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5 Cities for Tennis Fans in the U.S.

Considering the country hosts one of the four major tournaments in a Grand Slam calendar year, the United States is a legitimate hotbed for tennis. According to an article on Tennis Industry Association, the game’s participation continues to grow in the country. As a matter of fact, of the estimated 17.9 million tennis athletes in 2014, 14 million of those are Americans who are participating in the sport.

There is no denying that the US, and most of its major cities, is borderline obsessed with tennis. While some primarily focus on team sports such as baseball, football, and basketball, others are somewhat hooked to an individual game that uses a simple racket and a neon green ball. With that                                                                               being said, here are the best cities for tennis in the United States.

1. Of course New York has to be first on the list, as it has been the host city of the US Open since 1978. During the summer, players in the five boroughs in and around the Big Apple flock to neighborhood parks to enjoy the sport either casually or competitively. Cross X Court even went as far as saying that playing tennis in New York is an art form.

 

 

 

2. Another East Coast city that has a rich tennis history is Chicago. It is home to The Midtown Athletic Club, one of the most iconic sporting facilities in the United States, making it a bona fide tennis center. Despite having harsh winters and owning the nickname “Windy City,” Play Your Court describes Chicago as an “awesome tennis town” mainly due to its abundance of active players and participation rates all year round.

 

 

3. San Diego‘s temperate climate is perfect for playing or learning tennis. Locals also love watching live tournament matches, bearing in mind the Aviators WTT franchise led by Bryan brothers and Daniela Hantuchova has represented the city well over the years. When it comes to facilities, the most popular would probably be the tennis club in Balboa Park, as it is home to 24 hard courts with a 4,000 seating capacity.

 

 

4. From upcoming junior players to certified tennis greats, Los Angeles embodies every level of the sport. Big universities such as UCLA and USC dominate the NCAA Division I tennis landscape, boasting a handful of nationally ranked names. This only proves that the city is more than just home to the LA Lakers, the LA Dodgers, and Hollywood.

 

 

 

5. With arguably one of the biggest USTA chapters in the United States, many deem Atlanta as a dynamic tennis community. The city hones players right from junior level, nurturing them to become better people overall and imparting the fundamentals of the sport. Furthermore, ATL holds well-known events such as the BB&T Atlanta Open, a men’s pro tournament that has past champions including homegrown players Andy Roddick and John Isner.

This is a guest post. I hope you enjoyed it!

Guns and Roses: 5 Reasons to Love Barnsley Resort

Guests can arrange just about any type of special event for small groups or large. We enjoyed a bourbon tasting one evening on the lawn with Blake Black, bartender extraordinaire, who rose to our challenge to create a new drink – the peach old-fashioned.

I can’t sing. I can’t draw. And I can’t arrange flowers to save my life, despite my garden club membership. (I’m the token remedial member.) I can now add shooting, golfing and fly fishing to the list of things I have no natural talent for.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy all those things, and love getting a chance to give it a go. That’s one of the reasons I love Barnsley Resort, a 3,000-acre resort about an hour from Atlanta. I tried my sometimes unsteady hand at several new activities and indulged in old favorites as well on a recent getaway.

And those are just a few of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with this charming property. Here are all five:

Skip Smith showing me how to hold and shoot a gun. If any sporting clays ever attack me, I’m ready.
  1. The Chance to Try New Things 

The itinerary for our “Annie Get Your Fun” girlfriends getaway included lessons with experts on shooting clays, fly fishing and golf. Three things all our instructors had in common were a great deal of knowledge about their sport, patience with a group of novice women and the ability to teach well.

For our venture with SpringBank Sporting Club at Barnsley, one of the top facilities in the country, we drove to course in the woods and gathered in a covered five-stand layout. (Impressed with my lingo?) We got a safety lesson that included how to hold a gun – a first for some of us. We then put on our safety goggles and ear plugs and under the expert tutelage of our instructors, proceeded to shoot at flying orange clays, with loud blasts closely followed by squeals of delight when one of us hit one.

