Heading north from Florida toward the mountains of Western North Carolina, it’s more likely you’ll consider the options for circumventing the Atlanta area rather than gunning straight for it. Admittedly, it is infamous for thick congestion and tiresome delays, but other great cities present similar symptoms. Is there more to report from beneath its ample tree canopy?
My brother, his girlfriend, and I stopped over in the city and enjoyed a brief respite in one of its historic, urban neighborhoodsâ€”Grant Park.
HGTV Eco Tiny House
For just a night, why not try something different? As fans of the tiny house movement (see my post from earlier this year about Tampa’s first new-build tiny house), we felt it only appropriate to stay in the HGTV Eco Tiny House, which is part RV, part mountain cabin.
Other than having no personal privacy except in the bathroom, the lilliputian space is unexpectedly serene. I think, due to plenty of windows that bring the outside light in, and a 1 1/2 height ceiling (to accommodate loft beds). Tolerable for three guests, but perfect for a single full-time occupant.
This particular marvel of efficient living is parked behind a home just off I-20, a block from the impressive Oakland Cemetery (currently rated 4.7/5.0 stars on Google)! It’s also within walking distance of a few cool spots like Grant Park Market, Octane Coffee, and Ria’s BluebirdÂ diner, which was hopping on Christmas Eve.
Gaja Korean Bar
After arriving and casually browsing options for dinner, we settled on Gaja Korean Bar, a hidden spot in East Atlanta. Designed and arranged in a futuristic Blade Runner style concrete open space, it was the right blend of coolly understated and clearly popular, with fantastic Korean staples like bulgogi, bap, and soju. My favorite of the eveningâ€”a scallion pancake with kimchi mayo borrowed from the mung bean hush puppies.
Bread & Butterfly
The next morning, we again searched on Google (vs. Yelp or others) to “explore food and drink” around us and headed to Inman Park’sÂ Bread & Butterfly.
Polished and polite, the tidy branding and interior almost felt chain-like, but the food was tasty and service very attentive. Clearly it’s a favorite of locals, who were deep in conversation or buried in newspapers and magazines, sipping coffee and nibbling at quiche.
If stylish brasserie brunches are your speed, then this will appeal.
Ponce City Market
A bit like the Ferry Building in San Francisco crossed with Chelsea Market or Eataly, this former Sears Roebuck department store building was a flurry of Christmas Eve activity. The ground floor is bars, food stalls, eateries, and small shops, while upstairs is more apparel and accessories retail (like Citizen Supply, Cobbler Union, Goorin Bros. Hats, J.Crew, Ponce Denim Co., and West Elm).
Further up, there are residential flats you can live in (and perhaps never leave the building on the weekends)!
I stopped at the Quick Quick Newsstand for a familiar periodical (Monocle) and a new obsession (Fantastic Man). Obligatory reading for four nights in the mountains sans wifi or mobile service.
Ponce City Market is also connected to a more pedestrian commercial strip that includes storefronts for google fiber, Casper, and Rudy’s Barbershop.
Grant Park Neighborhood
During the quick loop I made along Memorial Drive and Woodward Avenue, several people on the street waved or said hello to me. On any other gray day in the 40s maybe they wouldn’t have, or maybe it is part of what makes historic inner-city areas like Grant Park so charming.
And, the abundance of stunning Victorians and craftsman bungalows, with which new construction is mixed and matched.
I would imagine that any area within a few miles of Downtown Atlanta has a similar allure, given times bygone scale and streetscape, responsibly revitalized and renewed.
As the largest city in the Southeast, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never reserved a weekend to explore Atlanta. While that is still true, I intend to more comprehensively investigate soon.