The Inside Scoop on Atlanta
An Insider's Guide to Your New City
by Rachael Mason
No doubt about it, Atlanta can be an intimidating place. There’s so much to take in that it’s easy to feel like an outsider. To help you navigate like a true local, we’ve examined what makes our city special, and broken down its essential places and experiences: where to eat, shop, and be entertained; sites that add a little history and flavor to your new home; and the five things every true Atlantan has to do. Follow these helpful suggestions, and you’ll be feeling like an Atlanta insider in no time.
FIVE THINGS YOU MUST DO
Walk Up Stone Mountain
Standing at the top of Stone Mountain offers an unparalleled view of not just the Atlanta skyline but the entire surrounding area. If you can’t handle hiking the incline, ride to the top in a cable car, but keep in mind that you won’t get those “I climbed Stone Mountain” bragging rights. www.stonemountainpark.com.
Catch a Braves Game at Turner Field
Whether you’re in the sweet seats or the cheap seats, attending a Braves game in person makes a world of difference. You don’t even have to be a baseball fan to enjoy the experience: From the Chop House restaurant to batting cages and the family-friendly Fun Zone, there’s plenty to do. Bring your glove, because you never know when you might catch a ball. www.atlantabraves.com.
Learn Some Southern History
In the grand scheme of things, Atlanta is still a relatively new city, but the region is quite rich in history. Find out more about one of the city’s most famous residents at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, operated by the U.S. National Park Service. (www.thekingcenter.org.) At the Atlanta History Center, located on 33 acres in Buckhead, check out exhibits highlighting life in the South and explore some historic homes. (www.atlantahistorycenter.com.) And discover more about the Civil War at the Atlanta Cyclorama, an attraction that features a panorama of the 1864 Battle of Atlanta. (www.atlantacyclorama.org.)
Explore the Outdoors
Trade in the hustle and bustle of metro Atlanta for the pedestrian-friendly, small-town feel of downtown Decatur, with its beautiful square and independent boutiques. (www.decaturga.com.) Take in the remarkable displays of plant life at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org) and stroll the lush fields of the city’s favorite green space, Piedmont Park (www.piedmontpark.org).
Enjoy the View at the Sun Dial
Located at the top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel, the Sun Dial is a rotating restaurant that allows for a 360-degree view of the city. Savor the skyline as you ride up in a glass elevator to the three-story complex, complete
with cocktail lounge and observatory level. It’s consistently voted one of the most romantic spots in town, making it the perfect pick for date night or special occasions. www.sundialrestaurant.com.
FIVE DEFINITIVE DINING EXPERIENCES
Get a Frosted Orange at the Varsity
The Varsity is Atlanta’s iconic fast-food joint. The flagship location on North Avenue is billed as the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, sitting on more than two acres and able to accommodate more than 800 customers at a time. Plus, servers and savvy customers speak their own special lingo. Try the Frosted Orange, a frozen treat that tastes like a Creamsicle, only better. www.thevarsity.com.
Grab a Burger at the Vortex
This attitude-heavy restaurant and bar (patrons must be 18 or older) serves up some of the best burgers in town, including the Elvis (which comes with peanut butter, bacon and fried bananas) and the Coronary Bypass (a half-pound sirloin patty topped with a fried egg, three slices of American cheese and four slices of bacon, served with mayo on the side). Two locations. www.thevortexbarandgrill.com.
This upscale establishment is one of the city’s elite restaurants. Bacchanalia was one of the first spots in Atlanta to embrace the farm-to-table trend, and still serves outstanding cuisine. Each night, chefs Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison
create a different seasonal menu. The five-course meal, which costs $85 per person, includes two small appetizers, an entree, a cheese course and dessert. www.starprovisions.com.
Fried Chicken Night at Watershed
When this Decatur outpost of Southern cuisine closed, it took a piece of the city’s culinary heart with it. Many considered the restaurant’s fried chicken, served in limited quantities each Tuesday night, the best in town. Fortunately, Watershed is set to reopen in the spring of 2012, and promises the return of Fried Chicken Night with a twist. www.watershedrestaurant.com.
Explore Buford Highway
You don’t have to travel around the world to enjoy a wealth of international cuisine. Buford Highway offers a diverse cornucopia of authentic ethnic fare, from Korean barbecue and Vietnamese noodle bowls to Chinese kabobs and Cajun crawfish.
