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Monday, September 13, 2021

Oh, hi. It's only been about 20 months since my last post. Let's see, in that time, we've weathered a pandemic and really tried to just lay low and survive. It's been many things, but I guess not really something that I'd like or wanted to document. There weren't many fun trips (some, but minimal) and basically living in fear of leaving the house and spreading around COVID. I'm afraid this trip isn't much different. We were in large groups all weekend and my anxiety level was high, but since COVID hit our family last month, I'm hoping that we'll remain safe. We tried to mask up as best we could. Most places in Atlanta were taking the pandemic seriously and enforced that everyone remained masked while indoors. The only place that didn't really enforce it was at the ballpark and by the end we had our masks off, too. It was hot and loud and you couldn't understand anyone. Fingers crossed that our vaccines and immunity hold tight. 

In July, when things seemed to be turning a corner, Dillon and I started talking about a dream that had started for us around 15 years ago. When we were dating, we had gone to a baseball game in Atlanta and talked about wanting to travel the country to tour all the stadiums. Not that we're super into baseball, but we do enjoy a good game and hot dog, and we thought it would be a fun way to travel and give us a reason to go to cities that we may not otherwise visit. 

We decided to put into place a plan to take our kids to all of the MLB stadiums across the country in the next 10 years we have before Luke graduates high school. We've mapped out how to maximize our trips and get in as many stadiums as we could in one trip. We decided to start with Atlanta because it's closest to our home and would give us a good test run (after this trip, we may add some more time onto our schedule and visit less stadiums in one go. It was A LOT to get in during a 2 day stay and we're still recuperating). One of the deals I made with Dillon was to get the old blog back in action to document our experiences. 

I started planning by finding a date we could go and working on reservations. It all starts with hotels and baseball tickets and then we work around that! Once that was done, we took a survey from the family on what they wanted to do. Aquarium, Coke Museum, Varsity and sushi for dinner on Saturday finalized the list. Sunday was devoted purely to the game and getting around, which did take us a little bit of time, especially with little legs joining our group. I think on Saturday, I got in over 16,000 steps which is pretty good for me. Sunday was around 14,000 so there was definitely some moments of whining and wanting to be carried due to excessive walking (mostly for Charlie, and some for Luke, ha!) 

We started off on Saturday by leaving our house at 6:00 AM. Most touristy activities now require advanced reservations so I had bought our tickets for everything a few weeks prior. Our reservations at the Coke museum were at 10:00 that morning so we needed to get on the road. Going down, we traveled through Greenville and arrived in Atlanta with about 40 minutes to spare before we were allowed in. This gave us plenty of time to figure out our parking situation and get to the restroom. I will say, Dillon and I both feel like total yocals now when we go into the city. I don't know if the country side of us will ever leave even though I always used to think that I'd want to be a city girl. 

We were finally admitted into the museum and got to learn more about the origins of Coca Cola and got to see some really cool memorabillia. There was a "Fanta Fairy" that Charlie was enchanged with and we met the Coke Bear and tasted soft drinks from around the world. It took us maybe an hour and a half to get through and then we were off to visit The Varsity for lunch.

It was about half a mile there and we decided to just walk instead of dealing with parking again. We took off down the road and were able to walk through Georgia Tech and see all the college kids and fans heading to the stadium for their Saturday football game. We saw people tailgaiting and walked past the stadium. The Varsity was a block up from the stadium so thankfully everyone was heading away from the restaurant. We didn't wait long and the kids' most favorite thing was when the people behind the counter yelled "What'll ya have, What'll ya have?!" We had done some research on the Varisty before going and learned that it's the largest fast food restaurant in the country. We watched people pull in to order as it also doubles as a drive in. 

We had a leisurely walk back to the Aquarium as we didn't have reservations until after 1:00. I will say, I enjoyed the Aquarium, but it was probably the least pleasurable thing we did. There were SO many people there. It was hard to see the exhibits and with little kids in tow, I felt like we were being run over a lot of times. Adults would jump in line with their phones to film the animals and our kids would be stuck staring at someone's shoulders. I understand that everyone wants to enjoy the experience, I just wish some people would share the space a little better. Otherwise, we had a great time. We saw sharks and Beluga whales, alligators and sting rays. By the end, I think I was just pulling everyone through, though. HA! I was done and ready to go sit down. 

After we were able to get to the car, we drove about 15 minutes away to Buckhead and got to our hotel. We had forgotten Charlie's swimmies at home so we got to take a trip to a "city" Target which had 2 floors and an escalator for your buggy! The layout was super weird and we left with no swimmies, but it was still neat! After that, we went across the street from our hotel to enjoy a sushi dinner. Lucas enjoyed salmon nigiri and Dillon and I split a bunch of fun sushi dishes. Luke and Charlie both discovered that they enjoy shrimp tempura sushi and we had a fun dinner overlooking the street and listening to everyone honk horns at the people they were irritated with! 

Dinner was followed by a swimming session at the hotel in quite possibly one of the coldest pools I'd ever been in! We figured that since it was in the high 80's in Atlanta that day, the pool would be warm, but we were definitely wrong! We only last about 30 minutes until we headed back to our room for hot showers and comfy jammies. We did, in fact, have a big day of baseball ahead of us! 

On Sunday we were all up again before dawn at 6:00 AM. Thankfully, the hotel's breakfast also started at 6:00 so we all traveled downstairs in our pj's and had breakfast. After we had dressed and checked out, we had some time to kill, so we visited some local parks (such as "Little Nancy Creek Park) where Luke went down a 20 foot slide that almost yeeted him to his death. I looked up and he was flying down that thing so fast and took a flying leap off of it into the mulch. Charlie then proceeded to fall off this thing that spins you around and round and bust her nose. So we figured that was it and we should be done with playground equipment. 

