Looking for a stunning moss-draped waterfall? Yep, you can find that in Atlanta.
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream can be found all around the city. There are locations on Atlanta’s Westside and in downtown Decatur that usually have long lines on pleasant afternoons. But here’s a little secret: if you’re craving Brambleberry Crisp and don’t have the patience for a 30-minute queue, there’s another Jeni’s quietly sitting just off bustling Ponce De Leon that mostly goes unnoticed. Simply walk in, grab your cone and go on about your day.
No-wait ice cream is far from Atlanta’s only quiet joy. Georgia’s capital is filled with overlooked bites and underrated sights. From lightly publicized museums to hard-to-top nature walks, here’s the scoop on some of the city’s other secret treats.
Top Picks for You
Spend a Day a World Away
While the High Museum of Art deservedly gets its share of cultural swooning, Emory University’s Michael C. Carlos Museum is no slouch when it comes to showcasing world-class exhibits. Over the past year, brilliant showings from Indigenous contemporary artists and thought-provoking photographers have been on view, but if you weren’t an alum or Instagram follower, you might have missed them. As for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s CDC Museum, we’re not sure most people even know it exists. Looking at the agency’s history and the future of infectious-disease eradication through permanent and traveling exhibits, the info-packed attraction is free and open to the public every weekday.
Cheer for the City’s Best Football Team
As the home of the College Football Hall of Fame, the SEC Championship, and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Atlanta is unofficially College Football Central. Though Georgia Tech has represented the city in just one bowl since 2018, the neighboring Georgia State Panthers have quietly built a formidable program that’s beaten Tennessee and Army in recent seasons and has made three straight bowl appearances. GSU games come with affordable tickets, a fun-filled atmosphere, and a not-too-crazy attendance average of 15,000 fans. Sounds like a win-win-win to us.
Grab a Bite While They Go for Birdies
After its three-year and $32-million renovation was completed in 2021, Atlanta’s Bobby Jones Golf Course took on a very polished persona. Many people driving by the Northside Drive facility probably don’t realize that the new-look greens, driving range, and tennis courts are open to the public. So too is Bobby Jones’ full-service restaurant and bar, Boone’s. The airy eatery serves the clubhouse staples you’d expect (such as burgers and fried chicken sandwiches), but the kitchen offers more than a few pleasant surprises (crab fritters and fried Brussels sprouts, to name a few) that create high-scoring lunches for golfers and famished gawkers.
Get to Know Mother Nature Better
Stone Mountain and Amicalola Falls are always top of mind for Atlantans looking for a calorie-burning walk. Another spot worthy of more mention is Decatur’s Arabia Mountain, which is a part of a 40,000-acre National Heritage Area. Trek up the monadnocks (isolated hills of bedrock), admire the native flora and fauna, or bike across tree-framed boardwalks in relative serenity. Cascade Springs Nature Preserve is a still-overlooked option on the other side of town that checks all your day-hike boxes. A bonus at this 135-acre park is that, when you reach the 1.3-mile mark, you’ll be met by a moss-draped waterfall you’d never imagine seeing so close to the heart of the city.
Pick From the City’s Freshest Markets
Because of the climate crisis and America’s unhealthy eating ways, a contingent of local farmers are more determined than ever to get locally grown goods into the community’s hands. Strong-rooted organizations such as Truly Living Well’s Farm Market, Gilliam’s Community Garden, and the Carter Center’s Freedom Farmers’ Market are not only offering fresh produce consistently, but they’re also providing a platform for local soap makers, clothing designers, and other small businesses to peddle their wares.
Go Camping in Style
It’s a ridiculously antiquated take that African Americans don’t appreciate the great outdoors. Melanated Campout, a stereotype-debunking group started by friends Jocelyn McCants, Cayela White, and Shunte’ McClellan, gathers Black adventurers a couple of times a year in Wrightsville for a weekend of “roughing it” in the wild with silent discos, comedy shows, and epic water gun fights. Though you’ll find avid campers pitching tents next to folks who can’t tell a carabiner from a canteen, one thing remains true—they all pack away big smiles for the ride back home.
Drink With New Friends
The ATL bar scene has had many iterations. In this post-pandemic era, after-work hangouts seem more focused on being laid-back, pretension-free zones. One place pouring the chill from Wednesday to Saturday is Grant Park Social. So what if you can touch the far wall from the front door? All the cool clientele cares about is enjoying its bourbon without getting elbowed. Likewise, crowds won’t be your big issue at the newish Distillery of Modern Art in Chamblee. Making your way around the massive space—the building contains an events hall, impressive art gallery, full craft distillery, and a beautiful bar serving all the in-house creations—without getting lost might be.
Experience Theater Like You Never Have Before
Found Stages thinks so far out of the box that it probably dreams in ovals. Where many theatrical companies slowed or shut down during the pandemic, this 2014-founded outfit took its shows to text messages and Zoom. When other plays were confined to stages, immersive productions here, like the emotional Cassie’s Ballad, literally had patrons journey through the woods with actors. When the next forward-thinking play is announced, grab your ticket so you can see why Found Stages is such a creative find.
Take a Walk on the Westside
By now, the entire free world knows about Atlanta’s Beltline, the beloved pedestrian walkway that will one day make a 22-mile loop around the city. There are completed portions, like on the east side between the Fourth Ward Skatepark and Ponce City Market, that are always congested. But there are also parts on the newer Westside just screaming for more foot traffic. Take the segment between Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. and historic Washington Park; it’s so ridiculously quiet most weekdays that you’d think it was still under construction. But it’s not. It’s tranquil, safe, and largely free of two-wheeled daredevils.
Have a Meal You’ll Never Forget
Atlanta’s dining scene has become one of the country’s most competitive. But while pricey 10-course meals duke it out in Buckhead and Midtown, a sublime restaurant in Alpharetta (a 35-minute drive from downtown Atlanta when I-85 traffic cooperates) is starting to flex its muscles. Lapeer is an exquisite house of steak, seafood, and fine European sips from chef Blake Hartley and restauranteur Louis Soon. Every dish that hits your table—from salt-and-pepper calamari to garlic-shrimp-topped steak—will hit the spot, making this the metro area’s best-kept dining secret.