Where the Wild Things Are: Little Five Points, Atlanta
Edgy. Alternative. Hippy. Avant-garde. Grungy. Eclectic. Indie. Funky. If that sounds like your idea of a fun place, plan to spend a day in Atlanta's Little Five Points. (And if your tastes are firmly rooted in the conventional, consider a visit to the Botanical Gardens instead.)
Little Five Points isn't so much a destination as it is a neighborhood. Located a few miles east of the city's downtown, "Little Five" or L5P (as the locals call it) is the hub of the Southeast's alternative scene. Originally a commercial shopping district for the adjacent neighborhoods of Inman Park and Candler Park, over the last several decades this convergence of several streets has become home to bohemians, hippies, artists and musicians. It's where those who enjoy all things "indie" come to shop, eat, and be entertained – whether by one of the area's alternative theaters, or by watching all the interesting L5Pers walk by.
The shops of Little Five are truly unique and eclectic. You can find vintage and used clothes at Rag-o-Rama, The Clothing Warehouse, Ambrose Vintage, and Psycho Sisters, while Cherry Bomb and Wish are a hipster's fashion paradise. Book lovers will want to check out two indie bookstores, A Capella (fiction and political works) and Charis (feminist and lesbian works). New-age shop Crystal Blue sells healing crystals, incense, meditation supplies, spirituality books and the like. Abbadabba's footwear is about as trendy and edgy as shoes can get. And no shopping trip to L5P would be complete without visiting one of its retro record stores; Criminal Records and Wax n' Facts both offer used vinyl records and new and used CDs.
There are also plenty of great dining choices. On Moreland Avenue, the hand-thrown, generously topped slices at Savage Pizza are craved by locals and tourists alike. If inexpensive ethnic food's your thing, Little Five is your place: for Tex-mex and Mexican, try the Tijuana Garage or El Myr; for Mediterranean, try Ali Baba; for Indian, Planet Bombay and Niramish; and for Thai, check out Thai 5. If you're just looking for some great pub fare, Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, The Porter Beer Bar, Brewhouse Café and Little 5 Corner Tavern all serve it up. All that aside, Little Five's most well-known restaurant, The Vortex, is probably the one restaurant you shouldn't miss. Actually, it's the one place you can't miss: the entrance is a 20-foot high laughing skull with psychedelic eyes. Enter through its gaping mouth and find out why The Vortex has been awarded "Best Burger" in Atlanta (as well as "Best Veggie Burger," if that's how you roll) many times over.
If you're looking for entertainment, Little Five is home to some of the best venues in Atlanta. The plays featured by the well-known Horizon Theatre Company tell stories of contemporary Southern life, while 7 Stages offers diverse and thought-provoking dramas. For musical performances, the Variety Playhouse, a renovated movie theater, showcases some of the country's best indie acts – The Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco, The Psychedelic Furs — on tour. The Star Bar and Five Spot both offer alternative and cutting-edge local performers.
What else? A health food co-op (Sevananda), a tattoo parlor (Sacred Heart Tattoo), a junk shop (Junkman's Daughter), a comedy club (Dad's Garage), a juice & smoothie bar (Arden's Garden), a hookah bar (Hookah Hookup), a wig shop (Libertine), and a head shop (Forty Two Degrees South), among many other interesting and funky shops.
Finally, if you're lucky enough to be in town a weekend or two before Halloween, don't miss the Little Five Halloween Festival and Parade, where about 35,000 people come each year to enjoy great food, music, and one of the best Halloween parades in the country.