This is my favorite annual blog post because I'm reminded of all the wonderful things that happened over the last year and yes, even as horrible as 2020 was there were a number of happy happenings, which is what I'll focus on. This is a photographic look back at wanderlust ATLANTA throughout 2020.
|Travis Swann Taylor during an Instagram Takeover of @111Places
Have I ever told you that I'm allergic to the cold? It's not really an allergy, but I'm not a fan of cold weather, however I'm gregarious and extroverted enough that I don't let weather, of any kind, slow me down. The photo above was such a fun day but quite chilly! My book editor, Karen Seiger, gifted me the opportunity of hosting an Instagram Takeover of the @111Places channel to help promote my book.
For more than 10 hours on November 17, I was out and about in Atlanta — on a sunny but face-contorting cold day — visiting 10 places in my book posting videos and photos of those places. There's a special guest appearance by Lawson Wright of My Parents' Basement Comic Book Bar! Not intentional, but totally fun, there were a couple of bloopers during the day. Enjoy!
Here's a quick summary of some of the awesome things that happened in 2020 and then I'll get on with the photo review...
- Officially became an author when my first book, 111 Places in Atlanta That You Must Not Miss hit shelves on August 10, 2020!
- Did a number of book interviews, all of them fun! Some of them are linked below (look for my book cover image).
- Completed my first hardcover wedding book! One of my best friend's sister was married in Jekyll Island, Georgia, and I got to be their photographer and make the 200-plus pages keepsake book.
- Created a photo website for a friend in Mississippi who lives on a huge rural estate, using photography that I'd made over two visits. The second visit was my only travel this year, and included a day in New Orleans!
Now, let's have a look back. These are in chronological order and this year, in addition to blog photographs, I'm including some photos from wanderlust ATLANTA's and 111 Places Atlanta's social media channels.
|Fashioning Art from Paper - SCAD FASH - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Fashioning Art from Paper was my first SCAD FASH exhibition. The museum had been on my list for some time — and I'd been to art exhibits at SCAD prior to the museum opening...I should have been going from the beginning. This museum is a must-visit!
|Liberty Plaza at the Georgia Capitol - Photo by Travis Swann Taylor
All the years I've lived here and I never knew we had a replica of the Liberty Bell. It's in Liberty Plaza directly behind the Georgia Capitol Building, definitely worth seeing.
#DidYouKnow The real Liberty Bell traveled to Atlanta and was on display during the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition. On "Liberty Bell Day", which was October 9, the Bell drew 30,000 visitors to the Expo!
|Red Phone Booth - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
For my birthday this year I went out on the town for a whirlwind dining and libations experience! My friend Barry and I started at Lumen Bar inside the Ritz-Carlton in downtown. I stop in here from time to time for a diversion and martini. We got downtown a little early so it was the perfect spot to start an evening-long blowout birthday celebration.
From there, we headed to Red Phone Booth, a wholly unique speakeasy experience in downtown Atlanta. This place is magnificent and you actually enter through a red phone booth, the kind that you've seen in London. We had the BEST bartender ever! The cocktail program and experience here is phenomenal. A must-do! Then...
|Amalfi Pizza - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
To cap the night off we went to one of my favorites, 5Church Atlanta! The owner, Ayman, with his wife Valerie (both are dear friends), treated us to a birthday champagne toast with Roman candle-sized sparklers! It was the perfect way to finish a birthday and a great start to 2020.
|Orchid Daze - Atlanta Botanical Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Orchid Daze is one of my favorite wintertime excursions! The Atlanta Botanical Garden is beautiful year-round and their Orchid Daze exhibition is one of their most spectacular annual exhibits! In addition to the largest orchid collection in the Southeast they bring in thousands more orchid blossoms for a magnificent display.
|Orchid Daze 2020 - Atlanta Botanical Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Another absolutely spectacular annual exhibition at the Atlanta Botanical Garden is Atlanta Blooms! which is a grand welcoming of spring in Atlanta. This year was a little different. I'd visited and made photos just before the COVID-19 lockdown in mid-March. I did the post a couple of days later and then went into isolation. I didn't blog again until May.
|Providence Canyon - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
When I started blogging again, I was still isolating so I pulled from a visit to Providence Canyon State Park — to see Georgia's Little Grand Canyon — which I'd visited the year before, but had not yet blogged about. This post is the one that got me outside again. It started fostering a strong desire to be outdoors again and it worked!
|Alice's Wonderland Reimagined - Atlanta Botanical Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
The Atlanta Botanical Garden continued its summer exhibition for a third year, but this year it was updated as Alice's Wonderland Reimagined...so much fun! These larger-than-life living sculptures are by a Canadian company in Montreal, Mosaiculture.
|Atlanta Botanical Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
With extended hours and limited visitor numbers the Atlanta Botanical Garden had re-opened in late spring. It was fantastic to see the beauty of this place once again, having practically been a recluse for so many months. Most visitors were great about masking up and observing social distancing and as the months wore on they got even better. We were/are living in history and a strange time it has been. Grateful for respites of beauty like the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
|Silk & Stitch - DeKalb History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
I'd visited the DeKalb History Center's museum before the lockdown, to do some photographs for my book, and got to see this magnificent exhibition. Silk & Stitch celebrated fashion from the 1860s to 1960s through the lens of fashion embellishments.