The course includes a five-station Executive Course and 26-station course where you simulate shooting game like quail and rabbits. We made our way around a few stations, with our instructors patiently guiding us as we hefted the shotguns and took aim at the darting orange discs, missing way more than we hit.

We whacked hundreds of balls on the driving range during our lesson. I’m not sure I’ll ever take up golf, as my favorite part is still zipping around in the golf cart.

The fly fishing lesson was much quieter, as we practiced casting flies on the large pond, aiming to place a straight line on the water. Time didn’t allow us a full fly fishing experience, but several options are available. We admired the trays full of carefully crafted flies, many blinged out, and learned that rather than call them pretty, we should compliment them by calling them buggy. A decidedly more manly term.

Another morning we jumped on new tricked-out golf carts and hit the Fazio-designed course for our golf lesson, starting first on the driving range. While those pros at The Masters make it look so effortless, we found it a bit more challenging to make that ball soar towards the hole. It was fun to take a whack at a huge stack of balls, resolving each time as zillions of golfers have before us, to do better with the next shot. 

  1. The Chance to Indulge in Activities I Love

 In between all that shootin, golfin’ and fishin’ there was plenty of time to relax and enjoy some of my favorite activities. Activities include hiking on the many wooded trails, kayaking on the ponds, playing bocce, tennis, horseshoes or disc golf, lounging in the pool or enjoying a cold one at the Beer Garden. A trip to the spa helps soothe any aching muscles, while evenings spent relaxing on Adirondack chairs on the lawn are a favorite memory for me.

Guests can grab makings for s’mores from the lobby and toast the night away in more ways than one.

  1. My home during my stay at Barnsley. I had a swing on the front porch and a couple of chairs on the back to indulge in one of my favorite activities – porch sittin’.

    The Charming Cottages 

With claw-foot tubs, writing desk, huge deluxe bed, wet bar and comfortable seating options, the cottages at Barnsley are some of my favorite accommodations anywhere. There’s plenty of room to spread out, work if necessary, and even room in the tub for two on those romantic weekends. Oh, and did I mention the fireplace? On a previous trip with my husband, we enjoyed a room-service dinner by the fireplace for a delightful evening on a chilly, rainy night.

Barnsley has 90 cottage guest rooms and suites, arranged in tree-lined lanes that lend it a small village feel. There are six multi-room Estate Cottages if you’re traveling with a group. More options are coming within the year when the new three-story, 55-room Inn at Barnsley Resort opens.

  1. Barnsley’s History and Ruins
We had cocktails by the fire followed by dinner in the Manor House Ruins one evening, a simply enchanting night.

Speaking of romance, Barnsley’s very existence stems from a love story.

We learned this and more from historian Clent Coker, who regaled us with stories of Barnsley, a passion of his since he was a boy growing up in the area. He has written a book on Barnsley, “Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands,” and supplied historical photos for the small museum housed in the ruins.

We enjoyed meals in Woodlands Grill and a memorable pig roast in the Beer Garden. One morning at Woodlands I ordered this cathead biscuit, big enough for three meals.

Originally called Woodlands, the estate was built by Godfrey Barnsley for his bride Julia in the 1840s. But Julia and their infant son died before the house was finished. He completed the home and ornate gardens, and his family lived there for generations.

Despite damage caused by Yankees during the Civil War, the house and family remained. But in 1906 a tornado left the house in ruins. A new owner restored the property and opened it as Barnsley Gardens in 1991. He made the wise decision to keep the Manor House Ruins, now one of the most popular spots for events on the property.

The love stories continue as many couples begin their married life on adjacent lawns of this enchanted venue.

The heirloom gardens are spectacular, and include 200 varieties of roses. The more knowledgable members of my garden club could even identify a few of them. If you aren’t able to stay in Barnsley overnight, day tours of the gardens are available.

