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Georgia on Our Minds

The AAO visits the ATL May 1-4 for its annual session, the first to be held in the Georgia capital since 1982. Here is JCO’s yearly guide to attractions and restaurants in the convention city.

Atlanta has a moderate climate, with an average high of 80°F in May, but temperatures can dip into the 50s at night. Be prepared for the possibility of rain.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world’s busiest hub. The simplest and cheapest way to get from the airport to Downtown is to use MARTA’s direct light-rail connection (www.itsmarta.com). The Airport Station is located between the North and South baggage claims in the Domestic Terminal; it can also be reached by a free shuttle bus from outside the International Terminal baggage claim. The reloadable Breeze Card, which has a one-time cost of $2 in addition to the fares, can be purchased online (breezecard.com) or from a vending machine at any station. Taxis charge a flat rate of $30 to Downtown, or you can catch a shared-ride shuttle with a maximum trip fee of $16.50 per person.

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MARTA’s latest transportation service is the Atlanta Streetcar, a 2.7-mile loop with 12 stops connecting Centennial Olympic Park with the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and nearby neighborhoods east of Downtown. A Breeze Card can be used for payment, or exact change can be paid in cash on boarding.

Attractions

Amazing Atlanta Tours and Viator Tours offer a number of general and customized tours of Atlanta; ATL-Cruzers utilizes electric cars and Segways. For more specialized itineraries, try Atlanta Food Walks, Atlanta History Tours, or Atlanta Movie Tours.

This city has long been the capital of the civil-rights movement in the United States. You can easily spend a day visiting such iconic locales as the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site (Dr. King’s birthplace and the restored Ebenezer Baptist Church), the National Center for Civil and Human Rights (featuring interactive technology), and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum (on 30 acres of parkland with a view of the city skyline). Civil Rights Tours Atlanta start at the King Center and include other significant touchstones.

Atlanta CityPASS saves as much as 40% on combined admission prices to five of the city’s top attractions—Georgia Aquarium, CNN Studio Tour, World of Coca-Cola, Fernbank Museum of Natural History or Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame, and Zoo Atlanta or the National Center for Civil and Human Rights—with the ability to skip most ticket lines as well. Mobile or printable tickets can be purchased in advance online (citypass.com) and are valid for nine days from the first day of use.

Peachtree Street in Downtown Atlanta. Photo © Redwood8, Dreamstime.com.

Tombs of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Photo © Phagenaars, Dreamstime.com.

CNN Center features dining and souvenir shops in addition to daily studio tours. Photo © Sean Pavone, Dreamstime.com.

Most of these attractions are within walking distance of the Georgia World Congress Center and Centennial Olympic Park, the 21-acre site created for the 1996 Centennial Summer Olympic Games. Park highlights include the Fountain of Rings—the world’s largest interactive fountain based on the Olympic rings—and SkyView Atlanta, a 20-story Ferris wheel. The only outliers on the CityPASS list are the zoo, in Grant Park, and the Fernbank Museum, east of Midtown near Emory University. In addition to its permanent “Giants of the Mesozoic” dinosaur exhibit, the Fernbank will be offering “Our Senses: An Immersive Experience.” Another popular activity for the kids is the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Buckhead’s Phipps Plaza.

The High Museum of Art (closed Mondays) has one of the nation’s top collections; on exhibit during the AAO session will be “Paa Joe: Gates of No Return” and “Speechless: Different by Design.” The more intimate and antiquities-focused Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University (closed Mondays) features “Transcendent Deities of India” and “This Strange Presence: Unika Zürn Etchings.” Atlanta Contemporary offers “Paul Stephen Benjamin: Black Is Beautiful.” Special-interest museums include the APEX Museum (African American Panoramic Experience), Atlanta History Center (with the Margaret Mitchell House), William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, Center for Puppetry Arts, Children’s Museum of Atlanta, Delta Flight Museum, Museum of Design Atlanta, and SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film.

Also worth a visit is Piedmont Park (near the High Museum and Emory University), the oldest and largest park in the metro area, along with the adjacent 30-acre Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Skyline Park is an amusement center on the rooftop of the Ponce City Market in Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward (between Piedmont Park and the Carter museum).

