Things to do in Atlanta

Unveiling Atlanta: A Locals' Guide to the City's Best-Kept Secrets

Learn about a town as you visit its hidden gems. These hot spots in Atlanta are hush-hush — and total must-sees!

Pssst . . . are you tired of the typical tourist spots? Are you craving some culture, something a little off the beaten track, something (dare we say) different? Your visit to one of the best cities in the south just got a lot more promising, thanks to our guide to the best hidden gems and things to do in Atlanta.

Whether you’re looking for a laugh or want to explore this city’s complex and fascinating past, these secret locales tick every box.

Atlanta’s Hidden Gems in Downtown

Downtown Atlanta seamlessly blends historic architecture and modern, urban charm. It’s also wonderfully walkable, which means you can call a rideshare service or stroll from site to site as you hop through the area’s hidden gems.

1. The Atlanta Monetary Museum

We’ve come a long way from the days when pelts and grain were considered currency, and you can track much of that history, thanks to the exhibits at the Atlanta Monetary Museum. Get interactive as you learn about the economy and toy with various cash-processing techniques.

If you feel a little gasp escape when you witness the Fed’s method for shredding damaged bills, we wouldn’t blame you one bit. Self-guided tours ensure you can marvel at money at your own pace, and you don’t even need to schedule your visit. Guided tours are also free, but you need to make an appointment.

Atlanta’s Hidden Gems in Midtown

Commercial interests and an artistic atmosphere somehow live in harmony in Midtown Atlanta. Big-name attractions, such as the High Museum of Art and the Margaret Mitchell House are here, but so are these urban oases.

2. The Goat Farm Arts Center

As art lovers, we thrive anywhere expression can shine, and The Goats Farm Arts Center is a haven for multidisciplinary artists that dates back to the 1880s. What was once a hub of cotton processing became a place where artists from painters and sculptors to musicians and photographers could experiment and innovate.

The site is available for film crews (The Walking Dead once shot here), but there are also performances, art shows, and other interactive experiences open to the public.

In late 2023, the art center's resident artists temporarily reloaded as the main property underwent the beginnings of a $250 million renovation. Among the planned upgrades are new structures with live-work spaces, including affordable housing priced below market rates and an arts-based hotel with two fledgling restaurants.

3. Lake Claire Community Land Trust

The Lake Claire Community Land Trust is a stellar example of what can happen when neighbors come together to honor the land they call home. In the 1980s, a group of Atlantans bought up 1.5 acres of red clap and turned that plot into a peaceful retreat.

Locals come here to have birthday parties, picnics, and concerts. It’s a great place for anyone to simply kick back and enjoy a slice of nature that's well away from the bustling city center. Keep an eye on the event calendar to help plan your visit.

Fun get-togethers such as a holiday arts and crafts fair, drum circles, and community potlucks give you an excuse to get to know the trust and the people behind it.

Atlanta’s Hidden Gems in Buckhead

Stylish, sophisticated, and perfect for shopping, Buckhead is a neighborhood known as much for its history as it is for its independent galleries and boutiques.

4. Swan House at the Atlanta History Center

You won’t find Swan House at the Atlanta History Center on most lists of must-see house museums, but that’s exactly why it’s such a hidden gem in Atlanta, Georgia. This ode to art deco architecture was built for Edward Inman, a prominent businessman, and his philanthropist wife, Emily.

After Emily’s passing in 1965, the Atlanta Historical Society purchased the home and the majority of its furnishings and turned it into a museum. Now, you can wander the woods around the house, explore the Philip Trammell Shutze-designed gardens, or take in one of the temporary exhibits exploring history, design, and early 20th-century Southern culture.

And there’s a bonus, Katniss fans. You may recognize Swan House at the Atlanta History Center as the HQ of Coriolanus Snow, the villainous ruler of Panem in the Hunger Games.

5. Whittier Mill Village

Way down yonder on the Chattahoochee River sits a former cotton mill site turned 17-acre city park. Whittier Mill Village and the actual mill that anchored the historic enclave were established in 1895. Many of the original homes used by workers — who paid just $1 per week in rent — have survived the passage of time.

