Atlanta? Try Cobb County
It’s a surprise to find yourself 10 minutes north of Atlanta in what feels like a small town, but that’s part of downtown Marietta’s appeal.
Its old-fashioned town square manages to be quite hip, anchored by theaters, museums and boutiques and 25 mostly local restaurants with worldly menus, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Chinese, Italian and French, among them.
Around the square, old buildings have new purposes: A train depot is the visitors center; a former livery stable and cotton warehouse is a museum that salutes the Southern novel and film “Gone With the Wind.”
Adding to the old-fashioned feeling is a trolley that tours the square, Marietta’s five historic districts and Kennesaw Mountain, a Civil War battlefield.
By contrast, a few minutes away at the intersection of interstates 75 and 285, the Cobb Galleria Centre is a convention complex with 144,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, 20,000 square feet of meeting space and 24,000 square feet of prefunction space. In 2009, the center celebrated its 15th anniversary and 15th year of profitability.
No lonely outpost, the center is part of an 88-acre complex that includes the 521-room Renaissance Waverly Hotel — physically tied to the Galleria Centre — more than a dozen restaurants, shopping and 2,000 free parking spaces. Another 3,500 hotel rooms are nearby, in properties that include the 278-room Sheraton Suites Atlanta Galleria, connected to the Galleria Centre by sky bridge.
The newest addition to the complex is the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, the first performing arts facility built in metro Atlanta in more than 40 years. Home to the Atlanta Ballet, the Atlanta Broadway Series and the Atlanta Opera, the center also hosts meetings, which can use the $145 million facility’s 2,750-seat theater, 10,000-square-foot ballroom, 9,500-square-foot courtyard or 3,100-square-foot terrace.
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Shell out some tasty seafood
Folks on the Carolina coast have been roasting oysters for hundreds of years. At the Inn at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, S.C., meeting attendees can see how it is done and then dine on the succulent bivalves.
An oyster roast requires only fresh oysters, a hot fire, burlap sacks and a big table. Diners are equipped with oyster knives and rolls of paper towels. (There’s no way to stay neat eating oysters.)
Oysters are piled on a sheet iron grill over hot oak coals and covered with a wet burlap sack. As the heat loosens the shells’ hinges and the shells heat up and the cook dumps a heap on the table.
Each diner grabs a shell from the stack, pries it open with an oyster knife, scoops out the sweet meat, plops it on a cracker, adds a dab of cocktail sauce and, with a big gulp, eats the whole thing.
Palmetto Bluff’s oyster pit is in a pavilion that can be warmed by a huge fireplace; the pit sits by a five-story tree house in an ancient live oak.
Like its meals, Palmetto Bluff’s architecture is a nod to the South. One of its meeting venues, the River House, has a wraparound veranda with rockers.
“Guests return again and again,” said Paulette Peek, director of sales and marketing. “We’re pure Southern comfort. Recently, I was sitting on the veranda with a meeting planner. She turned to me and said, ‘Being here is like sitting on my grandmother’s porch when I was a child.’”