10 Best Things to Do After Midnight in Atlanta

From virtual reality games to strip clubs

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Jeju spa Duluth

Photograph by Christine Van Dusen

Spas

It’s 1 a.m., you’ve danced all night, and you need to relax somewhere other than home. Head to Duluth and lounge in the heat at Jeju Sauna, the king of metro Atlanta’s 24-hour Korean spas. Based around traditional Korean jjimjil, the model is tried and true: Pay a $30 entrance fee, grab your uniform and wristband to charge your services, separate into gender-specific locker rooms, and reunite with your friends in the communal area (or indulge yourself with a Korean demadi, an exfoliating body shampoo). There, take your pick of several saunas ranging from the toasty (jade) to even cold (ice), body and foot massages, or enjoy a dip in the swimming pool. Arrive before 10 p.m. to try bibimbap, ramen, or other Korean dishes at the full-service restaurant (3555 Gwinnett Place Drive, Duluth, 678-336-7414). If Jeju is too crowded for your tastes, head to Gangnam Sauna (also open 24 hours). It has fewer saunas and is smaller in size but costs a tad bit less to enter and enjoy (6005 Buford Highway, Norcross, 770-368-0105).

Karaoke

If the mood calls for an extra side of camp, head to Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium Wednesday nights for organ karaoke, where parishioners slip into choir robes, sip Spiritual Sangria, and belt tunes from the pulpit. Pro tip: There’s no teleprompter, so choose a song you know well (466 Edgewood Avenue, 404-522-8275). Those who don’t relish the spotlight can book a private room on weekends for $6 per person at Buford Highway fan favorite Karaoke Melody (5979 Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-986-8881; see also: Karaoke Melody 2, a mile away, 7130 Buford Highway, Doraville, 770-825-0088). Or, for $10 per person, BYOB to Grant Park’s FamFam (333 Wood Street, 404-328-7070). Each of these locations offers a karaoke machine, a vast collection of songs, and, most importantly, walls that dampen that ambitious Mariah Carey rendition.

Starlight Drive-In Theatre
Starlight Drive-In Theatre

Photograph courtesy of Starlight Drive-In Theatre

Movies

Plaza Theatre, Atlanta’s oldest-operating cinema (the art deco theater opened its doors in 1939), has shown everything over the decades from silver-screen classics during Hollywood’s Golden Age to X-rated films in the 1970s. These days, in addition to new releases, it showcases auteur gems and cult classics, special screenings hosted by nearby neighbor Videodrome and Atlanta organizations like Dope Girls, and, on midnight every Friday, the city’s most raucous live screening of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, replete with shadow cast and costumes (1049 Ponce De Leon Avenue, 470-225-6503). Opened in 1949, Starlight Drive-In on Moreland Avenue is one of five drive-in theaters remaining in Georgia, which should be reason enough to drive, park, and enjoy Spiderman from a folding chair or your front seat. Eighteen dollars gets you two adult tickets (kids tickets are $1) to watch one of four screens showing recent releases ranging from family flicks to superhero action—and if you’re not feeling the lackluster concessions offerings, bring in as fancy a spread as you please. The cinema might have upgraded to a digital projection system in 2013, but it retains the classic drive-in feel. And the loyal night owls keep coming back, starting just after sunset every night of the week (in the summer, the third screenings begin well after 1 a.m.), to watch a film under the stars (2000 Moreland Avenue, 404-627-5786).

Rollerskating

Golden Glide belongs to that genre of skating rinks seemingly frozen in time—in this case, the 1990s. With a primary-color exterior, psychedelic carpeting, and scuffed roller skates likely purchased several decades ago, Golden Glide has been a go-to spot in DeKalb County for a generation. Late-night crowds can cruise around the rink until 3 a.m. on Friday nights for an $8 admission fee and a $3 skate rental fee. No judgment if you prefer to cling to the wall and listen to the DJ’s pop hits (2750 Wesley Chapel Road, Decatur, 404-288-7773). At Metro Fun Center, $12 covers admission, a pair of skates, and a spot on a rink that can handle up to 500 people—and stays open until 2 a.m. on Saturday nights (1959 Metropolitan Parkway, 404-767-1990).

