Sandwiched between Downtown and Buckhead, Midtown Atlanta is one of the city’s most well-known, bustling neighborhoods. Home to Piedmont Park, miles of skyscrapers, three MARTA stations, and even more Fortune 500 company offices, this dense district is a modern metropolis. The area has a rich history that spans nearly 150 years.
As settlers expanded north after the Civil War, Peachtree Street transformed from a rural path to a premiere road lined with mansions and shops. Midtown hosted the Piedmont Exhibition in 1887, and later the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition, touting innovations and boosting Atlanta’s reputation. After the success of both events, the city purchased the land, which became today’s Piedmont Park. Expanded streetcar lines and prime locations attracted wealthy residents. The area around Peachtree and 10th became a signature retail spot.
The introduction of the Downtown Connector and the popularity of newer, flashier suburbs caused a decline in Midtown by the 1960s. But the decline also meant cheap rent and opportunity, which attracted artists, hippies and the counterculture movement. It’s here where the origins of Midtown’s reputation as an LGBT oasis bloomed. Artists found Midtown a budding hub with the development of the Memorial Arts Center and the Atlanta College of Art. While the areas between Ponce and 14th now conjure images of sterile glass towers and office workers on scooters, 50 years ago it was home to seedy businesses and struggling artists.
The development of Colony Square, MARTA’s new subway system, and several corporate towers in the 1970s sharply reversed this trend as big money was once again attracted to Midtown. AT&T’s desire to bulldoze the historic Fox Theatre for development spawned a successful movement to “Save the Fox” and the theater was protected with historic designation. However many of the old mansions and apartment buildings were not as lucky in the coming decades of development.
The 50-story One Atlantic Center, built in 1987, started a trend of skyscrapers dotting the sky beyond the downtown core. Major company headquarters, apartments and condo towers now line the skies between Ponce and 17th Streets. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta relocated to the old prime intersection of 10th and Peachtree. And Georgia Tech’s investment in Tech Square and Midtown has turned the neighborhood into a growing tech hub.
Today, Midtown is almost unrecognizable from any period of its past. With almost a fifth of the city’s population in the neighborhood — from students to CEOs — and a bevy of entertainment and recreation options, there’s always something to do or see here.
What can I do for fun in Midtown?
Get in touch with the arts. Midtown is one of Atlanta’s premiere museum districts, with numerous places to explore art from the classical to the contemporary. Start off at the High Museum, whose permanent collection spans millennia of art from Western sources and a growing collection of African art. Their current exhibitions include an illustrated guide through the turn of 20th-century French art and photography, a retrospective of the life and work of Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter, and a photography exhibition on the contemporary American South.
Next, go across the street and into the present day with the Museum of Design. Running through the end of 2023, “Level Up! Pixels, Play, and Progress” highlights modern indie video games that focus on storytelling. Play a curated selection of games and learn about the history of the medium. The museum also offers various classes for kids and adults related to design, interactive entertainment, and culture.
Finally, check out the Center for Puppetry Arts, which everyone from kids to Muppet fans will love. The largest puppetry-focused organization in the country, this museum and its theater feature an extensive collection of memorabilia. While the collection touches on the global history of puppetry, the best part is its decade-old Jim Henson wing, with hundreds of puppets and artifacts from Henson’s works and life. Check out a show in the theater, which puts on shows for kids and adults alike throughout the year. For the holiday season, they put on a live rendition of the classic animated film “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
See a show at the Fabulous Fox. With its unique history and Moorish-inspired architecture, the Fox Theatre is Atlanta’s premiere entertainment venue. Home to the annual Broadway in Atlanta series, the Fox brings the best of New York theatre to you throughout the year. The 2023-24 lineup includes hits like “Annie,” “Hamilton,” “Beetlejuice,” and “Aladdin.” The Fox also hosts comedians, musical acts, movies and much more. Get there early and you might hear tunes from Mighty Mo, a restored organ that bellows tunes throughout the theater pre-show!
