For generations, Atlanta has drawn people from all over and from all walks of life — and that definitely includes gay people. It’s a cosmopolitan city, sure, but this Southern belle moves at a slower, more graceful pace. There’s no denying the city heats up during the muggy summers, but the long autumns, mild winters and vivid, flower-filled springs make up for it.
Piedmont Park and the Atlantic Botanical Gardens provide ample urban green space. Atlanta Pride, one of the largest of all such American celebrations, brings more than 300,000 revellers to the park each October, from around the southeast region and beyond. Black Gay Pride takes place over the Labour Day weekend.
This city’s been at the centre of some of the most important events in American history, particularly during the Civil War and the civil rights movement — be sure to pay a visit to Martin Luther King Jr’s birthplace. Lest we forget, this is also where Coca-Cola and CNN originated.
These days, though, the city stands out for the range and quality of performing and visual arts on offer. The High Museum of Art, having recently collaborated with the Louvre, MoMA and the Republic of China, has cemented its reputation as one of the premier museums in the United States. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, one of the United States’ leading orchestras, is known for the excellence of its live performances and presentations and serves as the region’s cornerstone for artistic development and music education. A number of Atlanta neighbourhoods, including Midtown West and Castleberry Hill, as well as the more established Bennett Street and Peachtree Hills areas, are notable for their art scenes.
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the busiest in the world. But unlike other big-city airports, it is convenient to the city centre. It can take as little as 15 minutes to drive to Midtown, and there’s a MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) rail link right at the airport.
The MARTA trains and buses are a convenient option for many destinations around Atlanta. The city as a whole, though, is spread out, making driving to many areas mandatory, but plan ahead: Atlanta has bad traffic and sometimes long commute times.
Except, perhaps, for New Orleans, there’s no Southern city with comparable gay nightlife. Private sex clubs, nude male dancers, thriving leather and bear playgrounds, and the stripped-down hunks seen on dancefloors here complement a laid-back and casual attitude to pleasures of the flesh, with a multicultural and cross-racial mix. At the centre of an otherwise socially conservative part of America, there’s a little something for everyone here.
The reigning epicentre of gay Atlanta remains Midtown, and its anchor is 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue. The area has seen explosive growth, which has changed the former skid-row area along Peachtree Street to a gleaming corridor of high-rise condos. Still, its leafy, tranquil and low-swung residential area of restored bungalows and Victorian houses remains intact. You can check it out between Juniper Street and Monroe Drive.
In East Atlanta, in and around the intersection of Flat Shoals Road and Glenwood Avenue, early-20th-century buildings contain cool restaurants and some of the city’s best nightlife and indie music. Many of these turn-of-the-century gems remain untouched and ready for a renaissance.
Midtown West, a former warehouse and railroad district, is turning into a destination. The neighbourhood around Howell Mill Road and Marietta Street has a number of galleries and shops, as well as some of the city’s best-loved and most adventurous restaurants.
In Buckhead, mansions, expensive restaurants and upscale hotels are plentiful; the most exclusive shopping areas in the city, Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, stand kitty-corner from each other, on Peachtree Road.