Actually Cool Things You Can (Still) Do in Atlanta Right Now

Even locals love this stuff.

Even throughout the whirlwind that has been 2020, Atlanta still has no shortage of fun things to do. Outings like scoping out the best new restaurants that have joined our rapidly growing food scene or dragging all of your friends to your favorite cocktail bar have become feasible once again, but mass gatherings at any of Atlanta’s beloved concert venues as well as any of the cities annually recurring festivals are still out of the question. 

Regardless, we’ve all figured out by now that during these times, we must simply move differently. While several businesses have safely reopened under new social distancing guidelines, the pandemic has altered the ways in which you can experience the city, but thanks to the Dirty South’s resilience, there’s still plenty of actually cool things to do. In the words of Jermaine Dupri and every flight attendant landing at Hartsfield-Jackson, welcome to Atlanta.

Take a tour of Atlanta with us

In this episode of Gatekeepers, our go-to ATL expert shows Thrillist what Magic City’s all about. We roll around iconic skating rink Cascade, eat a truly insane amount at Eats, get educated at the Trap Museum, take in the views atop Ponce City Market, finish it all off with a nightcap at Parlor, and more.

Hit up one of Atlanta’s brunch spots

Are you really in Atlanta if you don't take advantage of one of the incredible brunch spots? There are tons of options, including the Atlanta Breakfast Club delivery pickup, The Spice House, or the all-day-breakfast staple, Flying Biscuit Cafe -- all of which are currently offering delivery and/or takeout. Wherever you go, it’s unlikely you’ll be disappointed, especially if mimosa kits are involved.

Get lost in a tunnel of cool art

If perusing art in a digital museum isn’t your forte, try getting some fresh air and looking at it in a tunnel. The Krog Street Tunnel is an underground alternative art museum that was built in 1912 and connects the Inman Park and Cabbagetown neighborhoods. You can spot everything from massive murals to event flyers to random initials with hearts around them as there are barely any unpainted areas visible to the naked eye.

Reach new heights at the High Museum of Art

Going to an art museum doesn’t have to be boring, especially when it’s the High Museum of Art. Since its closing in response to COVID-19 earlier this spring, the High has officially reopened under new safety and health guidelines. If you aren’t quite ready to visit high-traffic attractions, you can still see exhibits from a variety of art collections, including African, European, American, and contemporary all without getting up from your couch as a part of its Stay Connected initiative. In addition, you can hear talks from museum curators, find new DIY activities to try, and tune in to virtual events. Regardless of whether you want to explore the High in person or over your computer, there’s a lot to get into.

Get hoppy with to-go drinks from a local brewery

While Atlanta hosts a collection of bars in all shapes, sizes, and price points, sometimes -- and probably now more than ever -- you just need to have a beer at a good ol’ brewery. And although COVID-19 regulations won’t allow you to enjoy your drinks there, at least you can grab some to go and down your beer from the comfort of your home. Grab what you need from one of the Transformers-esque named spots like Scofflaw or Orpheus, or classics like Atlanta Brewing Company and rooftop favorite New Realm Brewing. Due to loosened COVID-19 restrictions, many breweries are now offering outdoor and patio seating, so check with your favorite one for the most up to date information.

Stop and smell the flowers (through your mask) at the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Although it initially closed during the early stages of the pandemic, The Atlanta Botanical Garden is back in full fashion, with an updated timed ticketing system and a safe, socially distanced experience. With revamped regular events like Cocktails in the Garden, a visit promises to be an entirely new experience, from its reimagining of Alice in Wonderland to its new exercise and art classes.

See a drive-in movie

Yes, drive-ins still exist, and we’re glad Starlight is one of them. Most people think drive-ins only show classic throwback movies, but this Southeast Atlanta gem also offers showings of current movies. Adult tickets are $10 and kids -- ages 5-9 -- are $1. Starlight’s website has several rules and recommendations, such as getting to the lot early to get a good viewing spot and if you have a larger car, you’ll have to park in the back (sorry!). It’s a glorious way for cinephiles to enjoy new movies while continuing to practice social distancing.

Get inspired at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Atlanta has a rich civil rights history, so it makes sense for the city to have such a wide array of museums and parks dedicated to the efforts of prominent civil rights leaders, from the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. For the moment, however, both of those establishments unfortunately still remain closed. In the meantime, check out the museum’s Power to Inspire virtual series from earlier this summer, as well as its other educational and motivational digital content.

