If you're heading to the US for MGX (Microsoft Global eXchange - the Microsoft Sales & Services annual event), I've posted here a few hints along the lines of my notes from Surviving CES in Las Vegas, updated from my 2009 entry.  I will add to the page later as I have time.

In response to several requests, I've re-posted the original post referenced above here, along with the latest updates. Have something to add? LMK.

But first... please watch what you tweet and share in the social mediashpere about MGX or any Microsoft event. I posted this about tweeting: remember to be thoughtful. (rev 072210)

No, on to the info.

Flight and Hotel: Given the event is invitation only, if you don't already have either of these, good luck.  You'll have a better chance of seeing a mid-day temperature under 85 degrees than finding either at this late date.  

Overall, stick to the plan: MGX is a well-run, professional event.  Remember to use the shuttle busses, go to the planned events and have fun.

Pack light.  Keep in mind that it is hot in Atlanta this time of year (high 80s, and lends to the given the nickname, Hotlanta), and the weather will be in the high 60s/ low 70s at night, and humid as all get out (up into the 30s at mid-day, and about 18-20 degrees for my friends outside the States).  Check the weather report for Atlanta here.  Standard dress includes light khaki pants or shorts and comfortable shirts: think Hawaii. 

Bring sunglasses, a hat that doesn't brand you a tourist, and wear great, comfortable shoes.  And don't bring the stylish shoes, go for comfort as you will be standing and walking.  A lot.  My pick: anything from Ecco, Rockport or New Balance. And see also a few travel recommendations from Colin Cowie on packing.    

Getting from the airport to anywhere: Remember, if you need to get a taxi cab at the airport, look to the departures area where people are exiting the taxi.  (Just a suggestion, not an endorsement.)  You'll receive a number of suggested modes of transportation, but always good to pair up (or three or four) with folks going to the same hotel and split the $30 taxi fare into town.

Getting around town: Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (or MARTA) is one of the easiest and inexpensive ways around Atlanta and the surrounding area.  Taxis are readily available from most major hotels, and likely there are a number of places to see within a short walking distance from your downtown hotel. 

Note: want a quick ride from the airport to downtown? Ride the MARTA from the airport to Peachtree. Very fast.

When in Buckhead, ride the Buc: The Buc Shuttle is a free shuttle bus service that connects MARTA's Lenox and Buckhead stations to popular places in Buckhead, including hotels, restaurants, Phipps Plaza and Lenox Square. Important to note when visiting some of the clubs and restaurants noted below.)  According to the Buc info site, "the shuttle runs every 8-15 minutes between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday on a five-mile loop." So, for heading home from a late evening, take a cab to MARTA or back to the hotel.

If you arrive into town with other folks on the same flight, consider renting a limo or get together an impromptu set of people going to roughly the same hotel: that way you'll pay one limo fee.  Last, unless you plan on traveling out of town, don't rent a car (take a cab) unless you enjoy paying daily hotel parking rates akin to what you would pay for a flat in SoHo.

Say hello your new best friend: the hotel concierge.  I've said it before and I'll say it here, too: the concierge is your connection when you don't have connections in town.  When you arrive at the hotel with a concierge on staff, introduce yourself and hand them a business card.  That one move may come in hand later more than you know.  See 'dinner' and 'getting to the airport' for starters.  As Cowie notes, "ask your concierge to make some reservations for you now at top restaurants so you don't find that you can't get in when you arrive there in peak season. Tip the concierge the moment you arrive..."  See, you can learn helpful travel hints from a man that you thought only had great party design sense. ;)

Eating out: You'll no doubt have some free time one or two nights, and Atlanta is a wonderful place. Check out the info in Atlanta Magazine's review of best new restaurants from last fall (registration may be required for the article, but it's free). In the mean time, here are a few of my favourites in the area:

Best breakfasts: See these suggestions on sneakysunday.com and if you're game, check out my favourites...

Alon's, a great local bakery and breakfast joint, with brunch offered at their Dunwoody location on Saturday and Sundays. 1394 North Highland Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30306. Tel: (404) 872-6000

Java Jive, for the authentic Atlanta Southern breakfast, with homemade biscuits and traditional "big, American breakfasts" with eggs and bacon. It's a very busy place but worth the trouble.  790 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30308, Tel: (404) 876-6161

There's also the Highland Bakery where you can sit down at the counter and have a civilized breakfast or take it with you. Excellent fare, opening at 7AM weekdays, 8AM on the weekend. 655 Highland Avenue, #10, Atlanta, GA 30312, Tel: (404) 586-0772.

Lunch and Dinner: Around town: Check out the local MSN City Guide for Atlanta here, as well as their restaurant guide.  Also, my favourite web spot for ratings and information is Zagat's, with links to a few of my favourites. You can also get good customer reviews from OpenTable book many of these restaurants for free via OpenTable.com:

Bacchanalia - The food at Bacchanalia is still among the best in Atlanta. You can order a la carte or from a sampler menu (prix fixe), featuring local fare and excellent wine.  It's expensive, so don't pad the expense account... eat at the bar and get the same food as in the main restaurant.  1198 Howell Mill Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30318, (404) 365-0410

Aria - this is one of my favourite restaurants in Atlanta.  (http://www.aria-atl.com/) and on many top restaurant lists, serving a great fare ranging from local fish (a sample menu included Mountain Trout with crab smashed potatoes, haricots vert and pecan brown butter. menus are updated nightly), chicken, duck, and meats. Visit Aria's Blog to find out what's happening at this great foodie location.

