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SweAtlanta: New ways to work out

There’s a new set of “chains” emerging in Atlanta, and it’s not Chick-fil-A… Actually, these chains are the complete opposite – they’re good for you. In the past couple of years, many people have begun swapping gym memberships for boutique fitness classes. These small, niche fitness centers that specialize in specific group classes have gained popularity in major cities such as New York and Los Angeles, and now Atlanta. Atlanta’s boutique fitness scene has exploded in the past two years with studio options ranging from indoor cycling, to hot yoga to CrossFit.

One reason behind the rise in the boutique fitness trend is flexibility. Most boutique fitness centers require booking online on each studio’s individual system and have extensive schedules with classes beginning at 6 a.m. and ending around 8 p.m. Another reason behind the rise is specialization. At a “one-size-fits-all” gym, people might love the spinning classes, but not the kickboxing classes. A person might also love a certain instructor, but none of the others. Boutique fitness studios boast qualified, specifically trained instructors and some studios even pride themselves in employing celebrity trainers.

While Atlanta’s boutique fitness scene is quite concentrated in Buckhead, there are studios throughout the city. Flywheel, an indoor cycling studio with an abundance of national locations had opening weekend for their second Atlanta studio in Midtown on April 12, 2014. Flywheel Buckhead’s assistant manager and instructor, Kelsey Dick, says Flywheel is  “not your average cycling studio.” Its use of technology allows clients to see their results from each class on their personal account, enhancing people’s workouts and adding another benefit to boutique fitness that can’t be found at a mainstream gym. Her passion for Flywheel is apparent through her giddiness when talking about it. “The studio has 48 bikes, is dark lit, the music is insane, it’s outrageous, it pushes you, the instructors are professional… so it’s dynamite instructors, and our clients love it,” Dick says.

Other chains boutique fitness studios around the city include Blast900, Orangetheory Fitness, Atlanta Hot Yoga, and Pure Barre. Many other studios are currently only concentrated to one location such as Red Hot Yoga, Crossfit404, CORE, Chaos Conditioning and Active sol Yoga.


See what people are saying about the best places to sweat in the ATL here!

Coffee is going gourmet

Octane Grant Park's cappuccino
Octane Grant Park’s cappucino

A good old-fashioned cup of joe is a part of many people’s daily morning routine, but according to a report by the National Coffee Association, demand for coffee is now going gourmet.

In 2013, consumption of traditional coffee decreased by 7% while consumption of gourmet coffee, like espresso or specialty pour over, increased.  Although these numbers represent nationwide trends, they are backed up by increasing demand for local, speciality coffee shops here in Atlanta.

coffee charts big

With the rise in consumption of gourmet coffee, the role of the coffee shop in society also seems to be changing.  Rather than serving as a quick pit-stop for a caffeine fix, the coffee shop now is becoming a gathering place for conversation and intermingling.  One might even argue it is the new social hotspot.

Local coffee shops in Atlanta are not hard to find, they exist in almost every neighborhood these days.  With that in mind, the shops discussed in this piece are merely a sampling of the ever-growing coffee shop culture.  But, if you are looking for a good cup of gourmet pour-over coffee, a latte with perfect foam, or just a barista who knows so much about coffee that it verges on intimidating, they are a good place to start.

            In Decatur, the Dancing Goats Coffee Bar draws a unique mix of academics from Emory and Agnes Scott, families who live in the area, yogis from the studio next-door, and professionals utilizing the free internet connection.  With its airy interior and friendly baristas, Dancing Goats is arguably the most simple of the coffee shops on this list.  Its beverages are mostly ones that everyone recognizes, and while the baristas undoubtedly know a lot about coffee, they do not seem to possess any sense of superiority from that knowledge.

            Since its opening in 2007, the shop has continued to grow, opening another location across town in 2012.  It attracts a nearly constant stream of customers, who come mostly for  its espresso beverages (although the locally-made doughnuts it serves have their own following).  And, the baristas at the shop recognize that they have filled a sort of niche.

Across town at Octane Coffee in Grant Park, pour over seems to be the main attraction for the young, hip crowd that can be found chatting around the tables in its large warehouse-like space.  With the Little Tart Bakeshop’s headquarters also in the shop, customers can get both coffee and a meal like a granola and yogurt bowl or a warm quiche.  This seems to make the shop even more of a gathering place, a function that continues at night, when it becomes a cocktail bar.

Similarly, Condesa Coffee in the Old Fourth Ward attracts a young crowd, though it seems that many come to the shop to work rather than to socialize.  There are often meetings around the bigger tables while the bars by the windows are filled with people on laptops.  The food served is made with all local ingredients like Atlanta Fresh Yogurt and, like Octane, the bar serves cocktails instead of coffee at night.

