Lonely Planet Local Ni’Kesia Pannell has been living in Atlanta for more than five years. Although her writing career brought her to the Peach State from Orlando, the city's true southern charm has kept her around. From snickerdoodles to stunning hikes to budget-friendly steak nachos, there's much to discover, see, do and eat in and around the Hollywood of the South.

The many skyscrapers of the Atlanta skyline, as seen at sunset with a rosy glow cast across them
The South's biggest city is full of things to see and do © WIN-Initiative / Getty Images

For the times that I want to be social...I love to head to Ormsby’s, a games bar in West Side. It’s a great option for hanging out with friends or taking a date to play games like shuffleboard, pool and Skee-Ball. There’s a full bar and a food menu to fuel the fun.

A typical weekend could include...Hanging out around Little Five Points. Both locals and visitors like to walk around the heavily populated area and get some shopping in. I like to go here because it is a perfect picture of what Atlanta is: a melting pot of eccentricity.

Building facade with google-eyed skull on the front, home to Vortex in Atlanta, on a sunny day
The Vortex, a burger joint and music venue, is one of the many quirky small businesses in Little Five Points © Ni'Kesia Pannell / Lonely Planet

When I want some off-the-radar Mexican food...I go to El Huarache Veloz in Marietta, about 20 minutes from Downtown Atlanta. Not only is it authentic Mexican cuisine, it’s super cheap. My favorite thing on the menu is the steak nachos.

For the best sushi…Go to RA Sushi in Midtown. From the spicy salmon rolls to the pork gyoza, there’s never any question why the place stays packed. If you really want a sweet deal, go during the twice-daily happy hours on Monday–Saturday (3pm-7pm and 10pm to close).

long shot of woman sitting on staircase painted with the letter 'A' for the Atlanta Braves, with fountains in the foreground
Lonely Planet Local Ni'Kesia Pannell at The Battery in Atlanta © Ni'Kesia Pannell / Lonely Planet

When I have friends in town...I’ve started taking them to The Battery, a conglomeration of shops and restaurants near the Braves’ new stadium. Although it’s only been around for a little over a year, the fact that it keeps opening up new shops and eateries makes it feel like a brand new space every time. An added plus: the Braves games are viewable on big screens if you’re there during a game day.

One thing I hate about Atlanta… The traffic really is ridiculous here. Morning rush hour can start as early as 4am and last until 10am. And don’t think the evenings are any better. Rush hour starts as early as 3:30pm and runs until 7:30pm. Lunch-hour traffic (usually from about noon to 1:30pm) can be a serious pain, too. Time your travel outside the peak as much as possible and stay alert for weekend events that may also cause congestion.

View on a clear, sunny day of the green trees and large blue lake at the foot of Stone Mountain, Georgia
The view from the top of Stone Mountain © Joseph . Thomas Photography / Getty Images

When I want to clear my mind… I head to Kennesaw Mountain or Stone Mountain for a good walk. The latter has a tendency to get packed if you don’t go early enough, but morning walks are the best ones anyway.

When I want some sweet treats… I stop by Sublime Doughnuts, which has locations in Midtown and North Druid Hills. I have a serious sweet tooth and the Fresh Strawberry N Cream or Fruity Pebbles doughnuts always do the trick. Not a doughnut fan? Try Insomnia Cookies in Midtown instead. With traditional flavors like snickerdoodle and double chocolate mint, there’s no bad choice here. The best part about both? They’re available almost anytime. Insomnia closes at 3am and Sublime Doughnuts is open 24/7.

Exterior of King of Pops in Inman Park, with a mural on the side of a 19th-century, two-story brick building
Atlanta favorite King of Pops has storefronts and popsicle carts all around the city © Eddie Krebs / CC-by-2.0

When I want to cool off… My first choice will always be a popsicle from King of Pops. When I moved to Atlanta I fell in love with their addictive flavors, created with local love. They even have some sweet treats for dogs.

One of the best things about Atlanta...It’s possible to connect with someone anywhere you go. Whether you’re out at a lounge or club or sightseeing any of the most Instagrammable spots, you’re almost guaranteed to run into a kind soul to strike up a conversation with.

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