Sunday Stories, a travel guide…Gum Tree Goes to the South.

Sunday Stories… Gum Tree Travels

Atlanta, GA & Auburn, AL
Recently Lily and I took our first trip to the South and it was fantastic, so I thought I’d share a little bit about our adventures with you. 

Like most things these days involving my daughter, we went for horses.  Lily is exploring the idea of riding in college, and of course she set her sights on the very best NCAA riding team in the country to check out first…So this trip was all about getting her to a College Prep Equestrian Clinic at Auburn University.  I figured while we’re all the way down here, let’s check out Atlanta too. 

We were lucky enough to stay with my BFF at her sister’s place in Atlanta so, sorry, I don’t have any Atlanta hotel recommendations, but we ate and shopped our way though the area, and took lots of photos and notes for you!

Best Breakfast in Atlanta?  Buttermilk Kitchen!
On our first trip to the South, we figured we must try all the local faves, and this place was charming and delicious.  Chicken and waffles, grits with thick cut bacon and poached eggs, pickled fried green tomatoes, and biscuits with home made pepper jelly.  
P.S. That’s my bestie, thanks for showing us around Nic!

After breakfast Lily and I hit the road to Athens, GA.  The University of Georgia at Athens is on the Equestrian Team College wish list as well, so we figured we’d explore the town while we were here.  The campus was beautiful and the town was charming.  I had to make a pit stop at the DG house, a little bit of inspiration for the future perhaps?  We were still full from breakfast so I have nothing to report on the restaurant front, but we strolled the sweet downtown and picked up a UGA t-shirt for Dad’s day.

Back to Atlanta we went, and the next stop was Ponce City Market.  I had read a lot about this Sears Roebuck & Co warehouse building built in the 1930’s that was recently converted to a beautiful public gathering place, so I knew we must see it.  The upper floors house apartments and creative office space, downstairs is a grand food hall and charming shopping area filled with independent boutiques, plus some of the big guys like J Crew and Anthropologie, and the roof houses a restaurant and amusement park!

The space was just stunning, and I really fell like we got a great taste of the style and vibe of Atlanta.

My favorite of the shops was a big collaborative space called Citizen Supply.  It was well curated, with a great mix of product, from home, to mens and women’s clothing, to plants, to leather goods. 

A couple more shops to check out…Sustainable HomegoodsThe Village RetailArcher Paper Goods, and Sugarboo and Co.

And finally we were ready for dinner!  The food hall here was insane, so many options and everything looked fantastic, it was really hard to choose, but we ended up at Minero for Mexican, and it was so so good.  First of all, can we talk about Queso?  I know we used to eat it all the time during my college years at the University of Kansas, but I honestly don’t think I’ve had it since then…and I kind of wish I hadn’t come across it again, because it was so good it’s all Lily and I can think about now!  If you have a great queso recipe please send it our way.  The tortillas here are made in house daily, and the tacos were delicious.  We loved everything.

And then…dessert!  Lily went with a scoop of cookie dough from Batter.  It’s literally like an ice cream counter, but instead of ice cream there are a dozen different kinds of cookie dough.  She got the classic chocolate chip and was not disappointed. 

I went with the chocolate sea salt popsicle from King of Pops.  Like the best fudgesicle you’ve ever had, times a hundred.  Apparently these popsicle carts can be found all over the city, and if you go to Atlanta I would make sure to seek one out.

At this point we were so full and so tired that we skipped the amusement park on the roof.  Kind of bummed we missed it, but now we have a reason to go back!

The next day we hopped in the car for the two hour drive to Alabama.  Anytime we’re out of LA I marvel at highways that cut through lush green countryside.  It’s such a gorgeous drive, the whole way lined with giant trees and grassy knolls.  This was Lily’s first experience of it, and she felt at home and at peace, she’s my nature girl, so it really suited her.

We checked into the Collegiate Hotel, just a block away from the beautiful Auburn University campus.  It’s housed in a former women’s dorm built in 1940, and could not be more charming.  The decor was beautiful, the service was excellent, southern friendly, and the location can’t be beat.  If your kid has Auburn on their list, make sure to stay here and ask for the free private golf cart tour of the university, given by a sweet local student.  It was fantastic.

After our tour we took a walk through campus to the sweet downtown, and found Mellow Mushroom.  It looked like a cool indy college town pizzeria, and it was great!  Only after I posted about it on Instagram did I find out it’s a beloved Southern chain.  Beware, we ordered the “full pretzel” thinking it would be one big pretzel we could share…and we got 6 pretzels!  Lily says it’s the best pretzel she’s ever had, we thought we would just split one, but we ate 4 of them, and took the rest home for breakfast the next day!

We also made a stop at Toomer’s Corner, an Auburn tradition since 1896, for their famous lemonade… it didn’t disappoint.

Auburn Equestrian camp was incredible.  Lily loved it, and I learned A LOT.  I’ll spare you the details, but if you have an equestrian kid who thinks this might be their path, and want to know what it was like, please email me.  Usually these camps are a week long and sleep away, but this year…COVID…so it was just two days, no sleep over, and it was the perfect intro to the NCAA D1 college equestrian team life.

Our last night in Auburn we splurged on a special dinner at one of my now favorite restaurants of all time.  Acre Auburn was such a treat.  From the fresh cocktail made of ingredients from their on site garden, to the excellent service, to the chicken fried bacon (!), the home made ice cream, to the beautiful atmosphere, it was as close to a perfect restaurant experience as I’ve ever had.  Seriously, worth making the trip to this beautiful town to dine here.

And even though we were so full, everyone told us we had to stop at Insomnia Cookies.  FYI, they deliver warm fresh baked cookies until 3am.  I mean…is there a more perfect business idea for a college town?

That night we passed out full and happy.  The next morning we woke early and got on the road back to Atlanta…a tropical storm was on it’s way, and our sweet receptionist told us we better hurry to try to “beat it” back to Atlanta.  I drove 2 hours in the pouring rain, and we just made it to the airport, hopped our crowded flight and made it safely home.  

A successful trip, hope this inspires you to hit the road when you’re ready, and get back out there to explore this beautiful, diverse, crazy country we are so lucky to call home.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!

Lori