Best of Atlanta 2023: Do

Best of Atlanta 2023
Sloomoo Institute Atlanta

Photograph by Wedig + Laxton

Place to Get Slimed: Sloomoo Institute Atlanta

Billed as a “slime and sensory play experience,” Sloomoo is like a mashup of old TV shows Double Dare and Mr. Wizard’s World—only cooler and more fluorescent—sprung to life in the middle of Buckhead’s shopping district. Buckhead

Game Night Out: Flight Club Darts

Last winter, Flight Club opened in the Star Metals building in Westside, where drink-and-play venues go to thrive. With a group of up to 12, reserve a booth with a high-tech dartboard that keeps score with camera-tracked darts and offers multiplayer games—from classics like 301 to a variation of Snakes and Ladders, using accuracy to roll the die. A paper carousel menu of cocktails matches the vintage circus decor inside. A bow-tied waitstaff serves from a comprehensive menu featuring pork belly bao, prime beef sliders, and tandoori chicken skewers. Westside

New Indoor Playground: Intown Stars Gymnastics

Intown Stars’ new Decatur digs are roughly the size of a Walmart Supercenter, now that it’s consolidated two locations into a converted warehouse and completed a $4 million renovation. Included is a parkour section, dance studios, parent coworking lounge, and an American Ninja Warrior–style course. The spoils of being one of America’s fastest-growing companies. Decatur

Best of Atlanta 2023
LEGO Discovery Center

Photograph courtesy of LEGO Discovery Center Atlanta

Mini City: LEGO Discovery Center Atlanta at Phipps Plaza

LEGO Discovery Center’s $5 million upgrade dazzles with a new virtual-reality component, an action-packed spaceship and car-building station, and an enhanced mini-city version of ATL landmarks, from Ponce City Market to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, built with some 1.5 million iconic little bricks. Buckhead

Art House Revival: Tara Theatre

When news got out about the closure of one of Atlanta’s landmark art house theaters, the Tara, which opened in 1968, panic spread. Despite a thriving film production landscape, Atlanta’s revival and art house cinema scene has not always been robust. But thanks to the conjoined forces of Plaza Theatre owner and Atlanta Film Society executive director Chris Escobar, Atlanta Jewish Film Festival director Kenny Blank, and Jack Halpern of Halpern Enterprises (the owner of the Tara Theatre’s shopping plaza), a beloved cinema icon has a new lease on life. Two newly christened theaters (“The Kenny” and “The Jack”), a lobby upgrade, and enhanced projection capabilities have sweetened the deal for area cinephiles, who can look for prestige bookings of film restorations and international cinema from heavyweight auteurs like Bernardo Bertolucci, Orson Welles, and Michael Powell. In January, the Tara will host a Quentin Tarantino retrospective, and, in February, the theater plays host to the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. Lindridge/Martin Manor

New Improv: Onward Theatre

Onward Theatre, the best new place in Atlanta for improv and sketch comedy, focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion, celebrating many voices in community comedy and uplifting underrepresented groups. Adair Park

Dramatic Expansion: Georgia Ensemble Theatre

This year, Georgia Ensemble Theatre moved into what was formerly Atlanta Lyric Theatre’s home base at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre in the Cobb Civic Center—expanding its educational programming and providing better opportunities in performance theater for children and adults. Marietta

New Icebreaker: Your 3rd Spot

Everything here—the 80-plus games, from giant Jenga and foosball to cornhole and curling; the shareable small plates, created by Stuart Rogers, formerly of the Optimist and Lyla Lila; and the craft cocktails calibrated to your astrological sign—is meant to get people talking and building connections. Adults only, because why should kids have all the fun? Westside

Best of Atlanta 2023
Mlima’s Tale, 7 Stages

Photograph by Chris Burk

Theater Comeback: 7 Stages

After a long pandemic pause, 7 Stages has returned with new plays. This year, it sold out performances of a new adults-only Pinocchio and staged a successful run of Mlima’s Tale by Lynn Nottage. With a goal of creating work of social, political, and spiritual importance, 7 Stages gives audiences a look into American culture while collaborating with emerging international playwrights. Little Five Points

New Dance Theater: Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre’s White Box Theater

Since the 14th Street Playhouse shuttered a decade ago, few local dance groups have had access to a centrally located Intown theater—and Buckhead’s clientele—until last September, when Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre opened the intimate White Box Theater in its Tula Arts Center home. Terminus’s new fall series, Out of the Box, debuted three works and three dancers to sold-out audiences. Other dance groups can rent the theater, and the company will host its annual Terminus Fête fundraiser there January 27. Buckhead

