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John Becker, Atlanta BeltLine Partnership

Where to #OptOutside, according to Atlanta’s top gamers

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This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, REI, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

It may fly under the radar, but the eSports industry is booming in Georgia. From players to game development studios, more and more people are joining this evolving space. And when they want to take a break from the screens, Atlanta has plenty of options from trails to paths to patios and more. We chatted with three local gamers to find out how they like to explore the Big Peach when they want to get outside. Emma Loggins, CEO of FanBolt.com and the founder of Excite Creative Studios, considers herself to be a retro gamer (proudly playing her Rally-X cocktail table and her original Xbox). James Cole works in cybersecurity by day, and in his free time volunteers as a consultant with NonToxic Gamers — he’s also a retired eSports player who competitively played Arena of Valor. Katie Landers is a marketing specialist for an Atlanta-based game studio and loves to play Overwatch in her free time. Here’s how they #OptOutside.

Inspired to make some environmental change after reading about these outdoor destinations? You can join REI on Black Friday to #OptOutside for a nationwide day of action and kick off a year of change. REI will be co-hosting cleanups with Leave No Trace and United by Blue all across the U.S. You can find your nearest cleanup at REI.com/opt-outside.

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The BeltLine

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When Loggins gets out, one of her top go-to places is the BeltLine. A former railway corridor forms a 22-mile loop around the city and is being converted into walking and biking paths. The most developed is the Eastside Trail, which is where Loggins likes to go. “They have so many breweries [like Orpheus and New Realm] and restaurants that are right on the BeltLine now. You can get to even more if you venture a couple blocks off the BeltLine.” There’s also plenty of public art to admire along the way including murals and sculptures. Pick up the trail at various access points in Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, and Piedmont Park.

John Becker, Atlanta BeltLine Partnership

Ponce City Market

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Another spot Loggins fancies is Ponce City Market (PCM) found in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. The behemoth building was once a Sears, Roebuck & Co. warehouse, and was converted into a mixed-use space of retail, food hall, and apartments in 2015. To make the most of the outdoors at PCM, go to the farmers market on Tuesday evenings from 4 to 8 p.m. Vendors line up along “the Shed” (the part of PCM closest to the BeltLine) and sell locally grown produce and artisan goods. The market is a producers only market, which means that the vendors sell products they’ve grown or made themselves. Vendors you may find at the market include Bamboo Juices, Honey Next Door, Cosmos Organic Farm, and Watsonia. Throughout the season, the market hosts chef demonstrations and live music so plan on hanging out for a bit. If you visit the farmers market, think sustainably and bring along a reusable shopping bag to carry home your produce and treats.

Courtesy of Jenna Shea Photography/Community Farmers Markets

Two Urban Licks

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Located on the BeltLine, Two Urban Licks opened in 2004 in Atlanta’s Poncey-Highland neighborhood. The restaurant specializes in high-end, wood-grilled fare. It resides in a former warehouse and has that edgy, industrial feel. It also has a spacious patio behind the restaurant. The patio backs up to the BeltLine making it super easy to walk or bike to. Two Urban Licks is also an Atlanta Bocce League venue. So if you’re not much of a sports person, but still want to do something physical and breathe some fresh air, bocce is a fun, low-impact sport. Playing bocce while taking in those city views is a nice respite for nearly anyone.

Heidi Geldhauser

Silver Comet Trail

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If Loggins isn’t looking to shop and eat while getting her sweat on, she’ll hop over to the Silver Comet Trail. The former rail system is 61.5 miles long and runs from Smyrna, a suburb just outside of Atlanta, to Cedartown, Alabama. The flat terrain makes it appealing to cyclists, walkers, and runners of all fitness levels. “If I’m just getting out and going for a hike or a bike ride or something, then the Silver Comet is where I prefer to go,” she says. (If you want to go for a bike ride but don’t own one, you can rent a bike from Smyrna Bicycles and Comet Trail Cycles ⁠— both are located right on the trail.)

