In this post, I’ll give you the real deal on taking your family to Loews Atlanta, Atlanta restaurants Bantam + Biddy and Lure, and the Georgia Aquarium.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I dropped our kids off at my parents’ house just outside of Atlanta and headed down to Charleston, S.C. and St. Simons Island for our annual ‘Honeymoon Trip.’ We had a blast (more on this later) and so did the kids– but by the end of the week, we Ferriers were missing each other A LOT.
Ordinarily, we’d meet up with them Friday afternoon at my parents house, then head back to Nashville the next morning. But this year, things were different.
This year, Loews Atlanta invited us to try out one of its family vacation packages – and frankly, we couldn’t think of a better way to spend some quality family time together after a long week apart. So we picked the kids up Friday afternoon and headed into Atlanta for a fun weekend getaway.
But who could blame us? Loews Atlanta is in the heart of Midtown and just a short walk or drive away from some of the very best restaurants and attractions that Atlanta has to offer. The hotel itself is stylish, immaculate, and detail-oriented, from the sophisticated decor to the heavenly scent that greets you each time you step into the lobby, to the very popular bar, which was packed with a see-and-be-seen crowd the entire time we were there.
In these surroundings, I was obviously a little concerned about checking in with my kids, who’d come straight from camp and were very grubby, as well as very ready to get our weekend party started. “This is the best weekend OF MY LIFE!” my son shouted soon after entering the lobby and taking a look around. Ignoring my pleas to stand still! and be quiet!, my children began chasing each other around me, while I steeled myself for a serious case of stink-eye from the men and women behind the check-in desk.
This was the first moment that I encountered what I believe is the best thing about Loews Atlanta:
The customer service.
Every single one of the Loews employees we encountered, from our bell man to our car driver to the front desk workers, went above and beyond to make our entire family feel comfortable. Matthew, the assistant manager at Loews, checked us in, gave the children activity packets, and spoke directly to them about their stay. Before we went upstairs, he asked if we had any plans that night and learned we would be eating at a restaurant within walking distance from our hotel. A few minutes after we’d gotten to our room, he called with walking directions. A few minutes after that, a printout of those directions was slipped underneath our door.
We were escorted to our room by a very courteous bellman, who unpacked our luggage from the cart and proudly showed us all the amenities of the room. It was on the top floor of the hotel and lovely, with a panoramic view of Atlanta, a large bathroom, and comfortable beds. But this was what really caught our eye:
Here was our first taste of another thing that sets Loews Atlanta apart from other hotels in the area- the food. Chocolate covered kettle corn and scrumptious gourmet cookies filled two bowls MADE OUT OF SUGAR by Loews pastry chef John W. Bell. I thought they were far too beautiful to eat– but the kids quickly proved to me that I was wrong!
While the kids munched on cookies, Dennis and I sampled the local farm cheese and charcuterie plate, which was absolutely delicious and just a small taste of things to come. Loews Executive Chef Olivier Gaupin runs the hotel restaurant, Eleven, and trust me when I say that Eleven is not your average hotel restaurant. The dinner menu includes a range of affordable (the most expensive dish on the menu is $16) small and medium plates that are designed to be shared, from pan roasted duck breast to lobster cobb salad to octopus brochette.
Lunch at Eleven is popular with local businesspeople because of its salad bar– For $11.50, you can choose from a salad buffet that contains dozens of salad options, including avocado, olives, fresh fruits and vegetables, tofu, several varieties of cheese and artisan lettuces, chicken, shrimp, steak tenderloin, bread, hand-crafted dressings, and even a dessert of the day. Solo travelers will be happy to know that you can get your salad to-go if you’d like.
We personally had breakfast at Eleven– More on that later.
But back to our room. While I was personally taken with the view from our 26th floor hotel room, visible through our window (which was actually an entire wall of our room!)….
…my children were far more excited about this view:
Yes, Loews Atlanta features TVs in the bathroom, and I still have yet to hear the end of it, two weeks later. Let’s just say that convincing the kids to bathe, brush their teeth, and make a bathroom pit stop before bedtime has never been easier than it was during our stay at Loews.
But while my children would have been happy to enjoy our bathroom’s features for our entire stay, we had other plans for our family.
We were having our dinner at Bantam + Biddy on Crescent Avenue, a short walk away from our hotel.
Bantam + Biddy is a casual, family-friendly restaurant that prominently features regional, all-natural, pastured poultry.
That’s what they call their featured food, anyway. I call it… CHICKEN.
This is a perfect place to go with kids- especially kids who just received a set of plastic cowboys and Indians from their parents and want to stage a battle on the restaurant window bar while they wait for their food.
Oftentimes, I’ve found that ‘casual’ is a restaurant synonym for ‘mediocre.’ Happily, at Bantam + Biddy, this was not the case. The kids enjoyed their chicken tenders very much, my chicken tender sandwich was very good, and my duck fat fries were outstanding.
Dennis had the side of the day- green beans in a sweet chile sauce- as well as fried green tomatoes, both of which were delicious. His entree was roast chicken, which was seriously the best roast chicken we’ve ever, EVER had (and trust me- We are diehard low-carb eaters and consequently have had a LOT of roast chicken). I only wish I’d had the appetite to try Bantam & Biddy’s Chicken and Waffles, because I’ve heard they’re amazing as well.
Bantam + Biddy is a perfect choice for low-carb dieters (stick with the roast chicken and vegetables and you will not be disappointed), gluten-free diners (lots of options for you) and it’s also a great option if you’re traveling solo and staying nearby- You can call ahead and walk over to pick up your meal a few minutes later. I noticed a whole lot of to-go orders going out while we were eating.
