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Road Trip Atlanta: Uncover the Treasures of this Southern Vacation Destination

Our travel guide to Atlanta shows you the hippest spots in the South. Our travel guide to Atlanta shows you the hippest spots in the South.

Atlanta may be one of the most misunderstood cities in America. Yes, it’s an urban sprawl with more than its fair share of strip malls, traffic and streets named Peachtree. But if navigated properly, a trip to the South is just about as sweet as any tea served below the Mason-Dixon Line. Like Los Angeles, Atlanta encompasses many eclectic, funky and diverse neighborhoods populated with natives, Yankee transplants and many other ethnicities from all over the globe. Our favorite neighborhoods include Reynoldstown, Grant Park and the Old Fourth Ward. This amalgamation makes for a unique mix of cultural resources, exceptional dining and lively nightlife. Serve that up with a heaping helping of hospitality and you’ve got yourself a mighty fine vacation.

Where to Stay

There’s certainly no shortage of world-class accommodations in Atlanta. Our favorites include the Lowes and the Hotel Indigo, both in the Midtown area, a central location for the aforementioned locales. The Lowes has many rooms and suites to choose from, a fabulous lobby bar great for people watching and a brand new spa perfect for blissing out after a night of Mint Juleps and rock n’ roll. Also, Lowes was the first national hotel chain to launch a pet program that treats four-legged friends like VIPs (Very Important Pet) with amenities including a pet room-service menu, a welcome letter from the general manager with local pet services listed, pet toys, and bedding.

Hotel Indigo is a more intimate boutique hotel that opened in 2004. Rooms boast welcoming foyers, hardwood floors, and beds with oversize pillows in funky color combinations. The bathrooms have sexy spa-style showers though the bathrooms themselves are tiny. Your best friends with four legs are also welcome with no room fee and during Tuesday Thursday night's Canine Cocktail Hour, guests and locals bring their dogs to the lobby and bar, where the dogs are served special treats and water from a silver pitcher. Lastly, the hotel is right across the street from the historic Fabulous Fox Theatre that hosts shows as varied as the Pixies to the Broadway touring company of “Wicked.”

Where to Play

Venturing away from the hotel, you’ll immediately notice how green and lush the foliage of Atlanta is, especially in the spring. Dogwoods, peach, apple and pecan trees, crepe myrtles, hydrangeas and azaleas complement stately Victorian mansions and restored Craftsman bungalows in the Grant Park neighborhood. The district includes the Park, a 131-acre green space and recreational area with a farmer’s market every Sunday. In 1909, the Olmsted Brothers planned numerous improvements for the park. It also houses the Atlanta Zoo and the Cyclorama. The Atlanta Cyclorama is the largest of only three cycloramas in the U.S. and was once the largest painting in the world. Once seated, the central cylinder rotates slowly affording a view of the entire painting. The painting depicts fighting during the Civil War as Confederate defenders of Atlanta unsuccessfully counterattacked the Union army on July 22, 1864.

Just down the road is the historic Oakland Cemetery which was established in 1850. Fifty miles of brick streets and walkways with its profusion of Victorian cemetery art make up over 70,000 internments including the unmarked graves of paupers, Confederate and Union soldiers, a Jewish section, an African American section, a number of former Atlanta mayors, six former governors, prominent Atlantans including Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell Marsh and golfing legend Bobby Jones.

Eat, Drink, Be Merry

After spelunking around a cemetery, you’re probably ready to be reminded why it’s great being alive. For lunch, stop in at Home Grown, an eatery frequented by locals and hipsters. Lisa Spooner, a former schoolteacher, and Kevin Clark, a renowned fine dining chef opened what's been termed the “next-gen” meat-and-three in Reynoldstown, a vibrant community on the rise in East Atlanta. Open for breakfast and lunch, we recommend the biscuits and vegetarian gravy. When you’re ready for an adult beverage, walk out Home Grown’s front door and head down to H. Harper Station. Owner and master mixologist Jerry Slater set out to design a hangout for his friends in the restaurant business, a place to relax and talk about what they 86’ed that day. A modern watering hole housed in the historic Atlanta & West Point rail station, patrons delight at the modern interpretations of classic cocktails and southern diner staples, like artisan tater tots (really, they’re amazing) and cheese grits.

To truly live like a local, get your sinning-self down to Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium, the brainchild of the wacky local artist Grant Henry. Located in the vibrant Old Fourth Ward, the bar is exactly what it sounds like – a place to get a cocktail, listen to the jukebox and play some ping pong all under the watchful eyes of the Lamb of God. He’s everywhere.

Our two favorite spots to see a show are the Center Stage Theater and the Buckhead Theatre. Center Stage is three venues in one and thereby plays host to small indie bands and larger touring shows like Elbow, who recently blew the roof off on a Tuesday night. The Buckhead Theatre, which was built in 1930, underwent a two-year renovation and, boy, does it show. Originally a movie house, the Spanish-Baroque architecture was returned to its original splendor and updated with state-of-the-art lighting and sound systems.

The only thing that you’ll be left wanting in Atlanta is a return visit.

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A different kind of tour of Atlanta
Last modified on Wednesday, 18 July 2012 14:55

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