Queer locals and tourists alike will delight at these inspired date ideas featuring the best ATL has to offer
by Mikey Rox
It’s been a minute since we’ve been allowed to roam the streets freely sans masks, but it’s time to return to some sense of normalcy. (Whatever that means nowadays.) If you’re chomping at the bit to get out and about with bae, consider these date ideas – from the cute and cuddly to the absurdly weird and wacky – that take advantage of Atlanta’s country-in-the-city exploratory highlights.
Stars Under the Stars
In 2018, 455 movies and TV shows were filmed in Georgia (helping solidify the state’s newest nickname, “Hollywood of the South”), and in post-quarantine 2021 shooting schedules are back on track for productions that include “A Madea Homecoming,” “Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever,” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” among a multitude of others slated for release this year and next. Perhaps the most famous property shot in and around the Peach State, “The Walking Dead,” returns to AMC for its 11th and final season on Aug. 22.
This is all to say, of course, that TV and film buffs can make a date of it by visiting memorable filming locations, many of which you’ll recognize in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood of Atlanta, including the Georgia World Congress Center (“Baby Driver,” “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”), the Gulch (“The Walking Dead”), and Elliot Street Deli & Pub (“Ride Along,” “Triple 9”).
After you’ve spent the afternoon walking in the shadows of your favorite thespians (or perhaps even spotting some on the job), zip over to the 60-plus-year-old Starlight Drive-In Theatre, which plays first-run releases on massive screens outdoors and under the stars. Pull in, tune your car radio to the showings’ audio, and get cozy. Hungry? There’s an on-premises snack bar – drive-ins rely on your purchases here to stay in business, so don’t sneak in your own candy and soda, please – full of fresh junk food to satisfy you through the weekend’s double features, the always-revolving schedule of which you can find at StarlightDriveIn.com.
Burgers, Beers & Baseball
There’s no shortage of dining options at The Battery Atlanta, home to several popular bars, entertainment venues, and the Braves’ Truist Park, but keep it simple by ordering burgers and beers to go from H&F Burger, a local fave, and plop down picnic-style on the turf of the Georgia Power Pavilion, a centerpiece of the mixed-use complex. Enjoy people watching (there’s a whole bunch of hotties hangin’ out there, y’all) before heading into the park to catch a game and, if you’re lucky, a fly ball. If you didn’t bring a glove, rent one for free at the Mizuno Glove Experience located inside the Left Field and Chop House gates.
Few cities (if any) in the United States offer the sheer quantity of high-quality modern marketplaces as Atlanta, each one within a few minute’s drive of one another and providing their own unique reasons to visit.
Start your date with a shake-off-the-sleep cuppa joe at Ponce City Market’s Dancing Goats Coffee Bar, paired with a “hundred-layer doughnut” from Five Daughters Bakery, available in staple flavors like chocolate sea salt and vanilla cream or one of its limited-time offerings that have recently included summer berry crisp, pink lemonade, and cherry pie. Add a few pieces to your wardrobe from a selection of local and national retailers within the sprawling 2.1-million-square-foot building before heading up to The Roof (with a $7 daily ticket), which grants access to Skyline Park, a vintage-style carnival midway, plus other bars and eateries.
Krog Street Market, a food hall just down the road from Ponce, has you covered for a light lunch, where the shrimp cocktail and oysters at Watchman’s come highly recommend. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a scoop or three from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams then pop across the street to the Lingering Shade Social Club for an afternoon spritz or cocktail. (Mondays and Tuesdays are half-off bottles of wine for all you frugal fun-seekers.)
Finally, pay a visit to ATL’s latest all-in-one retail, service, and dining destination, The Beacon, where you can play Pinfall, a football-bowling hybrid game at Pin & Proper, engage in self-care at several salons and spas and visit the Artist Cove for a dash of culture.
Hiking Among History
Hit the trails for a brisk hike at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, where you’ll learn some of the area’s Civil War history and pay homage to the soldiers who fought for America’s right to live as one nation.
Next stop, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, a top tourist destination in Atlanta, which includes the birth home of the celebrated civil-rights leader; Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was once a pastor, and the tombs of MLK and his wife Coretta Scott King.
End your history-buff tour at the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum, which houses President Carter’s papers and other material relating to his administration and hosts special exhibits, such as the longest-living president’s Nobel Peace Prize and a full-scale replica of the Oval Office as it was during his term.
Hiking medallions are available at each of these locations’ gift shops that you can cop as souvenirs to decorate walking sticks for future excursions. Start a collection, even.
Urban Art Fantasy
Dial-up the creep factor on a walk along Doll’s Head Trail in Constitution Lake Park, an urban nature preserve excellent for birding and other wildlife watching. The trail, created by local carpenter Joel Slaton, consists of discarded doll parts and scattered trash, and visitors are encouraged to contribute their own found art to the ongoing project.
Bring a few spray cans on your visit to Krog Street Tunnel, a short underpass that connects the Atlanta neighborhoods of Cabbagetown and Inman Park, where artists – like you – have been covering the concrete to the hilts since the 1960s. Browse the murals, snap some shots for the ‘Gram, and leave a lovey-dovey tag of your own on one of the pillars.
Folk Art Park, perhaps the strangest stop on your weird-art date itinerary, is the brainchild of Eddie Owens Martin, known as St. EOM after he was “visited” by three beings from the future. Today, this psychedelic totem-pole sanctuary exists as a place for understanding and togetherness for folx on this planet and beyond.
Murder Kroger & Movie Night
Stanger things may happen on this date of mystery and macabre that begins with a stroll through Westview Cemetery, the largest in the Southeast United States and a hidden gem in Atlanta. Founded in 1884, this 600-acre memorial park contains more than 108,000 bodies, the most famous among them Coca-Cola founder Asa Candler, silent-film actress Marion Fairbanks, and rapper Dolla.
If your stomach isn’t completely turned, make a pit stop for snacks at the “Murder Kroger,” which has a seedy history of dark deeds on its property (the original building was demolished and rebuilt in 2019 in hopes of shedding the morbid moniker, but no such luck), including several fatal shootings in the parking lot and the discovery of a corpse, from 1991 to 2015.
With popcorn and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy in the car (because you’ll probably need it at this point), race over to Videodrome Atlanta, one of the last remaining video-rental stores in the area, to rent a few frightful flicks from the expertly curated collection that includes hard-to-find films and director’s cuts that are guaranteed to please even the most cynical cinephiles.
Mikey Rox is an award-winning journalist and LGBT lifestyle expert whose work has been published in more than 100 outlets across the world. He’s currently nomading across the country in his van, seeking queer excitement everywhere he roams. Connect with Mikey on Instagram @mikeyroxtravels