Most Atlantans know the popular in-town favorites: Virginia-Highland (VaHi), Little Five Points (L5P) and Inman Park. These neighborhoods draw many people during the weekends for shopping, dining and site seeing. But for a change of pace consider the hidden gems of eastern Atlanta.
Driving past Virginia-Highlands and Poncey-Highland, on the winding and sometimes treacherous Ponce de Leon Avenue you will pass a sign: Now leaving Atlanta. Technically you are actually going in and out of Atlanta and Decatur, a nearby small city. The sign does make a great point though; you do feel like you are leaving Atlanta, or at least what you know of it.
Veering off to East Lake Drive are the neighborhoods of Oakhurst, East Lake and Kirkwood. These little neighborhoods offer delicious dining choices without the crowds of aforementioned VaHi and L5P; boutique shops and comfortable living amongst a setting of restored bungalows and southern charmers like Victorian mansions. These neighborhoods are like an urban Mayberry–neighbors are close-knit, offering a small-town feeling but there’s still urban culture and a nightlife scene.
Starting in Oakhurst, there’s a cluster of excellent neighborhood restaurants all within walking distance from one another. Start at Steinbeck’s and enjoy the wings, then hop over to Universal Joint for a burger and full patio seating. If you are in the mood for fine dining, try Wahoo! Grill Decatur on the outskirts of Oakhurst. Behind this village area are several streets filled with adorable bungalows and friendly people.
Continuing down East Lake Drive, is East Lake. This community has housing styles similar to Oakhurst and an active group of residents as can be seen in the organizations that are here–East Lake Community Learning Garden, East Lake Farmers Market and East Lake Foundation, which hosts the annual TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Take a right turn onto Hosea Williams Drive, and after 4-5 blocks you will enter Kirkwood Station, the village-center of Kirkwood. This alternative retail district offers unique finds like Dulce Vegan Bakery, Le Petit Marche for provincial French cuisine and even a doggy-day-care, Kirkwood Bark & Lounge.
So when the question pops up, “What do we do this weekend,” consider these eastern gems as an alternative to the overcrowded Midtown areas.
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