Tim Foster on Unsplash

Atlantic Station

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Cole lives near Atlantic Station, a mixed-use development just west of Midtown. The development makes it easy to get outside while shopping. Visit on Saturdays and Sundays for the Makers Market. Artisans set up on District Avenue and sell their crafts which include art, jewelry, soaps, and more. Vendors you might find at the market include Jack’s Gems, a jeweler specializing in pieces made with shells and gemstones; LoVi, a candlemaker that sells candles in upcycled wine bottles; and Golden Era Creations, a purveyor of gems, orgonite pyramids, and stones. “I try to live minimalist, but when I do purchase things I want to know that the organizations behind the brand care enough to do right by others, Cole says.” The market runs through late October. The outdoor festivities continue throughout winter, though, when Atlantic Station opens its outdoor ice skating rink.   

Courtesy of Atlantic Station

Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry

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Phase 1 won’t be complete until spring of 2020, but Cole is highly anticipating Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry. The quarry has made appearances in television shows like The Walking Dead and Stranger Things, and now the 280-acre area it resides in is being converted into Atlanta’s largest park. Cole says, “It’s going to have beautiful running trails and a lot of greenspace. If you’re trying to disconnect, it’s the place to be.”

Altanta Department of Parks & Recreation

Waterworks Greenspace

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One of the places that Cole might pass on his walk from Atlantic Station to Westside Ironworks is the Waterworks Greenspace. It sits on the eastern edge of Atlanta’s Hemphill Reservoir and is an excellent example of a public greenspace. You can sprawl out on the grass, or bring a hammock and set it up on the hammock stands. It’s an ideal spot to hang out at when you need a break from Howell Mill’s congestion. When Cole spends time outside he tries not to purchase products that use plastic. If you opt to have an outdoor picnic, consider using eco-friendly products like reusable sandwich wraps.

Courtesy Upper Westside Improvement District

Piedmont Park

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When Landers isn’t working or playing Overwatch, she’s visiting Piedmont Park in Midtown. “Piedmont Park is an escape from the city, or so it seems. I love seeing how busy it is at all times. It’s refreshing to know that people are enjoying the outdoors,” says Landers. If you want to make the most of your visit to Atlanta’s “Central Park,” go to the hill next to 10th Street. “It may be popular, but you can see all of Midtown’s buildings,” she says. When Landers visits the park, she brings along a reusable water bottle and keeps her snacks in reusable containers. “I adhere to the ‘leave nothing behind’ principle,” she says. Other places to visit inside the 185-acre park include the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (there’s a fee to enter), Lake Clara Meer (which offers another spectacular view of the city), and the farmers market on Saturdays in March through November.

Credit Piedmont Park Conservancy

Historic Fourth Ward Park

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Historic Fourth Ward Park is a 17-acre greenspace tucked away off the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail. Nestled in the Fourth Ward neighborhood, it’s not easily visible from the BeltLine. When you’re in it, you’re surrounded by the city, but feel like you’re in an urban oasis. Take a leisurely stroll around the two-acre lake with a stunning waterfall feature. It doubles as a storm retention basin, but is home to fish and turtles (you’ll likely see them sunning on the logs). If outdoor lounging is more your style, bring a blanket and sprawl out on the amphitheater steps. The fun doesn’t have to end at the park, though: You can rent a bike from the bikeshare station and hop on the BeltLine to continue your outdoor adventure.

John Becker, Atlanta BeltLine Partnership

Terminus Quidditch Atlanta

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Harry Potter fans seeking a fun way to get outside: Atlanta has its own quidditch team. Terminus Quidditch’s season runs September through April and has a summer league that goes from May to August. Led by captains Quincy Hildreth and Sean Pagoada, the team plays in tournaments all over the country. To find out when they’re next tournament is (or how you can join in on the fun), visit their Facebook page. The Big Peach Invitational, Atlanta’s first official quidditch tournament, starts Nov. 23 and will have eight club teams playing from across the country, along with food trucks and merch (plus, there’s kid quidditch so bring the kiddos!).

Courtesy Terminus Quidditch Atlanta

Fernbank Museum of Natural History

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The Fernbank Museum has plenty to geek out over including fossils, live animals, and artifacts from prehistoric cultures. But, it also has an outdoor experience that makes it a great in-town escape. Explore WildWoods, an elevated walkway that takes you through Ferbank’s 65-acre forest. Give your eyes a break from the screen and let them feast on the local flora and the rotating exhibits in the nature gallery. You can also explore the forest via two miles of paths; grab your reusable water bottle (no other food or drink is allowed in the Wildwoods) and start adventuring. 

