it’s also Atlanta’s zoo, I’m not sure I’d have known it was private without just now googling it.
If you’re ever Baltimore way, the local zoo there, called the Maryland zoo, is quite good. None of the enclosures seem cramped, and the zoo genuinely seems to care about the animals and conservation.
And as a counterpoint to my thinking on private zoos, the Hershey Park zoo, called Zoo America if memory serves, is also very good. Like the Maryland Zoo, the enclosures don’t seem too small, and the park genuinely seems to care about the animals. Relatedly, Hershey Park itself has a dolphin and seal show where they actually teach you about the animals and how they take care of them, and they’ve been mentioning for at least a decade now how climate change has been adversely affecting the species, which I am quite sure they probably get complaints from whiny idiots frequently. (And as an aside, Hershey Park is very well run in general. I’ve sometimes said: Hershey: Horribly bland chocolate, outstanding theme park.)
I’m sorry you had so many disappointing experiences in Atlanta, Athena–but I do think you may need to temper your expectations a little. Visit a zoo in Georgia at midday during summer, you’re gonna get a lot of animals sleeping or hiding in the shade. Visit literally the biggest aquarium in the states outside of school term, you’re gonna get crowds of children.
Echoing Kara and ERK above, I wish you had maybe gone a little less for the obvious touristy stuff and dug deeper into some of the uniquely Atlanta attractions. Give your readers an advance heads-up when you’re planning your next trip, and find out what the locals love about their town–it’ll be better for you and for us!
The obvious tourist attractions are drawing in crowds and charging a lot of money. It is completely fair to visit them and to give honest reviews that may save others from a similarly bad experience.
While some times of year may be better than others, if these attractions are going to remain open, place no limits on how many people they allow in at once, and charge full price, it’s reasonable to expect decent value for the money year round.
Athena, I’ve lived in Atlanta for over 30 years, but you keep finding places I either didn’t know of, or haven’t been to in ages.
I’ve got mixed feelings about our Aquarium. It’s remarkable to be able to see a whale shark up close, but horrifying that the creature is in a tank it can barely swim an endless circle in. Creatures that size shouldn’t be in captivity.
You’re here at a miserably hot and humid time of year. I’d recommend November or March. If you’re interested in a bit of hiking, I recommend the Doll’s Head Trail.
“FOOD” + “MOOD”
It would have been awesome if it read 𝐟𝐮̈𝐝𝐦𝐮̈𝐝
I too have a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to zoos. It’s a shame that one seems so not great. If you’re ever in Seattle, the Woodland Park Zoo is pretty cool. I walked away with the sense that the zoo staff really cared about the animals in their care, many of which were rescued and would otherwise not survive in the wild. The only underwhelming aspect is that it can be hard to find the animals in their enclosures because some of the enclosures are just so big.
I hope the rest of your trip is better!
Once you’re back home if you have a free day and are looking for something to do — especially if that “something” needs to be inside because of hot summer/cold winter days — drive up to Wright-Patterson AFB and tour the Air Force Museum. A collection that at least rivals that of the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, albeit with a different focus (which should be obvious from the name).
If you ever plan a trip to Omaha NE, give me a couple weeks notice to get time off work and I’ll take you to Henry Doorly Zoo. Or, if you’d prefer, their wildlife park outside of Omaha — it’s one where you drive through the park and the animals have much more room to roam.
I’m not a super big fan of zoos/aquariums either but they do great rescue/research at that zoo and work hard to give all the animals the best care. They weren’t depressed. They were hot and sleepy. The only time most of those animals are active is really early in the morning or quite late. But with this heat right now they’re all super lethargic.
The Aquarium in Baltimore was impressive, huge tanks for the bigger animals, smaller ones for tiny frogs. Mostly I’m with you on zoos.
There’s a pretty good one in Tucson AZ associated with the Saguaro National Park west of town, but the desert critters have plenty of room, and there’s a museum and a great gift shop full of Native American arts and crafts. Recommend mid-winter for visiting AZ, NM, NV, however. Summers are sun blasted horror.
