We're back with our series Inside Atlanta—each week, we sit down with influential locals to talk about what Atlanta means to them. Today we’re chatting with John Stephenson, Jr., president and CEO of the College Football Hall of Fame and Chik-fil-A Fan Experience in downtown Atlanta. Named in both Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “40 Under 40” and “100 Most Influential Atlantans” lists, Stephenson, a UGA-alum and self-proclaimed family man who hails from Troutman Sanders, is proud of the growth and success that the Hall of Fame has experienced, especially in such a short time (the attraction just opened in August 2015).
"As proud as I am of those personal recognitions, they don’t compare to the awards and publicity that the Hall of Fame project has received, which belong to the hundreds of men and women who worked so hard to build this spectacular new attraction." Today we get a tour of The Big Peach lead by Stephenson himself.
I live in… Sandy Springs, between Brookhaven and Chastain. It’s quiet, yet we can get everywhere in the city easily. Born and raised here, I never once considered living anywhere else. Atlanta is a great place to be a kid, a young professional, build a career, raise a family and even retire. Atlanta truly does have it all.
I Wish People Knew… what our city has to offer! I wish people had more pride in this amazing city. We don’t need to downplay our greatness or take it for granted. The vibrant area around Centennial Olympic Park has a collection of world-class attractions that rival any city in the country – all within walking distance of each other, hotels and restaurants. Atlantans should plan a stay-cation and get excited!
You Can Find Me… At a local park or out to dinner with my family.
It’s Dinner Time, I’m headed to… Taqueria del Sol, it’s a quick lunch or dinner but excellent every time. [For] special occasions: Rathbun's; sushi: Sushi Nami; client dinner: Bone's; ethnic: Nan; old school: Taxco or Jalisco's; getaway: Last Resort Grill in Athens.
If I Had to Stay in a Hotel, I’d check into…The Omni Hotel at CNN Center – it’s a great spot near all the attractions and sports venues downtown. Ideal for after a game, concert or stay-cation.
Atlanta’s Best Kept Secret Is… A playground right next to the runway at DeKalb Peachtree Airport, if you have kids (or are just a kid at heart). Kids can play and watch airplanes take off and land all day. Plus there's a little restaurant there called Downwind that has great burgers.
When I’m Playing Tourist, I go to…the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience, of course! After that, the World of Coca-Cola and Georgia Aquarium are always popular with out-of-towners. The Atlanta History Center, Zoo Atlanta and Stone Mountain are also great spots to take the family.
I Get My Sweat On… [Chasing] my kids around! Sometimes, I walk 9 or 18 holes at one of the many surrounding golf courses and like to call that "exercise."
I Love Spending My Money At...Bass Pro Shop. I defy anyone to go in there and not buy something (even if you don't need it). Kane Boutique in Midtown has nice gifts, and if I need to get healthy (which is always) Veda Juice in Peachtree Hills.