Do you ever visit a city and wish you could experience it like a local…skip some of the more touristy sites and visit the hidden gems? My goal with this post is to give a local’s recommendation on how to experience the southern city of Atlanta. I am not a native and don’t claim to know everything about this city, but I have lived here over eight years and get out a lot. Don’t get me wrong, the traditional spots like The Varsity, CNN Studios, Coca Cola Museum and the Aquarium all stand on their own and can be a fun time. There is just so much more to this city that those spots.
In no particular order here are my off (and not-so-off)-the-beaten-path recommendations for you:
This is a flea market on steroids. You can find anything you could ever imagine here, and the prices are negotiable! I have found and purchased a 1900 French coffee table, 1910 refinished Cape Cod style dresser, a shabby chic framed oil painting and so much more. This market consists of two conference centers and tents packed full of vendors…I could spend all weekend here. If you don’t have all day and just want to check it out I suggest going with a plan…an idea of what you want or might be interested in. This way you skip past booths that are not tailored to your needs. But I promise you, you will not be disappointed here.
I always grew up imagining the drive-in movie theatres from the ’70s. My mom would tell me stories about hiding in the trunk to avoid buying a ticket and how my grandmother considered them “passion pits.” This is the old style drive-in with a few modern perks. There are six screens that play double-headers every night…two for one! You can bring camping chairs, a grill and all the food and drinks you can handle. Instead of attaching speakers to your windows like in the ’70s each screen has its own radio station tuned to it. If you have kids they can play, watch and eventually crash in the car while you enjoy the show.
My absolute favorite place to see a concert in Atlanta. As a former Baptist Church and House of Blues this venue holds a lot of character and charm. Local Atlanta band The Black Crowes were a staple here before they broke up. Adele was scheduled to perform here before her vocal cord surgery. It is where artists go to play to an intimate, passionate crowd.
A West Coast style brewery in Atlanta, can you get better than that?!?! Every Wednesday thru Friday they are open to the public…for $10 you receive a souvenir pint glass, brewery tour and six drink tickets to sample the beer. The crowd is diverse, from hippies to frat boys, and the live music on the weekends ranges from ’80s cover bands to jam bands depending on the day/night. Every experience is different and you will get a true feel what it is like to be an Atlanta local.
What sounds better than sipping a crisp glass of white wine while listening to live jazz music and perusing art ranging across centuries. Every third Friday of the month the High Museum of Art keeps their doors open late and offers just this experience. You can socialize and expand your cultural knowledge at the same time. The High always has exhibits on loan from across the world. The last time I was there they had an Andy Warhol exhibit and before then loans from the Louvre. Even if you can’t make it to a Jazz evening it is worth a trip to this museum. I am not a museum goer, but I always see something that catches my eye here.
This is a complete dive and you will walk out smelling like you were personally over the smoker, but it is melt-in-your-mouth BBQ. The tables are uneven, the bbq sauce sweet and the Friday live blues music authentic. Don’t miss out on the Que Wraps appetizer…these are bite-size fried pork strips dipped in bbq sauce. My favorite meat is the brisket but you really can’t go wrong with any option. They offer true southern side dishes from fried okra and mac and cheese to collard greens and black eyed peas.
Want to snack on small plates, sip a late afternoon cocktail, watch the sunset and see all of what Atlanta has to offer? Then look no further than the Sundial Bar in the Downtown Atlanta Westin. This holds a special place in my heart, the first time I met RG was over a cocktail here, we had an after-dinner drink here on our first date and he proposed to me here…so I may be a little biased. Even so, it is a great way to understand the lay-out of Atlanta, see Turner Field, Stone Mountain, Buckhead and so much more.
Atlanta’s version of NYC’s Central Park, need I say more?
My second favorite place to see a concert. Open only in the summer months, tucked back in an older upscale neighborhood, the vibe of this amphitheater is nothing like you’ve ever experienced. Holding less than 10,000 people and allowing picnic baskets full of food and drinks of your choice (yes even alcoholic!) you feel like you are watching a show in your own back yard. The acoustics complement the atmosphere, but shows do start early because they have to end early…that is the cost of being a neighborhood venue. Artists prefer this site, everyone from Mary J. Blige and Edwin McCain to The Monkeys and Diana Ross have played here.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Clermont Lounge on my list…you all know how much I love this place! I will spare you the details on it again though. If you don’t know what I am talking about, check out my previous post on it here.
There are a few places that I have yet to check out in Atlanta that could take a spot here…Fox Theater, Oakland Cemetery and the Margaret Mitchell House. I have plans to visit all of these over the next couple months though, so stay tuned and I will let you know. Until then, enjoy Atlanta!