What To Do in Atlanta for the Final Four
by Robert Ferringo - 03/30/2007
As you know, Atlanta is the home of the 2007 Final Four taking place this weekend. It's a perfect choice, seeing as the city has been so great at supporting its bevy of college and pro hoops teams over the years. In fact, Atlanta reminds me a lot of Indianapolis, Boston, and Chicago - some of the great basketball cities in the country. Only it's the exact opposite.
As much as I bust on the city and its band of fair-weather fans, I have to say that I'm thrilled that such a glorious event will be in my backyard. My boys are flying in from all over the country and today we scored tickets for all three games. It's going to be a bloodbath and I'm ready to commit multiple felonies in the name of Good Fun and Doc's Sports.
And because I'm such a great guy and always looking out for my readers I've compiled a sort of user's guide for anyone interested in hanging in the ATL for the festivities. Since I don't want to face litigation from the fine folks that have trademarked Idiot's Guides I'm forced to call my little list of suggestions and tips the Drunken, Rambling, Good-Hearted, Sociopathic Gambler's Guide to General Sherman's Fire pit:
WHERE TO STAY:
If you don't have a hotel room by now you're pretty much screwed. And don't think that you can just sleep in the park or find yourself a nice slab of concrete downtown because the Atlanta government has passed harsh laws against homeless behavior.
If you are trying to make those last-minute plans to get a hotel room in the city, the place you want to stay is Buckhead or downtown. Buckhead will keep you close to the party area and nightlife and downtown is very close to the stadium and all the nonsense going on there. Don't waste time getting a place outside the perimeter or anywhere more than 15 miles away from downtown unless you're renting a car and have some knowledge of the area.
No matter what, if you think you're getting a deal on a downtown room that's priced at less than $100 - you're not. Well, you may be if you don't plan on bringing anything worth more than $20.
WHERE TO GO OUT AND PLAY:
If you're between the ages of 21-32 then you want Buckhead. Just make sure if you see Ray Lewis or anyone else in his posse just walk away. If your looking for a little older or more composed crowd then you want to hit the more upscale bars in the Midtown and Downtown areas.
Buckhead is a festive place that this Saturday night I expect will look a bit like Venusville from "Total Recall". There are a variety of bars and atmospheres that should suit any whim or need that you're feeling. Here's the quick breakdown:
Fado's - The traditional Irish pub. Don't mention that you're a Chelsea fan in there. Trust me.
Mako's - Scantily clad co-eds giving lap dances on swings is just the tip of the iceberg.
Tongue and Groove - Velvet cool wafts through their air of this semi-hip den.
ESPN Zone - You've seen one you've seen them all. Death to the Worldwide Wieners!
The Lodge - Service is lackluster but it's a peanut-shell-on-the-floor sports bar with a built in basketball hoop. Not a pop-a-shot, a real hoop.
There's a ton of other small taverns and watering holes, some with live music and a few clubs in the area. It's all within walking distance so you're bound to find something you like. If a high-end club is what you're looking for then you want Compound. If you want to do Midtown after the games there's a slew of places to go. None that I've frequented enough to recommend, but there are piano bars, restaurant-bars and the usual slick spots.
And if you're looking for some great sports bars to watch the games check out Barnacles, Jocks and Jills, Famous Pub and Sports Palace, Sweetwater Sports Bars, Stool Pigeons, American Pie (hit this place on Sunday night - trust me), Sidelines, Mazzy's, Chicago Pizza and Sports Arena, The Bullpen, and the Brewhouse Café. These places are all top-notch and friends of the site.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO:
The No. 1 thing is to watch basketball, and open practices for the four teams on are on Friday. I'll be attending to try to get a last minute read the clubs. And if you are still interested in going to the games there's still plenty of ways to get tickets for all three. The best way I can recommend is to call either UCLA or Georgetown and try to get them through the schools. If anyone asks you're either an alumnus or a booster.
As far as other things to do you have a ton of options. Besides the bar scene I recommend day trips to Little Five Points and/or Atlantic Station. There's good shopping, quaint places to eat and a good vibe. Sunday there's going to be concerts in Centennial Park and there are several historical scenes to take in like the MLK Museum, the Botanical Gardens (if you're gay) and Underground Atlanta, among others. Whatever you do, don't go to the Coke Museum. That is unless you like to sit through 45 minute-long commercials and subliminal brainwashing videos that give you no insight into the soulless beast that is the Coca-Cola Corporation.
Oh, and you can make a special stop at the corner of West Paces Ferry and Peachtree. That historical location is where I was ticketed for public lewdness and attempting to incite a riot. Long story. But take heed: cops down here don't mess around. At all.
WHERE TO EAT:
Atlanta actually has some of the finest dining in the country. And that's not even counting Chick-Fil-A. However, there are way too many good places to list so instead I'll just tell you that you shouldn't go to any chain restaurant. I will say that the Midtown and Five Points areas have the best niche dining. And my best tip would be to tell you that if you use the Fox Theatre as a starting point - this is the area on Peachtree St. NE near Ponce de Leon Ave. Within a mile in all directions you'll find at least a dozen great spots, including the Vortex for a solid burger.
HOW TO GET AROUND:
The good thing about downtown Atlanta is that just about everything is in walking distance. There are neighborhoods you don't really want to be walking through at 2 a.m. with a head full of rum, but that's another story. So as far as relatively safe, relatively affordable means of transportation you have three options:
Take a cab: The most obvious, but most frustrating scenario. They only have about 10 cabs for the whole of Atlanta, so if you need to get somewhere I recommend calling one about an hour before you need it. They'll still be 10 minutes late.
Take the Marta: Atlanta's subway system is pretty much worthless. The main reason is that it's the only metropolitan transit system in the country to not receive any state or local funding. Good times.
However, while MARTA is nearly useless as a commuter tool it actually comes in very handy for out of town folk. There are stops near the Georgia Dome, Lenox Mall, Underground Atlanta, and even the airport. Grab a map from your hotel and study up and you should be fine.
Rend a car: OK, I've driven in heavy, grueling, mentally draining, god-forsaken traffic all across the world and New York City (because it is it's own world). Yet, I've never seen a debacle like the highways of Atlanta. On Friday between 4-7 p.m. you would be best served locking yourself in your hotel room and hiding in the closet. If your flight is supposed to be getting in around that time and you were planning on getting to your hotel to check in I would suggest asking your pilot to do a few extra laps over the city to kill time. Yes, it's that bad.
Renting a car does give you total mobility and if you've ever spent any time in the area you should be OK. But if you're a first-timer, I'm telling you - don't do it. Not only are the highway systems too small to manage the traffic, but there's also the little quirk that there are over 25 roads with some variation of "Peachtree" in them. That's not an exaggeration. Go to Wikipedia and look up "Peachtree Street" and they name you 17 of them and confess that there are more. It's absurd, and it's just the beginning of the nightmare that is navigating this city.
Oh, and GPS is powerless against the Force of Confusion that is Atlanta. Believe me, I've tried. Most things are within walking/cab distance so that's your best bet.
That should pretty much get you through the weekend. Know that the natives are friendly, but slow and dull. The service industry is pathetic in general so don't expect much. But the women are amazing, the food is great and the nightlife is incredible. Unfortunately it's supposed to rain a bit on Sunday but other than that it's going to be 80 degrees all weekend.
Hopefully you enjoy the weekend and come out on top with your plays. If you're wondering, I'll be the guy wearing all the Syracuse gear with a bloodthirsty look in my eye, leading a band of six on a mission to find members of the NCAA selection committee and/or Doug Gottlieb with intent to maim.
Carpe diem, my friends. And good luck.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his Insider Page here.