FIVE PLACES TO SHOP ‘TIL YOU DROP
This mixed-use development has the feel of an old-fashioned city, with lots of window shopping and green space. In addition to stores like H&M, Dillard’s, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor, it’s home to many restaurants, a movie
theater, and plenty of worthwhile events, like concerts and a free summer movie series. www.atlanticstation.com.
Cobb Galleria Centre
This shopping center is also home to a thriving convention space, which plays host to a variety of events each year. Shoppers and convention-goers alike enjoy the eateries and specialty shops here, as well as the proximity to nearby Cumberland
Mall and the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. www.galleriaspecialtymall.com.
Lenox Square Mall
Want to spot celebrities in Atlanta? Spend a little time at this Buckhead shopping destination, which boasts stores like Fendi, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Brooks Brothers. You’ll also want to make plans to see the annual Fourth of July fireworks show, which ranks among the city’s most spectacular patriotic displays. www.lenoxsquare.com.
Little Five Points
This trendy neighborhood is known for its eclectic mix of shops, and is a great spot for people-watching. Check out Criminal Records, one of the city’s few remaining independent music stores, as well as Stefan’s Vintage Clothing
and Junkman’s Daughter, both filled with clothes and accessories you’re not going to see anywhere else. www.littlefivepoints.net.
This shopping center is one of the city’s most upscale malls, with stores including Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Belk, Juicy Couture, Gucci and Jimmy Choo. The mall will become even more attractive in the eyes of the city’s younger residents with the debut of LEGOLAND Discovery Center, which is set to open on March 17. www.phippsplaza.com.
FIVE EYE-OPENING LANDMARKS
The Gold Dome
The Georgia State Capitol shines brightly in the Atlanta skyline due to the gold paneling on its dome. The Capitol also houses a museum where flags, artwork and other historic artifacts are displayed. www.sos.ga.gov/state_capitol.
Margaret Mitchell House
At this historic landmark on the corner of Peachtree and 10th streets, you can see the apartment where author Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind. The space has been preserved with period furnishings and original
architectural features. The remainder of the building and an addition next door serve as a museum dedicated to Mitchell’s writings. www.margaretmitchellhouse.com.
The Big Chicken
This 56-foot-tall structure, which adorns a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant at the intersection of Cobb Parkway and Roswell Road in Marietta, won’t teach you anything new about Atlanta, but it is one of those things you have to see to believe, and is more than worth the drive. www.marietta.com/attractions/the-big-chicken.
Distinguished by a giant outdoor CNN logo, the network’s world headquarters offers a behind-the-scenes tour and a look at the newsrooms of HLN and CNN International, among other channels. The space also includes a food court and is connected to Philips Arena, which hosts many concerts and events and is home to the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. www.cnn.com/tour.
Ebenezer Baptist Church
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached nonviolence at this historic church, which has been operating for 121 years. Today, you can still visit the church on Auburn Avenue and take part in its services. www.historicebenezer.org.
Five Cultural Treasures
The Alliance Theatre
The Alliance is the city’s most prestigious theater company. It won a Regional Theatre Tony Award in 2007 and consistently brings great shows to the stage, like the upcoming world premiere of Ghosts Brothers of Darkland County, written by Stephen King and John Mellencamp. The show opens April 4 and continues through May 13. www.alliancetheatre.org".
Atlanta’s premier dance troupe has developed a reputation for innovative works, such as a collaboration with Big Boi of the hip-hop duo OutKast. The Atlanta Ballet also hosts the city’s definitive production of The Nutcracker each holiday season. www.atlantaballet.com.
This world-renowned orchestra presents a full schedule of concerts throughout the year. The symphony performs at Symphony Hall at the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown and the Verizon
Wireless Amphitheatre in Alpharetta, and even accompanies pop and rock acts during the “Classic Chastain” concert series at Chastain Park Amphitheatre. www.atlantasymphony.org.
High Museum of Art
The Southeast’s leading art museum displays the works of top local, national and international artists. High-profile shows like Picasso to Warhol bring art history to life. Frequent special events, like jazz nights and masquerade balls, offer after-hours fun. www.high.org.
This regional company, based at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, consistently earns rave reviews from opera fans and newcomers alike. www.atlantaopera.org.