Drag

Why binge old episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race when you could experience the real deal at Dragnificent, a long-running 12-week contest? Launched eight years ago by Phoenix, a one-time Drag Race contender, the battle royale at Heretic allows the audience to vote on who should advance to the final showdown in September. Several famous queens—Violet Chachki (a Drag Race winner who slayed the 2019 Met Gala) and Abhora (recently crowned Drag Queen of the Year)—performed here first (2069 Cheshire Bridge Road, 404-325-3061). You can also catch Atlanta’s royalty serving looks nearly every night of the week at Midtown Moon, Joe’s on Juniper, Blake’s on the Park, Mary’s, or My Sister’s Room. Lips’s shows, Wednesday through Sunday, range from a Gospel Brunch—where the Sisters of Sequins are dressed for the gods—to a Simply Sinful late-night performance (3011 Buford Highway, 404-315-7711).

Strip Clubs

Atlanta’s strip clubs have inspired songs by ’80s hair metal bands (Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” name-drops Tattletale Lounge) and rappers (Jeezy’s “Magic City Monday” lionizes the iconic club), earned the city a reputation as an exotic-dancing Mecca, and drained countless bank accounts. And some have survived. The Cheetah in Midtown, arguably the most posh of the bunch, hosts everyone from undergrads to CEOs (887 Spring Street, 404-892-3037), while the Pink Pony off Buford Highway, the Cheetah’s closest rival, brings out crowds with a regular calendar of touring performers and theme nights (1837 Corporate Boulevard, 404-634-6396). Ticket stubs from the concert or sporting event du jour will get you in the door free in both places. Though it added women to its daytime lineup while it navigates bankruptcy, Swinging Richards remains the king of male strip clubs (1400 Northside Drive, 404-352-0532). Hoping to spot gravity-defying pole slides while eating wings next to an up-and-coming hip-hop star? Head to Magic City (241 Forsyth Street, 404-584-5847). And to scratch an item off your Atlanta bucket list and see naked people, there’s always the Rasputin of strip clubs, the beloved Clermont Lounge (789 Ponce de Leon Avenue, 404-874-4783).

The Painted Duck Atlanta
Duckpin bowling lanes at The Painted Duck

Photograph by Heidi Geldhauser/Our Labor of Love

High-End Bowling

The Painted Pin was the first of its kind in Atlanta when it opened in Buckhead in 2014, a boutique bowling alley with Instagram-ready decor (think plush red-velvet curtains over the lanes and vintage Chesterfield sofas), specialty cocktails, and wood-fired pizzas and fried oyster sliders. Other bar-friendly games dot the venue—bocce, ping-pong, shuffleboard, and skeeball—which will help on packed weekends when the wait for lanes can get lengthy. Don’t panic when you go to wash your hands in the bathroom: Yes, you are staring into the opposite gender’s bathroom, so wave and say hello (737 Miami Circle, 404-814-8736). Sister spot the Painted Duck on the Westside is double the size, with 16 lanes of duckpin bowling (976 Brady Avenue, 404-352-0048).

Joystick Gamebar

Photograph courtesy of Joystick Gamebar

Games (old-school and new)

It might sound like a recipe for disaster to sip on carbonated cocktails and put on virtual-reality goggles—but that’s the thrill of Revery: VR Bar. Here, your body is the controller as you cut down flying fruits in Fruit Ninja or simulate being a gourmet chef with absurdly entertaining tasks (728 Monroe Drive, 470-639-8448). If you want something more retro (and much less expensive), bring your quarters to Joystick Gamebar to play from a selection of arcade cabinets like Ms. Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat, Space Invaders, and NBA Jam—plus classic board games such as Sorry! and Jenga (427 Edgewood Avenue, 404-525-3002). Sandy Springs’ Battle & Brew, the definitive bar for all things nerd culture, combines old- and new-school with everything from high-end PCs and tournaments for competitive gamers to Nintendo 64 to Xbox One. Dragon Con regulars will feel right at home with frequent cosplay nights and weekly geek trivia (5920 Roswell Road, 678-798-8190).

Golf (sorta)

Although its name might suggest otherwise, at Topgolf, you don’t actually need to be a great golf player. With locations on the Westside and in Alpharetta, Topgolf is appropriate for everyone from experienced golfers to those who’ve never picked up a seven iron before. This is essentially driving range meets target practice, set to a mix of old and new pop that blares over the speakers—and it stays open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 1 a.m. most other nights. Players choose a club, conjure a ball by waving a club past a sensor, and tee up, aiming for one of the targets on the expansive range. The food’s not bad either: The seasonally rotating menu could include spicy, Korean-fried cauliflower with a red chili sauce or doughnut holes injected with chocolate, raspberry jelly, or Bavarian cream. Top Topgolfers can participate in an annual tournament where teams of two compete to qualify for the championship in Las Vegas, with the hopes of winning a $50,000 cash prize (1600 Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard, 404-475-4000; 10900 Westside Parkway, Alpharetta, 770-217-0513).

This article appears in our September 2019 issue.

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