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Chris Hale
Old and New Atlanta from the roof top of the Georgian Terrace Hotel.

During the second half of 1981, I was sure I’d be called to serve in one of the LDS missions in Germany. I anticipated working with people either in the mountains of Bavaria or along the Rhine River. When my call finally came, I was stunned to read Georgia Atlanta Mission. I wasn’t disappointed, but couldn’t figure out how I could have been so wrong. When I realized my inspiration had only missed by 12 pages in the encyclopedia, the call became much easier to accept.

Last year, I had the opportunity to return to Atlanta with my wife, Kim, and son, Logan. I was happy to be able to share some of the many things about Georgia I’d loved at first sight.

The city of Atlanta is beautiful to behold. During springtime, azaleas and dogwoods line residential drives, adding vibrant colors to the plush greens of the well-watered lawns. Vintage homes, both mansions and cottages, are never far away. The city architecture itself offers its own rendition of old classic as well as stylish new, and both are impressive.

Even though I loved going back to the streets on which I once knocked doors, we did have another reason to go. Kim is a huge fan of Garrison Keillor, and we had tickets to see "A Prairie Home Companion" at the historic Fox Theatre in downtown Atlanta.

When visiting Atlanta, one cannot miss seeing the Fox.

Designed in the late 1920s as the headquarters for the 5,000-member Shriners organization, it is now one of Atlanta’s premier venues for live entertainment. The exterior architecture consists of onion-domed doorways and windows surrounded by horizontally striped gray and white brick, intriguing ironwork and multicolored tiles. Although the exterior is engaging, the interior is breathtaking.

Between the balcony and the main floor, 4,678 seats share a wonderful view of the intimate stage, and as we looked around before the start of the show, we were in awe at the opulent beauty and dÉcor. The ceiling was a cerulean night sky with wispy clouds drifting by. When the house lights dimmed, the ceiling turned midnight blue and twinkled with stars. Over the balcony were the awnings of Arabian tents, and the walls were the ramparts of castles all the way down to the stage. Lobby furniture and fantastic lighting definitely emphasized the Bedouin motif.

Right across the street is the historic Georgian Terrace Hotel, where we had the opportunity to stay. Built a century ago, this hotel hosted the premiere gala for the cast of "Gone with the Wind" in 1939. The rooftop swimming terrace boasts a breathtaking view of both old and new Atlanta, and the art deco design and accommodations are well worth the price in an extremely convenient downtown location.

On more than one mission preparation day, I had the opportunity to climb the granite mound known as Stone Mountain. On this trip, I shared it with Logan and Kim.

Just east of Atlanta is the beautiful and historic granite protuberance that draws thousands of visitors every year. On the face, and the size of three football fields, is the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world featuring the leaders of the Confederacy, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis, all mounted on horseback and riding off to the left. The carving was started in 1923 by Gutzon Borglum, who also carved Mount Rushmore, and was completed in 1972 by Roy Faulkner. During the summer months, a laser show over the carving is set to music and is a real treat to see.

Other attractions at Stone Mountain Park include a tram ride to the top of the mountain, a five-mile train ride around the mountain and the Scarlett O’Hara paddle boat ride around Stone Mountain Lake. There are plantation homes and museums to visit and plenty of activities for children that could take a day or more to see. All of these attractions are included in the price of admission.

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One extra not included in the admission price is a duck boat ride around the lake, which, after being armed with our own squeaky duck bills, we enjoyed immensely. Logan even was allowed to drive the boat.

For decades I have missed my mission experience. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to return and share some of the coolest things in Georgia with my family.

Chris Hale is an aviation maintenance technician for a major airline. He has traveled extensively with his family. In his spare time he writes novels inspired by places he's been. Find out more about his books at www.Chrisahale.com