We only had 48 hours in a city we knew nothing about. It could have been daunting and/or an epic waste of time, but – lucky for us – our super cool Atlanta local expert was on call, ready to take us to their favourite places in the city.
What impressed us the most was how many hip little neighbourhoods there are within this sprawling metropolis.
So, without further ado, here’s the perfect 48 hours we had in Atlanta:
MORNING: Check in and recharge
Massively jet-lagged from a 14 hour flight, we checked into The St. Regis, which is surely the city’s most plush and chic place to stay – the sweeping grand staircases gave us Gone with the Wind vibes. As our personal butler was on hand to unpack our suitcases (I KNOW!), we headed to the Astor Court restaurant to experience power brunching at its finest, sampling some Southern classics like shrimps and grits. Post-noshing, we chilled out at the hotel’s huge, palatial “pool piazza”, where they mist you with Evian and feed you fruit skewers. It was a pretty lavish start.
AFTERNOON: Hit the hip shops
Feeling recharged, we drove to Virginia-Highland, a cute little neighbourhood where the upscale boho set hang out. If you prefer shopping at smaller, local boutiques rather than bigger chain stores, Virginia-Highland is the place to go, and the best territory is on Highland between Virginia and ‘Ponce’ de Leon avenues. Locals hang out at outdoor cafes between shopping breaks – try lunch at Murphy’s Restaurant or grab a beer at Hand in Hand or Neighbors.
Venturing a little further south, we found ourselves in one of the most alternative and unique neighbourhoods in the city, Little Five Points. It’s packed with graffiti-covered walls, hipster coffee shops, smoky bars, tattoo parlors, and vintage clothing stores. The Vortex, with its hypnotic skull-head entrance has great burgers, and The Porter is known for its beer selection and stellar pub food. Variety Playhouse is also great – it’s a music venue that attracts up-and-coming and established bands.
EVENING: Dixie dining with the locals
If you’re going to come to Atlanta, you’ve got to try some of the region’s specialties. No local chef highlights the region better than Billy Allin, chef and owner of cozy, rustic Cakes & Ale, which is where we stopped for dinner. It’s located in Decatur, a progressive neighborhood which felt like another city – and technically is one, even though it’s within the highway perimeter generally considered to be in-town Atlanta. Decatur is entirely insular if it wants to be, which means some people never leave – and with good reason.
MORNING: Culture fix
We began our day at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, because, really, to visit Atlanta and not stop by this site would be quite a remiss. After all, it’s the final resting place of the civil rights leader who still today inspires dreams and social change. We headed on to Midtown, which is home to many museums and galleries, like the Woodruff Arts Center, the High Museum of Art, and the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA).
AFTERNOON: A walk in the park
We meandered over to the nearby Piedmont Park. It’s the city’s best known park and is beautifully designed, but we decided to crossover and join the BeltLine, which is Atlanta’s equivalent to New York’s Highline (actually, my local expert tells me that Georgia’s capital had the idea first – take that, NYC!). It’s some 22 miles of repurposed old railway lines, and is great for hiking or cycling.
EVENING: Food and laughter
Continuing our obsession with Southern cuisine, we checked out the acclaimed Empire State South, a restaurant in Midtown owned by by Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson. It takes a modern approach to creating authentic Southern dishes, relying on regional produce. We loved the delicious dishes, with our plates piled high with satisfying, earthy, not-too-greasy but substantial offerings.