See The Very Best of Atlanta in One Glorious Day!
Ask a native Atlanta resident about their favorite local restaurant, music venue, or distinguishable Atlanta characteristic, and you’ll get a torrent of answers. Atlanta is rich with Southern hospitality and history, delivered with a 21st century approach, and home to acclaimed shopping and dining destinations in distinctive neighborhood “pockets.”
From every “Peachtree” street, to the famous memorials, there is a lot to cherish about Atlanta. Here are 12 worthy activities to enjoy on a lay-over or while traveling through, and nearly everything is accessible via MARTA or by calling Uber.
Midtown, Old Fourth Ward, & Cabbagetown
Fans of botany and gardening will rejoice at visiting Atlanta Botanical Garden. Located in Midtown adjacent to Piedmont Park, the botanical garden holds year-round events from concerts to cocktail socials. The Dale Chihuly exhibit, “Chihuly in the Garden”, is returning to Atlanta in 2016 for another big outdoor art installation, which will mark the 40th anniversary of the Atlanta Botanical Garden. A favorite artist exhibit, the blown glass installations truly exude the beauty of the gardens.
Located on North Avenue and down a few blocks from The Varsity in the Old Fourth Ward, fans of underground music will find The Masquerade a hot spot. Once a mill, this iconic building still stands with its original façade, but the building is slated to undergo remodeling and upgrades to accommodate modern housing for the expanding city. If you’re not looking for a show, the defunct parking lot of The Masquerade is now a flourishing city park with a small greenspace of trees and sidewalks. It’s a great place to sit back and admire the varying stages of architecture of The Masquerade against the now modern apartment spaces and lofts in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood.
Just south of Old Fourth Ward, the old Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts signals the presence of Cabbagetown. Transformed by gentrification, Cabbagetown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Atlanta. Now a neighborhood filled with vintage, upgraded bungalows and family homes, the community was once an industrial neighborhood, fully built and funded by the employer, Fulton Bag & Cotton Mills.
If you want to truly immerse yourself in Atlanta culture, take a visit to Oakland Cemetery. Nestled against Cabbagetown, Oakland Cemetery is a place filled with Atlanta dignitaries and dates back as far as the 1800s. Visit the memorials of Atlanta’s wealthiest families and some of our most famous residents. Famous Atlantans buried their include Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind, and Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African American mayor. Elaborate mausoleums line brick walkways, and throngs of bushes and flowers adorn the enigmatically beautiful cemetery.
The Atlanta staple of fast ordering and home to hungry Georgia Tech fans is The Varsity. Located on North Avenue in midtown, The Varsity is home to the savory chili dogs, burgers, and the famous Varsity Orange. Visitors to this iconic venue soon find out what makes it so great: the hotdogs and onion rings. Know what you’re hungry for before ordering. Visitors are greeted with a quick, “What’ll ya have?” and a string of Varsity lingo synonymous with the restaurant, so stand back, take in the menu, and then step up to the line to give your order. If you’re going during the college football season and Tech is playing a home game, except a longer wait.
Travel southeast of downtown Atlanta, and visitors will find Little Five Points. Little Five Points is a small shopping district of couture consignment shops, small restaurants, concert venues, and alternative clothing stores. Stop in for a pie at Savage Pizza, grab delicious barbecue at the well-known Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, or indulge in a big-as-your-face burger at The Vortex Bar & Grille.
Word of Warning: The Vortex burgers aren’t for the faint of heart, and the Bypass Burgers are incredibly huge, smothered with beef and fried eggs, and are much harder to finish than anticipated. I’d suggest the Vortex cheese tots and Cuban for those with a smaller appetite. Also, due to its risqué art work and content, guests must be 21 years or older to dine at The Vortex.
Follow-up with a real, thick milkshake dessert from Zesto (try the thick cherry shake).
Many long time businesses, mostly locally and family-owned, call Little Five Points their home. Visiting this area is great for the adventurous but is probably not best for families with small children.
Atlanta is the place to “do as the locals do.” Local funny bone establishments, such as the Laughing Skull Lounge, The Improv Comedy Club & Dinner Theatre, and The Punchline, are specifically geared toward the late-night crowds. Well-known dining establishments, such as ONE. Midtown Kitchen, are known for celebrity sightings, and their dining atmosphere reflects the tasteful Midtown neighborhood. Their fresh selections are known throughout Atlanta, and their flash-fried calamari is delicious. It’s a must try!
Not far from Little Five Points is the long time Starlight Six Drive-In. Screening new releases, this drive-in is the last of its kind in the city and is known for its family-friendly weekend events and flea market.
Getting Around Atlanta
Getting around Atlanta is easy if you’re taking MARTA, a taxi, or Uber. MARTA stations are found throughout the city and metro Atlanta. Purchase a reloadable Breeze Card and reload the card when you’re low or out of pre-paid rides. Visitors flying in through Hartsfield-Jackson can take the SkyTrain which connects visitors with car rental facilities.
Atlanta is tasteful, friendly, upscale, and brimming with history and culture. From the old neighborhoods to the tasteful, upscale neighborhoods, finding an itinerary to fit in all the activities in 12 hours will be a challenge. Consider visiting (longer!) again.
About The Author: Neel Shah is a Principal at the Hampton Inn and Suites Atlanta Airport (North I-85). The hotel is conveniently located one mile north of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and just southwest of downtown Atlanta. Hampton Inn & Suites Atlanta Airport Hotel on North I-85 offers free Atlanta Airport shuttle service, Hampton’s On the House hot breakfast, and Wi-Fi. For more information visit: http://www.AirportHamptonInn.com