For a different coffee shop experience in Atlanta, the Chattahoochee Coffee Company is located right alongside the Chattahoochee River about 20 minutes outside of downtown.  Hidden away in an apartment complex, the shop has some small food items as well as French press coffee and espresso drinks—more specifically, strong espresso drinks.  The environment is relaxed with some people working, but most socializing, oftentimes heading down to the Adirondack chairs that sit right by the river.

With all of these options for coffee shops in Atlanta, and more and more popping up all the time, it is easy to see that local coffee shops, at least in this city, really are flourishing.  And, while each shop has a different feel, one attribute they share is their dedication to gourmet coffee.

Humans of the Old Fourth Ward

Using pictures and short quotes, the blog Humans of New York catalogs the inhabitants of New York City. The blog has become somewhat of a sensation, with over four million followers on Facebook and Instagram. It shows a side–or many sides–of New York that most people don’t see.  So what better way to showcase the diverse character of the Old Fourth Ward than by coming up with our very own Humans of the Old Fourth Ward. Enjoy.

“She brings 13 little kids to school every day and is here waiting for them when it’s done,” The crossing guard said.
“They stay with me until I know they got somewhere to go,” Shenita told me.
“Usually it’s not long, sometimes a couple days.”
“I don’t know why you’d want a photo of me.”
“I do comedy too, I’m a regular at the Laughing Skull. Also I’m a doorman at Noni’s. I don’t usually paint, but I’m helping my friend out.”
“Old Fourth Ward Baby! Proud citizen, all my life.”
"We're tourists from Baltimore."
“We’re tourists from Baltimore.”
“I don’t want a picture with the stroller, let me do my thing.” 
“When we moved here seven years ago there were more abandoned or crack houses on our street than lived in ones.”
Miso Puggy
Dog of the Old Fourth Ward


Artists breathe life into the walls of Decatur


Scattered across Atlanta you can find beautiful paintings on walls of buildings. These murals are part of the the Living Walls Atlanta Conference, a collective effort between local and international artist to use street art “to promote, educate and change perspectives about public space,” according to the organization’s mission statement. Started in 2010, Living Walls has created public art in various corners of metro-Atlanta. You can currently find six living Walls murals on Decatur’s walls. Here they are!

1. 430 West Trinity Place
(Beacon Hill Complex)
by Michi and Adrian Barzaga 

Pumped up to see the first wall, I followed the GPS on my phone. When the GPS announced that I had arrived, I looked up to see this:

Suh_Decatur_Blog_2The construction workers at the site could not remember tearing down a mural on one of the walls, but numerous residents could confirm the construction site was formerly the Beacon Hill Recreation Center, where the mural had been previously. Living Walls creations have a history of being torn down or painted over for different reasons. As seen in the photo below, this wall seemed to have been demolished as a part of a larger remodeling project for the whole block.

Disheartened, I continued my search for the murals.

2. 113 East Court Square
(Squash Blossom Building)
by Gaia and Nanook

Located in the middle of the courtyard, the second wall was the easiest to find.


The first picture didn’t capture the intricacy of the mural, so I tried to capture some of the details in a close-up picture.


3. 133 Sycamore Street
(Dancer’s Core Alley)
by Sam Parker

The third location was the most difficult to find. Although you can see the alley from the courtyard, a bolted gate blocks that entrance.


The second entrance is through a parking lot. it’s definitely not a location you’ll stumble across.


Then the narrow alley made it impossible to capture a single picture with the entire mural. Here is a portion of the mural.


4. 211 East Trinity Place 
(Back wall of Twain’s) 
by Doodles, Gaia and Clown Soldier 


There was another mural on the adjacent wall of the Living Walls mural. Twain’s garbage small deterred me from getting closer to the second mural (pictured right).


The last two murals can be found on opposing sides of a seemingly abandoned building right down the road from Twain’s.


5. 302 East Howard Avenue 
by Freddy Sam and Ever 

The larger of the two murals faces the west.


6. 308 East Howard Avenue 
by Jason Kofke

The final mural in Downtown Decatur can be found on the opposing side of the larger mural.


There is an additional wall in south Decatur, located at East Lake Drive in Oakhurst.

The highlight of my trip was that although I got lost numerous times, every single person I stumbled across went out of their way to answer my questions. Thank you residents of Decatur!

Take a trip down Memory Lane

Looks can be deceiving, but behind Virginia-Highland’s gorgeous bungalow style homes and vibrant nightlife lies an alluring history dating back to the early 1800s!

