The capital of Georgia is the Southeast’s geographic funnel, a famously open-minded intersection, and a headquarters during the civil rights movement. In Atlanta, where there are more than 70 thoroughfares named “Peachtree,” a wide spectrum of cultures find middle ground: The Old South’s bowtie and seersucker set blurs with the tattooed, craft-brew crowd, which moves to a hip-hop beat and melds with the entertainment industry’s elite.
When to Go
Atlanta is best visited in the spring and fall. Not only can it be prohibitively humid and hot in the summer, but the best festivals and events happen during these milder, shoulder months. In the spring, dogwoods and azaleas are in bloom—as well as a slew of open-air music and arts festivals. In the fall, the slightest of nips accompanies the city’s (and state’s) love affair with football and baseball.
More than eight decades old, the Atlanta Dogwood Festival is the city’s longest-running gathering. Held every April in the 211-acre Piedmont Park, the event hosts a Fine Arts Market competition, tents brimming with nearly every form of creative expression, stages for live music, face-painters, funnel cakes, and bouncy castles. A relative newcomer to the scene, the Lantern Parade, which kicked off in 2010, lights up the Southern sky every September. Some 70,000 people crowd the Atlanta Beltline hoisting illuminated creations—either made at home or at the on-site workshop. The only rule: To participate, you have to have a lantern.
What to Eat
“Fusion” is more than just a hackneyed culinary descriptor in the capital of the New South, which is renowned for cuisine. Visitors are sure to find plenty of classic meat-and-three joints with plates piled high with fried chicken, collards, black-eyed peas, cornbread, and peach cobbler—all to be washed down with sinfully sweet iced tea. Soul food is a staple here. As an intersection of culture, however, Atlanta also has its ladle handle-deep in Asian and European gastronomy. Pushed for a definitive don’t-miss answer, many Atlantans would direct travelers toward barbecue—and ribs specifically—where the styles pinch and pull from Memphis, Texas, and North Carolina.
Sustainable Travel Tip
Atlanta traffic is notorious. As the hub for a region, the city is also a nexus for major highways—I-75, I-85, and I-20 are layered atop one another here. Limit your driving time and give yourself, and the environment, a break with these three alternatives. Take a MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) bus or train to the festival, game, park, or museum. Walk or bike the Beltline between restaurants and cafes. Carpool or taxi whenever you can to avoid having one more car clogging the bumper-to-bumper roadways and parking lots.
Two spots share the prize. Skyline Park, above Ponce de Leon Avenue combines great panoramas with carnival games and rides, chichi pub eats, and a beer garden. Perhaps the most iconic spot, though, is on the Jackson Street Bridge in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. A must-stop for tours since the Walking Dead, which is filmed here, used the location for publicity. Come as the sun sets and the cityscape illuminates.
Souvenir to Take Home
Forget the fridge magnet or snow globe, pick a memento celebrating the hottest act in town—a jersey from the city’s new Major League Soccer franchise: Atlanta United FC. Though Atlanta is the capital of a decidedly football state, the soccer team has shattered all league attendance records in its first two years of existence and regularly fills Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which it shares with the Falcons of the NFL.