We’re big fans of travelling somewhere that isn’t necessarily at the top of our list – when there are no expectations, anything that’s good is a bonus. So when we went to Atlanta on Virgin’s inaugural 787 flight last month, we thought, ‘Atlanta. Well, okay.’ Fast forward to arriving to gospel singers, followed by delving into redneck and hip hop culture, old wealth and new bling, southern health and sustainability trends and of course, remarkable history – it’s the home of Martin Luther King, Jr., after all – and UJ was an instant ATL convert. Make sure that ATL is on your to do list. It should be: this is one educational, inspiring spot.
Health and Eco
Now health is definitely not what sprung to mind when we thought of Atlanta, but we were wrong. On the food front, there were all the usual suspects – mac’n’cheese and grits, black eyed peas and fried chicken, but there was also a real undercurrent of health going on. True Food Kitchen had one of the best healthy menus we’ve seen in a long time, and the farm to table scene is definitely hotting up. Sustainable seems to be the word of the day, and for transportation, city wide bike lanes are in the works (they want to be like Portland). WHO KNEW?
All you need to do is look at wikipedia to see how many musicians are from here. Kris Kross (JUMP!), OutKast, Arrested Development, and new kids like Scotty ATL. DJs who are always pushing the boat out to find new sounds – like Diplo – are choosing Atlanta as their spot to produce, and gospel still rings from every corner. Although there aren’t any great music history and/or pop culture guided tours that we could find at the moment, we say go to a baptist church, blag your way into a studio, hit a nightclub/concert, or just cruise around some of the cooler neighbourhoods to check out the scene.
Speaking of tours…Usually we roll our eyes at the word (although we do love a bus tour), but do take a bike tour to get an overview. Heart of the City Bike Tour offers a friendly ride through key neighbourhoods, with local history to go with. It’s on this tour that we learned the government in Atlanta has offered movie production companies a 30% discount to film here – Hunger Games was largely shot here, and more and more TV shows are, too – and there’s a bit of a street art revolution going on and it, surprisingly, feels fresh. You can also do a Coke tour, or visit the very large aquarium, but we say go directly to the new Center for Civil and Human Rights. Curated by George C Wolfe (Angels in America), this important, interactive exhibition will touch your soul – there wasn’t a dry eye in our group. A trip to Martin Luther King Jr.’s baptist church Ebenezer, where he was a pastor, is essential, as is a look in the MLK Center for Nonviolent Social Change next door.
Want to get out and check out Georgia? Then rent a car and hit the road. UJ made a stop at eco community (see, there it is again) Serenbe. One part futuristic utopia, one part Truman show, with a dash of Addams family and a sprinkling of cult (our views): this was a very interesting trip. A community created to blend with the land and consider all things eco, here you’ll find solar powered everything, unobtrusive homes, a local farmer’s market and a spa that only uses natural products/ treatments (obvs) on the way. Live here, and you get a small town mentality with a do-gooder progressiveness, a short drive from a major US metropolis. Works for some!
Yes, an odd category! But UJ found it very interesting how they look on death in Atlanta. Death is celebrated. They have parties in the graveyard. There’s a bar across the street from the largest graveyard called 6 Feet Under, and at said graveyard parties, they hire actors to be famous dead folk. Not sure. But interesting. And positive.
What Else We Noticed
People like to drink beer here. There’s a microbrewery culture (try SweetWater), and even though we aren’t big beer drinkers, we were eyeing up the beer terraces, with patio lighting on every corner, and making a note of which to come back to. When in Rome!
When to Travel
There’s a big art fête in December (at a manufacturing plant-turned-très trendy apartments, see bottom left photo) and a food fest that includes 90 of the city’s best restaurants in October, but in general, we’d say anytime before or after the summer (it’s too hot in high summer!) would be a great time to go.
Virgin Atlantic flies daily from LHR to ATL. Visit www.virgin-atlantic.com to book.