A Local’s Favorite Things to Do and See
Midtown Atlanta is known as the “heart of the arts”. With several museums, great restaurants, hotels and parks, Midtown is the perfect place for a weekend getaway. The range of activities and foods is as diverse as the neighborhood itself.
Narrowing down things to do and see in this part of Atlanta can be difficult. There is year-round music, food and art festivals, art exhibits, live music venues, shopping areas and the largest park and green space in the city. Fortunately, I’m here, to help you explore Midtown the way I know best.
The status and hours of the businesses listed below may vary due to COVID-19. Please check the business website for the most up-to-date information. Please see our disclaimer regarding the accuracy of this information. For more COVID-19 resources, click here.
Nadeen White is a Black travel content creator of the award-winning travel, food & wine blog-The Sophisticated Life. Her blog provides travel & culinary destination guides for cities all over the world. Nadeen has called Atlanta home for over 8 years.
You can learn more about Nadeen and read more of her content on www.thesophisticatedlife.com
Artistic Tune Ups
If you happen to be in Midtown Atlanta on the third weekend of the month, be sure to attend Friday Jazz at The High Museum. There are different styles of live jazz performances every month. After a long work week you’ll find Atlantans letting their hair down, drinking and dancing on the patio or in the solarium. It’s a friendly atmosphere and you don’t need to be a jazz aficionado to attend. I went to this event the first week I moved to Atlanta and made friendships that have lasted almost a decade.
After a toe-tappin’ live performance, step into the museum’s current art exhibits. The High’s “Friends of African American Art” has curated collections of some of the greatest African American artists including Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden. In the Stent Family Wing located on the third floor of the museum, you will find “Woodland Stream, An Idyll” ca. 1865 by Robert S. Duncanson, an African American landscape painter who achieved international recognition during the Civil War.
In February, during Black History Month, an event not to be missed is Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Their annual performance at The Fox Theatre brings out Atlanta’s Black elite. The soulful performance of “Revelations” — now in its 60th year — is always worth the price of admission. The Fox is also the place to see Tony Award-winning Broadway shows and other fantastic renditions. Prior to the shows, stop in at the modern and sophisticated Georgian Terrace Hotel for dinner and drinks at either The Livingston Restaurant + Bar, serving American cuisine, or Edgar’s Proof & Provision, serving small plates with delicious ginger beer-based cocktails. If you are taking in a matinee at The Fox, enjoy coffee and pastries on the patio of Buffalo Bayou Cafe, also located inside the hotel.
Piedmont Park is the location for most music and food festivals in Midtown Atlanta. It also happens to have the best skyline views and hosts seasonal exhibits like the pumpkin festival, Halloween festivities as well as the Garden Lights, Holiday Nights event that runs November through January.
Locals look forward to springtime when the 3-day outdoor Atlanta Jazz Festival takes place in Piedmont Park. Jazz musicians from all over the world come to perform at this event. Imagine tents, blankets, picnic baskets, friends and families all gathered around listening to good music, drinking wine and throwing frisbees. From afternoon, until the sun goes down, music flows through the air while Atlantans sway to the music, then pack up their stations, only to come back the next day and do it all over again.
All this exploring will leave you famished. Not to worry, one of the best reasons to visit Atlanta is for the food. Midtown has a concentrated number of restaurants in a walkable neighborhood where you’ll find the best in Southern and soul food. A great place for a combination of both is the iconic Mary Mac’s Tea Room. Depending on the time of day, you may find a line waiting outside. Popular dishes include chicken and dumplings, smothered chicken, Brunswick stew, cornbread and of course, the ridiculously delicious fried chicken.
On Saturday mornings from spring thru fall, follow the smell of fresh baked bread and brewed coffee to the farmer’s market in Piedmont Park. Local merchants vary, but you may find the popular Black-owned loose leaf tea company “Just Add Honey”, fresh vegetables and flowers, baked goods, Cajun and Southern meat items, Georgia nuts, and even jewelry or treats for your dogs.
For a sophisticated take on Southern classics, head over to South City Kitchen. They are open for brunch, lunch and dinner. Start with the she-crab soup and complimentary warm, flaky biscuits served with apple butter. The jumbo lump crab cake, fried chicken and grilled trout are local favorites. The crab cake is succulent and loaded with fresh crab while the fried chicken is crispy, juicy and just may leave you licking your fingers. If — and that is a big if — you have room for dessert, the apple upside down cake is a must.
Atlanta is a very diverse city, and with that diversity comes foods from different regions and cultures. Have a taste for the tropics? Try Negril Village, a Caribbean bar and restaurant that is an entire vibe. Live music and performances transport you to another place and time. Enjoy jerk chicken and cocktails on the outdoor patio, curried goat and house red snapper in the main dining room or in the sophisticated loft upstairs.
Or, head to the place known to have some of the best burgers in town, Vortex Bar & Grill. There are two locations — Midtown on Peachtree Street and Little Five Points. The Little Five Points location is well-known for its “laughing skull” entrance that became famous after being featured on Season 1 of Travel Channel’s “Man vs Food”. There is a long list of juicy specialty burgers to choose from like the “Blue Shroom”, “Fat Elvis” and “Freaky Tiki”. They are open until midnight which is a plus, too.
The Midtown Whole Foods is a must-stop: a juice bar, vegetable butcher station and popsicles from Atlanta’s own “King of Pops” are just a few tasty options available. The rooftop terrace called “Canopy Court” has gorgeous views of Atlanta’s BeltLine with activities for all ages. Sit-in for open mic nights, movies and even Sunday brunch with live music.
For a slower pace, enjoy the ambience of a romantic French bistro at Café Intermezzo. It is the perfect place to linger with a specialty coffee or richly divine cheesecake after enjoying one of their French specialties like Croque Madame.
For retail therapy (at its finest), head over to the “they-have-everything-you-want” mecca, known as Atlantic Station. There are over 50 shops, variety of restaurants, movie theater and bowling alley, all located in an outdoor setting that surrounds a Central Park-like lawn area. Be sure to spend some time in the Black-owned bookstore, Book Boutique. Described as a “literary experience”, this shop has a lounge area, café and offers weekly programming and book signings.
All this food, fun and shopping may be a bit tiring so end your weekend with a luxury spa treatment at Four Seasons Spa. Their signature Midtown Massage is perfect for out-of-town guests. It includes a full body massage and body stretching with lavender rosemary products, foot scrub with reflexology and a calming scalp massage. The cherry on top? Enjoy a handcrafted cocktail at Bar Margot also located inside Four Seasons.
Get to know Atlanta, and discover the best things to do around the city.