Michael E. Shapiro
The Swan House / Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Oakland Cemetery / Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Boyhood Home / Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Manuel's Tavern / Photo courtesy of Lee Coursey/Creative Commons
Michael E. Shapiro is the Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr. Director of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. He spearheaded the Museum’s 177,000-square-foot expansion by Renzo Piano that opened in November 2005, and helped establish the Georgia Art Museum Partnership initiative in 2010.
Best Historic Architecture
A few miles down Peachtree St. from the High you’ll find the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center. Designed by famed Atlanta architect Philip Trammell Shutze and built in 1928 as the home for the Edward H. Inman family, the mansion recently achieved celebrity status as one of the set locations for the movie The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. You can drop in for daily open house experiences, or take a Capitol Tour of President Snow’s mansion on weekday afternoons. If you’re there at lunchtime, be sure to stop into the Swan Coach House (formerly the grounds’ carriage house) for a delightful Southern dining experience.
Best Urban Revitalization
Ponce City Market ranks among the city’s greatest restoration successes. Located in the renovated Sears, Roebuck & Company building in the historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, the mixed-use development opened just last year. The building covers 16 acres, so there is certainly a lot to explore! It has become one of my favorite places to grab a cup of coffee (at Dancing Goats Coffee Bar) or a bite to eat (in the Central Food Hall). The Market also hosts cultural events throughout the year, including a recent project with contemporary artist Nick Cave, and it is steps from the Atlanta BeltLine, another must-see Atlanta redevelopment project that connects a network of multi-use trails and public parks.
Best Museums and Galleries
After checking out the decorative arts and design collection at the High, I’d suggest stopping in to see the latest rotating special exhibition at the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA), located just across Peachtree Street from the High. Currently on view is the exhibition “Design for Healthy Living,”which explores the impact of the built environment on human health.
The oldest cemetery in Atlanta, Oakland Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the resting place of some of the city and state’s most notable figures, including author Margaret Mitchell, golfer Bobby Jones, and former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson. The cemetery also houses a Confederate section where many of the fallen Civil War soldiers of the Atlanta Campaign are interred. On Saturdays and Sundays, you can take a guided tour of the landmark, where you’ll hear some of the fascinating stories of its history, art, and architecture.
Part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, the birth home of the Civil Rights icon is another not-to-be-missed excursion when visiting Atlanta. Guided tours are offered daily, but they fill up quickly, so be sure to get there early! Built in 1895, the two-story frame house was the King family home for 12 years and is just one block away from the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Best Restaurants and Bars
Fat Matt’s Rib Shack
If you are looking for Southern BBQ at its best, head over to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack in the Ansley Park neighborhood, located just two miles from the High. My personal go-to order is a half-slab of ribs with the “rum” baked beans and coleslaw.
In the Grant Park neighborhood, you’ll find this popular brunch/lunch diner famous for its buttermilk pancakes, which The New York Times once hailed “the world’s best pancakes.” The diner is right across the street from Oakland Cemetery too, so it is the perfect place to grab a meal before taking a tour.
This Atlanta landmark in the Poncey-Highland neighborhood recently made headlines when President Obama stopped by to throw some darts in the historic hotspot. The bar was established nearly 60 years ago by Manual Maloof, who went on to become a prominent Atlanta politician. Manuel’s continues to be family owned and operated today and has a really wonderful nostalgic atmosphere.
The Silver Skillet
The Silver Skillet restaurant on 14th Street in Midtown Atlanta is another favorite. The Formica countertops, retro-style menus, and old-school wait staff take you right back to the 1950s, the decade the restaurant was established. They serve Southern-style breakfast every day and offer a meat-and-two lunch every weekday. Be sure to try some of the red-eye gravy if you go!