For instance, did you know this suburban haven was originally an attractive farmland? No? Now you do! Let’s take a trip down memory lane so you can see just how much Virginia-Highland has changed over the years!

Recognize the Midtown Place Shopping Center on Ponce de Leon Avenue? Would you believe me if I told you this popular shopping center used to be a lake? It’s true! In 1890, a man by the name of Julius Hartman designed a man-made lake on Ponce de Leon Avenue. After the lake was drained in 1907, the Atlanta Crackers’ stadium was built in its place. The Midtown Place Shopping Center was opened in 2000 and is located in the valley where the lake was once located.

Midtown Place GIF


Check out this old map of Atlanta below! Recognize anything familiar? Yes, it is Virginia-Highland, but this 1893 map depicts Todd Road, one of the oldest known streets in Atlanta!  The road directly linked the homesteads of Hardy Ivy and Richard Copeland Todd; Ivy is often considered Atlanta’s first settler, while Todd is credited for being one of the earliest pioneers to move into the area. This map shows Todd Road continuing off of Ponce de Leon Avenue before Ponce was extended into Decatur. A small portion of Todd Road still exists today, as shown on the corresponding Google Map.

 Todd Road GIF


Not everything in Virginia-Highland has changed from the early days including this gem, the Solomon Goodwin House.  This house, the oldest existent house in DeKalb County, is was remains of a 600-acre farm originally owned by pioneer Solomon Goodwin in the 1830s! To early travelers heading to Marthasville (now known as Atlanta), the Solomon Goodwin house was known for its hospitality over generations, especially for Civil War refugees and the poor affected by the Great Depression.

 Solomon Goodwin House GIF

The Solomon Goodwin house was expanded into the present home in the 1830s and 1840s. The home, as well as the burial grounds of the Goodwin family still stands at 3931 Peachtree Road near the intersection of North Druid Hills Road. Fun fact: family members hold open tours to the public on the third Sunday of every month from 1 pm to 4 pm!

But the history of Virginia-Highland doesn’t end there! Check out this timeline of other important moments in Virginia-Highland history.

[timeline src=”https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AltC-gbZ8OgOdEpMLTBWNEZzUlR4WlJGTGFrWHZWWGc&output=html” width=”100%” height=”650″ font=”Bevan-PotanoSans” maptype=”toner” lang=”en” ]


For a more visual exploration of Virginia-Highland history, check out this short film produced by the Virginia-Highland Civic Association.


Hope this trip down memory lane taught you a little something about the rich history of Atlanta and the Virginia-Highland neighborhood!

Wilderness Works is sleep-away camp for city kids

A classic Wilderness Works selfie.
A classic Wilderness Works selfie.

Do you remember your first summer camp experience? Mine was a little traumatic. I was away from my parents for the first time and I was worried about making friends with the girls in my cabin. Even worse to the 9-year-old female psyche, I had to fix my own frizzy, unmanageable hair by myself each morning without the help of my mother’s practiced hands.  I remember I missed my parents a little, but by the end of camp I made great friends and exciting memories. And I don’t remember worrying much about my hair.

The typical Emory student could probably recount her memories of her first summer of camp, or of her many summers of camp that followed, however similar to or different from my own experience. But many kids grow up never going to camp, especially children growing up homeless or disadvantaged in some of Atlanta’s poorest neighborhoods. Wilderness Works, located on Memorial Drive, just north of Zoo Atlanta seeks to change that.

Emory students lend a hand during Wilderness Works' Arts and Crafts time at WonderRoot fall 2011.
Emory students lend a hand during Wilderness Works’ Arts and Crafts time at WonderRoot fall 2011.

The organization is run out of a re-purposed old church and Bible college. During the school year, Wilderness Works puts on educational and enrichment programs, both at the center and around Atlanta, in the afternoons and on weekends. A dusty church library serves as a game room, the fellowship hall and kitchenette function as a mess hall, and old Sunday school rooms house colorful, cozy barracks for the dozens of boys and girls who come to stay for overnight programs known as City Camps. The floorboards creak and the whole place smells of your grandmother’s closet, but it’s well-used and well-loved. In the summer, Wilderness Works staff leads the children on summer camp excursions in northeast Georgia and North Carolina.

Wilderness Works is constantly looking for young, motivated people to mentor their kids. You can sign up with a school organization or group of friends to serve a meal or chaperon a City Camp during the school year. Volunteering with this organization is much more than a community service bullet on your resume. The children are energetic and eager to connect and learn, and the staff is passionate about the kids and their cause.

As a City Camp counselor, you won’t get much sleep and you definitely won’t get a shower, but you’ll have a lot of fun sharing in these children’s first “camp” experience.