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GardenHood

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Located in Grant Park, GardenHood is dedicated to urban gardening, though it’s also known for specialty plants from exotic locales like Indonesia, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

ReStore

Homeowners on a budget often head to Grant Park’s Habitat for Humanity store, full of dismantled house parts and closeout furnishings at cut-rate prices. If they’re lucky, buyers may end up with a piece of Atlanta history—such as light fixtures from an old bank or cabinets from a Philips Arena remodel. Sample deals: hardwood kitchen with island, $3,200; Ballard Designs counter stools, $49.95; eighteen-by-eighteen-inch carpet tiles, 50 cents each. Handy types can sign up for a weekly e-blast or check online for daily arrivals.

 

Zoo Atlanta’s Panda Twins


Since their surprise arrival on July 15, the panda cubs have entranced millions worldwide via the zoo’s PandaCam and were scheduled to go on exhibit in late fall. Mei Lun and Mei Huan are, of course, absurdly cute, but a visit to see them will provide an ideal moment to teach the values of preservation and conservation. Since panda couple Lun Lun and Yang Yang came to Atlanta in 1999, they have produced five offspring, a hallmark for a species with only 1,600 representatives in the wild.

Gunshow

Leave everything you know about traditional restaurant service at the door of Kevin Gillespie’s new Glenwood Park playground. The “Top Chef” alum and his kitchenmates wander the dining room themselves, touting the weekly changing dishes they’ve just prepared. When one is finished making, say, paella or smoked ribs or Sichuan hot and numbing okra, he dashes to customers, and you decide right then if you want the dish or not.

Joseph Ward, one of the three lead chefs (he’s the one without a beard), has emerged as the restaurant’s breakout star: He crafts the menu’s most consistently rewarding dishes, among them the “West Coast burger,” a juicy-messy-divine homage to In-N-Out’s “Double-Double, Animal Style” burger. The radical format—and the name, actually a sentimental nod to Gillespie’s favorite childhood pastime with his father—has made Gunshow the year’s most provocative restaurant.

Oakland Cemetery

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In the 1850s, when Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery was founded, graveyards were not considered ghoulish but instead were relished as particularly serene parks. Oakland was a nineteenth-century hot spot; couples cruised the grounds in spiffy carriages and families picnicked near their forebears’ final resting places. The cemetery-as-communal-destination spirit is maintained by special events throughout the year at Oakland. In the fall, there’s Sunday in the Park (costume contest, mausoleum tours, bands, and beer); in the spring, Tunes from the Tombs (more bands and beer); and year-round, themed walking tours (not much beer).

Living Walls: The City Speaks

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In summer 2011, this city-as-gallery concept, presided over by artist-visionary Monica Campana, set Atlanta on fire with twenty-five phenomenal murals. Artists from around the world traveled here to participate in the street-art project, and their creations spanned local surfaces like the corner of Mitchell and Forsyth streets, where internationally renowned Belgian artist Roa installed his grinning, belly-up alligator.

*Address is an approximation

Atlanta Bocce League

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This league’s 1,000 players (on 125 teams) drop only $45 each for a season of socializing and play. Two-court destinations are favored; in addition to parks like Piedmont, ABL rotates here:

Ormsby’s
This Westside watering hole’s courts, located in a subterranean level with ample seating, pair well with the free boiled peanuts. 1170 Howell Mill Road, 404-968-2033, ormsbysatlanta.com

Two Urban Licks
Back-porch court players snag half-off menu deals on clever dishes like dumplings with candied pecans. 820 Ralph McGill Boulevard, 404-522-4622, twourbanlicks.com

Augustine’s
A neighborly Grant Park spot with courts out back and $10 pitchers of select beers. 327 Memorial Drive, 404-681-3344

Double Zero Napoletana
Front-porch courts (with special resting grooves for the balls) come with pizza deals. 5825 Roswell Road, 404-991-3666, doublezeroatl.com

*Atlanta Bocce League address an approximation; contact league for location

Zoo Atlanta

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Has Zoo Atlanta started playing a little Al Green during mating times? Because love—or at least successful copulation—is in the air there. In 2011 alone, the zoo has ushered in a “Squee!”-worthy string of fuzzy, roly-poly babies: panda Po, gorilla Merry Leigh, orangutan Remy (a transplant from the Fort Worth Zoo), tiger cubs Sohni and Sanjiv, and giraffe calf Lily. They’re stars; the newborns rate their own page on Zoo Atlanta’s website, and the award-winning attraction leveraged the attention into a baby-naming contest when Lily arrived this summer.

The Little Tart Bakeshop + Octane

At this combined business (and always-packed hangout) in Grant Park’s Jane building, baking whiz Sarah O’Brien displays the Little Tart’s ethereal croissants, galettes filled with local fruit, and other seductions next to Octane’s gleaming coffee bar. Sip a pour-over steeped with floral Ethiopian beans or try a cortado, the midpoint between an inky espresso and a frothy cappuccino.

Grant Park Farmers Market

Size matters with farmers markets. We look for a mix of vendors that feels neither too limited nor sprawling and has an equal proportion of quality farmers and skilled food artisans. Grant Park Farmers Market, which sets up on Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the corner of Cherokee and Milledge avenues, feels just right. Seek out sweet potato greens, ginger, and winter root vegetables from Love Is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens; pick up a couple of sublime sheep’s milk cheeses from Many Fold Farm; and grab a bag of granola studded with dried blueberries from Sweet Georgia Grains. Hurry, though: The market’s last day this year is December 15; it returns in April.

Parking tip: Spaces along Cherokee Avenue fill quickly, but one can usually find parking along Milledge Avenue or just one block away on Oakland Avenue.

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