Tried and True: Atlanta BeltLine and Beyond
written by Colleen Ann McNally | photos courtesy of Raftermen Photography; Sarah Dodge; Erik Meadows Photography; Made Again; J. Merritt Photography; Kolo Collection
While we love to call the Northside home, we like to keep an eye on the neighborhoods that make our city diverse —and we know that our readers do, too. In this quarterly series, we’re covering some of our favorite spots, whether time-honored or on the rise, and a few new hotspots worth the drive.
IT’S A WEEKEND MORNING and the sunshine outside is overpowering your dedication to the typical to-do list around the house. You want a mini-escape —but something different —and you need to entertain the kids. Oh, and you can’t forget the dog.
Then you remember the Atlanta BeltLine, that big greenway project you heard about in the news. But what and where is it, exactly?
Save your sweating until you get on the trail. We’ve got you covered with this first-timer’s guide of where to go, what to eat and how to get around. So, load the bikes and buckle up. In under an hour, you’ll arrive to the scene where what was designed to improve the way people get around has become a destination itself.
GOING FULL CIRCLE
Bigger than “big,” the BeltLine isn’t just the most comprehensive transportation and economic development effort ever undertaken in the City of Atlanta. It represents what can happen when a Georgia Tech graduate student’s thesis, grassroots support and city officials make real strides.
Architect Ryan Gravel’s 1999 ideato redevelop a historic 22-mile railroad corridor circling downtown into a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit to connect neighborhoods, is now among the largest, most wide-ranging and award-winning urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the country. Four trail segments are open, as well as six new or renovated parks and a host of festivals, free fitness events and public art installations have created an enlivening community. The work continues with phases of development planned through 2030.
No doubt, it’s a hip side of town, but underneath the modern restaurants and trendy menus was much of the city’s foundation. After the Civil War, Inman Park became Atlanta’s first planned community in the 1880s and one of the nation’s first garden suburbs. As the city grew, the neighborhood changed drastically, but thanks to restoration efforts in the 1970s through today, more than 300 homes are in various stages of renovation and the surrounding community has once again flourished, garnering national attention along the way.
PLOTTING YOUR PATH
We recommend starting your journey with the Eastside Trail. The 2.2-mile stretch that borders Piedmont Park, passes by Ponce City Market, winds by both Historic Fourth Ward Park and culinary pop-stars in Inman Park before depositing urban explorers at Irwin Street, home to Krog Street Market (KSM).
Free maps are available online or with the BeltLine app, but to be specific, we suggest starting with the latter. After all, if Travel + Leisure and Bon Appétit have taken notice, naming KSM as one of the world’s best new food halls and on the list of 50 best new restaurants, respectively, why not play tourist, too? Any sunny Saturday or Sunday, the paved stretch is scattered with smiling people on bikes, blades, pushing strollers or pulling their pups. Not only does KSM offer plenty of parking and stalls of purveyors inside a repurposed 1920s warehouse, but you’ll begin just steps from Atlanta BeltLine Bicycle where you and your brood can rent two-wheels staring at $20 per day.
Pedal past colorful murals adorning the side of worn brick buildings and concrete tunnels or perhaps mosey off the main path for a refreshing King of Pops treat. Wander farther past The Window serving the now famous popsicles (at the corner of Bernina and Elizabeth Street) to discover the world of Inman Quarter.
Lining the street are cafés and shops like Made Again that will already have you planning your next outing to the area. This eco-art gallery- meets-boutique curated by Margeau Bull proudly displays handcrafted pieces from local artisans, ranging from jewelry, textiles, apothecary and stationery to furniture, fine art and home décor. In fact, their team includes an interior design firm that is conscious of both the environment and supporting the local economy.
Whatever draws you here, it isn’t far from your car or Atlanta’s skyline, but it might feel like you’ve stepped into the wilderness. Like any good wilderness guidebook will warn, be prepared to stay awhile.
At mile marker 9.25, owner Michael Lennox created the rustic yet charming Ladybird in 2014 to be an extension of the BeltLine’s active atmosphere. Both the interior and the bites served for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch nod to camp nostalgia, national parks and westward travels.We can attest that when it comes to choosing between the house-made orange juice and Batdorf + Bronson coffee or avocado toast with roasted grapefruit and the Nashville hot chicken biscuit with honey and house pickles, you’re better off with all of the above.
“Urban explorers” can choose to enjoy their reveille on the patio, at the bar, the indoor picnic-style tables by the windows, or new this month, in the Grove. The 4,000-square-footarea will more than double the dog-friendly outdoor seating and expand the fun factor —think large teepees, Adirondack chairs, retro metal gliders and communal beer garden tables, alongside plenty of bike racks, string lights and Ping Pong tables. Our favorite part? A vintage camper converted into a bar that will serve a separate drinks-only menu, including bottled cocktails.
MAPPING THE BIGGER PICTURE
As the folks behind the Belt- Line Project put it: “City leaders the world over spend decades seeking ways to upgrade infrastructure, improve housing opportunities, revolutionize transportation services, promote new job growth and bring communities together. The Atlanta BeltLine accomplishes every one of these elements, and as the project takes shape, it will provide a blueprint for urban renewal that will be envied and followed by cities across the country and around the world.”
Maybe you spend your Saturday just spinning your wheels, maybe you try something different. Maybe you show your kids what can happen when someone’s idea comes to life and can reshape an entire place.
BRINGING BELTLINE STYLE TO THE ‘BURBS
We’re borrowing a page of Ladybird’s stylebook to make our own back yards more playful this spring with some advice from Buckhead-native Julian Phillips of Yardera, the full-service landscape company behind Ladybird’s new Grove. “What was once a barren relic of an Atlanta textile mill is now being transformed into an aesthetically pleasing and entertaining venue for eating, drinking, playing and conversing, that blends seamlessly into the vibe of the BeltLine, where people can find a way station along their journey,” Phillips said. “I enjoy the whole process of taking a blank canvas and watching it become transformed, with each moment informing how the next will proceed,” Phillips said. “The part I have looked forward to most was the installation of the Totem Poles, which Michael had recycled from old telephone poles and hand-painted. This requires digging 5-foot deep holes with an auger attachment mounted on a tractor, which is basically a giant drill bit, securing and leveling the poles and setting them in concrete.” yardera.com Want more Ladybird in your yard? Once the restored camper– turned-bar is completed, Lennox hopes to rent it for parties and catered events. For more info, email Event Coordinator Melissa Houston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ONCE YOU’VE HANDLED the landscaping, you’ll want the right comfy spot to enjoy the view. For a go-to guru that knows how to hang out in high style, we were pointed to Greg Martin of Kolo Collection and rightly so. “DEDON has been the setting the trends in outdoor furniture for years,” Martin said. “Their woven synthetic collections range from cool to sophisticated in design, using color, unique weaves and designs from some of the top furniture designers in the world.” As for bringing BeltLine cool to your own back yard, nothing is hotter than Loll’s fi re pits and chairs, plus their feel-good mission. Proudly made in the USA out of recycled plastic from milk jugs for the modern lollygagger, their sustainable practices help ensure the outdoors you know will endure for generations to come. Whatever your vision, Martin shared this wisdom: “Figure out first how you want to use your space and how many people you want to entertain. Then one must look at the elements. Will the furniture be in a covered area or exposed? Test drive some furniture, ask questions about the materials and pick out what you love today and will love years from now.” For more sage advice, visit the Kolo Collection team at ADAC or Westside Provisions, or let them come to you for a complimentary design consultation. 678-321-1723, kolocollection.com