Stroll through Piedmont Park. One of the largest parks in the city, Piedmont Park is home to more than 180 acres of green space, trails, and recreational facilities. Like many locations in Midtown, Piedmont Park is also a cultural hub. The park is also home to a weekly farmers market on Saturdays (running March to December), multiple arts festivals throughout the year, and music festivals such as the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Music Midtown and ONE Music Fest. With a direct connection to the Atlanta Beltline and nearby MARTA stations, there’s no excuse not to get out and enjoy the weather before winter sets in.
Where are the best places to eat and drink in Midtown?
El Vinedo Local
Start your day with coffee and a guava pastry from this South American-inspired restaurant. Come back later in the day for a glass of wine and to nosh on small plates before your show at the Fox. This cozy yet classy restaurant overlooks Peachtree and has something for all hours of the day. Snack on savory beef empanadas, crispy arepas, or dig into some ceviche or filet mignon skewers during dinner hours if you’re really hungry. Just getting drinks with a friend? Their extensive wine and drink list is available even when the kitchen is closed.
Location: 730 Peachtree Street, Suite 100; Hours: Breakfast: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday: 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; Lunch: every day, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Dinner: Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday: 5-8 p.m.; Thursday through Saturday: 5-9 p.m.; Website: elvinedolocal.com
Mukja Korean Fried Chicken
Mukja isn’t any old KFC or Hattie B’s chicken chain. Hidden away off Peachtree Place, this gem of a chicken restaurant blends Korean flavors with Southern savor. The star of the show is their perfectly crispy chicken — available as a whole bird, tenders, or thighs. Add on sides such as kimchi mac and cheese, cheesy corn, or loaded kimchi fries and wash it down with a selection of local and import brews.
Location: 933 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 951; Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.; Website: mukjaatl.com
Xi’an Gourmet House
Recently featured in Michelin’s inaugural Atlanta highlights, this unassuming Chinese diner saves its flavor for its food. An offshoot of their Duluth location, Xi’an features its eponymous region’s cuisine, with numerous hand-pulled noodle dishes, dumplings, and soups. Dig into their spicy cumin lamb bang bang noodles or order a dozen pork dumplings dipped in spicy soup broth. Trust us, your sinuses will thank you.
Location: 955 Spring Street NW; Hours: Wednesday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Website: xiangourmethouse.kwickmenu.com Available on all major delivery platforms.
Cypress Pint and Plate
There’s no shortage of places to drink in Midtown, but this longtime pub has a little of everything. Pages upon pages of beers and wine? Check. Spacious patio to watch the game or play some weekly trivia on? Check. Wings, fries, and all that good pub food? You got it. Cheeseburger that uses a Krispy Kreme donut for a bun? Uh, check! (It’s not great for your arteries, but it tastes amazing.)
Location: 817 W Peachtree Street NW; Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to midnight; Website: cypressatl.com
Fresh on the Midtown scene, AltaToro is a Latin tapas restaurant serving the flavors of Peru, Argentina, and Mexico. Step into the jungle and onto their leafy, secluded patio, or dine inside in the shadow of a giant tree as live music is performed most nights. The menu is just as bold, with seasoned steaks, Spanish sea bass, flashy cocktails, and staples like croquetas and tacos. Weekend brunches offer a churro waffle, chilaquiles, and a salsa-covered eggs benedict, among other options.
Location: 915 West Peachtree Street NW; Hours: Dinner: Monday through Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5-11 p.m.; Sunday, 5:30- 9:30 p.m.; Lunch: weekdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Brunch: Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Website: altatoro.com
Bring a friend (or three) and share the flavors of Persian cuisine at this lauded restaurant’s fancy new Colony Square location. Beyond their imposing metal doors lies a world of savory dips, plentiful rice, and large, fragrant plates of meat and spices. Start with flatbread paired with one of their many hummus or yogurt dips and add a side of Shirin rice and grilled vegetables. When you’re ready to dig into the main plates, share a kebob — like the aromatic Soltani or the tart Torsh — or gheimeh, a blend of crispy potatoes, tomato, and beef.
Location: 1175 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 130; Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturday: noon to 11 p.m.; Sunday: noon to 10 p.m.; Website: rumiskitchen.com