As hundreds of thousands of tourists begin pouring into the city in advance of Sunday’s Super Bowl, expect many of them to have no idea what Atlanta has to offer, beyond the Big Game and a famously large fish tank.
Of course, this week promises plenty of chaos—er, festivities—offered by the Super Bowl LIII Host Committee, but there’s far more to this city than meets the eye around Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
To assist any would-be wanderers—or even locals who think Phipps Plaza is the hippest part of town—we’ve cooked up a brief travel guide that illustrates what makes Atlanta, well, Atlanta.
Be forewarned: Some of these destinations, such as Ponce City Market and the Atlanta Beltline, are bonafide tourist hubs now. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t become inimitable parts of the city’s fabric—places that locals frequent and even take pride in.
400 Park Drive NE
Tip: Atlanta’s grandest green space is an easy walk from MARTA’s Midtown Station.
Sprawled across 180 acres, Atlanta’s most prominent park—at least until the Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry is completed—offers more than the typical trees, gardens, and ponds.
Find a handful of sports fields and tennis courts and a parkside bar and restaurant called Park Tavern—all with sweeping skyline views. Plus, the adjacent Monroe Drive is dotted with great places to eat, drink, or catch a movie, among other activities. People-watching is top notch around here.
789 Ponce De Leon Avenue NE
Tip: Don’t dress up.
No doubt, the newly refurbished Hotel Clermont is a sight to behold, with its retro decor and jaw-dropping rooftop views. But most Atlantans know you’re not a true local until you’ve seen the famous Blondie crush a beer can between her bosoms.
This iconic strip club—often lovingly called “Where strippers go to die”—is buried beneath the hotel in a smoky basement bar that only accepts cash.
Elliott Street Deli & Pub
51 Elliott Street SW
Tip: Ask about the recent Hollywood filming history next door.
The staff at this tiny, dim dive bar might resent being on such a list, but Elliott Street offers some real Atlanta atmosphere—and right next to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, no less.
In all likelihood, there won’t be an inch of elbow room in this local haunt during the Super Bowl, but if cheap beer, decent sandwiches, and a smoky patio is your cup of tea, you might as well swing by.
Ponce City Market
675 Ponce De Leon Avenue NE
Tip: Splurge on tickets to the vintage amusement park on the roof; Atlanta skyline views don’t get much better.
Maybe it’s too soon to call this massive adaptive-reuse development a city highlight, but it certainly seems to represent New Atlanta—*cough* gentrification—rather well.
Once a vacant Sears, Roebuck, & Co. department story, the brick behemoth brims with restaurants, bars, and boutique shopping. Plus, there’s even a miniature theme park on the roof, which, like Hotel Clermont, offers a mesmerizing view of the Atlanta skyline. It all dwarfs NYC’s famed Chelsea Market, a project by the same developer.
The Cheetah (or Magic City)
887 Spring Street NW; 241 Forsyth Street SW
Tip: Don’t be offended; it’s all very Atlanta.
People who aren’t familiar with Atlanta might think cities like Las Vegas are the best destinations for watching people show some skin, but the Peach State’s capital is regarded by many as one of the nation’s strip club meccas. The whole culture might be off-putting to some, but it’s simply a longstanding local custom.
If you’re looking to be confused and astonished, the Clermont is your best bet, but Magic City and The Cheetah boast that real nudie club charm that you might expect from a Hangover film.
Little Five Points
401 Moreland Avenue NE
Tip: Come hungry, thirsty, funky.
A great place to find a skate shop, a head shop, a tattoo parlor, or a killer burger, Little Five Points is not to be confused with downtown’s Five Points MARTA Station area.
The feisty L5P is also a stellar place to catch some talented buskers or score groovy thrift-store threads. It’s just east of downtown, a few bucks by ride-share, or maybe 10 minutes walking from MARTA’s Inman Park-Reynoldstown Station.
3350 Klondike Road, Lithonia GA
Tip: Don’t touch the cacti.
If you're looking to ditch the urban environment to hike for a couple of hours, which is a popular winter activity in Atlanta, Arabia Mountain is a prime choice.
Start at the nature center and make your way up the 400-million-year-old rock—it sometimes resembles the moon—and you’ll probably catch a glimpse of the city you left in the rearview.
Center for Civil and Human Rights
100 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard NW
Tip: It’s free (for now)!
Although it’s located right near all of the Super Bowl hubbub downtown, this museum is a must for anyone looking to get a taste of Atlanta’s history and bask in its civil rights legacy. And if that’s not enticing enough for historians, admission to the center is free for the next few weeks, thanks to a grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation.
129 North Avenue NE
Tip: Lemon Pepper Wet.
While a few J.R. Crickets outposts are peppered around metro Atlanta, the original survives in Midtown, offering the tasty fried chicken and wings that tourists might have only seen on FX’s Atlanta. And don’t sleep on that Lemon Pepper Wet sauce.
The Atlanta Beltline
Address: Irwin Street Market (660 Irwin Street NE) offers a good eastside entry-point; try Monday Night Brewing’s facility (933 Lee Street SW) for direct westside access.
Tip: Visit the Eastside Trail for a boardwalk sensation with people-watching and numerous restaurants, parks, and bars; the newer Westside Trail affords a chance for serene bike rides, jogs, or scooter expeditions.
Behold one of North America’s most ambitious urban-reclamation projects.
Although the paved multi-use path has yet to complete its 22-mile loop around the heart of the city, there’s plenty of pieces that are open and jam-packed with action, whether that be a cruise around Historic Fourth Ward Park or a stop in Krog Street Market.
Right now, the most popular legs of the path are the Eastside Trail, which serves those two destinations (plus Ponce City Market and Piedmont Park), and the Westside Trail, which runs alongside, among other places, the Monday Night Brewing Garage and Adair Park attractions.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home
501 Auburn Avenue NE
Tip: MLK’s gravesite is a two-minute walk away, too.
Another hotspot for history wonks, civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood home stands over Auburn Avenue in the King Historic District.
An otherwise unassuming (except when a line runs down the block to the front stoop) beige and brown house, King’s birth home draws crowds from around the country and beyond for year-round tours.
This article was updated on January 29, 2018 to indicate that Elliott Street Pub does not allow smoking inside.