With Super Bowl LIII coming up this Sunday, all eyes will be on Atlanta. Though hosting the country’s biggest sporting event is no small feat, there’s far more to Georgia’s capital city than several intense hours of touchdowns, live acts, and yes, commercials.
In addition to being the birthplace of the modern civil rights movement—Martin Luther King Jr. was born and laid to rest here—Atlanta is also where Coca-Cola was first whipped up in 1886 by pharmacist John Pemberton. Then there’s the Georgia Aquarium (North America’s largest), CNN’s global headquarters, and an endless list of musicians—Ludacris, Ciara, Ray Charles, and Outkast are just the beginning—who have proudly put down roots in Atlanta. And because Hartsfield–Jackson is the world’s busiest airport, finding a flight for a quick getaway is a breeze. Here, we’ve laid out where to stay, where to eat, and where to play when visiting this lively and culturally rich Southern metropolis.
Where to Stay in Atlanta
For years, bold-faced corporate hotels were the only game in town. But the recently opened Hotel Clermont changed all that. Located in the Poncey-Highland neighborhood and housed in the historic Clermont Buildling, the 94-room property has quickly emerged as a vibrant social hub for stylish locals and visitors alike. Gamble+Gamble Architects thoughtfully preserved the building’s original bones to honor its colorful history—the beloved Clermont Lounge, the city’s longest-running strip club, is located in the basement and still attracts crowds nightly—while New York’s Reunion Goods & Services envisioned the wholly original design.
Rather than stick to a single aesthetic throughout, Reunion graced common areas and accommodations with their own eye-catching looks. The lobby feels lush and beachy (a la Miami in the 1920s), with emerald green palms peeping from the curtains, seating, and even the front desk, while rooms—book a bunk if you want to crash with your pals—sport a swinging design plucked from the 1960s, with chartreuse velvet headboards, abstract floral carpets, and quirky artwork.
Thanks to Tiny Lou’s, the hotel’s bustling brasserie, eating and drinking well come easily, too. Executive chef Jeb Aldrich’s cuisine is gutsy and French-forward (think steak frites and foie gras torchon), and the elaborate, cheekily named desserts like God is a Woman and Ode to Blondie (a sweet homage to one of Clermont Lounge’s most famed dancers) by talented pastry chef Claudia Martinez are not to be missed.
Where to Eat in Atlanta
Krog Street Market
This food hall puts others to shame by making it easy to throw down a weekend’s worth of quality drinking and dining under a single roof. The newest addition, Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits—a venture by the folks behind Kimball House, another area mainstay—specializes in all things seafood and Southern in a colorful, lively dining room. Recess by Castellucci Hospitality Group (they’re also responsible for nearby hot spots Bar Mercado and Cooks & Soldiers) is a casual nook where talented chef Victoria Shore doles out light and bright salads, bowls, and toasts. As owner Federico Castellucci puts it, “this is how we want to eat every day.” At Superica, Ford Fry celebrates his Texan roots—you’ll want to smother everything in the house queso—by turning out nostalgic Tex Mex. To wake up your palate, beeline to Gu’s Dumplings for fiery, chili-laced Szechuan Zhong style dumplings, Chongqing chicken, and Chengdu cold noodles.
As the name implies, chef-owner Kevin Gillespie puts on quite a theatrical display at this Glenwood Park spot. Throughout service, Gillespie and his team fire off consecutive rounds of shared plates, which rotate frequently. (The dishes are then carted around the dining room and presented dim sum–style.) Standouts included the sticky-sweet General Tso’s chicken wings, fork-tender braised pork shoulder with cheesy potatoes, and warm banana pudding.
Perhaps it’s not fair to pin the legacy of a restaurant or an acclaimed chef to one dish—in this case, we’re talking about the wildly popular ice cream sandwiches—but that’s how unforgettable they are. As with the rest of the elevated, Southern-leaning menu by James Beard Award-winning chef Steven Satterfield, they’re at once familiar and sublime. You can only get them during lunch, so dig into some apple-flecked hushpuppies and buttery, pan-fried trout before the sweet finish.
The General Muir
Located in Emory Point, this eatery inspired by Jewish delis bridges the old and new. While the dining room is familiar, with high ceilings, tiled walls, and checkerboard floors, we say belly up the bar for a more casual bite. Then order up a classic pastrami sandwich. Sliced thick and piled high, the house-made meat bears all the marks of pastrami perfection: an appealing rosy hue, peppery aroma, and a gloriously tender texture.
Busy Bee Cafe
Though the heated debate on where to find the city’s best fried chicken will never draw to a proper conclusion, you won’t be let down by the version turned out at Busy Bee, which opened in 1947. The joint may look lean and humble, but don’t be fooled: The food is lovingly made and deeply, deeply satisfying. For your first visit, order the golden, crusty, and perfectly seasoned chicken with some tried-and-true sides, like candied yams and broccoli cheese casserole.
Atlanta’s always been home to a crop of terrific restaurants, but this is arguably the one that nudged the city into a wider culinary spotlight. And it’s impossible not to be a fan—even before you visit—because the story of how this spot came to life in 2015 is equal parts heartbreaking and touching. A single nightly tasting menu is the sole offering, and reservations are a must. You’ll leave feeling especially good knowing that all of Staplehouse’s profits (after tax) benefit The Giving Kitchen, a charity that provides emergency assistance to food service workers.
There are few pairings more universally adored than cold beer and piping hot pizza. Thankfully, this spacious, quirky East Village gastropub has perfected both. There are over 30 beers on tap to quench your thirst, and the perfectly crispy pies (the Boss Hogg, loaded up with bacon, fennel sausage, and goat cheese, is especially solid) fit the bill when the munchies kick in.
What to Do in Atlanta
The Sweat Shoppe
Fitness should always be a priority, even when you’re away from home. And for the city’s most intense workout, check out The Sweat Shoppe. (First timers: It’s hidden away in The Forum Athletic Club in Buckhead’s Lenox Square.) This unique fitness concept, founded by Mimi Benz in Los Angeles, involves spinning for an hour in a room with a temperature set to 84 degrees. Sounds simple enough, but even the most dedicated exercise junkies will be pushed to their limits. Just take it from one of the instructors, former NFL player Dorsey Levens: “This is the toughest workout I’ve ever done.”
National Center for Civil & Human Rights
Open since 2014, this museum is deeply stirring and humbling. Visit for a series of engaging interactive displays detailing the experiences of those who struggled and sacrificed to push America forward during the civil rights movement. The experience closes with a poignant global human rights exhibit detailing how far we’ve come—and how much work still needs to be done.
The Atlanta BeltLine
If you want to explore the city by foot or bike, there’s no better way to go than the city’s BeltLine. One of the world’s largest (and most sustainable) redevelopment projects, it will, upon completion, connect 45 neighborhoods with a 22-mile loop encompassing trails, parks, art, and a bevy of restaurants and bars. A bit of an insider’s secret, the three-mile Westside Trail links Washington Park to Adair Park, and in contrast to the Eastside Trail’s crowds and more commercial vibes, is a refreshingly hushed and leafy stretch.
High Museum of Art
This sleek structure, designed by Richard Meier and opened in 1983, is one of the South’s most established art institutions. Though its 16,000-piece collection is widely renown for representing modern and contemporary art, there’s also a strong showing of works by African and self-taught artists. The rotating exhibits are equally thoughtful and provocative, spanning all kinds of topics, regions, and disciplines.
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