Atlantans are at once impressed by and dismissive of Midtown. They'll tell you that no part of the city has evolved more dramatically over the past two decades - and then they'll wax nostalgic about how it used to be (funky, seedy, a little scary) and complain about what it is now (chain restaurants and a disappearing gay epicenter). But there is much to love amid the sea of national and local knockoffs. The city's art institutions like the High Museum, SCAD-Atlanta, and the newly relocated MODA are all anchored in the neighborhood. Where once there was a wasteland, now there are great restaurants, groceries, specialty shops, townhouses, lofts, and even people.
Visit the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum
Blink and you'll miss this one-time home to the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gone With the Wind, situated just off Peachtree Street between 9th and 10th streets. (When Mitchell lived there, the structure was an apartment building, in which Mitchell lived on the ground floor.) It's there where she wrote most of GWTW, and the home contains a museum and visitor center. (Yes, the filming of the movie is also intimately detailed.)
Take a photo at Lake Clara Meer in Piedmont Park
Whether you're there in the spring (maybe for the Atlanta Dogwood Festival) or the fall (maybe for Music Midtown) or any day in between, you'll want to take a photo at the eastern edge of Lake Clara Meer, with the trees framing the office towers of Midtown behind them. If only because everybody does it.
Give a park besides Piedmont some love
Should Piedmont Park prove too packed, consider escaping to wooded Winn Park hidden deep in the winding roads of the Prado off Lafayette Drive. It's so quiet there, you can even practice your Tai Chi. Or so we've observed while on a beer-and-sandwiches picnic.
See a show at the Fox Theatre
It's historic, it's gorgeous, and it books more than 300 shows a year. In fact, in 2009 Billboard magazine named it "the No. 1 non-residency venue worldwide for the decade (5,000 seats or less)." We don't know what that means, but ... impressive, right? End the night with a cocktail and small bite at the very underrated Publik Draft House next door.
Don't drive if you can help it
Midtown is a nightmare in your car during the evening, with bottleneck traffic along Peachtree Street and many of its cross-streets (and parking isn't too swell, either). Much of Midtown is easily accessible by MARTA's rail and bus system. Trust us, the walk will do you good.
Play pool at the Independent
Midtown Promenade is an odd mix of strip-mall blandness and tucked-away institutions. Embodying this is the Independent, a damn fine pub with great grub (we like the "Aussie-Style Steak Fries" which come with sour cream and sweet chili sauce), down-to-earth clientele, and an honest-to-goodness billiards table - the way a good bar should.
Order a Sazerac at Empire State South
Despite its seeming simplicity, this mix of rye and bitters is tougher to make sing than its notes suggest. Not here, where they get it right every time. We like ours over brunch with steak and eggs, but we understand if you're not as ... aggressive in your cocktail ordering as we are.
Don't be surprised if you're offered sex
Midtown has small pockets where young prostitutes roam, offering oral sex for a sawbuck or two. We're not telling you not to get your Midtown freak on, just do it properly, and within the law - or, at least, you know, negotiate a decent price.