Atlanta may be known for its heat and humidity, but some of its finest upcoming events will happen when it’s cold out. On January 8, a college football champion will be crowned inside the city’s sparkling new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Next February, the same venue will host Super Bowl LIII. And then in March 2019, the stadium will serve as the site of the Men’s NCAA Final Four.
Lots to look forward to, indeed. But even this year, once the college football game ends, a season of off-the-field excitement will kick off around the city. From the creative arts and culinary draws to a civil rights movement milestone, the ATL is ready for a winter to remember. Use this guide to the city’s top events to ensure you aren’t left out in the cold.
Cool fact: three of the four College Football Playoff teams (Georgia, Alabama and Clemson) have played in Atlanta over the last year and a half. Oklahoma is the lone school unfamiliar with the city. But no matter who wins the Peach Bowl and Sugar Bowl on January 1, it all will feel new once the sports world turns its collective eyes to Atlanta on January 8 to watch the last two schools battle. With so many stars across the board on offense (Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Clemson’s Kelly Bryant) and defense (Georgia’s Roquan Smith, Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick), the finale is almost assured to be a dogfight.
But the football fun isn’t limited to the turf. Outside the stadium, the lineup is nearly as impressive. On January 1 and 8, the College Football Hall of Fame will hold the Championship Series Tailgate Built by The Home Depot, an all-day event where fans can win prizes, play games, enjoy a cash bar and listen to a live DJ.
From January 6 to 8, revelers can also try their hands in football drills, participate in youth skills clinics and check out memorabilia-filled galleries at the Georgia World Congress Center’s Playoff Fan Central.
If you’re into live music, the perfect game plan might be to hang around Centennial Olympic Park, where popular acts like Jason Derulo (January 6), The Chainsmokers (January 7) and Darius Rucker (January 8) will take to the stage over the big weekend. Things culminate sonically with an eagerly anticipated performance from superstar rapper Kendrick Lamar at halftime of the championship tilt.
In between musical sets, head back over to the College Football Hall of Fame to experience the 2017 Hall of Fame Salute, a temporary exhibit (through the spring) that spotlights the amateur accomplishments of gridiron greats like Marshall Faulk, Peyton Manning, Brian Urlacher and others who were enshrined into the hall this year.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929. He died in Memphis on April 4, 1968. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of that fateful day, The renovating King Center is planning a host of events throughout the year, ranging from the “Let’s Bridge the Racial Divide Across Urban, Suburban and Rural America” symposium (January 15) to the March for Humanity (April 9).
Another Atlanta institution, the High Museum of Art, welcomes “Al Taylor: What Are You Looking At?” through March 18. The poignant showcase — the first of its kind in the United States — of more than 150 sculptures, prints and drawings from Taylor will exercise your visual perceptions while giving you a newfound appreciation for broomsticks, common plastics and other everyday items.
We’re pretty sure your sight and every other sense will work to their full capacity once you stop by the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Orchid Daze. The annually presented tribute to the fragrant flower, which runs February 10 to April 1, will again amaze with nine-foot walls, hanging canopies and splendid mosaics covered in the colorful plants.
And while true festival weather might not come until spring, Atlanta Winter Beerfest will carry on. Thanks to 150 local (Monday Night Brewing), Georgia (Savannah’s Southbound Brewing) and national pours (Hawaii’s Kona Brewing Company) on offer, we’re guessing any chilly forecasts the day of the event (January 27) will be countered with warm smiles and toasts.
One of the reasons we adore Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta is because of its proximity to everything. But even beyond the breezy 10-minute Uber ride to Centennial Olympic Park, the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star property triumphs for all that it provides. This winter, you can opt for the High Museum (two tickets, $50 food credit, valet parking) or Special Occasion package (sparkling wine, daily breakfast, chocolate-covered strawberries) and find yourself showered in perks.
Not three minutes from the Four Seasons is Loews Atlanta Hotel, a Four-Star escape we also adore. This property stands out right now with a Couples VIP Aquarium deal (two Georgia Aquarium tickets, valet parking), resolution-aiding detox therapies at the spa and a signature restaurant, Saltwood Charcuterie & Bar, that tantalizes with of-the-moment dishes such as baked East Coast cod splashed in an olive, saffron and shallot broth.
But even when you look at the city’s culinary scene with a wider lens, things are looking (and smelling) great these days. Downtown’s AG, the must-try eatery at Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta, is still eager to show off a newish dining area, a sparkling bar — we highly suggest a cocktail made with the exclusive batch of Whistle Pig bourbon — and a weekend brunch that only the savviest of locals know about.
Midtown is splattered in cranes and detour signs as the area continues to upgrade its look. One new spot that’s ready for the masses is Allora, a Twelve Hotel Midtown establishment touting its Italian classics done with a modern approach. Just opened in December, the Chris Maher-helmed stop serves pizzas, housemade pastas and inventive salads in a warm, inviting space sitting in the shadows of the popular Atlantic Station shopping center.
Just outside the perimeter (local speak for the suburbs beyond Interstate 285), you’ll find what might be the area’s best new address for smoked meats and sumptuous sides, Loyal Q and Brew. Open since August 2017, the Marietta restaurant has already earned a place in the heart of residents with its neighborly service and finger-nibbling sauces.
Stop by for the chili-rubbed brisket, smoked salmon and 50-plus bourbons any night of the week — come wearing your patient pants on busy Fridays and Saturdays, though — and you’ll understand what all the local fuss is about.