Northeast of the city, you’ll find Georgia’s most-visited attraction, Stone Mountain Park, full of shows, rides, and adventures, as well as the controversial Confederate Memorial Carving—the world’s largest bas-relief sculpture, carved into the side of Stone Mountain. The vast Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, stretching along 48 miles of the river, offers fishing, boating, hiking, and historic and archeological sites.

SkyView Atlanta Ferris wheel in Centennial Olympic Park. Photo © Yaniv Adir, Dreamstime.com.

LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Buckhead’s Phipps Plaza. Photo © Wellesenterprises, Dreamstime.com.

Piedmont Park, northeast of Downtown Atlanta. Photo © Wellesenterprises, Dreamstime.com.

Events

The fine Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and there could be no better way to mark the season than with Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (8 p.m. April 30 and May 2-3). The Atlanta Opera opens its run of Giacomo Puccini’s classic Madama Butterfly on May 2. And in a warm-up for the American Guild of Organists’ national convention in Atlanta (July 6-10), you can hear resident organist Alan Morrison perform on the superb Albert Schweitzer Memorial Organ in Clayton State University’s Spivey Hall (3 p.m. May 2). He’ll be joined by cellist Joel Dallow, pianist Min Kwon, and soprano Karen Slack.

The pop scene is headlined by the annual Shaky Knees Music Festival in Central Park (May 1-3), featuring an indie-punk dream lineup of the Black Keys, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Portugal. The Man, Liam Gallagher, and many others. Multi-instrumentalist Brian Culbertson brings his XX Tour to Atlanta Symphony Hall (May 1); Latino star Prince Royce appears at the Tabernacle (May 2); and The Masquerade presents Kevin Krauter with Why Bonnie (at The Drunken Unicorn, May 2), Apocalyptica with Lacuna Coil (May 4), and Powerglove with Immortal Guardian (May 5).

The historic Fox Theatre is staging the hit musical Hamilton through May 3; get your tickets well in advance, before they’re sold out. Tours of the theater—which houses the world’s second-largest operating theater organ, known as Mighty Mo—are conducted on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, with tickets available online two weeks in advance.

The Atlanta Braves will be on the road during the convention, but Atlanta United FC will be home for a soccer match against Real Salt Lake at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (3 p.m. May 3).

Restaurants and Nightlife

Historic Fox Theatre in Midtown Atlanta. Photo © F11photo, Dreamstime.com.

While Atlanta’s cuisine shows a decided Southern influence, its chefs also demonstrate an international palate. The most celebrated restaurants are clustered in the Buckhead area, a 15-to-20-minute drive or cab ride to the northwest of Downtown. These include Aria (recently remodeled American classic with an extensive wine program), Atlas (new American, in the luxe St. Regis Hotel), Bones (upscale steakhouse), Kyma (Greek seafood), and Tomo (high-end Japanese). It’s worth driving a few minutes farther to reach the venerable Canoe, in a spectacular setting on the bank of the Chattahoochee River.

Closer to Downtown on the Westside, Bacchanalia sets the standard for elegant tasting menus and service. Its parent Star Provisions operates an adjoining market and cafe, as well as the Mediterranean gem Floataway Cafe, nestled above Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also on the Westside, Georgia’s own Steven Satterfield was named 2017 Best Chef: Southeast by the James Beard Foundation for his transcendent Southern cuisine at Miller Union. Chef Deborah VanTrece leans toward the soul-food end of the spectrum at Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours. Guy Wong serves trendy Vietnamese food at Le Fat, and Ford Fry specializes in fresh shellfish at The Optimist.

Midtown’s The Federal is a steakhouse with a bistro flair. Nearby in the Poncey-Highland district, a redesigned Hotel Clermont features the more classically French Tiny Lou’s; in Virginia-­Highland, 8ARM offers seasonal Meso-American cuisine.

The Old Fourth Ward, just east of the convention center, provides a plethora of dining options, including City Winery Atlanta (“Atlanta’s first urban winery,” with food, drinks, and music, in the Ponce City Market), Nina & Rafi (a popular Detroit-style pizzeria), and Staplehouse (a farm-to-table landmark). Cold Beer is a new entry from the unorthodox chef Kevin Gillespie, whose flagship location is Gunshow in Ormewood Park.