  1. The Getaway-From-It-All Factor 
Preparations for a pig roast in the Beer Garden. We had pig, fried chicken, Brunswick Stew and fried catfish. They know how to cook at Barnsley.

I’ve always been a city girl. When my brownie troup went to visit a dairy, our photo was in a local paper with the headline, “City Girls See Cow.”

But living in a city has a certain stress factor, especially for a writer with constant deadlines. And more so now in Atlanta where the highways seemed to have gathered in revolt with some bizarre new closure every few days.

A visit to Barnsley from Atlanta is a quick and easy antidote to stress, and worth the longer travel time from other parts of the country.

When I drive through the gates and am greeted by the friendly staff, I can take a deep breath. And relax. Exactly what I’m looking for in a getaway.

Shack Shake Opens in ATL

The Shackburger from Shake Shack. It's worth the extra calories. (Photo by Evan Sung.)
The Shackburger from Shake Shack. It’s worth the extra calories. (Photo by Evan Sung.)

I’m a Fitbit fanatic, a regular at the Y, eat salads every day and generally find most desserts are NWC – not worth the calories. A good chocolate chip cookie is the notable exception.

But sometimes you just gotta throw dietary constraints and concerns about huge calorie counts out the window and reach for a whopping burger, fries and a shake.

On those occasions, head to Shake Shack, that hamburger stand with the cult following.

Shake Shack just opened its first location in Atlanta, a two-story building in Buckhead Atlanta, fronting Peachtree Road across from the old Cheesecake Factory. (Long-time Atlantans will remember it as the former location of the Buckhead Men’s Shop.) The original opened in Madison Square Park in New York in 2004, and now has more than 50 locations.

We were lucky enough to attend a big opening event this past Tuesday, and while it was a challenge grabbing food as it was carried out on trays by the ever-smiling staff, it was worth the effort. My first taste was of the DogMeister, a 100 percent all-natural beef hot dog topped with cheddar cheese, American cheese sauce and crispy shallots. Pretty delicious, although I rarely eat hot dogs. Remember our theme is making exceptions.

I enjoyed the fries but they aren’t my favorite. Wow – that SmokeShack cheeseburger, though. Made with hormone-free Angus beef, it was perfectly cooked and slathered with ShackSauce, applewood bacon and chopped cherry pepper.

Homemade frozen custard ice cream at Shake Shack.

Other menu items include the ‘Shroom Burger, a portobello mushroom burger, and the Chicken Dog. Of course, Shake Shack is known for its milk shakes and they were creamy and delicious, made with real sugar and hormone-free milk. A nod to our city comes from the Peachtree, a caramel peach shake, and pecan pie from H&F Bread Company. Concretes are frozen custard treats that you can design yourself with your choice of mix-ins.

Soft drinks, iced tea and juices are available. And yes, there is alcohol, including ShackMeister  Ale, brewed for Shake Shack by Brooklyn Brewery. The wine list is as simple as it gets – either red or white wine, bottled by Frog’s Leap in Napa Valley.

I recommend hanging out on the spacious rooftop terrace, weather permitting. I loved looking over Peachtree Road, and the chance to do that is pretty rare, particularly in Buckhead. I’m predicting tables may be hard to come by here though — it’s bound to be a big hit in Atlanta.

Cirque’s Totem Enchants, Entertains

“I saw Allegria when I was a teenager, and decided that when I grew up I was going to join the circus,” our tour guide said as she was leading us backstage after a mesmerizing performance of Totem. “After university, much to my parents’ dismay, I did.”

The hilarious Pippo Crotti, who plays the Italian tourist in Totem.

We toured the artists’ tent, dodging the now jeans-clad artists as they rushed to catch the next shuttle back to the Georgian Terrace where they are staying, where we saw the shoe corner, the make-up area and dressing rooms.

I won’t be joining the circus any time soon — that no-talent, loving my own bathroom thing being just two of the many obstacles — but I will see every Cirque show that I can.