The exhibition was up for much of 2020, but eventually had to make room for the next exhibition. Hopefully it may return one day so that more can see what an excellent exhibition it was. The DeKalb History Center is currently open by appointment only.
|New Echota - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Still hesitant to go out and about very much, especially anywhere indoors, I again reached into my collection of photos of places visited but not yet blogged about. This post was about my visit to New Echota State Historic Site, former home of the Cherokee Nation capital, where the Cherokee written language was created, and where the Trail of Tears began.
|Frank Smith Rhododendron Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
One of the summer's projects that really got me out of the house and some much needed exercise was a series of blog posts covering each of the nine individual gardens within the Atlanta History Center's Goizueta Gardens. I learned a LOT of fascinating history in the process. This post was about the Frank A. Smith Memorial Rhododendron Garden.
|Arabia Mountain - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
July was my busiest blogging month and the most exercise I've had in years...it felt great to be outside again!
I started seeking out parks, state parks, and other hiking trails, and I found a lot! Some of them had been on my list for some time (I always have a list!) and others I found in Hiking Atlanta's Hidden Forests by Jonah McDonald.
This particular post was about Arabia Mountain! I climbed to the top and explored the base...for hours. Could have walked/hiked all day!
|Swan Woods - Atlanta History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Continuing my coverage of the gardens at the Atlanta History Center, I trekked Swan Woods, adjacent to Swan House. My Goizueta Gardens series afforded me a wonderful research opportunity. I did a deep dive and learned more than I expected. For example, I knew that the elephant in this garden was named Ambrose, but wow, what a story behind it!
|A Bamboo Forest on the Chattahoochee - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
I'd been on the West Palisade Trail the year before and finally made it to the East Palisades Trail. This was a 4-plus mile round trip, but worth every single step!
The sizable grove of bamboo on this trail, along the Chattahoochee River, is magical! The fallen bamboo leaves are so thick it feels like you're walking on pillows. At the far end of the loop is a highly-perched river overlook. It seems a lot of Atlantans found this trail this summer...I saw a LOT of social media posts about it. I highly recommend this trail to any and all lovers of the outdoors.
|Sims Asian Garden - Atlanta History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
I'd visited the Sims Asian Garden at the Atlanta History Center many, many times, but I never knew the history behind the large turtle sculpture. The "Turtle Tent" was mass produced in the 1950s and 1960s, but few have survived into the 21st century. And just wait until you learn how it's connected with Tyler Perry!
|Mary Howard Gilbert Memorial Quarry Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
The Mary Howard Gilbert Memorial Quarry Garden at the Atlanta History Center might be one of the least visited (based on personal observation), but one that is highly deserving of experiencing, especially for all of its "hidden" treasures.
|Yellow River Park - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
By time I discovered and explored Yellow River Park, it was disheartening how COVID-19 had affected the upkeep of our parks and trails — the worst of it being litter being left behind by visitors seeking a respite from isolation. It took me back to the Crying Indian commercial by the Keep America Beautiful campaign of the 1970s.
Our parks were having a difficult time keeping up with the exponentially increased number of visitors and the same or fewer number of staff. This park's saving grace was their lovely river vistas and friendly Park Forman, Danny. There are miles and miles of trails...exercise galore!
|Smith Family Farm - Atlanta History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
I've visited the 1840s Smith Family Farm many, many times, as a tourist and as a special event guest. There's a lot to see here and the farm animals are a special treat, especially the Angora goats!
|Panola Mountain State Park - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Panola Mountain State Park, with its more than 1,600 acres, majestic trees, and vistas of Stone Mountain, is an exhilarating adventure. Unlike its neighbors, Panola Mountain has never been quarried, so its a pristine example of Georgia nature.
|Dogwood Bench by Martin Dawe - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
I've done a number of interviews over the years, but this year, with fewer places to visit in-person, gave me the opportunity to conduct more interviews than usual.
This photo is from my interview with Martin Dawe, whose work is in my book. This one is Dogwood Bench in Piedmont Park, a gift to Atlanta on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Atlanta Dogwood Festival. Here are the interviews I did this year...
