If you’re heading to the Super Bowl in Atlanta and aren’t sure what to expect from your time in the city beyond the walls of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, good news: This city is so much more than Coca-Cola, fried chicken and a busy airport.
Here’s how to keep yourself entertained during your weekend in the A (and whatever you do, please don’t call it “Hotlanta”):
Locals love to gripe about Atlanta traffic, which is terrible most of the time but especially during high-profile events. This particular Super Bowl weekend, the highway and areas around downtown will likely be a nightmare to navigate. Skip driving yourself if you can: Lyft and Uber both offer plenty of rides around the city, and Lyft is doling out discounts throughout the weekend. (You can easily catch either from the airport, but it’s a bit of a hike from baggage claim to the rideshare pickup area. So, catching a $2.50 ride on the MARTA train may actually be more convenient.)
As for transportation to the Benz: You can take Uber or Lyft there, but your best bet may be MARTA. Atlanta’s metro train system only runs east-west and north-south, but it does have two stops near the stadium: Vine City and Georgia Dome, both of which are just a few minutes’ walk to the Benz. Tip: It’s almost an impossible task trying to locate an Uber after games, when streets are flooded with people and nearby roads are closed to car traffic. Pick a nearby bar like Elliott Street to ride it out (and celebrate/mourn your team), or hop on MARTA and hail one from a few stops away.
Where to Drink
There is, quite frankly, a lot of good drinking to be had in Atlanta. (We call that “Southern hospitality.”) Luckily, two of the best spots in the city are conveniently/dangerously located right next door to each other. Head to the far end of Krog Street Market in Inman Park for cocktails at Watchman’s, an airy, modern seafood spot, whose highballs and swizzles are just as delicious as the crab cakes and Gulf oysters.
Next door, you’ll find Ticonderoga Club, crowned one of America’s Best Bars by Esquire just last year. Get the eponymous Ticonderoga Cup, a rum punch served in a hammered copper goblet, or simply close your eyes and point to any drink on the menu — this is one of those spots where you really can’t go wrong, especially if you can snag the captain’s chair.
Atlanta is blessed with dozens of good breweries and brewpubs, but it’d be just about impossible to squeeze visits to all of them into one weekend. Instead, sip your way through some of the best pints in the city (and beyond) in one place at The Porter, a cozy spot in Little Five Points with more than 800 beers on offer. The taps rotate regularly, but keep an eye out for beer made by hometown favorites like Wild Heaven, Orpheus, Wrecking Bar and Three Taverns. And come hungry — the Belgian fries and fish ‘n chips are perfect for soaking up those suds.
Where to Eat
For a taste of the real Atlanta, head to Buford Highway. This stretch of road is home to an incredibly diverse international community, along with some of the best food to be found in the metro area: thick, hand-pulled Chinese noodles at LanZhou; Malaysian street fare at Food Terminal; and Laotian sticky rice at Snackboxe Bistro, to name a few. Just be sure to stop by a Korean bakery like White Windmill or Sweet Hut to end things on a sweet note.
Craving barbecue? Though Atlanta isn’t as famous for the stuff as Kansas City or Memphis, Bryan Furman of B’s Cracklin BBQ is doing his best to change that. At his homey, laid-back joint on the Westside, the Savannah pitmaster serves some of the best brisket, pulled pork and smoked chickens you can find in the South.
Restaurants espousing “new Southern” cuisine are a dime a dozen these days, but few do it quite like Miller Union, Steven Satterfield’s impeccable farm-to-table spot on the West Side. Everything on the menu serves to showcase the best of Southern produce, but don’t miss the farm egg baked in celery cream — it’s an iconic dish in the city.
Things to Do
If you’re going to brave the crowds for any downtown tourist attraction, make it the Center for Civil and Human Rights. The museum includes a permanent exhibition from the Civil Rights movement, including a reconstruction of the Freedom Riders bus and a simulation of the lunch counter sit-in protest. Note: the King Center and the nearby birth home of Martin Luther King, Jr. on historic Auburn Avenue are only two miles away, making it a great add-on to the experience.
Unless you’re willing to stand in line at the crack of dawn, you probably won’t be able to snag a ticket to Yayoi Kusama’s insanely popular “Infinity Mirrors” exhibition at the High Museum. But the museum’s permanent collection is reason enough for the $14.50 admission: it includes more than 17,000 works, including photography from the civil rights movement, a jaw-dropping Sol LeWitt installation in the lobby, and a Rodin sculpture on the front lawn.
For art of the free variety, head southeast to Cabbagetown, where the wall running along Wylie Street and the Krog Street Tunnel are treated as living canvases by the city’s best muralists. From the Tunnel, head two blocks north on Krog and hop on the Beltline’s Eastside Trail, the paved, art-lined walking path that stretches through the Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, Poncey-Highland, and Midtown to the 185-acre Piedmont Park. Bundle up and enjoy the walk; it’s a unique vantage point for some of Atlanta’s most distinctive in-town neighborhoods, plus you’ll pass loads of great restaurants, bars and shops along the way.
One of the most recognizable Beltline-adjacent attractions? Ponce City Market, a massive restoration project on Atlanta’s most eclectic stretch of road, transformed a long-vacant structure into a playground of trendy shops, hip restaurants, and… an amusement park? It’s true: the rooftop Skyline Park offers throwback carnival games, adult beverages (including hot toddies), 18 holes of putt-putt, and sweeping skyline views of Midtown and beyond, as long as you’re game for the $10 entry fee.