Welcome to Atlanta. Whether you call us A-town, the ATL, the Big Peach. Empire City of the South, or HOTlanta, I’m so excited to be volunteering for NCTE over the next few days as English educators converge on this eclectic and vibrant Southern city. I’ve seen several posts and recommendations (including NCTE’s comprehensive guide) all offering great advice on Atlanta, but I would feel a little less than hospitable if I didn’t share my suggestions for a classic and iconic look at the city.
Note: When I say “ trust me,” trust me. I will not let you down.
I love New York bagels, clam chowder, Chicago pizza, Tex-Mex, and fish tacos as much as anybody but prepare your taste buds for Southern food. Mary Mac’s, (a traditional meat and three meaning you choose one meat and three vegetables) has been in Atlanta for over 70 years. This is classic Southern food, and even though there are many meat and three’s throughout the city, this one is iconic Atlanta. If you go there, have fried chicken, mac and cheese, fried okra, and tomato pie – trust me (see Note). Other classic dining options include Fox Brothers BBQ (try a sampler platter with pulled pork, brisket, and Foxaroni as a side – trust me), the original Flying Biscuit in Candler Park serving breakfast all day (shrimp and grits – trust me), Six Feet Under boast a great rooftop bar and good seafood, or the Tijuana Garage for Tex-Mex and fried Snickers (don’t ask questions – just trust me). In the mood for pizza? Varasanos is the place to go or you can grab a slice from Fellini’s found all over Atlanta. King of Pops stands will be found throughout the city selling fresh, homemade popsicles; blackberry ginger lemonade is my favorite. If you’re looking for a nicer place to eat, try the King + Duke named from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and no visit to Atlanta is complete without a stop at The Varsity for a fried peach pie or FO (trust me).
In addition to restaurants, Atlanta boasts several markets combining shopping and food and a chance to explore different neighborhoods in the city. Located in the historic Sears and Roebuck building, Ponce City Market in Midtown is the newest market to enter Atlanta. Krog Street Market in Inman Park is smaller but home to one of my favorite restaurants Superica which is one of my favorite brunch places (chilaquiles- trust me). Ladybird is a short walk away and has a great atmosphere and great drinks. Westside Provisions is home to West Egg my other favorite brunch place featuring their Milky Way latte and chicken and waffles (trust me) and you might as well go to Jeni’s for ice cream while you’re there and order the rosemary lavender ice cream (trust me). The Sweet Auburn Curb Market is not only full of great food but is rooted in history and is iconic Atlanta.
Places of Interest
There’s so much to do and so little time, but here are what I consider the highlights of Atlanta. The Center for Civil and Human Rights and Carter Center featuring the Presidential Library are must-see places to visit in Atlanta. Skyview Atlanta is the giant ferris wheel in Centennial Olympic Park and offers stunning views of Atlanta. The Georgia Aquarium, CNN, and World of Coke are also close by. Literary buffs (which would be all of us) will find the Wren’s House home to Joel Chandler Harris and the Margaret Mitchell House worth a visit. If the weather is nice, the Beltline is a great place to stroll, and I personally can’t get enough of Oakland Cemetery the city’s historic cemetery. Be sure to check out NCTE’s offsite workshops as well. With a busy conference schedule, you should just plan another trip to Atlanta to sightsee because you will hardly have time to do this magnificent city justice (and that will give you time to try more restaurants).
Lenox Mall and Phipps Plaza are the elite malls in Atlanta and are located in Buckhead just north of the city. I’m not a shopper, but the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM at Lenox has saved me more than once while waiting out rain delays in the Peachtree Road Race (don’t judge me). Atlantic Station in midtown is a modern outdoor mall offering a variety of stores and restaurants.
Maybe it’s just me, but I love setting foot on college campuses across the country and typically make time to visit one or two in new cities. Atlanta is home to several universities, but I will just highlight three. Emory University located in Druid Hills is a beautiful liberal arts school with a world-renown medical school. Georgia Tech is also a leading research university located downtown, but when you step on campus, the city will fade away. Georgia State University is located in the heart of Atlanta; you will most likely step on and off this campus several times when you are in the city.
I could go on and on and on but need to grade essays (which is in reality why I have gone on and on and on). If I can help you in any way while you are here, please let me know.
Have a safe trip and prepare yourself for an amazing time in the ATL.
See y’all soon!