Bordering the Old Fourth Ward in Inman Park, BoccaLupo and Sotto Sotto are the city’s Italian standard bearers. Krog Street Market, Atlanta’s premier food hall, houses about 20 dining and retail shops—most notably Watchman’s, an offshoot of Decatur’s well-regarded Kimball House with sustainably sourced Southeastern seafood. A little farther south in East Atlanta Village, Argosy is a wide-ranging gastropub; Banshee is an innovative new-American eatery. If you’re seeking more ethnic food, travel the Buford Highway, stretching northeast toward Duluth, to find restaurants and markets from just about every possible nationality.

If you have less time for lunch or dinner, there are plenty of casual options in the sprawling Peachtree Center, where several of the convention hotels are clustered. On the pricier end, AG at the Ritz Carlton is a newly renovated steakhouse.

Atlanta’s traditional nightlife is epitomized by Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint in the Peachtree Center. Red Phone Booth, also in the Peachtree Center, is an old-time speakeasy offering a Kentucky Derby watch party at 4 p.m. May 4. In Krog Street Market, the Ticonderoga Club is renowned for its bartenders. The trendy Octopus Bar in East Atlanta Village is really a restaurant, but one that opens from 10:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Dance clubs include the hip El Bar, the Cuban-flavored Havana Club ATL, and Buckhead’s Tongue & Groove. For live music, try Believe Music Hall (in a converted Baptist church), Blind Willie’s (blues and local bands), or Northside Tavern (nightly blues). Finally, Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium seems to have invented its own genre: church-organ karaoke (not to mention weekly table-tennis tournaments).

*Atlanta, unless otherwise specified. 

