Article originally published in Lavender Magazine, June 2019
Atlanta is one of the gay epicenters of the southern United States, and for good reason.
With 5.8 million total residents, the city is full of life, offering plenty to do, no matter your lifestyle. They embrace the gay and lesbian community with open arms. Atlanta’s Pride Festival, held in mid-October, draws approximately 300,000 visitors each year. In 2018, Bebe Rexha and Mike Posner headlined the Atlanta Pride concert stage.
The epicenter for LGBT Atlanta is at 10th and Piedmont, where a rainbow crosswalk gives you goosebumps. Located in the Midtown neighborhood, the area is full of gay and lesbian catered bars and restaurants, along with specialty shops, bathhouses, and boutiques.
Midtown’s Piedmont Park is a must-visit. It’s the Central Park of Atlanta. Slather up on sunscreen and take a stroll to see shirtless men running, a Botanical Garden, a farmer’s market and a public pool that is more like one you would see at a resort. Rent a Relay bike to explore more of this 185-acre space.
My travel buddy and I stayed at the nearby W Atlanta – Midtown, which was perfect. While we were there, the staff threw a big pool party for guests, complete with oversized floaties, a DJ and drinks. The hotel was within walking distance to the gayborhood and just a short Lyft ride to the tourist attractions located downtown. W Hotels have a level of class where you feel like you are living in luxury but you know you still have money left in your checking account when you get home. They are one of my preferred hotels when I am traveling.
You could spend days exploring Midtown Atlanta, but there’s so much more to the southeastern U.S. city. A can’t-miss is Ponce City Market, located just south of Midtown in the Old Fourth Ward. Ponce City Market was so highly recommended that it was my first stop after landing at the airport. The building was previously a Sears, Roebuck and Co. store, warehouse and regional office, which first opened in 1926 and repurposed in 2014. At 2.1 million square feet, it’s huge, offering a gorgeous food hall with some of Georgia’s best dining. I had my fix of Hop’s Chicken, which is well worth it.
A trip to Ponce City Market is not complete without a visit to the rooftop. With a small entrance fee, you will find access to a miniature golf course, carnival games, a bar, and a great view of Atlanta’s downtown skyline.
Downtown Atlanta has plenty to see and do. Lavender writer Carla Waldemar discovered the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola and CNN Headquarters in a December 2018 article. All of those activities—along with others—are included in Atlanta’s CityPASS, which can be purchased for $76. It gives you access to five activities (they have seven to choose from) and it saves you a good amount of money, opposed to buying full-price tickets for each attraction separately. Plus, you can cut the line with a CityPASS, and at World of Coca-Cola, that could save you a lot of time.
Some advice when it comes to those attractions: make sure to book CNN Studio Tour time slot in advance, and go on a weekday. You enter their actual studios, so a weekday typically means you will see more people working. And don’t skip the Georgia Aquarium just because you have been to an aquarium before; it is the largest in the world.
I ended my trip to Atlanta with a level of class, and I am glad I did. Midtown is home to a Four Seasons hotel. You may not want to drop all your money on a penthouse there, but you can get a taste of sophistication at their restaurant, Park 75. It is open to non-guests for breakfast and serves up an “OMG French Toast” with triple cream cheese, fresh strawberries and a strawberry compote, along with a breakfast biscuit with chicken schnitzel, pimento cheese, home fries and honey. Now that’s southern cooking done right.
The other recommendations on my Atlanta checklist:
–Get a popsicle from the King of Pops (carts scattered about ATL; I found them at Ponce City Market)
–Take a Lyft or Uber to Fox Bros Bar-B-Q and get the Fox Burger. Be prepared to wait for a table. You will be glad you did.
–If you see Antico Pizza, eat it. They have a brick and mortar location and are also located inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home to the Atlanta Falcons & United FC, and SunTrust Park, home to the Atlanta Braves.
-If someone in your group is really hungry, take them to The Vortex. Their Quadruple Coronary Bypass Burger has 9,606 calories with four 4-ounce sirloin patties, two 8-ounce sirloin patties, 28 slices of American cheese, four fried eggs, 27 strips of bacon, grilled onions, relish and mayonnaise on 8 slices of Texas toast and served with 20-ounces of fries and tots, topped with cheese and bacon bits. They have regular sized meals, too.
–Grab a drink at Swinging Richards. I will set the scene: think the movie Magic Mike but the customers are gay men. Just remember, you are only visiting town.
My journey to Atlanta was coordinated with help of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. Plan your trip to ATL by starting at www.atlanta.net.