I am going to be in Atlanta for the March 18th game. Was wondering where a great place to stay close to the arena. Walking distance is prefered. Also great places to eat and hang out the night before. I also like to get autographs and was wondering about open practices and where the away team stays so I might be able to meet a few and get some photos and 'graphs. Any help is greatly appriciated. Thanks in advance.
There are tons of hotels in the immediate area, depends on your price range.
I would go to the Georgia Aquarium website and get tickets as well. It is a beautiful facility and you should be able to get in and out in around 2 hours. Make sure you get tickets in advance, they sell them online by the hour you wish to attend.
As far as places to eat. There is not that much of a nightlife scene in the downtown Atlanta area near the arena. In the CNN Center/Philips Arena complex there is a Jocks & Jills sports bar that is pretty good, a pretty decent Mexican place, McCormick & Schmits Seafood and tons of fast food options along with places that serve beer.
If you want to go out I would head to the Midtown part of town, you will have to cab it from near the arena but it is not that far away. Twisted Taco is a good place to rip it up, but there are tons of bars and restaurants there as well.
Game-day practices are at Philips and are closed to the public. The other practices at the Thrashers' practice facility are open to the public. Some Thrashers sign autographs after these practices. The facility is about 30-35 minutes from downtown. The Thrashers' website has the team's practice schedule for the current month and directions.
I know last time, the Sabres arrived a day early and used the Thrashers practice facility. So maybe they'll skate there on Saturday the 17th. I can't help you with hotels, but there is a source somewhere that lists the hotels the teams use.