Events and Attractions Address* Phone
Amazing Atlanta Tours 659 Auburn Ave. (404) 273-2558
APEX Museum 135 Auburn Ave. N.E. (404) 523-2739
ATL-Cruzers 160 Ted Turner Drive N.W. (404) 492-7009
Atlanta Botanical Gardens 1345 Piedmont Ave. N.E. (404) 876-5859
Atlanta Contemporary 535 Means St. N.W. (404) 688-1970
Atlanta Food Walks   (470) 223-2203
Atlanta History Center 130 West Paces Ferry Road N.W. (404) 814-4000
Atlanta History Tours   (470) 223-2203
Atlanta Movie Tours 327 Nelson St. S.W. (855) 255-3456
Atlanta Opera Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway (770) 916-2800
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra 1280 Peachtree St. N.E. (404) 733-4900
Atlanta United FC 1 AMB Drive N.W. (470) 341-1500
Centennial Olympic Park 265 Park Avenue West N.W. (404) 223-4412
Center for Puppetry Arts 1404 Spring St. N.W. (404) 873-3391
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area 8800 Roberts Drive, Sandy Springs (678) 538-1200
Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame 250 Marietta St. N.W. (404) 880-4800
Children’s Museum of Atlanta 275 Centennial Olympic Park Drive (404) 659-5437
Civil Rights Tours Atlanta   (404) 386-0992
CNN Studio Tour 190 Marietta St. N.W. (404) 827-2300
Delta Flight Museum 1060 Delta Blvd., Building B, Department 914 (404) 715-7886
Fernbank Museum 767 Clifton Road N.E. (404) 929-6390
Fox Theatre 660 Peachtree St. N.E. (404) 881-2011
Georgia Aquarium 225 Baker St. N.W. (404) 581-4000
High Museum of Art 1280 Peachtree St. N.E. (404) 733-4400
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum 441 John Lewis Freedom Parkway N.E. (404) 865-7100
LEGOLAND Discovery Center 3500 Peachtree Road N.E. (404) 848-9252
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Site 450 Auburn Ave. N.E. (404) 331-5190
The Masquerade 75 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive S.W. (404) 577-8178
Michael C. Carlos Museum 571 S. Kilgo Circle (404) 727-4282
Museum of Design Atlanta 1315 Peachtree St. N.E. (404) 979-6455
National Center for Civil and Human Rights 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. (404) 835-4286
Piedmont Park 1320 Monroe Drive  
SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film 1600 Peachtree St. N.W. (404) 253-3132
Shaky Knees Music Festival Central Park, 400 Merritts Ave. N.E. (888) 512-7469
Skyline Park 675 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E., Morrow  
SkyView Atlanta 168 Luckie St. N.W. (678) 949-9023
Spivey Hall 2000 Clayton State Blvd. (678) 466-4200
Stone Mountain Park 1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain (800) 401-2407
Tabernacle 152 Luckie St. N.W. (404) 659-9022
Viator Tours   (855) 526-2214
William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum 1440 Spring St. N.W. (678) 222-3700
World of Coca-Cola 121 Baker St. N.W. (404) 676-5151
Zoo Atlanta 800 Cherokee Ave. (404) 624-5600
Restaurants and Nightlife Address* Phone
8ARM 710 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E. (470) 875-5856
AG at the Ritz Carlton 181 Peachtree St. N.E. (404) 221-6550
Argosy 470 Flat Shoals Ave. S.E. (404) 577-0407
Aria 490 E. Paces Ferry Road N.E. (404) 233-7673
Atlas 88 W. Paces Ferry Road N.W. (404) 600-6471
Bacchanalia 1460 Ellsworth Industrial Blvd. N.W. (404) 365-0410
Banshee 1271 Glenwood Ave. S.E. (470) 428-2034
Believe Music Hall 181 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. (404) 600-4498
Blind Willie’s 828 N. Highland Ave. N.E. (404) 873-2583
BoccaLupo 753 Edgewood Ave. N.E. (404) 577-2332
Bones 3130 Piedmont Road N.E. (404) 237-2663
Canoe 4199 Paces Ferry Road S.E. (770) 432-2663
City Winery Atlanta 650 North Ave. N.E. (404) 946-3791
Cold Beer 670 DeKalb Ave. N.E. (404) 254-1032
El Bar 939 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E. (404) 881-6040
The Federal 1050 Crescent Ave. (404) 343-3857
Floataway Cafe 1123 Zonolite Road (404) 892-1414
Gunshow 924 Garrett St. (404) 380-1886
Havana Club ATL 3112 Piedmont Road N.E. (404) 941-4847
Kyma 3085 Piedmont Road N.E. (404) 237-2060
Le Fat 935 Marietta St. N.W. (404) 439-9850
Miller Union 999 Brady Ave. N.W. (678) 733-8550
Nina & Rafi 661 Auburn Ave. N.E., Suite 220 (404) 549-8997
Northside Tavern 1058 Howell Mill Road N.W. (404) 874-8745
Octopus Bar 560 Gresham Ave. S.E. (404) 627-9911
The Optimist 914 Howell Mill Road (404) 477-6260
Red Phone Booth 17 Andrew Young International Blvd. N.E. (404) 228-7528
Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium 466 Edgewood Ave. S.E. (404) 522-8275
Sotto Sotto 313 N. Highland Ave. N.E. (404) 523-6678
Staplehouse 541 Edgewood Ave. S.E., (404) 524-5005
Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint 200 Peachtree St., Suite L05 (404) 230-5854
Ticonderoga Club 99 Krog St. N.E. (404) 458-4534
Tiny Lou’s 789 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E. (470) 485-0085
Tomo 3630 Peachtree Road, Suite 140 (404) 835-2708
Tongue & Groove 565 Main St. (404) 261-2325
Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours 1133 Huff Road N.W., Suite D (404) 350-5500
Watchman’s 99 Krog St. N.E., Suite Y (404) 254-0141

*Atlanta, unless otherwise specified.

Fig. 1 Peachtree Street in Downtown Atlanta. Photo © Redwood8, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 2 Tombs of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Photo © Phagenaars, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 3 CNN Center features dining and souvenir shops in addition to daily studio tours. Photo © Sean Pavone, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 4 SkyView Atlanta Ferris wheel in Centennial Olympic Park. Photo © Yaniv Adir, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 5 LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Buckhead’s Phipps Plaza. Photo © Wellesenterprises, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 6 Piedmont Park, northeast of Downtown Atlanta. Photo © Wellesenterprises, Dreamstime.com.
Fig. 7 Historic Fox Theatre in Midtown Atlanta. Photo © F11photo, Dreamstime.com.

MR. DAVID S. VOGELS III

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