Hi guys, having spent some time at IHTI this past week, I thought I would offer some thoughts on logistics, accommodation, etc. available to Dr. Cole's patients. These are just my impressions based on my own experience, but who knows, might be useful for somebody.
In terms of accommodation, I stayed at the Extended Stay Deluxe on Old Milton Parkway. It's five or so minute drive from the IHTI. On the plus side, you can't beat the price (before tax, about 50 dollars if you're there for less than a week, about 40 dollars if you're there for a week or more). What I particularly liked about Extended Stay is that their Queen Studios offer a full kitchen, more or less, with two hotplates, microwave, full-sized fridge, toaster, dishwasher, etc. Not eating out = easier on the budget. My recommendation is to do some food shopping before your procedure, as you might not want to right after the fact. The staff is also very nice, and they are all clued in on Dr. Cole and IHTI and know the drill. There is also wireless internet that only costs about five dollars for the duration of your stay (and I had no problems logging on). There's a basic, free continental breakfast, with coffee (including decaf, remember no caffeine prior to the procedure!) bagels with butter/cream cheese, and some standard pastries (no cereal). The rooms also have a small workspace/desk so you can feel free to bring your laptop and get some work done, surf the net, etc. while you heal.
The only downside to the Extended Stay is that it is relatively isolated, in that within easy walking distance, there's only a mini-mart/gas station (with is fairly well stocked, actually), Waffle House, Burger King, and a deli. Each time you want to go somewhere by taxi, it will run you 10 dollars each way (there are local buses, see http://www.itsmarta.com for schedules, not always terribly convenient but they do offer several applicable routes. There are also Marta trains into Atlanta itself). Some of the other hotels listed on forhair.com are much more accessible to restaurants, etc., but at the same time, they tend to be a bit more expensive as well.
In my mind, thus there are two good options: (a) stay at one of the other (slightly more expensive) hotels with good access to stores, etc.; or (b) stay at Extended Stay for the unbeatable price, and then to hire a car prior to arrival through hotwire.com or some such discount service. Get the insurance covered by putting the car rental on an applicable credit card, and you could find yourself with both accommodation and local transport for about 70 dollars a day. If you don't rent a car, the shuttle to and from the airport is currently $40 each way, before the tip. I took the shuttle and it worked just fine â€“ exit the airport after collecting your bag and follow the signs to the plethora of airport shuttles. Some of them will not travel to Alpharetta, some will. You do not need to book the shuttle ahead of time.
I didn't have a car, thus I used a couple of the taxis listed on the forhair.com site (all friendly, and worked fine). Another guy that IHTI booked for me after my procedure, from Elite Express Taxis (his name is Ed Nino, cell 678-558-3502) is also very good and friendly. Ed speaks English, Spanish, Russian, and French, if you're so inclined (Ed was my main mode of transport for the time I was there, easy going and very good sense of humor).
If you are only in town overnight, then you will probably not need much by way of recreation, but if you are going to be in Alpharetta/Atlanta for some time, there are plenty of fun things to do. First, Alpharetta itself is a charming little place (if a bit lacking in public transport, and the place is a bit spread out). If you're into walking, there are some nice antique stores to browse, a couple of cafes, etc. There are many older houses to look at and streets to wander if that's your thing. It's fairly â€œcountryâ€ considering how close it is to Atlanta.
Beyond just checking out the place, however, if you are going to be in town for a bit I would highly recommend stopping by the Alpharetta Welcome Center (http://www.awesomealpharetta.com), located at 20 North Main Street. It's just a short walk up the road from the IHTI. Check the â€œAwesome Alpharettaâ€ website for current events, ideas, etc., but also stop into the Welcome Center, as they will load you up with lots of useful maps, train info, brochures, etc. The staff there was very friendly, and offered me several good ideas for short outings. In particular, there's an amazing aquarium in Atlanta (you can drive or take the train from Alpharetta) that makes a good day excursion out of the hotel after your procedure (http://www.georgiaaquarium.com). You can purchase tickets online before you go. Another potential fun day would be to drive out to Stone Mountain, which is said (I didn't make it there, unfortunately) to be quite beautiful (being the largest granite outcropping in the world), as well as the historically interesting Confederate Memorial Carving. There's also a park there of sorts (http://www.stonemountainpark.org/) that offers a laser light show, riverboat cruise, skyride to the top of the mountain, etc. If you are coming to Atlanta with your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/kids/other significant (or even insignificant) other this would likely make for a very fun day. Hell, it would probably be a fun day solo.
In terms of shopping, the North Point mall, as you will discover, offers everything that you'll need. The mall is a 10 minute drive from the Extended Stay (I would guess). There's lots of big stores around the mall, moreover, including Target which is great if you want to stock up a bit on supplies. There's also two movie theatres in walking distance from the North Point Mall, what better way to chill out after your procedure (I watched the new Rocky movie myself). If you don't make it over to the North Point Mall, there's also a CVS directly across from Dr. Cole's office, in case you need to fill a prescription or something.
Hmmm. What else? Can't think of anything. Any questions, feel free to ask. But I can say that I found Alpharetta to be a nice, charming little place. Certainly worth spending some extra time if you can sneak it out in your schedule. Good luck guys!