Atlanta comes by its nickname ‘Hot-lanta’, as Georgia temperatures can creep high in the summer months. Fortunately, the moniker denotes much more than soaring temps – this cosmopolitan Southern city has red-hot dining, shopping, fun events for the whole family and, thankfully, plenty of ways to cool off.
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This month starts off big, with the Peachtree Road Race, a 4 July institution since 1970. It’s the world’s largest 10k race, welcoming 60,000 runners from around the globe and as many spectators cheering them along. The celebration of America’s most patriotic holiday continues all day, with Lenox Square Mall’s 54th annual Legendary 4th of July featuring activities and entertainment and culminating in the largest fireworks display in the Southeast, at 9.40pm. If rubbing elbows with the crowd (which can swell to over 150,000) doesn’t appeal, plan to watch the dazzling show from the comfort of one of Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta’s rooms or suites overlooking the action.
Atlanta continues to climb the ranks as an important art destination, and The High Museum’s new exhibition, Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis, represents the first time the title work will appear in the southeastern United States. More than 35 pieces from Dutch masters, including Vermeer, Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Jan Steen, are on display.
Although Stone Mountain Park is on the outskirts of town, it’s worth a trip and is home to one of the city’s quintessential summer rites of passage: the Lasershow Spectacular. Kids of all ages will love the fanciful stories set to music, which are splashed in stunning laser light on the mammoth granite rock after the sun goes down. Plan to bring a blanket and picnic dinner – the Buckhead outpost of Highland Bakery is a perfect place to pick up salads, sandwiches and sweets – and enjoy the show.
There are few better ways to find a reprieve from the heat and score a retail workout than a lap or two around Phipps Plaza. A newly opened outpost of Agent Provocateur joins the luxe ranks of Versace, Michael Stars, Anne Fontaine and Bottega Veneta, and the slick indoor space ensures that the only thing breaking a sweat will be your method of payment. South African eatery Yebo is a lively watering hole right inside the centre, ideal for a post-shopping bite and beverage.
Something about the summer months begs for great food. Fortunately, Atlanta has a plethora of outposts to sate your appetite. Nearly hidden in the Shops Around Lenox, gem of an eatery Seven Lamps serves craft food in the form of small plates in an intimate, low-lit setting. The well-curated wine list and collection of reinterpreted classic cocktails mean it’s somewhere you’ll want to stick around for the evening. For fresh-off-the-boat seafood, brand new sushi outfit Umi is making a splash, serving pristine sashimi, nigiri, Japanese grilled specialties and cocktails. It already has a celebrity following – sometime Atlanta resident Sir Elton John attended the opening. But a weekend stay in Atlanta isn’t complete without Sunday brunch at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta. Tuck into the kitchen’s signature buttermilk chicken and waffles – think sweet tea-marinated chicken breast and North Georgia apple chutney. It’s worth a splurge at any time of the year.
Finally, soothe away the South’s humidity with a treatment at the immaculate two-floor Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta. The one-hour and 50-minute Peaches and Cream massage, featuring peach oil and a red clay scalp treatment, is the only way to relax after an active day in Atlanta.
Jennifer Bradley Franklin
writes about travel, food, celebrities and fashion for publications including People and Southern Seasons, as well as Time.com