Some reviewers on Yelp have complained about the service at this particular Bantam + Biddy location- That appears to have been addressed because our waitress was friendly and attentive, our food and drinks came out quickly, and the manager came over and personally spoke to us to make sure our experience was a good one. We had an relatively early dinner at 6:30 on Friday afternoon and had no trouble finding seating, but by 7:30 the place was filling up fast.
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel for an early night in- We had a full day ahead of us on Saturday.
We got up Saturday morning and decided to have breakfast at Eleven. It was a good decision – a very good decision.
We opted for the Saturday morning breakfast buffet at Eleven ($20 for adults, $10 for kids under 12) and it was shockingly good. It was extensive and included chicken apple sausage, applewood smoked bacon, scrambled eggs and omelets made to order, warm buttermilk biscuits, croissants, and pastries, fresh fruit, cereals, breakfast potatoes, Red Mule Grits with applewood smoked bacon and cheddar cheese (the best grits I’ve ever eaten), steel cut oatmeal, and pancakes and belgian waffles made to order, with sides options of Nutella, chocolate chips, White Chocolate Toblerone, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or banana slices. In addition to usual breakfast juices, pomegranate and carrot juices were also available.
I’m getting hungry now just writing about it.
In short, the buffet was well worth the money and we all loved it. My seven-year-old called it the best breakfast he’s ever had in his life, and talked about it the rest of the weekend!
After breakfast, we got to experience another great Loews amenity– car service.
Loews has a driver who will take you in a Mercedes GL450 anywhere you want to go within a three-mile radius of the hotel. In Midtown, this covers a lot of ground, including scores of restaurants, the High Museum of Art, the Alliance Theatre, the Fox Theatre, World of Coke, Woodruff Arts Center, the Botanical Gardens, the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum, and…
As part of our Loews Family VIP Aquarium Package, we received 2 adult and 2 children’s VIP tickets which included a behind-the-scenes tour of the aquarium, as well as admission to Deepo’s Undersea 3-D Wondershow Movie, the AT&T Dolphin Tales Show and the Changing Exhibit Gallery.
This aquarium is considered to be one of the best in the country, and it was easy to see why.
The children especially loved the many exhibits that allowed them to ‘pet’ sea urchins, sting rays, and fish. I loved the Ocean Voyager exhibit, which was essentially an enormous saltwater tank with a tunnel built beneath it so that we could watch sharks, manta rays, and hundreds of fish all around us.
One downside of the aquarium on a summer Saturday is that it is very, very crowded. (The best time to visit the aquarium, incidentally, is either October or January on a Tuesday or Wednesday after 12pm– I ASKED!)
Because the Aquarium was packed with people, the behind-the-scenes Seakeeper tour ended up being a godsend for our family.
We spent over an hour seeing everything the general public doesn’t get to see- from the penguin hatchery and nursery to the commissary and operating rooms to the top of the Beluga whale and Ocean Voyager exhibits, which look like Olympic-sized pools. We got to spend time in the education rooms where the kids could touch sea creatures without a hundred other kids jostling them. We got to ask all the questions we wanted. And we got to see this:
This, my friends, is a whale shark- It’s the largest fish in the ocean!
Rested and refreshed a few hours later, we headed back down Crescent Avenue to Lure, a seafood restaurant that’s definitely more upscale than Bantam + Biddy, but still family-friendly.
Remember- Dennis and I had spent the week in Charleston and St. Simons Island, where we’d eaten at the highest-rated, most critically acclaimed seafood restaurants we could find. We were sure Lure would be good. We were also sure it couldn’t possibly come close to what we’d eaten on our beach vacation.
We were wrong.
We started with a plate of smoked fish, including salmon belly rillettes, bluefish, and rainbow trout pate. It was AH-MAZ-ING. Even the kids loved it.
Next, Dennis and I shared the grilled octopus and pork lettuce wraps. They were phenomenal. The octopus was tender and the pork had been marinated for 48 hours and was loaded with flavor.
But the true standout dish was our entree – the seared Georges Bank sea scallops, with roasted mushrooms, almonds, fregola (a Sardinian pasta), and agrodolce- an Italian sweet and sour sauce. This dish put everything we had eaten the week before TO SHAME.
Lure is one of the top-rated restaurants in Atlanta, and it’s no wonder- Not only was the food to-die-for, the service was spectacular and our server was very knowledgeable about the ingredients and their sources and he made great recommendations. The kids had fish bites and french fries from the kids menu and loved their meals as well- In short, a good time was had by all and we can’t wait to return the next time we’re in Atlanta.
We returned to our hotel full and happy and very, very tired… but not too tired for one more Ferrier family tradition:
THE JUMPING OF THE BEDS.
My new iPhone has a slo-mo video feature, and we were finally able to put it to good use:
First, there was this:
Which led to this:
Which resulted in this (Yes, I realize that I will probably regret sharing this video.):
Which ended with…
Yeah, I think I’ll hold off on showing you this one. Dennis has, like, a real job and things.
We all slept very peacefully after this (you should really try it some time, insomniacs), woke the next morning, and, very reluctantly, checked out. Our epic Loews Atlanta weekend had come to a close.
Clearly, I would highly recommend coming to Atlanta with your family and doing every single thing we did while you’re here. Those of you with older kids might even want to add World of Coca-Cola to your Saturday agenda- It’s right across the courtyard from the Georgia Aquarium and it’s really fun.
I also think Loews Atlanta makes a PERFECT couples’ getaway. It’s right in the middle of a fantastic nightlife and restaurant scene and the hotel also has an amazing spa that I’d love to try out on a trip when the kids aren’t with me. Dennis also reported that the workout facilities are topnotch.
Got questions about Loews or vacationing in Atlanta? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer them.
This travel experience was made possible by Loews Atlanta, Bantam + Biddy and Lure. I was not paid to write this post and my opinions are my own.