Encore: Jerry’s Habima Theatre

This year, the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta’s award-winning and inclusive theater company, featuring actors with disabilities, marked its 30th-anniversary season. This company produces one professionally run, Broadway-style performance each year. It was endowed by the late Gerald (Jerry) Blonder and his wife, who established the MJCCA’s Blonder Family Department for Special Needs, which provides programming like social outings, sports, art and cooking classes, camp programs, and more to community members with developmental disabilities and their families. Habima means “stage” in Hebrew. Dunwoody

Conversation Starter: Theatrical Outfit

Matt Torney has hit his stride after succeeding the legendary Tom Key as artistic director. Theatrical Outfit is producing thought-provoking performances that aim to catalyze change in the city. Plus, it has a beautifully renovated lobby. Downtown

New Art Openings: UTA Artist Space

Posh passed hors d’oeuvres and an open bar with signature cocktails from Raising the Bar are not typical offerings on Atlanta’s art scene. But the opening of the Peachtree Street UTA Artist Space in March heralded a new extra, extra game in town. Good-looking people with West Coast tans, and celebs and luminaries including Stacey Abrams, Awkwafina, Andre Dickens, Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, Kat Graham, and Myles Truitt, circulated at the launch of the Atlanta satellite of the Los Angeles contemporary art gallery and talent agency. Local art folks’ jaws were agape as several Atlanta movers and shakers were denied entrance to the party (fail to RSVP at your own peril). That UTA opening party signaled a seismic shift in the city’s art world that has continued with after-parties at Buckhead’s Iberian Pig, the Garden Room, and Traffik. Midtown

Trend: BeltLine Building Boom

It’s been a good few years for paved multipurpose trails in Atlanta. Recent additions have included the Westside BeltLine Connector, a 1.7-mile spoke shooting out from downtown, and the PATH Foundation’s Eastside Trolley Trail, a handy BeltLine link for neighborhoods such as Edgewood, Kirkwood, and East Lake.

But these days, the actual 22-mile BeltLine loop is roaring ahead with construction—in more places, all over town—like never before.

Crucial pieces of the Northeast Trail, as of this writing, were under development or scheduled to open, finally providing a paved BeltLine route between Piedmont Park and the southern reaches of Buckhead. The next section of the Southside Trail is barreling ahead between Ormewood Park and Boulevard. And the final, one-mile piece of the Westside Trail was launched in early 2023, promising a swift connection between West Midtown and historic neighborhoods such as Adair Park, West End, and Capitol View.

Collectively, these “mainline” BeltLine projects will add about four fresh miles of trail, unlocking much safer, fully connected off-street routes across the city for nonmotorists.

Queer Night Out: WussyVision

Gay bar not your speed? Wussy Magazine’s screenings of queer cult classics like Clueless and Hocus Pocus bring campy culture to the Plaza Theatre. Drag queens emcee a costume contest, and the audience interaction creates the energy—without the hangover. Poncey-Highland

New BeltLine Hangout: Fourth Ward Project Plaza

Even before the restaurants arrive and the new diamond-patterned hotel tower opens, the waterfall at New City Properties’ multilevel plaza is making a splash beside Historic Fourth Ward Park. It’s a BeltLine spot like no other. Old Fourth Ward

New Gallery: Wolfgang Gallery

Just a year old, this contemporary space is already a must-see destination for local and national art lovers. Georgia-bred owners Benjamin Deaton, 33, and Anna Scott K. Masten, 27, have transformed Atlanta’s art scene with their smart painting shows, featuring Atlanta-based artists but also a steady stream of New York and international talent. Look for a solo exhibition in March from formerly Atlanta- and now NYC-based painter Stephen Thorpe, who can’t paint fast enough to keep up with demand for his spectacular work blending architecture and the natural world. Westside

Insider Art Event: SeekATL

Back in 2008, a group of Atlanta artists got together to organize monthly artist studio tours. Their first artist was Shara Hughes, a painter of landscapes and interiors who decamped to New York and was recently profiled in Vogue—proving that if you want access to Atlanta’s cutting edge, SeekATL should be your first stop. Organizers Ben Steele, Tori Tinsley, Jennifer Dudley, and Madeline Beck definitely know how to pick the stars. The enterprise highlighting how artists think and work is still going strong. Plan to attend the tour of internationally exhibited sound and new-media artist Jane Foley’s studio on January 27.

