Bar Vegan in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by @gcalebjones
Classic Atlanta Vibes vs. New Atlanta Favorites
Visit Atlanta's bustling metropolis, where Black culture has shaped its past and present. Come for the city’s celebrated classics, plus a growing list of new and fresh things to do.
For storied locales, visit the Atlanta University Center on the city’s west side. It’s the world’s largest consortium of African American private institutions of higher education and includes Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Morris Brown College, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and the Interdenominational Theological Center. Walk the sprawling campuses and soak the lively atmosphere brought by its students and notable alumni such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Alice Walker, Spike Lee, Stacey Abrams and more.
Nearby, visit the former residence of Alonzo Herndon, an enslaved man who eventually became Atlanta’s first Black millionaire: Herndon Home Museum was designated a National Landmark in 2000. Explore the elegant two-story, 15-room Beaux Arts mansion, which was built by Black craftsmen.
Or take another historic house tour and immerse yourself in the engaging storytelling at The Wren’s Nest, a cultural center and Queen Anne-style former home of author Joel Chandler Harris that celebrates the timeless legacy of the Brer Rabbit tales and contemporary storytelling through illustrations, sculptures and other artists’ works.
Save room for lunch from the historical Southern-style restaurant, The Busy Bee Cafe, founded by self-taught cook with a heart of gold Lucy “Momma Lucy” Jackson in 1947; it's a must-stop for anyone who loves soul food. Expect a warm greeting and flavorful grub as you indulge your taste buds with hearty Southern dishes like candied yams, cornbread dressing, collard greens and black-eyed peas.
Head a bit farther west and experience Atlanta's skate culture that has thrived for decades, in no small part because of Cascade Skating Rink. Since opening in the Cascade area in 2000, it’s been a favorite place for skate lovers to gather, where you can witness acrobatic skaters, dance teams and novices gathered at the rink. Celebrities like Beyoncé, Love (formerly known as P. Diddy), Usher and Magic Johnson have all been spotted reveling in Cascade’s lively energy.
You can’t talk about classic Atlanta without mentioning the bustling Sweet Auburn District, which was the commercial center of Black Atlanta in the 1920s and continues to be an iconic part of the city. Explore the mile-and-a-half stretch of Auburn Avenue, which was established as a National Historic Landmark in 1976, where the vibrant street art dazzles. Make time to visit the Apex Museum, where the exhibits are constantly rotating but always dedicated to telling the dynamic story of people of the African Diaspora. Pop into The Municipal Market to grab fresh produce or lunch at one of the popular restaurants.
On the topic of popular restaurants, Paschal's in Castleberry Hill still serves great eats like fried chicken, mac and cheese and peach cobbler — and was a hub throughout the civil rights movement for icons including Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph D. Abernathy, Andrew Young and Aretha Franklin. Stop by the two-level restaurant to feel the history and discover why its buffet-style brunch is a consistent favorite.
Call it a night at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Once called the “hotel of hope,” it was one of the only hotels to welcome civil rights activists like Xernona Clayton and Martin Luther King, Jr., who hosted the annual convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference there in 1967. Today, it’s got all the expected modern amenities and a location not far from all the stops on this classic Atlanta tour.
New Atlanta Favorites
As far as new Atlanta goes, don’t miss Ponce City Market. It sits on a historical stretch of Ponce De Leon Avenue in Old Fourth Ward and has become a seat for thriving Black-owned businesses. Wander through minimalist shop Souk Bohemian for North African-inspired apparel, home decor, fragrances, jewelry and more. The Village Retail is an alluring marketplace offering goods from dozens of local Black entrepreneurs (particular favorites include Fruition Hat, The Spice Suite and The Accessory Bar). Drop by Bar Vegan for vegan tapas like the onion right flight, green goddess pizza and cheesesteak eggrolls. Then head to the rooftop for a gorgeous view of the city and local brews at 9 Mile Station, or savor a cocktail and skee ball, mini golf and other games at Skyline Park.
Expect to spend at least two hours exploring the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which opened its doors in 2014 and takes a deep dive into the influence of Martin Luther King, Jr. Highlighting key events from the movement, the center boasts dynamic installations, including a lunch-counter sit-in simulation.
Take a peek into Atlanta’s trap music and culture at the Trap Music Museum, conceptualized by rapper T.I. who hails from Atlanta’s west side. Check out the photos and authentic memorabilia from stars like Cardi B and 2 Chainz, and book the museum’s escape room aka “Escape the Trap” to up the fun with friends.
Or relish the revitalizing spirit of the West End Beltline neighborhood, which is defined by great eats, superior craft beer and colorful street art. Lee + White has transformed warehouses into a thriving spot for shops, breweries and restaurants accented by walkable trails filled with beautiful, diverse plant life.
Follow that with chef Deborah VanTrece’s globally inspired fusion soul food at Twisted Soul Cookhouse & Pours — a consistent standout on Atlanta’s robust foodie scene. Try the flash-fried chicken wings with coconut gravy, sweet-tea baby back ribs and peach-cobbler parfait to satisfy chic comfort food cravings.
Do dessert at Sublime, whose addictive donuts make a run for the best in the nation. Sublime is open 24/7, so even late-night cravings for standout selections like dulce de leche and A-Town cream can happen around the clock.
Head back to the west side of town and finish your evening at Drawbar inside the Bellyard hotel. With a terrace offering a stunning view of 14th Street, sip colorful cocktails and sample light bites, and kick up the fun with a round of mini golf before resting your head for the night.