It’s Black History Month, and we’d be remiss to not include a travel guide to the homeplace of our beloved Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. From a thriving music scene to diverse culture, to some of the greatest soul food on the planet, Atlanta is literally the beating heart of the American South.
And since it’s the birthplace of some of the most historic moments in our country’s history (as well as one of our favorite cities to visit), we felt it never more appropriate of a time to give you the rundown on a few of the things that make ATL so damn special.
Built-in 1911, this hotel has one of the most glamorous histories in the city. From F. Scott Fitzgerald to Elvis Presley to Calvin Coolidge, some of the world’s most famous movers and shakers have graced this iconic retreat. The self-appointed “Grand Dame of Atlanta,” this Beaux-Arts beauty is “deeply etched in the city’s heart, history, and Southern heritage” and well worth a stay if you’re in the area.
If you’re looking for something equally historic but a bit more quaint, Stonehurst Place is the boutique inn you’ve been dreaming about. This restored 19th-century mansion boasts just six guestrooms and is equipped with 14-foot ceilings, stunning chandeliers, some of the world’s most renowned pieces of modern art, and a homemade breakfast made to order each morning.
Established in 1947 by brothers James and Robert Paschal, Paschal’s Restaurant is dripping in rich history and mouth-watering eats. It’s most famous for being one of the first places to welcome both black and white patrons (at a time when segregated seating was standard), as well as being the unofficial headquarters for the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. Fried chicken is the house specialty, but equally delicious are the braised short ribs, smothered pork chops, and peach cobbler.
A soul food standard, the Busy Bee Cafe easily has some of the best-fried chicken you’ll ever experience — there’s a reason why this locale is still one of buzziest places in the South. Also established in 1947, this Atlanta institution has fed some of the most famous Civil Rights icons, celebrities and world leaders an array of coveted classics. In addition to fried chicken, expect tender greens, cornbread, baked mac and cheese, sweet potato pie, and more.
Easily the top destination in ATL, the park includes the birth home of the leader of the Civil Rights movement in America, the church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached, and the memorial site where he is buried. Most of the park is self-guided, but you must make a reservation to visit MLK Jr.’s birth home. According to the site, it’s best to come first thing in the morning or visit on a weekday or a Sunday, as it tends to get packed pretty quickly. And be prepared to spend several hours (or half a day) since you’re going to want to take it all in.
Now a historical museum, the gorgeous Victorian home of Joel Chandler Harris is a place where African-American folklore comes to life. According to research, Mr. Harris (editor of the Atlanta Constitution and author of the Uncle Remus Tales), spent four years working on a plantation in his youth and popularized traditional tales of Brer Rabbit, Mr. Fox and more. In addition to tours, The Wren’s Nest also hosts regular storytelling as well as two writing programs for local youth.
The “Holy Grail of Atlanta Blues,” this dive is a unique spot to less loose and get down. Yet another local establishment since 1972, this no-frills bar was once a gas station but now hosts nightly musical entertainment for those looking to get their fix.
Built as a lavish movie theater in 1929, The Fox Theatre is now a performing arts venue that hosts a variety of cultural events as well as concerts by some of the world’s biggest music artists. In the 1940s it was known as the “finest movie theater in Atlanta,” and made even more notable by being the only theater to allow both white and black patrons.