Best of Atlanta 2023
Coorain Devin, Clean American, at THE END Project Space

Photograph by Rob Chamberlain

New Art Neighborhood: Murphy Avenue

Some of the city’s top, internationally recognized artists and an emerging new guard—including Michi Meko, Jill Frank, Aineki Traverso, Esteban Patino, Antonio Darden, and William Downs—are part of a creative nexus on Southside’s Murphy Avenue, Atlanta’s hottest, hippest, under-the-radar arts scene. Across the railroad tracks from Tyler Perry Studios, and sandwiched between Sylvan Hills and Fort McPherson in a desolate, yet-to-be-gentrified slice of Atlanta, are the Murphy Rail Studios, pioneered by artist Joseph Guay, who has brought what he calls “creative currency” to this strip of warehouses and industrial spaces. Guay estimates there are now 35 artists working along the corridor between Murphy Rail Studios and nearby Temporary Studio, founded by artist Scott Ingram. Both spaces feature some of the best work in the city. In 2024, look for the publication of THE END Project Space: The First Five Years, dedicated to Guggenheim-winning artist Craig Drennen’s experimental exhibition space inside Murphy Rail Studios. South Atlanta

New Nightlife Scene: Underground Atlanta

Underground Atlanta is rumbling back to life. DIY artist spaces and galleries like Emmcdee Gallery and Future Gallery anchor monthly First Friday celebrations (the unofficial after-party for the High Museum’s popular High Frequency Fridays), with live music, open mic, improv, and art exhibitions. In recent years, it has welcomed high-profile shows like The Art of Banksy: Without Limits (2021) and this year’s Atlanta 50th Hip Hop Experience, launched by Dallas Austin and Jermaine Dupri. Also this year, MJQ and the new speakeasy/theater Pigalle by Paris on Ponce relocated near other nightclubs in the district. Downtown

What’s new in Atlanta podcasts: 6 shows to listen toNew Podcast: King Slime

Technically, King Slime follows the RICO criminal trial of rapper Young Thug and his Young Stoner Life (YSL) codefendants. But veteran reporters George Chidi and Christina Lee go way deeper, exploring the trial’s impact on the music industry and its threat to Atlanta’s legacy as the rap mecca. It’s addictive.

New BeltLine: Alternatives

Looking to avoid the BeltLine crowds? You’re in luck. The Chamblee Rail Trail, as of September, has expanded to just short of two miles, linking the ITP city’s historic downtown and numerous new housing and retail hubs. Southeast of downtown Atlanta, the six-mile Michelle Obama Trail (part of a larger PATH Foundation network) includes two steel truss bridges and a boardwalk. And in Buckhead, the latest PATH400 segment provides a walkway—and new perspectives on the city—between Miami Circle and Lenox Square.

New Place to Chill: West End’s New Great Lawn

Need a respite from the brouhaha at the Lee + White district’s three breweries and distillery? Head for the Great Lawn, a chill, BeltLine-adjacent central gathering spot with a variety of places to lounge—in furniture or on the grass. West End

Trend: Mini Golf

After the pandemic kept us isolated and shut in, adult- and kid-friendly play spaces are making a huge comeback. And what’s more charming than a classic game of mini golf? Two newcomers offer fun ways to play.

In the Westside’s Interlock building, Puttshack takes the sport high-tech. Sensors track your ball across unique obstacles—think a game of oversized beer pong, a Pac-Man arcade, and a ramp of colorful drums—and not only count your strokes but also add “hazards” that can cost you precious points and “Supertubes” that result in automatic hole-in-ones. One hole even asks you a “yes or no” trivia question—swing your ball toward the correct response for bonus points. The indoor spot features two unique courses, plus a full-service bar and restaurant.

Up in Forsyth County, the brand-new Cumming City Center is home to Tin Cup Grill, a restaurant and bar with a mini golf course out back. Grab a ball and a beer from the Airstream trailer at the course’s entrance (there are cup holders at every hole), and get ready to live out your biggest golf dreams as you play holes based on real-life ones at Augusta National, Pebble Beach, Oakmont Country Club, and even local courses like Lanier Golf Club and Suwanee’s Olde Atlanta Golf Club. Different colored turf marks “water” and “sand” hazards. Even if you’re not an avid golfer, the mountain views and low-key vibes make for a fun date night or family outing.

Reason to Cheer: Atlanta Athletes

However celebratory 2021 was for Georgia-based teams, 2023 has been that and more for Atlanta-bred athletes. Lilburn’s Matt Olson led Major League Baseball in home runs and RBIs. Chamblee’s Solai Washington made her FIFA Women’s World Cup debut for the Jamaican national team. Hometown heroes Coco Gauff, Christopher Eubanks, and Ben Shelton made too many tennis headlines to count. We don’t know what’s in the metro area water, but . . . wait, actually we do: Lawrenceville swimmer Baylor Stanton, a 15-year-old sensation who’s already punched his ticket to the 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials.

