Sunday we woke up to a dreary but not yet rainy morning. We had to pack up and organize knowing that we were checking out of our hotel and would be living out of the car for the day, right up until going to the airport that evening. On tap for the day was Centennial Park and the surrounding attractions, watching the Bills game over lunch, and heading to the Legoland Discovery Center. The weather was pretty much guaranteed to be crappy, so the park was up first before the weather became a bigger concern.
Centennial Park was the central gathering place during the 1996 Olympics. You may also remember it as the site of the infamous Centennial Park bombing. The park is beautiful and it's surrounded by a number of tourist attractions, like the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, CNN Center, and both the Georgia Dome (home of the Atlanta Falcons) and Phillips Arena (home of the Atlanta Hawks and former home of the Atlanta Thrashers). We had heard Jacob was a little young for the Coca-Cola tour, and the aquarium pricing is insane. I figure if we go back there sometime we'll buy the CityPass thing that gets you admission to pretty much everything for a major discount. We couldn't really justify it on this trip, particularly since we could get into the zoo for half off this time. Still, that didn't stop us from looking for all the free stuff to see.
Of course, the first issue was parking. There was a Falcons home game that day, and the area was already crawling with fans. Most of the parking we saw was expensive, but eventually (and after much angst), we found a $5 lot close to everything and squeezed into a tiny spot there. (Note to self: smaller rental cars will cause you less stress when it comes to parking.)
We walked around to the front of the World of Coca-Cola and found a great spot for the first photo op of the day. Craig fit in perfectly with his morning bottle of Diet Coke, and Jacob is holding on to a metal Coke cup that's part of the statue. Cute, huh?
Outside the aquarium there were a few fiberglass painted dolphins, and of course Jacob gravitated right to this one...
Eventually we got to the entrance to Centennial Park. There were drops of rain in the air and the temperature was much cooler than it had been, but it was still pleasant and the rain was tolerable. We came across two playgrounds within the park right off the bat, including this cool one made up of fake rocks and unique activities.
There was a thing that looked like a boat, and you could make it glide back and forth by shifting your weight. Jacob really liked that.
He also enjoyed this slide made out of rollers...
...and he liked climbing on the rocks. He even ended up with a little friend who was following Jacob everywhere. Monkey see, monkey do! They also had some musical activities and these twirling flower seats. The way they were oriented you could just keep spinning thanks to gravity. Of course, Jacob almost flew off of one (while I was trying to take a picture--bad mommy). I snapped a shot of him mid-topple, but Craig caught him before he fell.
We moved along and saw a series of fountains and monuments. Some had to do with Olympic (or Paralympic) athletes, some had to do with the people that brought the Olympics to Atlanta, and another commemorated the bombing, including the two people who died (one from shrapnel, the other from a heart attack) and the more than 100 people who were injured. It was hard to believe, standing in the spot where it happened, that it could have ever been like that. To think that this beautiful park, which was once crawling with people from across the world, could have had such a horrible thing happen that plunged it into such chaos...it was just hard to imagine.
But 16 years later, the park is still beautiful and creates a wonderful oasis in the middle of the city. There are trees, open green spaces, and paths composed of thousands of engraved bricks bought by people around the world.
|One of the many waterfalls/fountains...|
Here's a cute picture I caught of Jacob trying to play peek-a-boo around a statue...
At one end of the park was the one element I was really looking forward to seeing. There was a fountain featuring the Olympic rings. The jets of water shot up from the rings, and apparently it puts on a choreographed musical show a few times a day. Just like the Olympic cauldron the day before, it was neat to see something so iconic in person.
After walking around the park, we headed into CNN Center, home of the TV network. There's a giant food court, a couple shops, and a tour of CNN itself. Here's the main atrium...
|When we got there, this whole area was FULL of Falcons fans. By the time we finished our shopping (more on that in a second), it was empty like this because it was a little after 1pm and the Falcons game was underway!|
We headed off to lunch after that, first stopping at a restaurant which was the official "Bills Backers" hangout for games. The place was jammed and Jacob was sleeping, so Craig ran in to check it out. Turns out it would have been tough to get a table, so we went with our backup plan, a place called Taco Mac. It's a local chain started by a couple guys from Buffalo. They originally set up shop in an old taco joint (selling Buffalo wings, of course) and never really got around to changing the sign. They do have some Mexican offerings, but basically it's your typical sports bar with wings, sandwiches, salads, and lots of snacks. Everything sounded awesome, and the food was really great. The game could have gone better, but at least we got to enjoy the first half before the Bills imploded. By this point Jacob's meltdowns (which I haven't really mentioned until now--they'd been happening thanks to his wonky sleep schedule, I assume) were getting intolerable. At the restaurant he had one because he drew outside the lines on his coloring sheet (featuring the Braves mascot) and we didn't have an eraser handy to fix it. It was ridiculous. There had been others during the course of the trip, but that one just topped it all off.