Now, those bits and pieces of history anchor a green space that’s in the middle of urban sprawl yet feels quite removed. Visitors to this hidden gem in Atlanta can see how locals lived over a century ago, but it’s also a place of rebirth.

Over the years, new homes have been added, and the neighbors are known for hosting a New Year’s Eve bash that raises funds to help support the upkeep of their quaint little corner of the world.

Photographer: Alla Kemelmakher

Atlanta’s Hidden Gems in East Atlanta

Call it boho, call it indie, or just call it laid-back — East Atlanta is a neighborhood that embraces artsy endeavors and hip ideas that are just right for hidden gems, such as street art and garage comedy. Here are some unique things to do in Atlanta.

6. Cabbagetown's Street Art and Murals

Atlanta’s Cabbagetown is another neighborhood built around mill life, first launching in the 1880s in the wake of the Civil War. The mill ran all the way until the 1970s, and when it closed, the artists moved in. That influx of culture and creativity gave Cabbagetown a new lease on life as an epicenter for good vibes and even street art.

There are three main drags for visitors looking to take in that street art. Krog Tunnel is wall-to-wall color, tagged with the names of artists from all across Atlanta. Tiny Doors ATL is a section of the city so innovative it’s an attraction on its own.

Be sure to check out the Forward Warrior Murals, a series that runs up a half-mile stretch and showcases entries into artist Peter Ferrari’s annual mural-painting event. No matter where you look, you’re greeted with original works that range from simple and stark to bold and intricate.

The diversity of thought and inspiration adorns concrete walls, underpasses, and fences, producing a walkable, open-air museum worthy of international acclaim.

Come on your own any time of year, or check the event schedule and coordinate your visit with special to-dos such as a concert, the Chomp & Stomp Festival, or a guided tour that takes guests around some of Cabbagetown’s historic houses.

Photographer: Eric Vega

7. Dad's Garage

Look up “unassuming” in the dictionary, and you may well see a picture of the exterior of Dad’s Garage in Atlanta, Georgia, but what happens inside is anything but quiet and reserved — and we love that.

This is the home of one of the city’s most revered comedy improv groups, and the calendar is chock full of shows orchestrated to generate the utmost giggles and guffaws — literally some 400 shows a year. In between hilarious plays and skit nights, drop by the Garage for comedy camp, improv classes, or a children’s show.

As a nonprofit, Dad’s Garage is constantly finding ways to partner with the community, and an hour of cabaret tonight could well fund a high-school workshop tomorrow.

Atlanta’s Hidden Gems in West Atlanta

Head to the western side of the city for a look back in time and a chance to enjoy the present surrounded by Mother Nature.

8. Cascade Springs Nature Preserve

How many picnic baskets would you need to fuel a full exploration of a 120-acre plot of land? Pack up your sandwiches and fruit salads, and head to Cascade Springs Nature Preserve to find out.

Here, natural wonders, such as a waterfall and ancient, towering trees, share space with historical structures, such as a stone springhouse and mounded earthworks dug by troops during the Civil War.

Wildlife abounds, so keep your head on a swivel as you walk this hiking trail. You may spot a deer in the woods or a turtle sunning itself on a stone — it’s almost mystical, especially when you realize all this exists right in the middle of Atlanta.

Photographer: Faiza Haji

9. Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Municipal Market, known by locals as Sweet Auburn or The Curb Market, has a history built on the backs of segregation and the Jim Crow laws that prevented Black Atlantans from selling their wares inside the main part of the market building.

Instead, those sellers set up stalls along the curb, skirting draconian regulations and making a living peddling fresh seafood, poultry, vegetables, cheese, and flowers. Today, Sweet Auburn Curb Market contains around 28 independently owned businesses. Some include produce and meat vendors and several underrated restaurants.

Drop by and pick up cured meats and pickles for an on-the-go lunch for a day trip. Or fulfill your beef quota with double-patty perfection courtesy of Grindhouse Killer Burgers. There’s also a full-service bakery and a cooking school, in case you need a little more sustenance than cotton candy and candy apples.

Here, your to-do list may include buying a half-dozen baguettes or learning how to flambé like a pro.

