I keep hearing from friends who are planning to attend the conference in a few weeks. They ask me for advice on “where to go” and “what to do” and it’s a tricky question, because the places I love best aren’t walkable from the conference, even though I only live a few miles away. But many of them are a short $5 uber or Lyft away, so I highly recommend you get away from your hotel and check out my town!
Atlanta can be a tricky place to puzzle out (so much so that I used to devote a blog to it). But there’s a whole lot of wonderful here, if you know where to look. Let me help you? (bearing in mind that these are my personal haunts, so most of them are close MY house. There’s plenty more if you want to venture even further from your hotel)
To begin with, Atlanta has some pretty major historical sites. Of course you’ll know about the King Historical Site and Ebenezer Baptist Church, but have you heard of South-View Cemetery? The entire city is dotted with locations important to the civil rights movement, and you can learn more about them by taking a bus tour. Not unrelated, we have an amazing new Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum.
We also have lots of tourist spots of other types, from World of Coke to a world class Aquarium to the High Museum or the Margaret Mitchell House. But for my money, the civil rights history is where it’s at. Especially if you’re only in town for a few days.
(Revised: my friend Eric has pointed out that the Jim Henson Collection at the Center for Puppetry Arts might be relevant to your interests, and boy howdy, is he right! Likewise, you might enjoy Greg Christie’s Freedom in Congo Square show at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. Also, this reminds me that there’s currently an Eric Carle show up at the High Museum, which might also be something you want to check out!)
For food, Atlanta is pretty great. You can find just about anything you want. The new trend lately is these snazzy upscale food courts like Ponce City Market (which has a sort of playland on the roof) and Krog Street Market, which are both connected to the Atlanta Beltline (a sort of pedestrian highway in the city, definitely worth a walk, and typically full of public art and locals going for a jog). But the original market in Atlanta is the historic Auburn Street Curb Market, and it’s my personal fave.
Of course we aren’t just markets– the city is chock full of everything else too. It almost isn’t worth me advising you about food, because there are so many great places, but a few things I love are Home Grown (for big casual breakfast or meat-and-3), Miller Union (for chic farm-to-table), Antico (for pizza), Little Tart (for perfect pastry), Ria’s Bluebird (for veg-friendly breakfast or lunch), Spoon (for Thai), and Gunshow (not cheap, and a little hard to explain the innovative concept, but visit the site!). I’d also be remiss if I didn’t give a plug to Joe’s, my personal fave coffee shop (we have a LOT of them), in case you just want a little time offsite to sit and watch the people go by.
For bars, we also have a ridiculous abundance of options, but if you want something different, I’d highly recommend popping in at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium (I can’t possibly explain it. Just go!) Joystick Gamebar (arcade games and gourmet hot dogs), Argosy/Brigantine (swanky decor, big beer menu, and skeeball), The Earl (the best rock and roll venue in town, and darn good pub and grub), or Northside Tavern (live blues every single night, and good dive bar grime).
If you want bookstores (and of course you do) you have a great list of options. Atlanta is blessed to have several wonderful indies. Little Shop of Stories (a little further away, in Decatur) is an outrageously good children’s bookstore that just expanded and became even more wonderful. Charis Books is an institution in the city, a feminist bookstore with all sorts of amazing programs and a fantastic hand-picked selection of books for all ages. A Capella is another institution, a general interest/literary store that brings a wealth of bookish events to the city (but doesn’t sell books for kids, just FYI). If you’re willing to drive even further, and want to do a tour of bookstores, we have about five more, but those are the closest to the conference.
Man, this is getting longer than I expected, and I should stop, but it’s hard. There’s so much! So if you have a specific request (organic nail salon? gluten free cookies? hungry for BBQ? in need of a nice walk? desperate for good vintage shopping?), please tweet it at me @laurelsnyder and I’ll send you to the right place. I promise. Let me help you love Atlanta. It really is a hidden city, and can be hard to see, under all the kudzu. But it’s a vibrant special place… I promise.