12 things to try in Atlanta in 2010

Resolve to put these activities on your to-do list

Just guessing here, but a few days ago a good number of you probably scanned your 2009 calendars or reflected on the past year and realized you didn’t do a lot of the fun things you’d planned to. You got busy; things came up; money was tight.

But it’s a new year, and you have the chance to create a cool, new must-do list. Here are 12 not-so-obvious suggestions of goals to accomplish, places to visit and experiences to be had before 2011 arrives.

1. Visit the Noguchi Playscapes in Piedmont Park

Isamu Noguchi (1904-88) was one of America’s most revered modern artists, a man who designed everything from furniture to playgrounds, including one for the United Nations. Playscapes in Piedmont Park is one of several playgrounds Noguchi designed — the only one to have been built while the sculptor was living. It is also considered to be Atlanta’s most prized piece of public art. It was officially opened in 1976, but nearly 30 years later had become rundown and a spot for vagrants. The city refurbished it for about $350,000 and it was rededicated last year.

2. Learn which fruits and vegetables are in season

You might be able to find tomatoes and asparagus in the grocery stores right now, but they’re going to lack flavor and probably be more expensive because they’re out of season. (Asparagus is spring, tomatoes mid- to late summer.) In-season vegetables and fruits typically taste better and are cheaper. If possible, start going to local outdoor farmers’ markets around the city to get in-season produce. We know for a fact that some wonderful bitter melon, used in south and east Asian food, is available at the farmer’s market on the square in Marietta in the summer. (Hint, now’s a good time to get citrus and brussels sprouts).

3. Visit Atlanta’s Central Park-lite

No, we’re not talking about Piedmont Park. We’re talking about that stretch of green space along Ponce de Leon Avenue in Druid Hills, designed by the dean of landscape architects, Frederick Law Olmsted. The Druid Hills area was designed by Olmsted, but his most famous design is Central Park in New York City. Walk through (or drive along) the Olmsted Linear Park with its undulating hills and mature stands of trees and you’ll see the kinship the park shares with its more famous cousin.

4. Worship with a faith not your own

We know we’re in the Bible Belt. And this is not suggesting you convert, but visiting a house of worship that you’re unaccustomed to, whether a synagogue, mosque or meeting house, might give you a new perspective on a particular faith.

5. Learn a few key phrases in another language

It’s not likely you have the time or perhaps patience to become fluent in another language. But with Atlanta becoming increasingly diverse, knowing how to say please and thank you, hello and goodbye in Spanish, Russian or even Portuguese could come in handy. So “Feliz ano novo!”

6. Go see Lake Lanier

You can swim in it. You can boat on it. But, most importantly, it’s our main water source here in the metro area. And, right about now, it’s full. Lanier is also the centerpiece of a big legal battle among Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee over how the water can be used in the future. If Georgia loses, Atlanta could be parched.

7. Check out the Flannery O’Connor House

Not the one in Savannah, which is the birth home, but the one in Milledgeville, on a farm called Andalusia, where O’Connor wrote two novels — “Wise Blood” and “The Violent Bear It Away” — as well as her short story collections.

8. Donate to a food bank

The Great Recession caused many to turn to food banks. Area food banks have said repeatedly that they can barely keep up with demand. So if you have the means to give, your contributions would be welcomed.

9. Pick an ethnic restaurant on Buford Highway

And go have a meal there. The stretch that leads from DeKalb County up through Gwinnett County will take you on a culinary journey from South Korea to Peru.

10. Visit the Rev. Howard Finster House

One of the most influential folk artists of his generation was Howard Finster. His ramshackle home still stands in Summerville in North Georgia. The Paradise Garden that surrounds the home still displays some of the work by the prolific artist.

11. Walk in the tree tops

One of the last expanses of forest inside the city of Atlanta is at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The first weekend in May, the Garden will open its Canopy Walk, a 600-foot elevated pathway through the city forest. Go commune with nature.

12. Go to an outdoor concert

Whether it’s the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra playing at a suburban amphitheater or a big show in Piedmont Park or the summer Friday night music series on the square in downtown Lawrenceville, there’s nothing like a serenade under the stars.

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