Best of Atlanta 2023
Museum of Illusions

Photograph by Lahcen Boufedji Photography

Place to Take Out-of-Towners: Museum of Illusions

Here’s a place to take visitors that locals can enjoy, too—the Museum of Illusions uses 3-D and 4-D exhibits in the form of art, puzzles, and life-size structures to trick the senses and prove that seeing is believing. With more than 80 mind-bending displays, this Atlantic Station spot is somewhere you can return to again and again—and it’s a great conversation starter. Midtown

Party Palace: AlcoHall at Pullman Yards

What do drag bingo, karaoke, mechanical bull riding, improv comedy, live blues, DJs, and enough booze to flatten the Rat Pack have in common? It all takes place at AlcoHall, the 17,000-square-foot former train warehouse that’s morphed into a party-focused events space in Kirkwood. Note: For more than just the obvious reasons, arriving by a means other than driving could be wise, as $6 hourly parking (starting rate) on Pullman’s gravel lots adds up. Kirkwood

Trend: More Pickleball!

Don’t call it pickleball-a-palooza, but it’s close. America’s fastest-growing sport continued spreading in 2023 across points OTP and ITP, whether in custom-built venues or timeworn confines. The Ace Pickleball Club franchise opened a sprawling indoor facility in Roswell (it’s set up for occasional glow-in-the-dark pickleball parties, too), while Justin Amick’s latest “Painted” concept, the Painted Pickle, has transformed a 32,500-square-foot Armour Yards warehouse into a stylish “compeatery” (think: mildly sweaty sports, plus upscale food and drink). In July, Atlanta’s storied tennis association, ALTA, even launched its own pickleball league, with more than 4,000 members. On the tech front, Atlanta-based Pickleheads—part of a growing ecosystem of local pickleball-centric start-ups—released a new platform designed to help pickleball players find courts and nearby players.

New Locally Owned Franchise: Faced The Facial Studio

Ansley Bowman opened two of her four studio locations, one in Buckhead and one in East Cobb, this year. Her membership-based concept offers personalized facials, incorporating brands like Augustinus Bader and Image Skincare. Buckhead and East Cobb

New Wellness Boutique Practice: eia

Nurse practitioner Daniela Ezratty’s boutique practice in VaHi provides services like injectables, fillers, platelet-rich plasma therapy, NAD+IV therapy for cell regeneration, functional nutrition coaching, and a retail space offering brands like Hampton Sun, AnteAGE, and Golde. Virginia-Highland

Powerful Poses: Highland Yoga

Elsie Brotherton’s sweaty power flows put the Virginia-Highland studio on the map in 2015. Ever since, Highland Yoga has spread across the metro and Athens with nine locations—four opening just this year. Its core remains solid, with 93-degree vinyasa and a cool towel at savasana. Multiple locations

New Massage: Now Massage

This L.A.-based chain now has three Atlanta locations, with 25-, 50-, and 80-minute massages focusing on energy balancing, relaxation, and sports rehabilitation. Buckhead

New Hotel Spa: Treatments

The Spa at Waldorf Astoria now uses CodageParis, including its signature Cellular Workout. And the St. Regis Atlanta’s sound bowl therapy treatment releases tension and aligns chakras. Buckhead

Best of Atlanta 2023
Phipps Plaza Life Time

Photograph courtesy of Life Time

New Gym: Phipps Plaza Life Time

The new five-story Life Time at Phipps Plaza lives up to its billing as an “athletic country club” in the city. Topped with two large pools and an array of lounges, it includes a full spa; a section for athletes; a huge fitness and learning academy for kids (hello, kiddie basketball court with a window wall framing Buckhead’s skyline); a health cafe; a bar; and upscale coworking facilities across an entire floor. Phew! Buckhead

New Facial Experience: The Ceremonial at Kindred Studio

Combining technical prowess with new age principles centered on the elements of air, earth, fire, and water, co-owner Kelly Painter customizes a facial that moisturizes, exfoliates, and massages for relaxation. Grant Park

New Tech-Based Workout: Body20

The Brookhaven location of Body20, a high-tech 20-minute workout using an FDA-approved electro-muscle stimulation suit for 150 times more muscle contractions, is the fifth for metro Atlanta. Brookhaven

Trampolean Fit
Trampolean Fit’s lead instructor Brittany Thompson

Photograph by Alex Martinez

New Niche Workout: Trampolean Fit

Instructor Brittany Thompson leads a high-energy mini-trampoline workout at the Loft Athletic Club every Monday night, focusing on rebounding, weighted movements, and choreography. Downtown

New Nail and Beauty Salon: Nail Muse

The menu at Nail Muse, the fifth establishment from owner Tuan Truong, includes nail services, waxing, eyelash extensions, nail art, and more in a light and airy location in the Buckhead Village District. Buckhead

See all Best of Atlanta 2023 winners

This article appears in our December 2023 issue.