Things to Do and See in Atlanta
True, I wasn’t born in Atlanta. In fact, I call it “soda” and not “coke,” have never attended cotillion and it took years for the word “y’all” to become natural in my vernacular. However, I’ve called Atlanta my home for nearly a decade, and in the past ten years I’ve made it my priority to explore the city’s up-and-coming neighborhoods, dine at most every “new” restaurant and experience the city’s ever-changing nightlife scene. I’m fairly well versed on things to do and see in Atlanta. In fact, I’d argue that I know this sprawling, Southern city more than many locals that were born and raised here.
Visiting the ATL? (But, please, don’t call it Hot-lanta). A quick Google search can educate you on the typical tourist attractions, such as the College Football Hall of Fame, Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola or The King Center. This post doesn’t discuss any of these places. Instead, this post is filled with suggestions of things to do, see and eat in Atlanta through the eyes of a local.
Take a Culinary Tour Across the Globe.
Every in-the-know Atlantan will recommend the same place to grab delicious, authentic (and cheap) ethnic food: Buford Highway. If you’re a foodie, you can’t skip a trip to good ole’ Buford Highway. The road spans multiple ethnic communities ranging from Asian to Hispanic (and most everything in between). Don’t let the unassuming restaurant facades scare you aware – venture slightly outside the city limits to taste the globe! Try Lee’s Bakery for THE best banh mi sandwich you’ve ever had (no joke- I’m a huge banh mi fan and Lee’s sandwiches are even tastier than the ones I had in Vietnam), Northern China Eatery for authentic soup dumplings, or Taqueria Los Rayos for a burrito that puts your favorite chain to shame.
Enjoy Natural Beauty… Surrounded by Skyscrapers.
Piedmont Park in Midtown is alive and bustling for the vast majority of the year. Visit the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, take your pup to the dog park, engage in outdoor games like frisbee, bocce and kickball, or just spread out your blanket and enjoy a relaxing picnic. Although you have your pick of an abundance of nearby bars and restaurants, the Atlanta stand-by is Park Tavern, which is literally located on the edge of the park. The tavern’s unique location makes it a staple venue for many of the city’s festivals and parties, but even outside festival season, Park Tavern is a great spot to grab a local brew (try Sweetwater 420), bask in the Southern sun and enjoy a beautiful view of the Midtown Skyline.
Partake in Buckhead’s World Class Shopping.
If designer duds are your thing, you won’t have to travel outside Atlanta’s swanky Buckhead neighborhood for some retail therapy. Between the area’s new (cleverly named) “Buckhead Atlanta” development and the well-established Phipps Plaza, you can find a shopping experience that rivals most any city in the world. You’ll find luxury brands such as Christian Louboutin and Hermes located in the outdoor Buckhead Atlanta complex, and classic brands such as Dior, Fendi and Gucci in Phipps Plaza mall. If you’ve worked up an appetite from all of that credit card swiping, you’re in luck because both complexes also offer fantastic dining opportunities. My favorites are The Southern Gentleman, Davio’s and Taverna.
Explore Atlanta’s Quirky Side.
One of my favorite things about Atlanta is that the city is filled with eclectic neighborhoods offering a plethora of unique businesses and activities. Head to Castleberry Hill to enjoy the monthly Art Stroll, which wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Elliott Street Deli and Pub, home to the best deli sandwiches in the city (try the Elliott Street Ultimate), live music and an iron pour on Art Stroll Fridays. For an offbeat, alternative vibe, head to Little Five Points for unique thrift store shopping and unpretentious dining options. I’d recommend The Vortex if you think you can handle the famous “Bypass Burger,” The Porter Beer Bar for a brilliant selection of brews, or Wrecking Bar Brew Pub for gourmet gastro pub grub.
Stroll the City on the Atlanta BeltLine.
Whether you’re wanting to break out of your normal work-out routine or your idea of working out is a wine stroll, spending the day out on the Atlanta BeltLine won’t disappoint. The flat paved 2 mile route running from Midtown to Inman Park allows pedestrians (and their pooches) to stroll, run, bike or skateboard without having to worry about dodging vehicles. (If you really luck out, you could even stumble upon a festival or an event such as a doggie costume parade)! I’d recommend starting in Midtown at the trail-head near Park Tavern and following the route to Inman Park. Along the way, explore Ponce City Market (an absolute must!) and venture upstairs to The Roof at Ponce City Market for panoramic views, an 18-hole mini golf course, boardwalk style games and a bar serving craft cocktails.
Further down the BeltLine take a break for delicious Spanish tapas at Barcelona, a gourmet salad or sandwich at Parish or “explorer inspired” fare at Lady Bird Grove & Mess Hall (with decor that any traveler will instantly fall in love with). The best part? These three favorites all offer dog-friendly outdoor seating perfect for enjoying a cool libation and some people watching. If you reach the end of the paved BeltLine trail and you’re still hungry, head to the Krog Street Market which is packed with upscale food vendors sure to please any palate.
Have you visited Atlanta? What were your favorite things to do, see or eat?
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