The capital of Georgia — and perhaps, unofficially, of the south in general — is called “Hotlanta” for a reason: it’s literally blazing hot in the summer, and from a more metaphorical angle, there’s always something happening in the heart of it.
Aside from being the Southern-fried hub of hip hop culture and suburban largesse, the sprawling metropolis boasts several gems nestled square inside its very nucleus.
There’s a joke about how to find things in the perimeter west of Interstate 85 and north of Interstate 20: “Just take Peachtree.” The town’s notorious practice of calling multiple streets the same thing — namely, Peachtree Street, Avenue, Road, Lane, et al — renders visitors utterly confused in the absence of an annotated map or GPS.
Luckily, though, three of our four suggestions for diversion take place on or near the very same one; the “real” Peachtree Street, which runs through the heart of midtown and downtown Atlanta.
660 Peachtree Street Northeast – This theatrical gem was originally erected in the late 1920s as a mosque that served as headquarters for the 5,000-member-strong Shriners organization. It became the Fox Theater as the Great Depression began and barely scraped by during the country’s leanest years; through the 40s and 50s, it stood as a movie theater, and later became a live performance theater.
It was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in the 70s, underwent a major renovation in the 80s and now books more than 300 performances a year. The indoor Arabian courtyard and trompe l’oeil interior are something to see; the ornate decor creates a true sense of occasion that heightens the experience of seeing a show.
Summer 2012 shows include concerts by Ringo Starr, the B-52s and Nicki Minaj, as well as performances of The King and I and The Addams Family, among others.
225 Baker Street Northwest – Few aquariums in the United States are as comprehensive and enjoyable as Atlanta’s own water-filled zoo, The Georgia Aquarium.
With several distinct experiences to behold under its roof — namely, Cold Water Quest, Ocean Voyager, Dolphin Tales, Tropical Diver, River Scout, Georgia Explorer, and more, the aquarium offers up-close experiences with species from various climates and environs.
Complex enough to take a half-day for a thorough visit, a ticket to all the permanent exhibits and seasonal shows runs around $30. The aquarium is open 365 days a year.
3. CNN Center
190 Marietta Street Northwest – The cable news empire’s headquarters can be found in the heart of Atlanta and welcomes visitors for behind-the-scenes tours — either a “Morning Express Tour,” which takes guests on the set of the show of the same name, while the “Inside CNN VIP Tour” offers expanded studio access throughout the network.
The 55-minute tours are hosted seven days a week between 9 am and 4:30 pm; advance ticket purchase ($15) is advisable.
1345 Piedmont Avenue NE - Every Thursday from May through September, the Atlanta Botanical Garden throws what’s arguably the city’s most beautiful happy hour, ever: the weekly event is called Cocktails in the Gardens, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.
For just under $20, visitors can stroll the grounds with cocktails in hand, enjoying a live chef demo in the edible portion of the garden while sounds from a live DJ add to the atmosphere.