Since I’ve lived my entire life in and around Atlanta, I reckon that makes me qualified enough to write the authoritative visitor’s guide to the city.
You see, everybody who comes to Atlanta for the first time thinks they know what the city’s like, but they’re wrong with an uppercase “w.” I’ve literally seen people at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport get off the plane and look like their eyeballs are about to pop out of their skulls, and if I had a dime for every lost tourist I’ve seen hanging around Auburn Avenue about to pee their pants from culture shock, I’d … well, have a lot of dimes, I guess.
Below you’ll find 50 pointers for newcomers to the Dogwood City (yeah, that’s actually the city’s official nickname – it was either that or Sweat-Like-A-Pig-Town, U.S.A.) Follow these friendly suggestions and you’ll have no difficulty at all exploring and experiencing everything Atlanta has to offer … or at the very least, avoid getting tagged in a shootout between rivaling heroin dealers.
1. For god’s sake, do not come to Atlanta if you plan on staying more than four hours and don’t have a rental car.
2. Yeah, we’ve got a type of public transportation, but you don’t want to use it – that is, unless you’re cool sharing a seat with a guy holding a chainsaw in his lap.
3. Monday through Friday traffic in Atlanta is the worst thing you have ever experienced in your life. Do not, for any reason, come to Atlanta on those days.
4. If you do have a rental car and plan on driving, no matter where you anticipate going tack on at least an extra 20 minutes to get there.
5. The streetcar will probably be out of order when you get here, so don’t even worry about it.
6. There aren’t really “blocks.” All of the city streets are arbitrarily designed, follow no conventional traffic flow patterns and – if that wasn’t confusing enough – about half of them are named “Peachtree.”
7. Bring a spare oil pan – Atlanta is the World Capital of huge-assed potholes and there’s a good 90 percent chance you’re going to have to drive on a road that’s just metal bars and loose gravel.
8. Bicyclists and joggers are everywhere. If you feel like hitting a few of those traffic-slowing ding-dongs while you’re down here, we’d greatly appreciate it.
9. As a conservative estimate, you’re going to need at least $500 for parking – and even more if you plan on staying longer than one afternoon.
10. And always remember: every time you drive over a bridge, there’s at least a 50/50 chance a crackhead is underneath it, trying to set the Interstate ablaze while freebasing cocaine.
11. No, there aren’t any plantations left, so stop asking us to take you to see one.
12. If 99 percent of the people around you are black, you’re probably in Clayton County.
13. If 99 percent of the people around you are white, you’re probably in Buckhead.
14. If 99 percent of the people around you are Hispanic, you’re probably on Buford Highway.
15. If 99 percent of the people around you are Asian, enjoy your visit to the Georgia Tech campus.
16. If you see the words “English Avenue” or “Vine City” on any street signage, get the hell out of there as fast as you can.
17. If you require police assistance, locate your nearest Chipotle A.S.A.P.
18. The panhandlers may be aggressive, but they won’t attack you unless you REALLY deserve it.
19. Lock your doors and hide all valuables in your trunk. That way, at least criminals have to do a little bit of work before jacking your belongings.
20. No, it’s probably not a good idea to buy weed from the white guy with dreads and puncture holes in his neck standing on the corner in Little Five Points.
21. The only “five-star” dining in town is if somebody brought a doggy bag with them.
22. If you order tea anywhere, it’s going to be sweeter than hummingbird nectar, and if you can’t deal with that, tough shit.
23. No matter where you eat, be prepared to hear other diners talk nonstop about how much better the food is where they come from.
24. Nothing is “authentic,” except for maybe Gladys Knight’s Signature Chicken and Waffles (just be sure to check the food score before you book a reservation, though.)
25. If the sun’s out, you eat Chick-Fil-A and if it isn’t, you eat Waffle House. Violators of the sacred oath will be prosecuted.
26. People aren’t as crazy for peaches down here as you’d think. We do eat tomatoes like motherfuckers, though.
27. In most places, they ask you if you want your meat rare or done. In Atlanta, your options are “fried” or “slathered in barbecue sauce.”
28. If you’re wondering what that weird, greyish, viscous puddle on your plate is, it’s probably grits.
29. Yes, the locals love Coke. And they’re pretty keen on Coca-Cola beverages, too.
30. The Varsity is far and away Atlanta’s most popular restaurant. A little known tip is that if the most morbidly obese person you’ve ever seen DOESN’T blast you in the face with rank chili dog farts at least five times while you and your family are dining there, you’re privy to a free medium-sized orange cola.
31. Everybody smiles and waves at each other. This is something called “basic human decency,” and a lot of Northerners have a hard time adjusting to the concept.
32. Always hold the door open for the person behind you (unless they’re committing an armed robbery – this actually happens more frequently than you’d imagine.)
33. If you’re trying to strike up a casual conversation with a local, refrain from talking about Atlanta’s sports teams – we don’t care, never have and never will.
34. Atlanta has notoriously unpredictable weather, so please bring clothing suitable for all of the following conditions: hot as hell, cold as a witch’s nipple and tornado.
35. If you ever need to distinguish the locals from fellow visitors, just yell “ASK FOR THE WOLFMAN!” at the the top of your lungs. Anybody who doesn’t immediately yell back “ASK FOR DONNA!” is clearly an out-of-towner.
36. Despite what you may have heard, Atlanta is probably the most racially relaxed city in America. Hardcore black supremacist gangbangers literally cohabitat with hardcore white supremacist neo-Nazis here, but we still somehow manage to register half as many hate crimes as freakin’ Connecticut.
37. In Atlanta, some of the nation’s best public schools are just 20 minutes away from the nation’s absolute worst public schools. And in between is a city schools system that found a happy compromise by changing all of the students’ test scores by hand in order to get more federal funding.
38. There are no good radio stations, so don’t even ask.
39. We don’t really brag about it, but our sex trafficking industry is positively alpha class.
40. If you walk around long enough, it’s only a matter of time until you see a Madea movie being filmed. That, or a camera crew following the cast of Little Women: Atlanta, or – to a much, much lesser extent – Married to Medicine.
41. The World of Coca-Cola – check out a bunch of kitschy advertisements for an hour then enjoy an orgy of rarefied sugar waters from all over the globe. An absolute must-visit.
42. The College Football Hall of Fame – its coolest feature is a giant collage featuring the helmets of every single college football team in the country. They even included the one for Georgia State, which was probably on accident.
43. The Center for Civil and Human Rights – because nothing says “family fun” like a nonstop barrage of white guilt!
44. SkyView Atlanta – it’s basically just an oversized ferris wheel that costs $20. If you want to be underwhelmed for less, you can always check out an Atlanta Hawks game.
45. Mercedes-Benz Stadium – our latest and greatest taxpayer-funded billion dollar sportsball monstrosity. Comes complete with a pinwheel-shaped retractable roof, so God himself can watch the Falcons find hilarious new ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory every Sunday.
46. Ebenezer Baptist Church – marvel at the old stomping grounds of Martin Luther King, Jr. – and then walk five minutes down the street to see people of all colors paying for overpriced craft beer at some hipster boutique, just like he would’ve wanted.
47. The Georgia Aquarium – perhaps the only aquarium in America that HAS to explicitly remind guests to leave their fishing poles at home.
48. The CNN Center – so your children can understand why journalism as a profession is dying a slow, painful, undignified death with their own two eyes.
49. Centennial Olympic Park – a good place to just meditate on things, like how in the hell Atlanta was chosen to host the Summer Olympics.
50. The Clermont Lounge – because if you want the real Atlanta experience, there’s no better way than by watching women crush aluminum beer cans with their cleavage.