I really cannot deal with another “insider’s guide to Atlanta” that tells you to go to the Varsity, when any legit Atlanta guru knows that if you want regrettable greasy food, it’s Zesto’s or bust. Whoever wrote that shit probably lives in Cobb County. Here’s a small sampling of what is truly up.
1. The view of downtown from Freedom Parkway
I’m not going to be cliché and talk about the soul-crushing, enraging traffic in Atlanta and how much I hate it, and how much the city needs to stop fucking over our public transit, although all of that is quite true. I will say this: if you are going to be stuck in Atlanta’s legendary traffic, try to plan your route so that you end up at the intersection of Freedom Parkway and Boulevard, facing west. I know this seems too specific to be worth mentioning, which should assure you that it is really, really worth it. The view will be a brief but restorative reprieve before you go back to contemplating vehicular homicide for the next three hours until you get home.
2. The roof of the Mattress Factory lofts
If you can make friends with someone who lives or has a studio at the Mattress Factory, do it, at least long enough for them to give you the entry code. The roof deck there is the best in the city. I’ve thrown surprise parties there, shared endless bottles of booze with a friend while we watched the sunset and talked about the universe, and wrapped up in a blanket to watch the sunrise after not making it to bed. I’ve taken dates there (if they’re going really well, and that chump deserved to be witness to the majesty of The Roof.) I’ve drunkenly peed there. I’ve had sex up there once and I’m sorry.
3. Tofu scrambles at West Egg, Ria’s, and Gato Bizco, in that order
If there’s anything you can trust my supreme authority on, it is the selection of tofu-based breakfast dishes available in Atlanta. They rank as follows: 1-West Egg, 2-Ria’s Bluebird (RIP, boo), 3-Gato Bizco, which used to be better but is still pretty tasty and the wait for a table is never as long because it’s across the street from an inferior but inexplicably busier breakfast place that I will not link to because fuck that place.
4. Living Walls
This annual street art conference might be the best thing to happen to Atlanta in recent years. Not only does it bless our city streets with mind-blowing murals by some of the world’s foremost artists, but their habit of bringing a big share of the art to underdeveloped and underserved parts of the city has done a significant amount to bring attention and love to neighborhoods that need it most. Ugh, I can’t say enough about this organization. These people make our city more beautiful, and miraculously get business owners, artists, community advocates, and government officials working together to cooperatively envision and take real steps towards evolving the city in a mindful way. Plus, the infusion of a diverse array of new art annually helps bring attention to unloved areas and incites active dialogue about identity in a city that has long-since wallowed in bland cultural indifference for way too long.
5. Edgewood Avenue on a weeknight
A few years ago, stretch of Edgewood Avenue just east of downtown was mostly empty or in a state of constant turnover. But recently, it’s more or less on top of Atlanta’s bar scene, and with good reason; There are no fewer than six incredibly solid, and relatively distinct, drinking establishments all scrunched together. You could not, however, guarantee me any number of ping pong bouts with Susan Sarandon at Church, or buy me any number of picklebacks from Mother to get me to go there on a weekend. As is true of most urban hot spots, the neighborhood becomes unbearably congested with suburban sight-seers coming down for their weekly justification for claiming to live in Atlanta which they do not. But Sunday thru Thursday, I will more than likely be there and so will everyone else you know.
6. Not buying a pass to Dragon*Con but going anyway
Possibly, like me, there are very few things at Dragon*Con that deeply interest you. I’m not a nerd, and I’m not going to pretend to be just because that’s weirdly chic now (although good for you guys for turning that shit on it’s ass and somehow making yourselves cool. You survived high school and deserve it.) Other than having a major ladyboner for this guy, loving alcohol, overwhelming spectacles, vaguely Eyes Wide Shut-ish hotel parties, and having a long-standing desire to actually go to Fhloston Paradise, I have nothing in common with those Dragon*Con weirdos. That is to say, other than the panels and the part where you buy things other than booze, I’m so completely down with every single moment of Dragon*Con, and unless you’re a hater of FUN, you would be too. If you like the movies, books, TV shows, art and fandom (which are all admittedly kind of awesome), buy the pass. If not, just show up anyway – it’s three hotels full of nerds getting more laid than their adolescent selves ever dreamed and that alone makes for a group who are more down to party than you thought possible. And the ever-present risk of being there without a pass and possibly getting thrown out on your ass makes it kind of exciting, and besides, if that happens, just go down the street to Trader Vic’s.
7. Bagels from Belly General Store
Go there. Eat a bagel. Eat 5 bagels. Bring me a bagel.
8. Mount Arabia
If you feel like getting your nature did, and don’t mind a bit of a drive, this is where you should go. It feels like being on Mars in the best possible way. Even for the most anxious intown kids who get medium grade panic attacks when they even get close to going OTP, this is a worthwhile exception.
9. In-store performances at Criminal Records
Every city worth anything has at least one record store that has everything, and if they don’t have it, they can get it, and if they can’t get it, the genius staff can find it, and if they can’t find it, then you made that shit up and it doesn’t exist because no one knows more about music than the people who work at Criminal Records. But more than any of the standard High Fidelity-ness of the place, this place is most noteworthy for being home to truly the greatest in-store performances, including Janelle Monae, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The xx, Chvrches, Yo La Tengo, Passion Pit, Mastodon, Dr. Dog, Los Campesinos, The Head and the Heart, and every other band you’ve ever loved.
10. El Myr
The best food, the best DJs, the coziest, dirtiest, friendliest clientele, strong drinks, walking distance to several things on this list, and you can still smoke inside. If all else fails, go to El Myr.