Including ones I’ve seen before. As soon as I sat down in the huge blue-and-yellow tent, the Grand Chapiteau, at Atlantic Station in Atlanta and saw the turtle carapace set, I had déjà vu all over again. I had indeed seen Totem before, on its closing night in Montreal in 2010.

But that didn’t diminish my sheer delight at the show, whose story is the journey of the human species from an amphibian to its desire to fly.

The set is so well done that you would swear there’s real water there, as waves and ripples are projected onto the raised center and at one point it looks like artists are swimming out onto the stage.

I’ve been hooked on Cirque since the very first show I saw and since then have seen several in Atlanta, Vegas and Montreal.

A highlight of my life was visiting the Cirque du Soleil headquarters in Montreal, where we were only allowed as a journalists’ group. (Hey, there have to be some special benefits to the job.)

We saw buffed-up artists everywhere, working out, practicing, or just having lunch. My favorite part, of course, was a visit to the costume shop, a gigantic area filled with thousands of costumes, shoes, headpieces and dozens of people working meticulously to craft the gorgeous outfits we see on stage.

But back to Totem. As is typical of Cirque, each amazing act was followed by yet another one where human bodies performed feats that were seemingly impossible.

Make it the W Atlanta for a Girlfriend Getaway

A view looking north from a corner room at The W Atlanta — Downtown

There’s something about a city view from a high rise. It’s hard to find a more spectacular view of the Atlanta skyline than from a corner room at the W Atlanta — Downtown. That’s where you’d be staying with the new Girlfriends Getaway package.

In addition to the Cool Corner Room that accommodates up to four people, the package comes with a bottle of Voli Light Vodka with mixers for your own in-suite party needs. Try the Fergatini, made with cranberry juice and lime, or the Light Dreamsicle, with Voli orange vanilla and a splash of ginger ale.

You and the girls will also receive Voli lemon nail polishes and emery boards for a quick touch-up manicure before heading out.

The zero-edge pool on the 16th floor is a perfect place to sip cool beverages and relax with your girlfriends.

There’s plenty to do right in the hotel. Set up your spa appointments at Bliss Spa,  where you can nibble on their famous brownie buffet while you relax. If the weather is nice, make time to relax at the gorgeous pool and enjoy the view from the 16th floor.

Or take to the skies with a tour of the city in the W Whirlybird that takes off right from the hotel’s helipad!

Forget watching those carbs — you won’t want to miss out on the signature warm popovers at BLT Steak at the hotel, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Beef lovers will have a tough decision with offerings like American Wagyu Skirt, ribeyes and New York strips, while seafood lovers can enjoy dishes like red snapper, lobster or tuna.

Rates for the package start at $239. Like W Atlanta – Downtown on Facebook and  follow the hotel on Twitter at @watlantadowntown.

For more activities to explore, read the post on Atlanta Girlfriend Getaways.

 

Peaches and Cream at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental

The wet treatment area at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental

Usually when I drive by the new Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta on Peachtree Street I’m sitting in a mess of traffic and slowly inching my way up to the dreaded intersection of Peachtree and Piedmont.

But last week I discovered a marvelous oasis when I took an entire afternoon off and visited the Spa here for the extraordinary Peaches and Cream treatment. From the minute I drove into the courtyard and was greeted by several courtly gentlemen who parked my car, opened the door for me and directed me to the 15,000-square-foot spa, I knew I was in for some marvelous me time.

Shortly after checking in the experience begins as I was handed a pair of slippers and a tray with a cup of tea and moistened towel. After being shown to the beautiful, light-filled locker room, I changed into my plush robe and spent a few minutes in the sauna before settling in the relaxation room to wait for my therapist.

The one hour and 50 minute treatment begins with a soft bell chime and then a foot ritual where my feet were massaged and my legs exfoliated. Then was time to hop up on the table where my entire body was treated with an apricot kernel exfoliation with warm cream and peach oil.

