When our staff started to have a conversation about putting together this year's Summer Guide, I wanted to know what we meant by "summer." Maybe that sounds pretentious or dumb or silly, but I really meant it. You could say that it is the three months or so between Memorial Day and Labor Day, or you could just call it "the hot months," but summer, when I think about it, brings to mind a lot more than temperatures and dates on a calendar. Summer is an afternoon at the city pool. It is a concert in the park. It is being in a new place with people you barely know and a few you know too well. If winter is the season of lonely reflection, for holing up in a small place to stay warm, then summer is the egalitarian moment, a time for being in public, for having a great communal experience, for sharing with the people around you.

In that spirit, we wanted to put together a guide to summer in Atlanta that recognized the spirit of the everyman. We may need big stars like Leonardo DiCaprio to helm our summer blockbusters, but don't we need the projectionist who plays them just as much? And what good is Bob Dylan performing in the park if we can't buy a corn dog from the girl selling them in the back? We profiled a few of these people, our "Heroes of Summer." Without them, the season just wouldn't be the same.

If you want the quickest route to that big, shared moment, take a look at our list of 101 summer events. Our critics and writers put together the events we're looking forward to most in the coming months.

For a slightly slower route, we've created four overnight road trips from Atlanta for less than $200. Too often travel features feel like they're designed for people with bags of money or months of free time. It seems like travel writers assume you're either spilling thousands on a few nights at a luxury resort or taking six months off to backpack Southeast Asia. We wanted to feature trips that most people could afford, even on a writer's busy schedule and meager budget. With just $200 bucks in their pockets, our staffers cut out far and wide. We searched for rare records and dive bars in the mountains, communed with nature in a tree house, and visited the dying days of neon-soaked motor lodge kitsch. Don't have a car, or just don't want to drive one? There's also a backpacking adventure in the outdoors using only public transportation.

And if Hollywood is very carefully engineering a season of summer blockbusters for every kind of moviegoer — the kid with her parents, the couple on a date, the teenagers who want to see something blow up — shouldn't we know which movie is being cynically targeted to us? Film critic Curt Holman put together a spread that helps you find the perfect movie for you in convenient flowchart format.

During the last meeting while putting together this issue, we placed a huge order at Heirloom Market BBQ, cracked open a 12-pack, and gorged on some smoked meat and kimchi slaw for lunch. Sharing food doesn't get much better than that. If you're looking for a good way to start your summer, we couldn't recommend it more.

— Wyatt Williams

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