If you've picked up on the wordplay I use on my website and social media, you know that I often share art and entertainment recommendations as if I am figuratively dating Atlanta. The city shows me a good time, and I document our relationship through my posts.
I've been dating Atlanta for well over ten years now, and I love Atlanta. I really do. However, some of the challenges of this past year have made me question if Atlanta loves me back, and I felt like some time apart might be good for us.
I decided to pick some nearby cities and see what they could offer me in terms of art, nature, and cheap entertainment. I planned one-day itineraries for Birmingham (Alabama), Augusta (Georgia), and Greenville (South Carolina), and I approached each city with an open mind. Check out the recap of each trip below along with my impressions of each city as a personified first date.
The first stop in Birmingham was at Church Street Coffee & Books for their famous Breakup Cookie. This seemed like a fitting indulgence while I was stepping out on Atlanta, and the date was off to a sweet (and slightly salty) start. My next destination was the Birmingham Botanical Gardens where admission was free and the weather was perfect. I could have spent more time there, but I wanted to get to know as much of Birmingham as I could in our limited time together.
I headed downtown and spent a little while at Jim Reed Books/The Museum of Fond Memories. Then, I took a walk along Rotary Trail and did some mural hunting with some tips from Bham Now. On my way out of town, I hit Buc-ees for my first ever Beaver Nuggets and a Buc-ees brisket sandwich. Although Buc-ees is a Texas-based company, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit the Leeds, Alabama location for what was truly a one of a kind shopping and culinary experience.
So what was it like to date Birmingham? Birmingham showed me a good time, but it seems like a bit of a player. Right out of the gate it was like, "It's nice to have you in Birmingham" and "you are beautiful." It made me feel special, but I kept reminding myself that it uses those same lines on everyone. It also referred to itself as "The Magic City" more than once, which made me wonder, "Is it magic like Magic Mike or magic like David Copperfield?" Then I realized, maybe it's both. Maybe it comes on strong and sexy and then disappears. I mean, we had a lot of fun together, but it still hasn't called to set up a second date.
My date with Augusta began with a stroll along the Riverwalk and through the Augusta Market. Next, I headed to Augusta & Co. to check out their selection of local merch and pick up a tour map of the James Brown Journey. I took the "funky walk on the good foot"to each of the James Brown tour stops along Broad Street and searched for some public art with a little help from Naked Epicurean. In the process of checking out some of the murals in the area, I discovered a lot of cool sculptures, and my favorite art installation was the JNSA Painted Piano Project, which consists of several unique, colorful, and functional pianos that have been placed around the city. I ended the day with a flight from Savannah River Brewing Co., and the beer and the vibe there were top-shelf.
My Augusta trip had an added bonus in that I got to hang out with my friend Bethany Smith. She is a yoga instructor and entrepreneur who hosts awesome events like Community Yoga on the riverfront and Yoga and Mimosas at a venue downtown. If you strategically plan your visit to Augusta, you can spend time with her too. Just follow her on Instagram or Facebook to keep up with what she's offering and when it's happening.
To pretend that this was my first dalliance with Augusta would be disingenuous. I grew up in South Carolina just across the river, so dating Augusta was like reuniting with a childhood friend and testing the waters to see if we might change the nature of our relationship. There was no pretense - just the easiness of a mutual, unspoken understanding of who and what we are. In short, Augusta is charming with a lot of potential, and I really respect its authenticity. It was also really cool to see how Augusta has grown up and is really embracing its artistic side. We'll definitely see each other again even if we just stay friends.
Greenville, South Carolina
I started my day in Greenville with a lavender latte from Methodical Coffee and, of course, a mural hunt. The City of Greenville Public Art Walking Tour offers a map of the city's artwork, and all of my favorite murals were conveniently located along W. Stone Avenue. Next, I headed to Main Street to do some shopping and search for a few mice from Mice on Main - a public art installation and scavenger hunt inspired by the children's book Goodnight Moon.
Falls Park was a short walk away, and this greenspace on the Reedy River was by far my favorite part of the city. It is a great place to take a walk or bike ride along the Swamp Rabbit Trail or just sit and take in the views of the waterfalls and other scenery. The park is currently hosting the Wings of the City exhibit by artist Jorge Marín, which will be on display until October of 2021, and it is also the site of the Medusa Tree, which has been rooted there for more than 70 years. I ended the visit with lunch at Swamp Rabbit Cafe and then made my way back home. Of note, if you take back roads between Greenville and Atlanta, you can make a pit stop at the School Bus Graveyard, a quirky roadside attraction and photo op.
Based on first impressions, Greenville seems stable and predictable. It’s well-groomed and well-educated. It would never forget my birthday or major holidays, but I'd probably get standard gifts for every occasion. After one date, I'm thinking life with Greenville would be comfortable, but I might crave a little more excitement. Then again, I did see a D's Nuts doughnut truck on the way into town, so Greenville may have an edgier, more irreverent side that it reserves for later stages in a relationship. If that's true, I would like to see it!
Thank You, Next
I genuinely had a good time at each of these destinations, and just as I openly share Atlanta, I encourage you all to date these cities as well. Let me know if you have similar experiences or if you think my characterizations of these places were way off base. Also, if you have suggestions for other towns or cities that I will absolutely love, hook me up in the comments section or tag me on social media - #atlcheapdate or @atlcheapdate.