Atlanta is a city rich in history, culture and entertainment, so it’s no wonder that more than 50 million visitors come each year to explore the unofficial capital of the New South.
Janice Dempsey, lead concierge at Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead, has been steering guests to the perfect locales for years. Here are her recommendations, along with some editor favorites, for how to experience the city like a local:
For Entertainment Seekers
Skyline Park – Ponce City Market is a fine shopping center, but the real fun is on the roof, which hosts a permanent carnival, complete with games of skill, mini golf and a Heege tower, where you strap yourself into a two-person seat, then hoist yourself in the air (and slide back down) via a thick rope as the ride slowly twirls. Afterward, stroll over to the bar for a “GA julep” made with mint-infused bourbon, peach and (of course) Coca-Cola.
Krog Street Market – There’s plenty of shopping opportunities at this establishment near Inman Park, but the real appeal is the food. Ranked “one of the world’s best food halls” by Travel + Leisure, it’s home to some of the city’s most acclaimed eateries, such as Richards’ Southern Fried for chicken, Makimono for sushi or Yalla for contemporary Middle Eastern cuisine. Afterward, be sure to get a fresh-baked pastry from The Little Tart Bakeshop.
The Beltline – There’s no denying Atlanta is a spread-out city. But city officials are looking to contain the sprawl. The Atlanta Beltline is a planned 22-mile loop that will use trails, streetcars and more to connect 45 intown neighborhoods.Expect photo ops (near Krog Street Tunnel), play areas for kids (Adair Park or Perkerson Park), bike rentals, dessert stands, and historical and cultural landmarks like the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Little Five Points – Atlanta is loaded with premiere retailers at malls like Phipps Plaza or Lenox Square, where you can grab the latest designs and haute couture fashions. But if you’re looking for fun and funky, Little Five Points is the neighborhood to explore. You’ll find vintage clothing stores like The Clothing Warehouse, Junkman’s Daughter and Rag-O-Rama, and rare records at Wax’n’Facts. Five Points is also home to Charis Books & More, one of the oldest independent feminist bookstores in the country. And locals flock to the area’s bars and restaurants. Be sure to stop by The Vortex for a burger, Savage Pizza for a slice, or Euclid Avenue Yacht Club for American cuisine and some of the best people-watching in the city.
Westside Provisions – This city district is loaded with fine dining, upscale residences and boutique retailers that offer a wide range of products. There are iconic fashions at Ann Mashburn and handmade home decor items at Bungalow Classic. Gown Collective, one of the city’s top bridal shops, is also nestled here. There’s even a specialty honey store, Savannah Bee Company. And be sure to come hungry, as you’ll be tempted by a wide variety of good eats at places like JCT Kitchen & Bar, which offers Southern-style farm-to-table entrees, or the James Beard-nominated Taqueria del Sol.
For Nature Lovers
Atlanta Botanical Gardens – Hidden in the heart of Midtown, this 30-acre oasis is a sanctuary for nature lovers and locals in need of relaxation. Check out the topiary statues and the Fuqua Orchid Center, a rare collection of high-elevation orchids that can’t be found anywhere else in the Southeast. And if your visit coincides with any of the Gardens’ seasonal displays, it’s doubly worth a trip.
Center for Puppetry Arts – If you have kids and you’re in Atlanta, you’re going to visit the world-class zoo or the aquarium. But if you’d like to try something a bit different, the Center for Puppetry Arts is a great option.Don’t miss its museum, which is loaded with famous puppets including Wayland Flowers’ Madame, prototypes from Broadway’s The Lion King and some well-known Muppets, including Rowlf the Dog, the Swedish Chef, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.
Explore Atlanta like a local from your home base at Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead.