I’d set myself a challenge. I was going to navigate Atlanta using only travel apps. The idea was that they’d be dynamic, updated guides that would let me be spontaneous.
My arsenal included Goby, Triposo, the Layover (based on Anthony Bourdain’s Travel Channel series of the same name), Afar, Oyster, TripAdvisor’s Atlanta city guide, Gogobot, Viator, Stay.com, Chefs Feed and Find.Eat.Drink. All were free. Google Maps, a favorite app already installed on my phone, would be essential as well.
And that’s how straight off the plane I ended up in line at Star Provisions, a hip market/bakery/sandwich shop a few miles north of downtown, on the recommendation of Bourdain and several chefs featured in Chefs Feed. I had no idea how — or what — to order until I started talking to the guy in front of me. He began to wax poetic about several of the menu items — the prosciutto and sweet butter on a baguette, the Reuben. Then there was the potato salad.
“I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the potato salad,” he confided. Ah, the human app. Sometimes you can’t beat that. (For the record, I did get the potato salad. It was excellent.)
The gorgeous weather convinced me that I ought to be outside. But where? I settled on the Atlanta Botanical Garden, No. 4 on the list of things to do in the TripAdvisor city guide. It didn’t disappoint. I traversed the entire garden, smelling herbs, admiring orchids and generally basking in the sunshine.
I considered zipping over to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, No. 2 in the TripAdvisor guide. But I wasn’t able to quickly figure out the operating hours, a common failing of many of the apps I tried. So I called (imagine that!). By the time I got there, I had just under 90 minutes to explore.
Another information omission from the apps: You need a ticket to tour King’s childhood home. A park ranger told me that all the free tickets had been spoken for, but that if I stuck around, I might be able to claim one belonging to a no-show. And I did.
After the tour, my phone battery almost dead, I checked in to the Glenn Hotel. I’d selected it based on the Oyster app, which closely mirrors what you can find on that hotel comparison Web site. A big part of what sold me: “The hotel’s rooftop bar — which boasts stunning views of the city — is a highlight.”
Before checking out that view, I spent an inordinate amount of time on my bed with my iPad trying to decide where to go for dinner. The number of options was debilitating. I doubted that this would happen with a guidebook.
At last I settled on Antico Pizza, endorsed by one chef on Chefs Feed as “simply the best pizza this side of the Mason-Dixon line.” Decision made, I locked the iPad in my room safe, since my shoulder was already beginning to protest carrying it.