Celebrate the 4th with Lenox Fireworks

This is the 51st year of the magnificent fireworks display at Lenox Square.

“That’s Grown-up Lemonade,” we were told every year of my childhood when we attended the annual 4th of July party at the Kelly’s house and saw the adults heading for the special punch bowl. After our annual bike parade around the neighborhood, we’d gather there for some great all-American fun.

We always wondered what was in that special lemonade that made the adults laugh so loud and not care at all how many hot dogs we had or whether Johnny had squirted mustard all over his little brother’s brand-new shoes.

The day ended as it always would – by groups of us piling into cars to go  see the fireworks at Lenox Square, a short drive from our Brookhaven cul de sac. Back in those days, we’d easily make our way down Peachtree, park and walk a few feet to a grassy hill to sit and watch the patriotic display.

Fast forward several decades, and the fireworks at Lenox, now in their 51st year, are a Big Deal. Now you can find a Kid Zone, live entertainment, food concessions and more people than the entire population of Atlanta back in the old days.

The stores at Lenox are open Sunday from noon to six, with the Kids Zone opening at noon as well.The music starts at 6 with City Heat, a cover band that will get you dancin’ with hits from Motown. After that Party on the Moon takes the stage at 7:30. Those of you who attended Donald Trump’s New Year’s Eve Party will recognize them from there. Fireworks began at around 9:40 p.m.

There are alcohol vendors as well, although no one sells the Grown-up Lemonade made famous by the Kelly’s 4th of July party. That recipe remains a secret, although I believe massive amounts of bourbon were definitely involved.

For more details visit www.lenoxsquare.com. And have a wonderful and safe 4th of July.

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Malted Milk Balls, Talking Trees and a Monkey: Growing Up with Lenox Square

Lenox Square as an open-air mall.
Lenox Square as an open-air mall.

This morning I attended an anniversary celebration. For a mall. But this isn’t just any mall – this is Lenox Square and it opened 50 years ago today.

At the celebration I ran into the charming Mr. Feiman, the dad of one of my high school boyfriends. He came because he had owned a popular men’s shop called Hirsch’s, and had a found a copy of his original lease with Lenox from 1959.

His rent back then? $14,887 a year, for 2600 square feet and a 2200-square-foot basement. Less than $6 a square foot. These days merchants pay around $65, and there is a waiting list for new tenants.

I went because I grew up with Lenox. Being roughly the same age, and growing up just a few miles away, I spent many, many hours there, including having two jobs, adding tens of dollars to my own bottom line.

Here’s just a few of my many memories from Lenox Square:

Tales of a Tomato Tracker: How to Find A Farmers Market Near You

 

The home of the best blueberry pies on the planet.
The home of the best blueberry pies on the planet.

I knew it was going to be my kind of trip when I realized that our days’ agenda was built around the acquisition of freshly baked blueberry pies from the local farmers market.

We were visiting friends in Cashiers, North Carolina, who informed us shortly after our arrival that the best blueberry pie on the planet was made at the local farmers market but they ran out fast so getting there when the market opened was imperative. After just one bite of the pie after dinner that night, I agreed and was on board for Operation Piecrust, set to begin at 0900.

Oh, What a Night with the Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys are charming audiences at the Fox this summer in Atlanta.
Jersey Boys are charming audiences at the Fox this summer in Atlanta.

Being more of a Bruce Springsteen/RollingStones/Rod Stewart kind of girl in my younger years, the softer tones of Frankie Valli pretty much escaped my notice. Add to that the fact that one of my daughter’s college professors once stated, “‘Jersey Boys’ is everything that is wrong with American theater,” and you get the picture – the dancing/singing quartet wasn’t at the top of our list.

But hey, you don’t win Tony Awards for nothing, and it’s playing at my beloved Fox Theatre, so my daughter and I went to see “Jersey Boys” last week. Oh, what a night.

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