Bone's Restaurant - When in Buckhead, one of the best place for steaks is Bone's, a nice local alternative to Ruth's Chris' or Morton's, with starters of excellent starters, steak and seafood. The restaurant has excellent service and a very good wine list.

Bar-B-Que:  (Added 072010)  You can not go to Atlanta and miss the chance to have some of the best bar-b-que in the South (save the best BBQ in Texas and the likes of The Joint in New Orleans, thank you very much).  I thought that this year, BBQ deserved a place all it's own. And just in time for MGX, Atlanta Magazine offers their picks for top bar-b-que. If you're local you may find a copy of the magazine in your hotel, or from your friendly concierge.  (You can find all sorts of great recommendations on the writer Bill Addison's blog, Covered Dish.) But if you can't wait, here are my top picks for BBQ:

Fat Matt's Rib Shack - Maybe 10-15 minutes from downtown Hotlanta (1811 Piedmont Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30324), Fat Matt's is known for their ribs and excellent side dishes. One of my personal favourites, given how often we'd travel to the Peachtree city for events and business meetings. Although this shack isn't at Gayot.com's top of the list, it makes sneakysunday.com's list (which I find is a great resource!) and worth the trip. Closest to the Lindberg Marta Station on Piedmont Rd. Tel: (404) 607-1622

Daddy D'z BBQ Joint – Do not let the appearance keep you out of Daddy D'z (264 Memorial Drive, Atlanta, GA 30312). This is one of the most authentic joints around, and their great food and atmosphere is the best of Atlanta. Great ribs, pulled pork, sides and cold drinks. Affordable, you'll eat like a king on a Microsoft per diem. Close to the downtown hotels and open daily 11AM to 10:30PM, Friday and Saturday 'til 12 midnite. Sunday: Noon to 9:30PM. Nice touch: they deliver, but go in person especially if they have live music (call ahead)! Tel: (404) 222-0206

Harold's BBQ – Another perfect example of what Southern BBQ in Atlanta (171 McDonough Blvd, Atlanta, GA 30315), Harold's has excellent pulled pork, beef ribs, grilled chicken and sides (especially Harold's corn bread). Close to town, an excellent meal. (404) 627-9268

Fogo de ChaoIvan Gomez suggested Fogo de Chao in Buckhead (3101 Piedmont Rd., Atlanta, GA 30305) as "a great place for steak in Atlanta... Brazilian BBQ style: Fogo de Chao… best beef u can possibly get..." This small chain has a number of restaurants throughout the south – amazing that I've never found this place! Bing notes that this restaurant is near one of my faves, Aria (see above). Tel: (404) 266.9988

In addition, there are a few tried and true spots in Atlanta, including these two high-end chains:

Capital Grille - Atlanta.  Technically, it's in Buckhead, which has plenty of late-night fare and entertainment, and a classic steak house in the vein of The Palm, with plenty of lobster and seafood.  A very nice wine list, excellent service and a full menu in the bar if you are there for a simpler evening or can't get a table. Tel: (404) 262-1162

Oceanaire Seafood Room.  Although the Seattle location closed (sniff), Oceanaire is still a great choice for fresh seafood from all over the world.  1100 Peachtree Street, Atlanta, GA 30309 - Tel: (404) 475-2277.

Craftbar. Again, if you're making your way out to Buckhead for events, then check out Tom Colicchio's (famed Top Chef judge and restauranteur) not only has a local fine-dining restaurant Craft (akin to the NYC experience) but also a more accessible Craftbar. (More info and reviews here at Yelp and OpenTable). 3376 Peachtree Road, Tel: 404-995-7580 (added 072009)

A note on booking tables... Consider booking your table through your hotel concierge as noted above: if you haven't called them in advance, ask for their help in booking a table (tip, please) and get their business card with their phone number after you check in... and give them a tip if they offer a direct dial number.  A good concierge may be able to score a reservation to a hard-to-book place: I have found that your best bet is a well-connected hotel concierge if a direct call to the restaurant doesn't pan out.  Also, look to your credit card company (many offer a concierge service) or try your hand (or mouse) booking a table at OpenTable.com. Many of the restaurants still show availability on OpenTable.com as of today, so book early.

Stuff to see: Always a good reference for the best restaurants, clubs and activities in Atlanta, see 10best.com, and visit MSN Travel Guide to Atlanta

Thanks to Jeff for his suggestions on other cool sites in and around town (for any free time between events you may have...):

I'd also recommend that folks who have a few minutes to spare might enjoy the Georgia Aquarium and/or World Of Coca-Cola. If you have enough time, you can take a walk around Centennial Olympic Park (bonus points if you can find the nail imprints on the metal statue from the Olympic Park Bomb). News junkies may enjoy the CNN Tour.

Getting to the airport.  Finding a cab on the last day of MGX or any large event in the Peachtree capital is like finding a street in the City without a 'peach' in the title.  Arrange a car in advance through your concierge for more than one traveler.  Or that concierge you tipped earlier just may have arranged a shuttle for a small group that has an opening.

Ask your friends and followers on Twitter.  Follow the discussion about MGX on Twitter here via the #MGX hashtag: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23mgx

Have fun.

 

Tags: Microsoft, Atlanta, MGX, travel tips.

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