Against my better judgment, but with literally nothing to do until heading to the airport around 7:30, we headed to a mall near our hotel that housed the Legoland Discovery Center. It's basically a Lego-themed amusement center, complete with rides, a 4-D movie theater, building centers, play areas, and Miniland, a display of amazing Lego creations. We knew we were cutting it close on time--we got there around 4:30 and last admissions were at 5pm, but again, we had nothing else to do until going to the airport, and there's not a lot going on on Sunday evenings! When we got there, however, there was a sign saying they were closing early for a private event...meaning that ticket sales had already been cut off. UGH. The people ahead of us starting arguing with an employee. We headed off to the Lego store for a bit, and once those people left, Craig went and chatted with someone himself. He explained that we were only in town until that night, that we were willing to pay for the hour or so we could be there, etc. And guess what? The guy let us in...for FREE. Wow. That was awesome and incredibly lucky, particularly considering that it's not a particularly cheap attraction. So, in we went to make the most of our hour and 15 minutes.
Our first stop was Miniland, which was absolutely amazing. Almost every major attraction in Atlanta was represented, all created in Lego! Remember the Cyclorama from yesterday?
|Here it is, only a little smaller...|
The coolest thing was when the room went dark and lights came on in all of the buildings. It was amazing and truly beautiful. Some of the stations had interactive elements, too, like picking the music at an outdoor concert, or scanning through a bunch of "cameras" at CNN Center or the Falcons game. Here's the football stadium, and the screen you see above could flip between fans, referees, pictures of cheerleaders, etc.
And of course, they also had Turner Field, complete with the giant Coke bottle and cow (upper left corner). There were hot dog vendors in the stands, baseball sounds, and even some sort of pinball game setup that didn't appear to be functional anymore.
There was also an airplane flying around the ceiling, and when the "night" was over, fireworks were projected on a wall above the depiction of Stone Mountain. I just couldn't get over all of the different things they created. It was truly awesome.
Jacob tried his hand at building for a while, and the area where he was doing it happened to be a spot where you could simulate an earthquake on your building platform! We finally dragged him away from that to hit up the 4-D movie theater. We'll be going to a couple of these at Disney, most likely, so I was interested to see what he would think of it. This is the guy that greeted us at the entrance...
After that we backtracked to a ride we missed because we came in the back way. It was another Disney-esque ride, one where you ride in a little car through a dark path and shoot at targets (both real and video) along the way. I know there's a Toy Story ride like that at Disney World, and I think the newer one at Hollywood Studios is similar. They're always really fun and this one was no exception.
Time was winding down after that and Jacob decided he wanted to go in the big climbing structure. We snapped a shot of him on a Lego motorcycle first...
...and then he took off his shoes and ran into the play area. He climbed and ran and loved being chased by one of the workers. He had a blast with the other kids, and was pretty bummed when the place was closing and he had to come out. We softened the blow by heading into the store, where we found a good set that was only $10. Normally I would have said no to any more Legos (or anything else, given his behavior earlier), but considering we got in for free, the set was a good deal, and the three Braves items were the only souvenirs we had gotten him on the trip, I figured it was okay. Legos should last him for years, too, so of all the things we could have bought him, Legos are probably among the most durable.
We headed out after that, still with about an hour to kill. The mall was closed by then, so we headed across the street to Target. It was an interesting Target, given that it was in the city, had its own parking ramp, and was two stories. They even had a special contraption to haul your shopping cart up to the second floor with you as you went up the escalator. Pretty cool. We shopped a bit, had a potty stop, and grabbed a quick snack before heading to the airport.
We drove through torrential rain to get to the airport, then had to do the reverse process I talked about from day 1 to drop off our car and get back into the terminal. We struggled a bit to find places for all of the stuff we bought (we didn't check any bags, so carry-on space was limited), but we managed to find spots for everything and then started the trip back on the two trains. Security was busy but decent, and I was beyond happy to be finished with that part of the process!
Dinner options were limited in our concourse--Craig had a sub, I opted for frozen yogurt with fruit (I would have had a sub if I wasn't worried about the no cold cuts while pregnant issue), and Jacob had a couple bites but insisted he wasn't hungry. I changed into jeans and sneakers, and Jacob changed into his pajamas. We ran into a friend of ours taking the same flight (what are the odds?) and eventually got ourselves on the plane. It was a little before 10:30 by that point, obviously way past Jacob's bedtime. IPod games kept him occupied while we were in the terminal, thank goodness, but once we were on the plane, the struggle to get him to sleep began. We didn't have a view, since we had a jet engine covering our window, and once the plane took off and the lights were off, it took a little encouragement, a stuffed animal, and his hoodie as a pillow, but he eventually dropped off. He slept the whole way back to Rochester. Craig did as well, and I snuck in a very light nap. When our flight landed at 12:30am, Craig had to carry Jacob off the plane while I probably broke lots of pregnancy rules by carrying a lot of our luggage to lighten Craig's load. Jacob was awake but sleepy and did manage to walk out to the car, but dozed off once we were officially on our way home.
I don't think Craig and I got to sleep until about 2am by the time we unloaded, got Jacob resettled, and unpacked toiletries and other things we needed right away. Jacob and I stayed home on Monday to rest and recover, but Craig had to drive to Toronto for work. Ugh. He almost had to drive back ridiculously late that night, but managed to stay over, which was a load off my mind!
What a trip it was. I'll have my wrap-up in another post--my thoughts on the trip as a whole, traveling while pregnant, and any other random stuff that I didn't get to include in these three posts. Hope you enjoyed the recap!