Just out of curiosity, why did you pick Atlanta for vacation? Doesn’t seem like you met up with people or had targets beyond the zoo and aquarium (both of which sound problematic for you with respect to their treatment of animals, even if they were run better).
I think it’s a good thing if you can’t see animals in some exhibits– that means they are able to go inside if they want to. The zoos I don’t like are ones from my childhood where there were basically just cages and no naturalistic environment at all, and no place for the animals to hide.
Zoos do a lot of really important work helping to keep species alive.
Thank you David G for explaining what “DT 2024” stood for. Sheesh, I’m so dense. Makes sense now. Plus I understand Athena’s irritation on seeing that. I’d be irked also.
My best “individual animal experience” at a zoo was one snowy winter day when I went to the Detroit Zoo (which is actually in Royal Oak). There were probably only 10 other non-keeper people in the whole park. When I got to the snow leopard exhibit, I found an eager-to-interact cat who leaped down off her perch in the sun, stropped herself against the fencing (less than 10 ft away) like my own cats curl against my legs, and meeped at me. Totally alone with this animal who undoubtedly ignores summer crowds, I enjoyed half an hour of eye contact and conversation with one of the most beautiful of the cats. She wanted to talk with me. When she was done and laid back down, I went and spent an hour in the warm, jungly, humid, bird aviary. It is a wonderful memory.
Mostly these days I see zoos and aquaria on TV, ones that really take conservation and endangered species propagation seriously. Small, old zoos are generally uniformly depressing, as they are built to extract maximum $$ from tourists, rather than to nurture the animals.
Further travel note: Unless you are a big fan of heat and humidity, travel to hot places in the cool weather. If you hate crowds, try edge seasons rather than high season. It can often be much cheaper to shift your travel by a week or three.
I’m with Lym, one of the best times to go to the zoo is in cool or cold weather. “My” zoo is the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and I go there in all seasons. Because it’s free! They make their money from parking or from concessions. I am shocked that the Atlanta Zoo’s concessions were all closed. The Lincoln Park Zoo has one every 10 feet. And two restaurants. The other zoo in Chicago, the Brookfield Zoo, I found scruffy and sad, although they do have much more space than LPZ.
I think many people have mixed feelings about zoos. Even the ones with so-called natural habitats and enrichment for the animals can often feel sad. On the other hand, this is an opportunity for millions of people to see animals that they never would otherwise. I like going to the zoo in the summer so I can see all of the little campers racing around watching penguins and pointing at the seals and so forth.
The best time I ever had in Atlanta was about 25 years ago; we went to Underground Atlanta, which is a series of shops and attractions underneath the city. I seem to remember that it was built from the original city that Sherman burnt when the Union marched on Atlanta, but that may have been fanciful marketing from the tour guide. It was a very cool (literally) way to spend the hot and humid summer day, so it might be worth looking at in another visit, if you have a chance and haven’t seen it yet. YMMV on the value of an actual tour, depending on how you feel about (possibly wildly biased) local history!
As always, love your reviews Athena. If you ever find yourself in Omaha, Nebraska, give the Henry Doorly zoo a try. It may not change your mind about zoos, but the people here truly care about the animals and it shows in the habitats. It’s a world-class facility.
I’m at AMC theaters a lot, because I have their A*List subscription ($25/mo for 3 movies/wk). If someone has their phone on, I ask them, more or less politely, to turn it off.
What did you think of Nope? I found it mostly disappointing.
Our family has been to Atlanta many times for DragonCon. We have found most of the big touristy destinations to be rather disappointing (we’ve been to the aquarium and the Coke museum). When our son was little, he absolutely adored the Children’s Museum, though. He could spend endless hours playing there.
The picture of the emerald tree boa made me think of a kids’ book, Verdi, by Janell Cannon. That could have been an illustration straight from the book.