We ran around a little bit and then decided to head to the stadium so that we could get parked and some lunch before the game. I'm glad we went early because it took some time for us to park and walk there. We arrived right as the gates opened and the kids were able to get an Atlanta Braves "Beanie", a hat that will keep their ears warm this winter. Dillon and I both were unsure what to do when we got there with the big crowds and loud noises. It was pretty intense. We went to the kid's area and signed up Charlie and Luke for the Braves Kid's Club which gave them all the little souvenirs that they would want and gave them early access for running the bases after the game. After that we headed to our seats to figure out where we needed to go and what we wanted to do next. We looked across the park and could see a little sit down restaurant. We had an hour to kill so we headed over that way.

We enjoyed hot dogs for lunch (again!) and were able to see the field from our table which was super cool. It was loud and crowded, but I think that's supposed to add to the excitement?! The game started while we were at our table, so once we were finished we headed back to our seats. (Also, let's talk about how great the employees are at this ballpark. SO nice and accomodating. We were leaving with leftovers in our hands -which were already full - and we had several people offer to help us get to go boxes or bags and help us get out the door. Not just at the restaurant, but all over the park, some of the nicest people). 

We got to our seats and were able to enjoy watching most of the game. Charlie is still pretty little for these games so there was some walking around with her to provide entertainment and up and downs to get snacks. We saw several home runs, which is super cool, and watched fireworks shoot out every time Atlanta struck someone out. We even made it onto the jumbotron as the group next to us had made signs! My dad said he had never made it on the big screen in his 30 years of going to baseball games. Guess he'll need to take cute kids with him next time, ha!

Towards the end of the game, we were told that if our kids wanted to run the bases, we could line up at a certain section. Kids who had been entered into the "Kids' Club" were allowed first access. We joined (the very COVIDy) line and waited our turn. Honestly, even if we caught an extra helping of COVID, it may have been worth it. I didn't realize that the parents could go on the field with the kids and we were all able to make our way around the field. I have never seen something so amazing in my life. The field is HUGE and very green! :) We walked with our kids until first base then they were allowed to line up and run around all the bases. They try to keep the parents moving so I tried to get video and Dillon tried to get pictures, but what an amazing experience for your first time visiting an MLB stadium. I hope that they can remember that always. 

Since we stayed until after the game, leaving was fairly easy. We walked back to the car and left without wait. Our GPS brought us back home through Franklin, NC and the kids were out about 20 minutes after we stopped for dinner. Dillon and I talked on the way back about how cool the experience was and we listened to old 90's country music, arriving home around 10:00 PM. The kids both went to school today, while Dillon and I stayed home and unpacked and got groceries. The house still looks like a wreck, but oh well. 

Our next baseball experience will be over spring break if all goes to plan. We are looking at Washington DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia. I've booked the hotels and will probably wait until January or so to purchase tickets. 

Some things to remember for upcoming visits:
1. Spread out activities over time. This was A LOT. I am TIRED. I'm going to try this 3 stadium visit in the spring and see how it goes before I put into place another 3 stadium tour. I'm thinking that maybe we'll just go to Cincinatti in the summer instead of hitting up more places. I want to try to enjoy the areas we visit and it all feels like a whirlwind when we do it so fast. I think if we can get in at least 5 ballparks in the first year that would be pretty good. And who knows? Maybe in the fall we could go to one of our individual parks (Arizona, Denver, Seattle...) that we want to fly to. 
2. We. Need. To. Budget. Shew boy. This was an all expense extravaganza. How do people do this all the time? We did buy a lot of souvenirs and food. I think we need to plan on some cheaper excursions going forward. I'm going to start looking at free museums to visit with our Nature Center passes. Thankfully, most of the museums in DC are free and I'm thinking that we can probably skip another aquarium visit in Baltimore. All of these cities are so rich in history, that I'm hoping we can find some more inexpensive/free options to visit. :|

All in all, it was a GREAT time. I'm so looking forward to our future tours and travel and updating you all when it happens. 

Waiting in line at the Coke Museum

These Coke bottles were made in 1996 for the Olympics. They're all throughout the museum and are meant to represent all the countries participating.

In front of the vault with the secret Coke recipe!

When Dillon went on a school trip over 20 years ago to Atlanta, he said he remembered tasting the "Beverly" and that it was awful. He was correct. No better today.


OMG. The souvenirs. :|

Albino alligators. They had a sign up that said they tend to protect the albino alligators because they can't undergo being out in the sun like a regular alligator. This little guy or gal looked pretty happy.

Charlie and her lipgloss. HA! She was so excited because she had cherry Coke lipgloss. Her lips were pink all weekend!

This was at the park in Buckhead (super bougie). I told Dillon, leave it to us to be dropped in the middle of a city and find a nature walk with a pretty creek.

Foundations of a super old house at the park. There was no sign, but the house looked really old. Would love to know more info about it.

The first thing they wanted. Dippin Dots!

Our seats in the nosebleed area. I will say, there are no bad seats in this stadium and we didn't have to worry about being hit by fly balls!

The kids had a competition at lunch as to who could wear the most swag. HA! 

Poor Charlie girl. Shes still so little and those socks are so big. The heels are up on her calves.

Luke wanted to be a big kid and go get his own nachos. We sent him down to the concessions with a $20 bill. Apparently everything now is card only so he was there on his own and didn't know what to do. A kind stranger behind him paid for his nachos. Thank you, sir. 

One of the coolest experiences of my life. I hope my kids think so too.

It was a quiet drive home