What to do in Atlanta if you don’t care about the Super Bowl

Attention liberal arts majors of Atlanta! The Super Bowl is officially here! Seek shelter!

Technically it’s not officially here until February 3rd, but all the ephemeral infrastructure and its accompanying cacophony (and traffic) have taken over the city. There are ads up on the buildings, thousands of homes are on vacation rental sites, Migos seem to be everywhere. This is it. There’s no turning back now.

So, what do you do if you were dragged here for the big game? Or if you’re a local who feels like The Grinch stuck up on Mount Crumpit, quietly cursing the town’s noise pollution?

Take it from me, a lifelong Atlanta resident and occasional curmudgeon, we’re going to get through this. There’s plenty of quiet nooks, crannies, and escapes spread across Atlanta’s sprawl to keep you busy months. If we can survive the ’96 Olympics, we can survive anything.

Lurk around in an art museum

This is kind of a clichéd suggestions but, hey, Atlanta has some great art museums. And you’ll be sure to avoid football traffic, concert crowds, and other general hubbub deep in a gallery wing in front of an oil painting. The classic suggestion is the High Museum which features folk art, African art, photography, and an entire floor full of playful contemporary art. Right across the street you’ll find the Museum of Design which examines the way we put the world together. We also have tons of independent gallery spaces like Facet, Notch 8, and ZuCot, the largest African-American-owned gallery in the Southeast.

Learn a thing or two

Before Atlanta was home to major sporting events, it hosted another cultural moment that was a bit more important. Major moments and key players of the civil rights movement hail from Atlanta and you can find most of them near Super Bowl site Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Right in the heart of downtown you have The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, a moving walk through both the American civil rights movement and the global fight for human rights. Then you can stroll down Auburn Avenue to both the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park and the birth home of Martin Luther King, Jr. Every stop will give you the inspiration to right wrongs in this world, and not just in post-game traffic.

Feel like a kid again

This one is for all the theater kids who couldn’t care less about the Super Bowl. The Center for Puppetry Arts is home to 4,000 puppets from all over the planet, from classic Japanese Bunraku puppets to Big Bird and Kermit and all your Jim Henson friends. You can bring your kids here if you don’t want them getting ideas of crashing into each other once a week in the fall. Or adults can go solo and enjoy stuff like experimental puppet theater and puppets and pints. Say hey to Dormouse for us when you’re there.

Spend the whole day at one intersection

Think of Little Five Points as one your one-stop shop for Super Bowl avoidance. The intersection of Euclid and Monroe has two of the city’s best independent bookstores—Acapella Books and Charis Books & More. They’ve got multiple record stores—Criminal Records and Wax ‘N’ Facts. They even have bars that don’t have TVs! (The Porter). And, heck, once the game starts you can pick up some new shoes at Wish and a skateboard and Stratosphere and enjoy having the nearby Beltline all to yourself.

Tour the world on Buford Highway

The 1996 Olympics gave Atlanta the gift that is Buford Highway. Thousands upon thousands of people immigrated to get jobs helping the city prepare for the Olympic games. Once everything was in place, though, they stuck around and built an incredible community. Pick up some jackfruit at the wonderful Buford Highway Farmer’s Market, or a quinceañera dress at Plaza Fiesta, or do what we did and eat all the food. No matter what you do on Buford Highway, it’ll be far away from the game crowds so it’s going to be a great day.

Support your friendly neighborhood farmer

Speaking of farmer’s markets, south Atlanta has their own strong entry. The Grant Park Farmer’s Market is the place to be every Sunday during the warmer months. The market brings regional farmers, local craftspeople and some of Atlanta’s best restaurants out to Grant Park to serve up their wares. During the winter months, the fun moves over to Eventide Brewing just a few blocks from the park. Grab some fresh produce, some fun local products, and a beer. Sounds like a great thing to do even if you’re going to the Super Bowl.

Play a crazy indoor game

Some of these might be dangerously close to sports but I assure you they are not. Atlanta has a wealth of bars with fun games that anyone can enjoy—no matter their fitness level or competitive streak. Check out places like Comet Pub & Lanes, The Painted Duck, Pin and Proper, or even Revery VR Bar (VR as in virtual reality) for some of the best bar games around. Can’t make up your mind? Twain’s Brewpub and Ormsby’s both offer a wide selection of all sorts of classic games. And, oh yea, every single one of these places has a great beer list.

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Submit to a higher power in the suburbs

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is a Hindu place of worship in Lilburn, just a few minutes outside The Perimeter. You probably won’t attain nirvana on your first visit but there will at least be a respite from the hustle and bustle of intown Atlanta. This absolutely stunning temple is open to the public for both worship and architectural appreciation. The building is made of marble, sandstone, and limestone that was hand carved in India and assembled in Atlanta. Audio tours are available, or you can join in a worship service such as an arti ceremony where lit candles are waved before sacred images to spread love and blessings. Remember that your knees and shoulders must be covered when you enter any building on the grounds, but your feet should be shoe-free.

Become one with nature

You don’t like the Super Bowl? Take a hike, pal! Just kidding. And I apologize for that truly terrible joke. Anyway, Atlanta has great hiking nearby. Places like Cochran Shoals, Sweetwater Creek State Park, and Stone Mountain make offer both easy hikes and accessible drives to get there. More remote destinations like Panther Creek and Rabun Bald offer more challenging climbs and even less likelihood of seeing a Rams or Patriots fan. Or heck, keep driving straight on to Asheville and avoid the city entirely for the weekend.

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Get lost in the magic of cinema

I love anything with a big neon marquee. Fortunately, the insides of The Plaza Theatre are just as great as their sign that lights up Ponce de Leon Avenue. This is Atlanta’s oldest (and only!) independent movie theatre and it’s chock full of awesome stuff. You get your occasional blockbuster in here, but the real appeal is special screenings of classic and cult favorite movies, comedy shows, and local filmmaker features. I just had the time of my life in a sold-out screening of Face/Off here. Other folks will enjoy the Rocky Horror Picture Show event every Friday at midnight. And if you secretly want to know how things are going in the Super Bowl, they’re showing the game on the big screen Sunday night.