Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Locals Only

No, I'm not writing about the territorial surf wars of the 1960s, I just have a couple of holiday-related recommendations for folks in and around Atlanta. First of all, you need to see Garden Nights, Holiday Lights at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Even if you don't actually go into the Garden, drive by on Piedmont Road or view it from the park at night. It is truly spectacular and I don't bandy the word "spectacular" around a lot. We went yesterday evening and everyone had the best time. We arrived just after 5 pm and had no trouble parking and the crowd was totally manageable. It wasn't dark quite yet, but even at dusk the lights were amazing. I also got a chance to try out my new Camara+ iPhone app (which is currently on sale for .99).

What are the children doing in this picture? The Boy and the Girl look bored to tears (or maybe they're imitating the frog) and the Baby looks like she's just witnessed something scandalous. Like, if she had pearls, she'd be clutching them. 

There were lights high up in the trees that projected snowflakes on the ground so the kids could jump around in the snow flakes. That's probably the closest they'll get to playing in the snow this winter, so I hope they had fun. Notice the Baby and the Boy aren't even wearing coats. It was a pretty warm night.

Since it was still light we were able to get a good look at the enormous electric train display that they have set up. All of the photos of actual trains came out very blurry, I assume because they were moving. Can you change the shutter speed of you iPhone camera with Camera+? Listen to me talk like I understand whether shutter speed would help you capture a picture of a moving train. I've been reading too many photography tips on Pinterest and now I must be an expert.

As another aside, Dad has an electric train set up in his basement ostensibly for "the children." He was cleaning up his basement the other day and mentioned that, along with the trains in his basement, he has hundreds of World War II era Life magazines. He's probably the only non-criminal whose man cave consists of old magazines and children's toys.

Below is a picture of the walk that leads to the great lawn, past the Japanese garden on your right and Chihuly's Parterre Fountain installation on the left. It was amazing and there were several people with cameras on tripods trying to get a good picture of this vista.

These are the color-changing orbs on the great lawn. Their colors are choreographed to change in time with the holiday music that's playing. Paul McCartney's, "Wonderful Christmastime" was playing when I took this picture. Now that song will not get out of my head! Quick, someone help me out! Sing "Party in the U.S.A" or something.

The rainforest was incredibly cool with little green lights projected everywhere. Of course, the Baby found the whole thing terribly "scawy" and clung to me the entire time, so I couldn't take any pictures. Once we got into the conservatory, there was this huge tree made of Poinsettias. I realize that because I cut off the top of the tree in the picture, it looks like The Cat in the Hat's hat, but in real life it's very cool. The base of the tree is surrounded by hundreds of white amaryllis.

The edible garden had a bar (I wish! Still on antibiotics for strep) and all these whimsical light insects and flowers. This guy is a dragonfly and he was displayed in one of the fountains. You can see the wing of a butterfly on the right. All the lights were also reflected in the water in the fountain. Very cool.

We even ate dinner at the Garden. I've had mixed feelings about the Metrofresh Cafe. The food is usually good, but the service is kind of slow. By some miracle there was no line, the servers were very relaxed (not quick, but since it wasn't busy, that was fine) and friendly. I told them that the Girl's birthday is today and they tried to give her a free cookie. She declined because I think she thought it would jeopardize her chances of having s'mores for dessert. That's what the kids are doing in the picture below. You can buy little packages with all the ingredients for s'mores, plus the sticks, and you can roast the marshmallows over these little campfires. The kids had so much fun. 

So, I do have some suggestions about hitting the Garden for this fun activity. Go early. By this I mean two things. First, go at 5 pm even if it's not dark. You'll be happy when you don't have to spend hours in the parking deck. Second, buy your tickets and go tonight or next week. Also, try to visit during the week because it gets more crowded on the weekend, which is not fun. Also, look at the weather when you buy your tickets. Don't get them too far in advance because it's also not fun if you go when it's raining. We went twice last year. The first time we went it was beautifully empty, which was great. But, it started pouring rain about 15 minutes into the visit. For the sake of the children, I pretended like it made the lights look so pretty because they were reflecting off the wet sidewalks, but inside I was thinking how much happier I'd be dry at home watching HGTV.

The second time we went with my friend, Debbie and her family. It was on a Saturday close to Christmas and it was a total mob scene and I spent the entire time thinking that I was going to lose someone. The line for s'mores ingredients was prohibitively long, you shuffled in and out of the conservatory and the rainforest with scads of other people and I think it took us two years to get out of the parking deck when we left. I may still be there now.

So, this year we were owed a good experience and we did have a wonderful time. So, go get your tickets!

My second very quick tip for Decaturites looking for holiday gifts for kids is to hit Learning Express at Toco Hills shopping center. For y'all in Buckhead, there's one on Roswell Road. They have a really nice selection of toys for kids with all sorts of interests. There are science toys, sports toys, dolls, legos, and board games. Also, they're having a 20% off pre-Thanksgiving sale Tuesday and Wednesday of this week!

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