Ultimate Mother/Daughter or Girlfriend Trip This Spring

Moms, you won’t find a better one-day getaway this spring than the Diana: A Celebration exhibit at the Atlanta Civic Center. Grab your mom, your daughter, or some girlfriends and get away to our southern sister city, Atlanta, for the royal experience.

Maybe you woke up at 4 a.m. to watch the Royal Wedding live along with one billion other people. Perhaps you survived the 80′s with many a large-collared dress . For we girls who’ve grown up with a princess seemingly at the center of all fairy tales, it is fascinating to glimpse into the life of a real one.

Though you may think there can’t be one more thing on the topic of Diana that hasn’t been overdone already, this exhibit features her life as an individual outside of the royal spotlight. This exhibit is a fun glimpse into Diana’s life and Spencer heritage.

1. Did you know Diana’s great family wealth originated through her maternal lineage? An ancestor became one of the wealthiest women in England before her daughter married a Spencer. Subsequent trusts, including one from an American great grandmother, allowed Diana to purchase her own flat as a young woman in London. The exhibit pays homage to this line of educated and philanthropic women.

2. Diana’s father kept the children’s scrapbooks. The Earl of Spencer was an amateur photograper and maintained the scrapbooks for all four of his children (I will never catch up scrapbooking for only two kids – but after all, he had a nanny and boarding school). Diana’s scrapbook is on display along with some of her favorite childhood toys, a couple of school uniforms, and a few diary entries.

3. As storied as England’s Crown Jewels may be, Diana came into her marriage to Prince Charles with plenty of her own priceless family pieces, many of which are on display (remember it was the Spencer family tiara she wore on her wedding day). One piece, a breathtaking diamond necklace, can be taken apart piece by piece to be worn as a bracelet, and has detachable pearls and diamond drops that can be worn as earrings.

4. Of course the ultimate moment is hearing the trumpet processional and turning the corner to behold THE DRESS, holy grail of Dianadom. There in all its glory is the majestic 25 foot train, the billowy veil, one of the bridesmaids’ dresses, and Diana’s wedding shoes. The shoes have hand-painted embellishments on the soles, which were made of suede so she wouldn’t slip.

5. Although we know know now how unhappy Diana was in her marriage and inside the Royal Family, there is no mention of any discord. In hindsight it seems obvious that Charles was a rather dull chap for such a lively girl.

5. In one hand-written letter Diana apologizes for having not been “at her best” at an event due to exhaustion from a packed schedule. Another notifies a charity of her sad but firm decision to discontinue her involvement so she can pursue one of her six most personal causes. It’s apparent that once Diana focused her energies, she was more effective and impactful. Could this royal mom have a lesson to teach the rest of us?

6. View some of the dresses, suits and hats that made Diana an icon of elegance and style. No Hollywood starlet has rocked a gown like Princess Di, who had regular and frequent stately obligations that were probably less entertaining than Oscar night.

7. Finally, see the respectful tribute to her life with scenes of a country in mourning, brief footage from her funeral procession, Elton John’s score of “Goodbye, England’s Rose,” and her brother Charles Spencer’s notes from his eulogy. Interestingly, 2.5 billion worldwide watched her funeral, an indication of how her popularity grew over her lifetime.

The exhibit is open daily from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and goes on through June 13, 2010.  Admission is $18.50 or $25.50 with the audio guide, and secure parking behind the Civic Center is $5. Allow about two hours.

The exhibit would make a great Mother’s Day trip, although it will probably be especially crowded that weekend. Other suggestions:

* Sunday is a great day to visit because there is little traffic and no rush hour to avoid.

* Marlow’s Tavern is an Atlanta-based chain with a location only a few blocks away in Midtown. If the weather’s pleasant, enjoy lunch on the patio (I recommend the fish tacos with a white cheddar crab cake on the side – yum!). They also have a Sunday brunch buffet.

If you want to stick with Atlanta tradition, go to nearby Mary Mac’s Tea Room, where you’ll want to get a cup of the humble but famous Pot Likker. The Blue Plate Special is just under $10.

If you can, make it an overnight getaway and include the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Decorator Showhouse (through May 8). There are several hotel packages, but check sites like Hotwire and Hotels.com as well. I found a great deal on a four star hotel for my visit.