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Atlanta Hotel - Mom/Daughter 2 day trip Where to stay?? Car or no Car?

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I need some Fodor's help!

My daughter and I are going to spend Sunday afternoon thru Monday afternoon in Atlanta. We are adding the trip on after spending the weekend in Tuscaloosa touring U of Alabama.

I have no idea where to stay in Atlanta!

Had booked the Courtyard Downtown, but after spending the last hour on Fodor's realized that other areas might work better for us.

We are planning the following:

Sunday - check in to hotel and head to Atlanta Zoo until closing. After that we'd like to go someplace uniquely Southern for dinner. Then back to hotel.

Monday - early to Aquarium where D plans to spend most of the day. She is crazy about sharks, etc. So we could be here for hours and hours. Lunch in Aquarium. Maybe walk over to Centennial Park or go to CNN or World of Coke if time. Dinner...again, someplace unique to Atlanta.

Tuesday - flight is at 5pm. Might try to get to CNN or World of Coke first thing in the morning and then head to airport.

CAR: We will have a car...but I was thinking of dropping it at the airport on Sunday when we get to Atlanta. It seems like MARTA is pretty convenient. But if it's a hassle, then we will drive.

So, my questions are:
Where should we stay? Buckhead? Midtown?
Car or no Car? Is MARTA safe and reliable? I've read some horror stories about it and not sure if they are sensationalized.
Food? Any rec's for dinner would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much!

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