Navigate Your New City Like a Local
Atlanta Insider’s Guide
By Rachael Mason
The Atlanta Botanical Garden.
No doubt about it, Atlanta can be an intimidating place. There’s somuch to take in that it’s easy to feel like an outsider. To help you navigate like a true local, we’ve broken down what makes our city special: its essential dining experiences, sites that add a little history 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 “I climbed Stone Mountain” bragging rights. www.stonemountainpark.com.
Catch a Braves Game at Turner Field
There’s nothing quite like the experience of attending an Atlanta Braves home game. You don’t even have to be a baseball fan to join in the fun: From the Chop House restaurant to the family-friendly children’s area, there’s something for everyone. The Braves are slated to move to a new ballpark in 2017, so visit this classic spot while you still can. www.atlantabraves.com.
Learn Some Southern History
The metro Atlanta area is rich with history. Learn more about one of the city’s most famous residents at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. (www.thekingcenter.org). At the Atlanta History Center, check out exhibits highlighting life in the South and explore some historic homes (www.atlantahistorycenter.com). And take in a panoramic painting of a key Civil War battle at the Atlanta Cyclorama (www.atlantacyclorama.org).
Explore the Outdoors
Take a stroll along the pedestrian-friendly streets of downtown Decatur, known for its beautiful town square and independent boutiques (www.decaturga.com). Admire the remarkable displays of plant life at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org) and spend an afternoon enjoying 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, the Sun Dial is a rotating tri-level restaurant that allows for a breathtaking, 360-degree view of downtown Atlanta and beyond. It’s consistently voted one of the most romantic spots in town, making it perfect for date night or special occasions; the restaurant says that on average, one marriage proposal takes place every night. Live jazz adds to the luxurious atmosphere, and the contemporary American cuisine is pretty good, too. www.sundialrestaurant.com.
Five Definitive Dining Experiences
Enjoy 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 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
Dine at Bacchanalia
This upscale establishment is the city’s premier fine-dining restaurant. 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.
Hit Watershed for Fried Chicken Night
When Decatur’s Watershed closed in 2011, metro residents everywhere mourned the loss of its legendary Fried Chicken Night. But the tradition continues each Wednesday at the restaurant’s new home, Watershed on Peachtree. Make sure to get there early, as this popular item can sell out in a hurry. 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 Eye-Opening Landmarks
The Big Chicken
This giant bird, which adorns a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in neighboring Marietta, won’t teach you anything new about Atlanta, but it’s one of those things you have to see to believe, and is more than worth the drive to the suburbs. www.marietta.com/attractions/the-big-chicken.
Distinguished by a giant outdoor CNN logo, the cable empire’s world headquarters offers behind-the-scenes tours of several of its newsrooms. The space also includes a number of shops and restaurants and is connected to the Omni Hotel and Philips Arena, home of 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.
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, 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 work. www.margaretmitchellhouse.com.
Getting Around Atlanta
The Connector (or Downtown Connector): The stretch of highway where Interstates 85 and 75 overlap. The two highways join south of the city and split off just above the 17th Street exit.
The Perimeter: I-285, which circles the city of Atlanta and is meant to be used as a bypass. This 64-mile loop is the busiest Interstate highway in the metro Atlanta area.
ITP: Inside the Perimeter—meaning inside the I-285 loop, where the more urban areas are located.
OTP: Outside the Perimeter—or outside the city.
Spaghetti Junction: On the north side of the city, I-85 intersects with I-285 and a handful of smaller roads northeast of Atlanta in DeKalb County. Officially known as the Tom Moreland Interchange, Spaghetti Junction gets its nickname from a tangle of exit ramps and bridges that resembles a plate of pasta.