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Sights in Atlanta could outweigh the football game

By Staff | Aug 15, 2014

You can’t wait for the annual rush given your system by West Virginia University football? Morgantown won’t be hosting the season-opener on August 30. No, it’s the Mountaineers and whatever manner of uniforms they are wearing against one of the kingpins of college football — the Alabama Crimson Tide and the same conservative uniforms the team had when Paul “Bear” Bryant was doing their coaching.

The game is way down south in Atlanta, a useful mixture of the historic and the modern . . . of sport and culture . . . of so many more sights to see than just a football game at the Georgia Dome, a stadium soon to be replaced by something grander in scale.

It doesn’t matter if you are getting to Atlanta by airplane that lands at Hartsfield-Jackson International or from one of the Interstate arteries that saturate the city and its many suburbs. The sights and the history await you. Outdoors or indoors. Fast food or the repasts of royalty.

Atlanta has a little something for every tastebud, every whim of the would-be football fan, every eye that has experienced life the world over.

The city may have changed some in the 56 years since I graduated from Northside High in 1958, but the same eclectic fabric of sports, the arts, cutting edge business and antebellum cordiality are still spread thickly around the magnolias and expressways.

Get to the city days before the Mountaineers and Red Elephants kickoff the season.

I’ll give you the places to visit and gobble food in their order of importance.

If your time is limited and you might get to one or two spots before settling into your fourth level seat for the game, make certain you get to The Varsity Drive-in out on North Avenue just across The Expressway (Now called I-75/I-85) from Georgia Tech and its ageless Grant Field.

The Varsity has been in the business of providing the world’s tastiest onion rings since 1928. Now located on two acres of prime real estate and able to provide parking places for over 600 vehicles, The Varsity is the world’s largest drive-in. It sells two miles of hot dogs per day. It sells more Coca-Cola in a day than any place in existence.

When you enter its no-frills doors and get in line you’ll be asked, “What’ll ya have?” I would suggest a slaw dog, fried apple pie, frosted orange drink and a large order of onion rings. “Rats” (freshmen students at Georgia Tech) have been ordering from the large menu ever since Bobby Dodd was the Yellowjackets’ coach, Herman Talmadge was an entrenched senator, Elvis Presley put on a show in the mid 1950s at the Fox Theater not far from The Varsity and the Cyclorama was drawing tourists to its Civil War scene in downtown.

Both the Fox Theater (on the registry of National Historic Sites) and Georgia Tech are located near The Varsity.

If you are a 30-something fan with your world by the tail and a convenient stack of money just waiting to be spent, go out to Buckhead and see how other 30-somethings with stacks of money spend their let’s-impress somebody money. When in Buckhead, go to Bagley Park, home of the first Little League in Georgia. Started in 1952, the Buckhead Little League is now a sprawling complex that once was home to Pug Mabry, Bob Blackwell, Hoyle Dye, and the five teams that played that first season.

If you’ve eaten at The Varsity, driven past the Fox Theater, stopped at Georgia Tech and gotten out on the Northside to Buckhead and Bagley Park and still have some hours left to play tourist then by all means go to the East Lake Country Club, the home of the PGA’s final series of the season leading directly to the FedEx Cup. East Lake is outside the city, but if you are a golfer, how can you not visit the course where the 2014 champion will be crowned?

Northside Drive is where the movers and shakers of the expansive Atlanta business world live. Go on out past Northside High (now North Atlanta High) at 2875 Northside Drive and get to the 30-room mansions with the manicured acreage whose addresses are 4000 and above. Habersham Drive in that area was where the bankers, Coca-Cola executives and other well-heeled tycoons lived in the golden and olden days — and still do. Several homes have a golf green in their front yards, the better to step out your front door and hit an eight-iron the 150 yards down to the green at the end of the driveway.

When you get back home after leaving the football scene and Atlanta, tell the people you had a nodding acquaintance with Stone Mountain, 5-Points, Piedmont Park, Underground Atlanta, anything Coca-Cola, the Aquarium and North Fulton Golf Course — all places of importance in the legacy and history of the great city.

But it’s The Varsity that has the most ambiance for a dyed-in-the-wool college football fan. Eat some onion rings for me. I haven’t been there for too many decades . . . but can still taste the succulent batter on those fist-sized rings provided with a southern smile.