Party hard at the Atlanta Mess Around
East Atlanta's annual celebration of good garage rock and bad life decisions is a great place to learn just how little you know about decadence and depravity. Depending on how you process the 48 hours of teachable moments at 529 and the Earl, you'll either realize a leather jacket is not a look but a lifestyle and be back again for years to come or you'll start studying more seriously while desperately suppressing whatever it was you did that weekend.
Eat until you explode at Taste of Atlanta in Tech Square
To get a feel for Atlanta's restaurant scene in one fell, gluttonous swoop, we recommend Taste of Atlanta (Oct. 24-26). The streets of Technology Square in Midtown are full of people and lined with tents staffed by almost 100 local restaurant folk. There will also be chefs doing cooking demonstrations on stages, and a VIP experience — if you can afford it — for $75. You have to be 21 because there will be alcohol on the premises. General admission costs $25 for the time being, but ticket prices usually go up as the event nears, so scoop them up now while they're cheapest.
Start planning your costume now for the L5P Halloween Parade
On any given day, Little Five Points is full of characters, but never so much as during its annual Halloween Parade (Oct. 18). More than 35,000 people pack into the small neighborhood's main drag along Euclid Avenue to celebrate the creepy holiday. Rub elbows with giant Day of the Dead skulls, ooh and ah at napping vampire babies, cheer on a grown man in a Day-Glo tutu. Other than Dragon Con, you'll be hard pressed to find wilder floats or more terrifying costumes.
Take Pride in your city
The Southeast's largest gay pride festival takes place every October in Atlanta. Thousands of participants crowd Peachtree Street for the parade, at which you can expect to find much leather, bare skin, rainbows, and fun all in the name of LGBT rights.
Attend all the music festivals
The Atlanta area has become ground zero for a slew of massive music festivals. Five to know are: Shaky Knees, a formidable indie rock festival in the core of Atlanta's concrete jungle — a good fit for those who refuse to accept the drum machine takeover. TomorrowWorld is a rural EDM oasis for those who want to dance themselves into a frenzy with more 100,000 like-minded candykids from all over the globe. At Counterpoint, an eclectic mix of hip-hop heads and members of the furry boot brigade gather near the dusty outskirts of Rome, Ga., to boogie down and start the slow descent into tinnitus. Music Midtown is Atlanta's most family-friendly festival, packing Piedmont Park with today's chart-topping rock, pop, and hip-hop artists. Arguably the most cost-efficient, true-blue hip-hop festival in the nation, A3C boasts lineups that give equal play to lost heroes of Southern crunk lore, storied boom bap legends, and up-and-coming artists.
Read up on the Decatur Book Festival
Hundreds of authors (600 in 2014), arts programming, cooking demos, a 2014 keynote from Joyce Carol Oates, two parades, a children's film festival ... good luck trying to fit it all in at this insanely popular annual lit event in downtown Decatur every Labor Day weekend.
Fill your calendar with cons
Dragon Con, the colossal sci-fi convention that takes over Downtown's Marriott Marquis each Labor Day weekend needs no introduction (although that probably counts as one). There is also a comics convention – the Atlanta Comic Convention – that squeezes the whole experience into one day, four times a year. For anime lovers and gamers, the two major conventions to hit are MomoCon in May and Anime Weekend Atlanta in September.
Get your money's worth at a beer festival
Beer festivals can be pricey, but Atlanta's craft and local beer scene has experienced unprecedented, historic growth in recent years. You may have to drop 30 or 40 bucks to get in, but it's a small price to witness history in the making, people! The Great Atlanta Beer Fest takes place at Turner Field. It is a monster with more than 150 different beers from Georgia and Atlanta, the Southeast, and all over America to sample. Possibly the most popular fest in town (it sold out last year and there are only 4,000 tickets on sale this year), the Decatur Craft Beer Festival features more than 100 craft beers, special tappings, food for sale, and live music. The East Atlanta Beer Fest also draws thousands to the neighborhood's Brownwood Park every May.
Line up on Edgewood Avenue
Like waiting in line to get inside bars? Enjoy having sangria sloshed on your feet? Get your jollies taking shots and then darting back and forth across the street between moving vehicles? You're 21, of course you do. You will love Edgewood Avenue on the weekends, where there are more bars packed into a quarter mile than any one person should really drink at in an evening – Church, Mother, Joystick Gamebar, Corner Tavern, and Noni's, among others. Prefer live music or a world-famous DJ? Check out the Sound Table, Erosol, or the Music Room.
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