Explore Atlanta’s vibrant culture through photo-ops

One of the major letdowns of the pandemic has been the inability to get dressed up, go out, and get flicks for the Gram. Well, thanks to Culture Experience, you can now get dressed up and visit some of the most crucial moments from Atlanta’s history and culture. From the late-’90s insanity of Freaknik to the legendary Cascade Skating Rink, the interactive photo exhibit takes you on an expansive journey through more than 20 milestone moments. Who needs a club pic when you can grab a socially distanced Freaknik flick instead?

Shred -- or watch other people shred -- at Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark

What better way to spend a nice afternoon than at an eco-friendly skatepark that Tony Hawk’s foundation helped fund? Historic Fourth Ward’s Skatepark has all the ramps you need to shred at a safe distance, but if you’re as uncoordinated as I am, you may prefer to make the short trek to Historic Fourth Ward Park instead. Named after the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood that surrounds it, this family-friendly park has ample space for picnics and easy access to bike on Gateway Trail. Before you leave the area, make sure you check out the skatepark's recently added mural created by Era honoring Kobe Bryant.

See what all the hubbub about patio dining is about

Thankfully, restaurants have been able to bounce back a bit from the heavy COVID-19 restrictions earlier this year by reopening with outdoor, patio, and rooftop dining -- and the common consensus around the city is that it’s lit. Apart from curbside pickup and takeout, outdoor dining is currently the safest dining option in the city, so if you feel safe with the concept, try out some of the best outdoor dining experiences right now, from the Hotel Clermont and The Select to Grindhouse Killer Burgers and Victory Sandwich Bar.

Find an excuse to laugh

Safe to say, we need a good laugh this year. For those looking for a new source of comedy in their lives, RoleCall Theater is hosting a weekly outdoor comedy series at the Amphitheater at Ponce City Market. With comedy sketches from the local collective Mighty Shorts and standup sets from Laughing Skull Lounge’s best acts, every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday is sure to be a funny one.

Hear live music once again

While the era of mosh pits, music festivals, and local elbow-to-elbow concerts appears to be over for the foreseeable future, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still witness the power of live music during quarantine. Park Tavern is currently hosting its Sunset Sessions -- a free, weekly, alternative music series held under Park Tavern’s garden tent -- and there has been a promising run of drive-in concerts throughout the summer featuring talents ranging from the early 2010s rap trio Travis Porter to R&B legends like Bell Biv Devoe and Jagged Edge.

Have a luxurious staycation

Many of us have experienced a vacation-less summer, so we owe it to ourselves to plan a nice getaway. Mask mandates and new health regulations across the city have gotten much better, so a short stay at your favorite local hotel can be a safe respite. If you’re unsure on which establishment to host your staycation, the Loews never disappoints, and it through its new “Welcoming You Like Family” campaign, the hotel is offering the Park, Play, Extend your Stay package -- a major deal that includes complimentary valet parking, a daily $25 food and beverage credit, possible room upgrades, and a late checkout at 4pm.

Support Atlanta’s Black community

The events of 2020 have proven that Atlanta’s Black community, much like the broader Black community across the country, needs a lot of help -- with heavy policy mandates and economic support. Research and support nonprofits that lift Black voices, order tasty food from Black-owned restaurants, and partonize amazing Black fashion brands based in the city. After all, this community makes Atlanta what it is.

Fill your belly with some of Atlanta’s soul food

If there’s one thing you have to do while you’re in Atlanta, it’s help yourself to some soul food. The list of restaurants is endless, of course, and you could probably spend an entire week alone eating at them all (we won’t judge if you do). Start your soul food journey with takeout, delivery, or a socially distanced dining experience from local staples like Busy Bee Cafe, The Original Big Daddy’s Dish, or K&K Soul Food.

Do social distance yoga at Piedmont Park

We could all use some meditation and steady breathing in our lives -- especially right now -- and Piedmont Park’s scenery offers a much-needed source of peace. Piedmont Park Conservancy’s free yoga sessions are currently canceled until further notice, but don’t let that stop you. Find some empty space, set up your yoga mat, and do some yoga solo-dolo.

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Kristen Adaway is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @kristenadaway
Joshua Robinson is an Atlanta-based contributor for Thrillist.