We’re really proud to call Atlanta home and this city is about to show off being the host city for Super Bowl LIII, so we were sitting at dinner the other night and decided, hey, we need to share some of our recommendations for those coming into town this weekend. All of these places and experiences are personal favorites and really just our collection of what you could do instead of the obvious option you may stumble upon while googling “Best _____ in Atlanta”.
There’s a tourist corridor through downtown that’s pretty hard to miss, and includes just a whole bunch of stuff. There’s the aquarium, World of Coke, CNN, the Olympic Park, the Ferris wheel and the College Football Hall of Fame (also, notably, the stadium where they’re actually playing the Super Bowl.)
All this stuff is lovely, it really is. The aquarium is world-class.
But if you’re going to spend an afternoon doing stuff in Atlanta, and you want it to really leave an impact, you need to go to the Martin Luther King sites.
Located in a cluster just about a mile east of the downtown tourist corridor, the three most significant King sites include his tomb, situated gorgeously in the middle of a reflecting pool around which is a long plaza, his birth home and the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
The tomb is incredibly moving, and his birth home is fascinating, but for my money the church is the most powerful of the three. For eight years, until his death, King preached at Ebenezer, where his father was also the pastor. Travel up some steps and enter the chapel, and you’ll be met with three rows of modest pews, the dais from which sermons are given and King’s own voice, as recordings of his sermons and speeches play on a loop.
In this intimate setting, you can absorb the impact of King’s life’s work and, really, feel his spirit permeate the space.
There are many worthwhile things in Atlanta, but unquestionably none more than the lasting tributes to King. And if you do drop by downtown, couple this visit with a stop at the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Skip Lenox Mall or Phipps Plaza and head to Ponce City Market, or PCM as it’s affectionately known. It’s hard to miss standing tall on Ponce de Leon Avenue in the heart of town and along Atlanta’s pedestrian trail – the Beltline.
Work, live, play, eat, shop – it’s a structure for it all. You can’t go wrong in the Food Hall. We drool over Botiwalla’s Chicken Tikka Wrap, Bellina Alimentari’s Ragu, Five Daughter’s doughnuts (every darn flavor), the gourmet hotdogs at Drafts + Dogs and the famous H&F Burger.
Check out Citizen Supply, a store full of local artisan goods where you’ll find our favorite place to buy plants, The Victorian (and we may be a little biased since the talent behind that shop designed our wedding florals), but also head outside to find several storefronts like Anthro, J Crew, Goorin Bros. Hat Shop, Archer Paper Goods and Sugarboo.
You can spend hours here, the rooftop is also awesome, but we do recommend taking the Eastside Beltline towards The Old Fourth Ward, stopping at New Realm Brewery and Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall on your way to Krog Street Market, a similar food hall feel where you can snag another one of our favorites, Gu’s Dumplings.
We spent our fair share of nights out in the Buckhead area, but West Midtown is where you need to be. Formerly the industrial part of town, The Westside gives you an eclectic variety of options to visit for a good drink and trendy atmosphere.
Head to Cooks & Soldiers for gin lovers, Little Trouble for a little Japanese whiskey, Barcelona for all the wine, O-Ku Sushi to snag the best photo of the Atlanta skyline and The Painted Duck and Ormsby’s for games and a good time.
This area also offers a ton of breweries. Some of our favorites include: Monday Night, Second Self, Scofflaw and for those looking for something gluten-free and delicious, try Urban Tree Cidery.
Atlanta is deservedly well-known for nightlife, a place for the fashionable and well-heeled to see and be seen at clubs like Gold Room and Halo Lounge.
No doubt, it will be a fun time if you find yourself at one of these places mingling with the entertainers, athletes and VIPs who will pack into Atlanta for the Super Bowl.
But Atlanta is also much more than the glitz. It’s a mecca of musical culture and expression. And one of the most authentic places to connect with that is MJQ.
An actual underground club, it’s not exactly a hidden secret (googling “best Atlanta clubs” should pull it up pretty quick), but it still feels like one as you enter through a shed in the middle of a parking lot and descend down a concrete walkway into the bar.
It’s dark, gritty and frenetic. The drink list is unassuming and the crowd is unpretentious.
Most importantly, the dance floor is never empty and the music is never tired.
If you’re in Atlanta, someone you’re with at some point will suggest going to Waffle House.
And, hey, you should do that. Like, whatever, it is what it is, go for it. The people who grew up here will cut you if you say an ill word toward Waffle House, and to be honest I’m not sure it quite merits that kind of devotion, but also you’re not going to go get waffles and hash browns and somehow be disappointed by them.
However. We think the actual best breakfast in town is at Highland Bakery.
Situated in a reclaimed-industrial-feeling building in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, the restaurant’s menu features a bunch of interesting stuff, from peanut butter french toast to cilantro corn pancakes to good old-fashioned shrimp and grits.
But their menu is highlighted by their Benedicts, and the granddaddy of them all is the fried chicken Benedict.
I tell you, without reservation, Highland Bakery’s fried chicken benny is my favorite breakfast thing anywhere in the world. And I have covered a good little chunk of the world.
“Eggs poached medium and fried chicken topped with jalapeno cheddar cheese sauce on a grilled biscuit,” is its menu description.
A shorter, better description would be: It’s freakin’ heaven, man.
Brickstore Pub is in Decatur, which technically isn’t Atlanta, but it’s only seven miles or so from downtown and just do yourself a favor with this one and throw technicalities out the window.
Brickstore is a beer lover’s paradise. They always have the best Georgia beers on tap and an extensive selection of quality crafts from around the rest of the country.
Where they really knock it out of the park, though, is with their imports. They have true Belgian and German offerings like De Garre and Reissdorf Kolsch available in draught, usually as many as like a dozen or so.
The interior feels exceptionally beer-hall-y, with cozy wooden booths, beer barrel table tops and a fantastic horseshoe bar on the main level. If you really wanna feel like you’re in Belgium, go upstairs and find a place in the secondary bar, which has a European cellar sorta feel to it.
The food’s also great, for what it’s worth. Nobody will blame you if you’re not there to eat, though.
So that’s a little snapshot of places we think out of towners should check out. Here’s hoping Atlanta pleasantly surprises you.