Look beyond the gleaming high rises to discover the soul of the South. Atlanta’s dozen or so intown neighborhoods build an attractive quality of life that keeps people moving and visiting here. These communities blend residential streets with gotta-find-it boutiques and the best chef-owned eateries. Shady oaks, mounds of blooming azaleas, and snowy hydrangeas paint a verdant backdrop. To passersby, Atlanta’s glass, steel and traffic may seem to rule, but the city’s heart is green. The walkable, shop-lined streets of Atlanta’s intown communities are perfect for locals who prefer walking and cycling to driving.
In the middle of it all, Downtown’s core pulses energy into the rest of Atlanta. It’s a livable center, populated with city dwellers, businesses and world-class attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola and a centerpiece urban park with roots in the Olympic Games. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights and College Football Hall of Fame are opening this year just steps away from Centennial Olympic Park. Sure, downtown may be Atlanta’s tourist hub, but it’s the ideal place to start an exploration.
Style and substance take center stage in Midtown along Peachtree Street. The famed boulevard maintains a friendly feel while it cuts a swath of culture that connects the marquee events at the Fox Theatre at one end, to the Woodruff Arts Center and Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) in the middle, on to the Savannah College of Art and Design at the other end. Locals thrive on the tree-lined lanes just beyond, and they congregate to play at Piedmont Park, home to the Dogwood and Atlanta Jazz Festivals.
Bold and brazen Buckhead cradles the bedroom communities of the up-and-coming as well as the city’s Fortune 500 families. In Buckhead, Peachtree becomes Rodeo Drive with hospitable Southern accent, growing fashionable boutiques on attractive side streets. Boutique shoppers breeze past Sir Elton John’s condo to ferret out the latest in fashion trends at out-of-the-way galleries for on-trend clothes. From just about any point in Buckhead, you’re within shouting distance of a memorable four-star restaurant where foodies get their kicks.
Westside, a blending of Georgia Tech culture with nearby loft communities, has sprung into a focal point for a new design district in old industrial spaces. It’s the go-to-place for interior design mavens looking for lighting, textiles, fabric and furniture. Like other Atlanta neighborhoods, the dining scene keeps improving here. Long-time homesteaders Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison’s famous Bacchanalia restaurant begat the city’s best kitchen shop, Star Provisions, plus two other restaurants, Quinones and Abattoir. Nearby top-rated JCT Kitchen, The Optimist, Miller Union, Flip Burger and Antico Pizza Napoletana join the throngs of eateries catering to the city’s sophisticated palate.
Some Atlanta neighborhoods reach back to the city’s early days, like the style of American heritage homes that populate Margaret Mitchell’s Ansley Park just beyond the walls of the High Museum. Others, like Inman Park, combine small urban green spaces among winding boulevards lined with colorful Queen Annes and Victorians in the city’s first planned suburb. Both offer walking tours where their classic architecture and landscape design jut up against the skyscraper backdrop.
On weekends, locals push baby strollers to the farmers market in Morningside, while others stop for a pastry at Alon’s in Virginia-Highland, dawdle in Highland Woodworking or try on fashion statements in Bill Hallman. Just a few blocks over, the scene edges into a Bohemian style, where vintage dress matches the creativity of tattoos in Little Five Points. While spots like Junkman’s Daughter have become de rigueur for the young, others can’t resist the kitschy places like Star Community Bar and Vinyl Lounge, with a shrine to Elvis. But all is not grunge here. Performing arts venues such as Seven Stages, Dad’s Garage, and Variety Theatre lend artistic authenticity to Little Five.
Some of the city’s hottest neighborhoods show the courage of citizens to keep the best and create the new. Southwest of downtown, Castleberry Hill etches out a space among former warehouses. Today, art galleries mix with wine bars and tapas lounges for lively Second Friday Art Walks. Once an epicenter of African-American commerce, the Sweet Auburn District continues to flourish on the city’s southeast side. Auburn Avenue, known in the 1950s as the nation’s most affluent African-American street, houses a curb market, bakeries, and clubs near the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and Ebenezer Baptist Church. The newest downtown addition, Luckie Marietta District, is booming with dining and entertainment options seconds away from major attractions. Explore Atlanta through the city’s neighborhoods, each with its own distinctive character offering something for every visitor.
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