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Atlanta

EXCLUSIVE | When in...Atlanta

EXCLUSIVE | When in...Atlanta

This Southern peach is a sprawling blue enclave floating in a sea of red. Its gay scene, drawing queer women and men from the region, is exuberant and approachable.

The gay mecca of the Deep South is undergoing booming change -- change that has its pluses and minuses, good parts and bad. The bad news is that Atlanta's Midtown neighborhood, while still very gay, isn't the oasis of boys, bars, and misbehavior it once was, as office towers and condos have cut into the area's queer identity. The good news is that with such a visible and vibrant gay and lesbian population, it sometimes feels like all of Atlanta is a "gay neighborhood" -- from downtown to Buckhead to the burgeoning East Atlanta Village.

The bad news is that Atlanta's gay (and straight) nightlife scene is still experiencing posttraumatic stress due to reduced bar hours and the closure of the legendary 24-hour gay club Backstreet a few years ago. The good news is that there's still not a single night of the week when you won't find a gay bar or club jam-packed, and Atlanta remains home to such major annual parties as Joining Hearts in the summer and Toy Party during the winter holiday season. And no one celebrates Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday weekend like the gay folks in his hometown.

The bad news is that much of Atlanta's commercial growth is bland and unoriginal -- like the highly celebrated (and gay-popular) Atlantic Station area, essentially an over-hyped outdoor mall. The good news is that gay retailers in Midtown and Virginia-Highland continue to offer style while showing remarkable staying power, as other gay business owners pave the way in rehabilitated districts like the East Atlanta Village and Old Fourth Ward.

STREET GUIDE

THE DRINK

Bulldogs

893 Peachtree St., 404-872-3025

Members.aol.com/Bulldognco

Hands-down the best drinks in Atlanta -- cheap and stiff, how we like our men. A tiny club that packs a powerful punch, and is the sole surviving gay club on Peachtree Street.

Mary's

1287 Glenwood Ave., 404-624-4411

MarysAtlanta.com

Located in the East Atlanta Village, this bar attracts the city's cutest gay hipsters and features potentially life-changing karaoke nights.

THE BITE

Thumbs Up Diner

573 Edgewood Ave., 404-223-0690

ThumbsUpDiner.com

There's usually a healthy wait to get into this restaurant for weekend breakfast, but you're sure to chew on lots of delicious eye candy while waiting on some of the best potatoes, pancakes, and biscuits in Atlanta.

Nickiemoto's

990 Piedmont Ave., 404-253-2010

NickiemotosMidtown.com

Tongue-tickling Asian cuisine in Atlanta's gay ground zero. Visit on Monday nights to dine and unwind with the Dragamaki show.

THE GROOVE

WETbar

960 Spring St., 404-745-9494

WetbarAtlanta.com

From its upscale VIP area to its pair of rotating dance floors, WETbar is usually the first stop for big-name DJs when they visit Atlanta. It also features the swankest bar patio in the city, with a gorgeous nighttime view of Atlanta's skyline.

Traxx

1287 Columbia Dr., 404-835-7790

TraxxAtlanta.com

Atlanta's largest gay club is technically located in neighboring Decatur, but a drive out to Traxx is always worth the trip. Up to 6,000 of Atlanta's finest squeeze into the gay hip-hop club on major party weekends, and Traxx's Thugged Out Tuesdays have been among Atlanta's most popular sets for years.

THE THREADS

Boy Next Door

1447 Piedmont Ave., 404-873-2664

While visiting Piedmont Park, stroll over to this gay menswear mainstay -- you'll look like anything but the boy next door.

Bill Hallman

784-792 N. Highland Ave., 404-876-6055

BillHallman.com

High fashion meets practical living at this local boutique, a star attraction in the Virginia-Highland shopping district.

THE BED

Wyndham Midtown

125 10th St. NE, 404-873-4800

Wyndham.com/hotels/ATLMA/main.wnt

Much of the magic of Midtown Atlanta -- from a handful of gay bars to the historic Margaret Mitchell House (Gone With the Wind) -- is moments away from the hotel lobby.

W Midtown

188 14th St. NE, 404-892-6000

WHotels.com/atlantamidtown

Opening in February 2008, this hotel is located up the street from Piedmont Park and promises the W's trademark sleek features and "it" bar.

THE EXCURSION

Lenox Square Mall

3393 Peachtree Rd., 404-814-9858

LenoxSquare.com

A so-so place to shop, Lenox Square turns into one of Atlanta's most happening informal gay clubs on Saturday evenings as gay boys people-watch and make weekend plans.

Piedmont Park

400 Park Dr.

PiedmontPark.org

Atlanta's largest and most popular park -- home to the city's annual gay pride festival -- is ideal for a casual walk or Frisbee game, or to check out one of the many gay sports leagues that play and practice there.


 

Originally published in OUT March 2008, issue 172

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