- Martin Dawe, Cherrylion Studios
- Joe M. Turner, Magician and Keynote Speaker
- Matt Torney, Theatrical Outfit
- Sarah Dylla, Atlanta History Center
- Morgan Wellens, Frame Worthy Gallery
|Swan House Gardens - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
I've heard it said that the 1928 Swan House at the Atlanta History Center is the most photographed home in the city, which is easy to believe given its beauty and grandeur. If that's the case, just imagine how many photographs there are of the Swan House Gardens! They're splendid and even magical! If you saw the elaborate party scene in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, you've seen part of the Swan House Gardens.
|South Peachtree Creek Trail - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
In my research for hiking and walking trails, I was super excited to find South Peachtree Creek Trail...it's only minutes from my house and I never knew! It's now one of my favorite in the city, but not just because it's convenient, it's also varied and beautiful.
|Three Creeks Trail - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
A trail within a trail, Three Creeks Trail is an offshoot within South Peachtree Creek Trail. It's also the site of the historic Decatur Waterworks and a favorite spot for graffiti artists. Oh, and yes, there are three creeks on this modest-length trail.
|Olguita's Garden - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
|Thomas Wilson Talbot - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
This is one of those hidden-in-plain-sight treasures that you've seen a bazillion times, but never knew what it was. This bronze bust of Thomas Wilson Talbot has been in Grant Park since 1948! Talbot was the founder of what is today the International Association of Machinists (AIM). The bust was placed on the 60th anniversary of AIM, one of the first union organizations formed in the United States and one of the few formed in the South.
|111 Places in Atlanta That You Must Not Miss, by Travis Swann Taylor
On Monday, August 10, 2020, my first book — as author and photographer — was officially published. I'm the author of 111 Places in Atlanta That You Must Not Miss! Part of a global series, 111 Places Atlanta is written first for locals — so it's places that even locals might not know about — and then for seasoned tourists. It was a lot of work, but oh so much fun! And I'll always treasure the new friendships gained while working on the book.
|Veterans Park - Atlanta History Center - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
The cast eagle in Veterans Park is a gift from Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker, who were also instrumental in supporting the move of the Battle of Atlanta cyclorama painting from Grant Park to the Atlanta History Center. The round structure behind the eagle bears their names.
|Monastery of the Holy Spirit - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Also on my list for a long time, the Monastery of the Holy Spirit is splendid! Although the Abbey Church, welcome center, gift shop, and other buildings are currently closed to the public (due to the pandemic), the expansive grounds are open and all are welcome to explore. My personal favorite spot here is the Magnolia Lane Meditative Walk.
|Atlanta History Center's Entrance Gardens - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
I completed my 9-part series of the Atlanta History Center's Goizueta Gardens with its newest garden, their Entrance Gardens. The gem of this garden is a 60-foot-long "Tree Table". It was made from a white oak tree, which sprouted around 1880 — when Atlanta was barely more than 30 years old — but had to be taken down because of a decline in health. It's a beautiful example of thoughtful, meaningful repurposing. It's a piece of art!
|East Point Historical Society Museum - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
One of my few indoor museum visits this year was my first time to the East Point Historical Society Museum. When I went, I was the only visitor there so certainly a safe visit. This museum is fascinating! I especially enjoyed learning about East Point because I lived there for a year in the early 1990s. There's also a locomotive on the property. Go visit!
|Jimmy Carter Statue - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
The only U.S. president from the State of Georgia, Jimmy Carter is immortalized in bronze on the grounds of the Georgia Capitol. The rendering is quite remarkable and designed with purpose. Enjoy the read about the Jimmy Carter Statue.
|Neil Armstrong Spacesuit - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
I'm a total space geek and even worked in aerospace for a number of years. When I made this photo of Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit at Fernbank Science Center, I didn't realize the significance of it. Turns out, it's one of only a few in the world. It's an exact replica of the suit that Neil Armstrong was wearing when he became the first human to step onto the Moon.
|Louis Armstrong - The Breman Museum - Photo: Herb Snitzer
Virtual programming was the order of the day in 2020 and The Breman Museum doesn't disappoint. On the contrary, their current special exhibition, "A Jazz Memoir", is one of if not the best virtual art exhibitions I've seen. Extended through Wednesday, March 31, 2021, the exhibition features Herb Snitzer’s photography documenting America’s jazz scene. I'm grateful to The Breman for allowing wanderlust ATLANTA to see this phenomenal exhibition in-person.
|Miller Union Takeout - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
Takeout was also a reality in 2020, and what I've had has been delicious, especially when I and a few friends enjoyed a socially distanced, outdoor Miller Union takeout dinner! This photo isn't their typical presentation — I composed it with the ingredients they'd packed up. It was the best chocolate tart I've had in years! Can hardly wait to go to the restaurant in-person again.
|The Phoenix in Woodruff Park - Photo: Travis Swann Taylor
2020 had us see our Olympic Cauldron lit for the first time since 1996 during the 2020 Olympic Running Trials. We saw the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds perform a flyover of Atlanta, a salute to first responders. And it showed us a way of life that we'd not seen since the 1918 pandemic, resulting in countless random acts of kindness.