Courtesy of Fernbank Museum

Topgolf

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If you’re looking for a great space to hang out with friends while also flexing your IRL golf muscles: enter Topgolf. The state-of-the-art golf range, meets sports bar, meets quality restaurant, has something for everyone. Plus, with climate-controlled hitting bays, you can practice your swing outside even as winter sets in. And don’t worry, even if you’ve never whacked a golf ball IRL, there are three skill levels encouraging everyone to give it a try. 

Hillsboro Chamber on Flickr
This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, REI, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

The BeltLine

When Loggins gets out, one of her top go-to places is the BeltLine. A former railway corridor forms a 22-mile loop around the city and is being converted into walking and biking paths. The most developed is the Eastside Trail, which is where Loggins likes to go. “They have so many breweries [like Orpheus and New Realm] and restaurants that are right on the BeltLine now. You can get to even more if you venture a couple blocks off the BeltLine.” There’s also plenty of public art to admire along the way including murals and sculptures. Pick up the trail at various access points in Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, and Piedmont Park.

John Becker, Atlanta BeltLine Partnership

Ponce City Market

Another spot Loggins fancies is Ponce City Market (PCM) found in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. The behemoth building was once a Sears, Roebuck & Co. warehouse, and was converted into a mixed-use space of retail, food hall, and apartments in 2015. To make the most of the outdoors at PCM, go to the farmers market on Tuesday evenings from 4 to 8 p.m. Vendors line up along “the Shed” (the part of PCM closest to the BeltLine) and sell locally grown produce and artisan goods. The market is a producers only market, which means that the vendors sell products they’ve grown or made themselves. Vendors you may find at the market include Bamboo Juices, Honey Next Door, Cosmos Organic Farm, and Watsonia. Throughout the season, the market hosts chef demonstrations and live music so plan on hanging out for a bit. If you visit the farmers market, think sustainably and bring along a reusable shopping bag to carry home your produce and treats.

Courtesy of Jenna Shea Photography/Community Farmers Markets

Two Urban Licks

Located on the BeltLine, Two Urban Licks opened in 2004 in Atlanta’s Poncey-Highland neighborhood. The restaurant specializes in high-end, wood-grilled fare. It resides in a former warehouse and has that edgy, industrial feel. It also has a spacious patio behind the restaurant. The patio backs up to the BeltLine making it super easy to walk or bike to. Two Urban Licks is also an Atlanta Bocce League venue. So if you’re not much of a sports person, but still want to do something physical and breathe some fresh air, bocce is a fun, low-impact sport. Playing bocce while taking in those city views is a nice respite for nearly anyone.

Heidi Geldhauser

Silver Comet Trail

If Loggins isn’t looking to shop and eat while getting her sweat on, she’ll hop over to the Silver Comet Trail. The former rail system is 61.5 miles long and runs from Smyrna, a suburb just outside of Atlanta, to Cedartown, Alabama. The flat terrain makes it appealing to cyclists, walkers, and runners of all fitness levels. “If I’m just getting out and going for a hike or a bike ride or something, then the Silver Comet is where I prefer to go,” she says. (If you want to go for a bike ride but don’t own one, you can rent a bike from Smyrna Bicycles and Comet Trail Cycles ⁠— both are located right on the trail.)

Tim Foster on Unsplash

Atlantic Station

Cole lives near Atlantic Station, a mixed-use development just west of Midtown. The development makes it easy to get outside while shopping. Visit on Saturdays and Sundays for the Makers Market. Artisans set up on District Avenue and sell their crafts which include art, jewelry, soaps, and more. Vendors you might find at the market include Jack’s Gems, a jeweler specializing in pieces made with shells and gemstones; LoVi, a candlemaker that sells candles in upcycled wine bottles; and Golden Era Creations, a purveyor of gems, orgonite pyramids, and stones. “I try to live minimalist, but when I do purchase things I want to know that the organizations behind the brand care enough to do right by others, Cole says.” The market runs through late October. The outdoor festivities continue throughout winter, though, when Atlantic Station opens its outdoor ice skating rink.   

