5 Reasons to Add Atlanta to Your Southern Road Trip

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5 Reasons to Add Atlanta to Your Southern Road Trip
The travel world can’t stop talking about the three queen bees of the South: Charleston, New Orleans, and Nashville. But what about Atlanta, the capital of the Empire State of the South? The next time you’re in transit at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport or pass through en route to another destination in the region, consider these reasons to stop and stay a while.
By Caroline Eubanks, AFAR Local Expert
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta
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    1. Civil Rights Movement History
    Few cities were as significant to the Civil Rights Movement as Atlanta, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was born, raised, and buried. Visitors can walk through Sweet Auburn, a historically African American neighborhood, and visit King’s childhood home, his preaching grounds at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Also stop by the former office of the Atlanta Daily World, the city’s oldest black newspaper, which now operates as an outpost of Condesa Coffee—serving caffeine by day, cocktails by night. 

    On Edgewood Avenue, you’ll find Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Formerly known as Municipal Market of Altanta when it was founded in 1924, the market’s name changed at the turn of the century to acknowledge when African Americans were racially segregated and only allowed to shop at the curb. Today, the building operates as a popular food hall and market. At the nearby Castleberry Hill, you can eat at Paschal’s Restaurant, which is not only home to what may be the best fried chicken in town, but is also where the Movement’s leaders gathered to strategize.  

    Photo by Caroline Eubanks 
    The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta
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    2. International Cuisine
    Atlanta is home to some of the South’s most innovative food, a place where old Southern recipes intersect with international cultures and modern cooking techniques. At Indian Patiseri, chef Asha Gomez adds Indian spices to items such as chicken sandwiches and carrot cake, while at El Super Pan, chef Hector Santiago makes Latin fusion dishes like the Medio Dia—a submarino roll with chicharrón, clove ham, adobo roasted pork, and a spread of pineapple habanero mustard. Head to Buford Highway for the greatest selection of international foods, where signs in Korean, Chinese, or Spanish are common, or take a trip to Duluth, in suburban Gwinnett County, home to the country’s third largest Koreatown.

    Photo courtesy of El Super Pan Latino/Facebook
    The Medio Dia sandwich at El Super Pan
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    3. Revival Art
    In the past decade, Atlanta has become home to a thriving arts scene. The Living Walls Conference, founded by Monica Campana in 2009, brings in internationally renowed muralists to produce work on run-down and abandoned buildings. The Atlanta campus of Savannah College of Art and Design is helping raise the next generation of artists and often offers visitors the chance to see student art and fashion shows.

    Around the city, there’s more to see: Walk the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine—a former rail line turned into a walking trail—where you’ll find rotating exhibits that include photography, murals, and sculptures by local artists (such as native William Massey and Atlanta-based Charlie Smith). The artists behind Tiny Doors have made their mark throughout Atlanta by installing whimsical 6-inch-tall doors around town that locals and visitors alike share on Instagram using the tag #tinydoorsatl. And the organization #weloveatl showcases local photography on social media and in gallery installations.

    Photo by Caroline Eubanks 
    A street sculpture along the Atlanta BeltLine
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    4. Charismatic Neighborhoods
    Each of the city’s neighborhoods has a unique identity that stems from its history, architecture, and community. Cabbagetown used to be a settlement of mill workers, but over time the area has transformed and now boasts residential lofts, restaurants, and shops. Less than 20 years ago, the Westside was mostly warehouses, but the neighborhood today is a popular residential area. Inman Park was one of the city’s first planned suburbs and still has the Victorian-era homes to prove it. Other neighborhoods include Little Five Points, a bohemian district reminiscent of Haight-Ashbury; Castleberry Hill, the former red-light district; and West End, which is most famous for being the place where writer Joel Chandler Harris lived.

    Photo by Caroline Eubanks 
    Cabbagetown in Atlanta
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    5. Nearby Destinations
    Once you’ve explored Atlanta, discover the many fun spots within an hour or two of the city. Head northeast to the college town of Athens where bands such as R.E.M. and the B-52s got their start. Further north you’ll find the lovely towns and wineries of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And south of the city, you can stop by Senoia, a historic suburb that is also where The Walking Dead is shot.

    Courtesy of Georgia Appalachian Mountains
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