Photo by Matt Miller
First off, you need a car. You may have seen signs at the airport attesting to the speed and reliability of our mass-transit system, MARTA, but if this were actually the case they wouldn’t need to advertise it so strongly. If possible, you should just get a native friend to drive you around. Atlantans are some of the worst drivers in the country. I know everybody says this about the drivers where they’re from, but how many other places do you know with a five-second buffer built in to their traffic lights to allow for people running the red? Anyways, not trying to start a pissing match here, just want to save you some screaming frustration.
Atlanta is technically a sprawling megapolis with a metro area twice the size of LA’s, but since most of that space is occupied by identical strip malls and subdivisions with contradictory names like Hillcrest Dale, you can just focus on these little pockets.
Nobody lives here and there’s nothing to do except shop at a shitty subterranean mall or walk around that park that got blown up during the Olympics. After sundown it’s basically The Omega Man. The only thing it’s really good for is getting from the highway to where the fun is.
Also called Virginia Highlands by people with a lot of time on their hands. The northern part has a lot of gay antiques stores and salons (as in homosexual-run), but all you need to be concerned with is the little southern strip along Ponce de Leon Ave, where the bums are.
LITTLE FIVE POINTS
Back in the 90s this was where cool old weirdos like Deacon Lunchbox and Benjamin from Opal Foxx hung out. These days it’s more like an alternative-culture walking mall, but there are still some good places to eat and buy stuff (see RECORD ROOMS, pg 38).
Kind of like what Little Five used to be, but also different. The East Atlanta Village along Flat Shoals Ave is a great place to get shitfaced. Some of the hinterlands get a little rough.
Occasionally you’ll hear someone mention subneighborhoods of the above zones like Ansley or Inman Park. Do not worry about this. You can probably impress a bum by telling him to fuck off back to the Fourth Ward crackhouse he crawled out of, but in general these names are only ever used by realtors. Regular Atlantans rely on a coordinated system of landmarks to get around, like the Murder Kroger, the old Lenny’s, and that place with the weird parking lot.
The one exception to the micro-neighborhood rule, Cabbagetown gets to be its own place on account of you have to pass through a little hobbit hole under the train tracks to get to it. Years ago it was a leftover enclave of poor white millworkers, but these days it’s mostly filled with loft-dwelling types. Check out the documentary Benjamin Smoke for some good footage of the neighborhood back when it was still kind of weird and run down.
If you’re into partying with the wives of some of the NFL’s up-and-coming in a club across the street from a Cheesecake Factory, say hello to paradise. Also please give someone else this guide.
OBLIGATORY STREET-NAME THING
Not that anybody with a brain gives one iota of a shit about this, but there are a couple of Atlanta engineering foibles that out-of-towners occasionally find to be slightly bananers. It pains us to even bring these up.
OK, let it all out then. Hardee har har, it’s a street called Boulevard and that’s it. Yuk yuk yuk. Not Something Boulevard, just Boulevard. Isn’t that too much? Guffaw, etc.
PONCE DE LEON
Is pronounced “Ponts da Leeyon,” or more familiarly just “Ponts.” If it’s really grating on your eight years of Spanish just pretend you’re saying pants.
PEACHTREE ST/RD/DR/BATTLE/AND SO FORTH
There are a bunch of them and that’s why they all have different last names.
Probably should have figured this out before you got in town, but if you’re stuck for a bed or get kicked out of your buddy’s place the Highland Inn (644 N Highland Ave) is cheap and in the thick of things. Downtown’s got the standard assortment of hotel chains and is a short drive/cab ride at the end of the night. If you’re traveling on someone else’s tab you should stay in the Grand Hyatt (3300 Peachtree Rd) and hang out in the blue revolving space bubble coming out of its roof.
Note: Do not stay at the Clermont Hotel unless you’re a GG Allin aficionado who likes getting in arguments with men over whether or not you touched their bedroll.