Courtesy of Atlantic Station

Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry

Phase 1 won’t be complete until spring of 2020, but Cole is highly anticipating Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry. The quarry has made appearances in television shows like The Walking Dead and Stranger Things, and now the 280-acre area it resides in is being converted into Atlanta’s largest park. Cole says, “It’s going to have beautiful running trails and a lot of greenspace. If you’re trying to disconnect, it’s the place to be.”

Altanta Department of Parks & Recreation

Waterworks Greenspace

One of the places that Cole might pass on his walk from Atlantic Station to Westside Ironworks is the Waterworks Greenspace. It sits on the eastern edge of Atlanta’s Hemphill Reservoir and is an excellent example of a public greenspace. You can sprawl out on the grass, or bring a hammock and set it up on the hammock stands. It’s an ideal spot to hang out at when you need a break from Howell Mill’s congestion. When Cole spends time outside he tries not to purchase products that use plastic. If you opt to have an outdoor picnic, consider using eco-friendly products like reusable sandwich wraps.

Courtesy Upper Westside Improvement District

Piedmont Park

When Landers isn’t working or playing Overwatch, she’s visiting Piedmont Park in Midtown. “Piedmont Park is an escape from the city, or so it seems. I love seeing how busy it is at all times. It’s refreshing to know that people are enjoying the outdoors,” says Landers. If you want to make the most of your visit to Atlanta’s “Central Park,” go to the hill next to 10th Street. “It may be popular, but you can see all of Midtown’s buildings,” she says. When Landers visits the park, she brings along a reusable water bottle and keeps her snacks in reusable containers. “I adhere to the ‘leave nothing behind’ principle,” she says. Other places to visit inside the 185-acre park include the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (there’s a fee to enter), Lake Clara Meer (which offers another spectacular view of the city), and the farmers market on Saturdays in March through November.

Credit Piedmont Park Conservancy

Historic Fourth Ward Park

Historic Fourth Ward Park is a 17-acre greenspace tucked away off the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail. Nestled in the Fourth Ward neighborhood, it’s not easily visible from the BeltLine. When you’re in it, you’re surrounded by the city, but feel like you’re in an urban oasis. Take a leisurely stroll around the two-acre lake with a stunning waterfall feature. It doubles as a storm retention basin, but is home to fish and turtles (you’ll likely see them sunning on the logs). If outdoor lounging is more your style, bring a blanket and sprawl out on the amphitheater steps. The fun doesn’t have to end at the park, though: You can rent a bike from the bikeshare station and hop on the BeltLine to continue your outdoor adventure.

John Becker, Atlanta BeltLine Partnership

Terminus Quidditch Atlanta

Harry Potter fans seeking a fun way to get outside: Atlanta has its own quidditch team. Terminus Quidditch’s season runs September through April and has a summer league that goes from May to August. Led by captains Quincy Hildreth and Sean Pagoada, the team plays in tournaments all over the country. To find out when they’re next tournament is (or how you can join in on the fun), visit their Facebook page. The Big Peach Invitational, Atlanta’s first official quidditch tournament, starts Nov. 23 and will have eight club teams playing from across the country, along with food trucks and merch (plus, there’s kid quidditch so bring the kiddos!).

Courtesy Terminus Quidditch Atlanta

Fernbank Museum of Natural History

The Fernbank Museum has plenty to geek out over including fossils, live animals, and artifacts from prehistoric cultures. But, it also has an outdoor experience that makes it a great in-town escape. Explore WildWoods, an elevated walkway that takes you through Ferbank’s 65-acre forest. Give your eyes a break from the screen and let them feast on the local flora and the rotating exhibits in the nature gallery. You can also explore the forest via two miles of paths; grab your reusable water bottle (no other food or drink is allowed in the Wildwoods) and start adventuring. 

Courtesy of Fernbank Museum

Topgolf

If you’re looking for a great space to hang out with friends while also flexing your IRL golf muscles: enter Topgolf. The state-of-the-art golf range, meets sports bar, meets quality restaurant, has something for everyone. Plus, with climate-controlled hitting bays, you can practice your swing outside even as winter sets in. And don’t worry, even if you’ve never whacked a golf ball IRL, there are three skill levels encouraging everyone to give it a try. 

Hillsboro Chamber on Flickr

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