Atlanta’s Hidden Gems in South Atlanta

South Atlanta is just a five to 10-minute commute from downtown via public transportation. That gets you from your hotel to these essential stops in less time than it takes to order a coffee.

10. Historic Oakland Cemetery

A cemetery may not seem like an obvious choice for a list of hidden gems, but this is no ordinary resting place. Historic Oakland Cemetery is Atlanta’s oldest public park and the site where many of the city’s most notable residents were laid to rest under the weighty shadows of ancient oaks and flowering magnolias.

Among the 70,000 Georgians buried here since the cemetery opened in 1850 are author Margaret Mitchell, golfer Bobby Jones, Mayor Maynard Jackson, Selena Sloan Butler (founder of the nation’s first PTA for African Americans), Spelman College Founder Reverend Frank Quarles, and country artist Kenny Rogers.

You’ll have some 48 acres of history and beauty to explore here. You can hunt down the gravesites of city leaders. Or visit Slave Square, a corner of the cemetery used to bury enslaved women and children in the mid-1800s. Sign up for a guided tour to learn more about the people in and around Oakland.

Or come by for an event, such as a fall scavenger hunt or a celebration of seasonal spirit, that makes learning fun.

Photographer: Alla Kemelmakher

11. Apex Museum

The Black perspective of the Southern experience, both historic and modern, has been underrepresented for eons, something the APEX Museum seeks to remedy with exhibits that present an accurate interpretation of what it means to be African American.

Even the surroundings are symbolic — across the street sits a century-old business started by Alonzo Herdon, a former slave, and the building itself was built by African American masons. APEX’s exhibits tell the story of life in Atlanta.

Stand at the window of ‘20s-era Yates & Milton Drug Store, where Moses Amos, the first Black registered pharmacist in Atlanta worked, or get inspired by a retrospective of women in STEM. Exhibits are subject to change, but the museum’s mission never will.

Atlanta’s Hidden Gems in North Atlanta

Head north through areas such as Alpharetta, Duluth, and Braselton to find tiny doors and big-time charm. These hidden gems are thrilling and unique.

Speaking of thrilling and unique, embrace the evocative spookiness of our list of Halloween events in Atlanta.

Photographer: Brad Huchteman

12. Atlanta's Magic Theater

Presto change-o! Or is it abracadabra? Your spell might vary, but there’s no mistaking the sorcery taking place on the stage at Atlanta Magic Theater.

There are just 40 seats in the audience area, but that just makes for a more intimate experience as you suspend your penchant for disbelief and lean into the world-class performance (and a sprinkling of humor) served up by local leading light Peter Morrison.

A little sleight of hand here, an illusion or two there, and mentalism galore. Those are the core elements of Morrison’s show, and it’s all suitable for anyone aged 10 and up. Bring the family, make it a date night, or come alone — and come early to meet the main man himself and see what sorcery looks like up close.

13. Tiny Doors ATL

Artist Karen Anderson Singer is behind one of the quirkiest (and one of our favorite) hidden gems in Atlanta. Her Tiny Doors ATL project features a slew of 7-inch doors sculpted by Singer herself and then installed throughout the city. She calls it a tribute that reflects the “spirit, architecture, and other unique elements of the surrounding community."

And indeed, each door is like an invitation to learn and absorb joy. It can be fun to randomly come across a tiny door as you explore the city, but the project also has a map that makes it easier to track down your favorites.

Leave an offering at the original tiny door, or see if there’s a fairy near the adorable acorn door in the Stumpery Garden at Trees Atlanta. There are so many to find and photograph, and each one has its own story and theme to ooh and ahh over.

Discover All the Hidden Gems in Atlanta, Georgia

There are so many things to see in The Big Peach. Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Georgia Aquarium, and Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame — they’re all entertaining and worth a visit. But some argue the best way to get to know Atlanta is through these hidden gems that get to the heart of what the city, its history, and its people are all about.

Make the most of your stay with tickets to one of our Atlanta shows that embody the same sense of authenticity and penchant for joy embodied by Atlantans. Our productions find new ways to embrace diversity and see life through a new lens. Spend your evening witnessing out-of-this-world acrobatics and the limitless talent of our conformity-defying crew.

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