Atlanta Midtown Walking Tour, Atlanta

Atlanta Midtown Walking Tour (Self Guided), Atlanta

Though its boundaries have never been clearly defined or decided, Midtown basically comprises the area north of Downtown and includes Piedmont Park – one of Atlanta's major recreation areas; the famed Fox Theatre, a 1920s Moorish-motif movie palace; the Woodruff Arts Center, home of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Alliance Theatre, and the High Museum of Art; and the oh-so-yummy Mary Mac's Tea Room, so important that in 2011 the Georgia House of Representatives officially declared the restaurant to be "Atlanta's Dining Room." Take this orientation walk to explore some of the Midtown's key places of interest, from its skyscrapers and historic houses to its fine restaurants, museums and churches.
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Atlanta Midtown Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Atlanta Midtown Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Atlanta (See other walking tours in Atlanta)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Fox Theatre
  • Mary Mac's Tea Room
  • William Perrin Nicolson House / Historic Midtown
  • Saint Mark United Methodist Church
  • Margaret Mitchell House and Museum
  • First Church of Christ, Scientist
  • Woodruff Arts Center / Alliance Theatre
  • High Museum of Art
  • Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)
Fox Theatre

1) Fox Theatre (must see)

An architectural rarity in Atlanta, the Fox Theatre was originally planned as part of a large Masonic Shrine Temple – as evidenced by its Eastern/Moorish design that may bring the Arabian Nights to mind. Opened in 1920, its main features remain the same: beautiful onion-shaped domes, minarets and arches, a colossal theater organ (called Mighty Mo) that can make thousands of sounds, and of course the Egyptian Ballroom, designed to replicate Ramesses' temple.

The 4,665 seat auditorium was ultimately developed as a lavish movie theater in the Fox Theatres chain and opened with great fanfare in 1929. A brass-trimmed marble kiosk brought from Italy served as a ticket booth, while the auditorium itself, complete with crenelated walls, was an Arabian courtyard under a twinkling starlit sky that, with state-of-the-art technology, could (and still can) be transformed to a sky at sunrise or sunset.

Now considered to be the last surviving "picture palace", the venue regularly hosts a variety of cultural and artistic events including the Atlanta Ballet, film series, touring Broadway shows as well as occasional concerts by popular artists. If you have the opportunity to attend an event or performance at The Fox, go! It's an intimate venue that will not disappoint.

Why You Should Visit:
Classic, historic, and intimate theater that feels like a magical place. The stage is large, the sound is great, a giant chandelier lights the "night sky" and gilt carvings abound.

Arrive a little early (like 30 minutes...) so you will be able to find your seat and get situated prior to the performance. You can also arrange a private tour of the theater and even rent areas of it for a private event.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am-5:30pm
Mary Mac's Tea Room

2) Mary Mac's Tea Room

For the best "soul food" in Atlanta, you can't beat Mary Mac's Tea Room in the Midtown district. Established in 1945, just after World War II, by Mary MacKenzie, the restaurant offered true southern cooking, especially fried chicken in several modes. One of many enterprising women in search of a living, many of them widowed by the war, MacKenzie called it a "tea room" as a polite way of elevating her endeavor. Celebrated for its top notch service and down to earth atmosphere, the restaurant is known for continuing decades-old cooking traditions: every morning, the workers shuck bushels of corn, hand-wash selected greens and snap the fresh green beans by hand, while breads and desserts are baked onsite.

Famous entrees at Mary Mac's include fried chicken dredged in buttermilk and flour, fried green tomatoes, and pan-fried cube steak – but just as popular are the restaurant's non-fried items: black-eyed peas, collard greens, cheese grits, steamed cabbage & carrots, and the unbelievable peach cobbler for dessert. No one leaves hungry as portions are huge, but bear in mind that you can purchase a batch of cinnamon rolls on your way out – you won't be judged!

Additionally, the drinks menu includes two most popular drinks that can only be found in Atlanta: the Georgia Peach Martini and the Augusta Lemonade – or you could try the delicious sweet tea, referred to as "the table wine of the South".

Be warned to go early or wait in line on weekends. Lunch during the week is usually the best time to go.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 11am–9pm
William Perrin Nicolson House / Historic Midtown

3) William Perrin Nicolson House / Historic Midtown

Built in 1891 by William Perrin Nicolson as a wedding present for his bride, Carolyn Crane, this house in Midtown Atlanta was designed by regionally renowned master architect Walter T. Downing and is a beautiful example of the Eclectic Colonial Revival style. Downing designed many public buildings and churches, such as Sacred Heart Church (1877–98) but his most unusual and impressive works were his residential designs where his eclectic and individualistic style shines through.

The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, and is a City of Atlanta Landmark Building and Site (1989). One reason for its listing is that it is now a relatively rare surviving example of W.T. Downing's residential work, being one of only five of his houses in Atlanta still extant, and it is the only one reflecting the distinctive style that he developed in his designs commissioned in the 1890s.

The house is part of Midtown Historic District, which includes most of Midtown east of Piedmont Avenue and is noted for its bungalows and Queen Anne style houses.
Saint Mark United Methodist Church

4) Saint Mark United Methodist Church

One of the few Gothic Revival granite churches in Atlanta, Saint Mark's United (erected 1902-3) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and architecturally stands out for its use of Stone Mountain granite, triple entrance portal, and twelve pot-metal stained-glass windows depicting scenes from the life of Jesus.

In the early 1990s the church was on the verge of closing but the congregation ended up swelling to more than 1700 members during the decade. It is now a diverse community for young and old, single and married, and those of various gender identities. A fifteen-year series of renovations to the main sanctuary was completed in 2008.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am–5pm; Sun: 9–10am / 11:15am–12:30pm
Margaret Mitchell House and Museum

5) Margaret Mitchell House and Museum

One could honestly stay in the Margaret Mitchell House for hours given the amount of experience, information, and context provided. From seeing what Atlanta was like back in the 1920s to insights into Margaret Mitchell's entire life; the hype around the casting and making of the "Gone With the Wind" movie – you will find it all here!

The "house" part itself is really just the first-floor apartment where Margaret and her husband lived (they did not actually occupy the whole space), which was recreated with 1930s decor. Although the artifacts were not owned by Margaret, the look and feel bring observers into the aesthetic of where she penned her famous novel. Midtown Atlanta might not have been the best area back then, hence she referred to the apartment as "The Dump", but you'll likely find it to be pleasant.

If you have time, be sure to head into the separate building across the backyard (covered in the price of admission) to watch part of the documentary on how the GWTW film was made, including the original casting footage with various Hollywood stars at the time. Another interesting section, packed with pictures, news reels, and newspaper articles, documents what it was like during the movie's 1939 premiere in Atlanta.

All in all, if you at all enjoy the "Gone With the Wind" book or film, then you should check this nice little gem out!

Admission to the Atlanta History Center also includes tickets to the Margaret Mitchell House which you can use at any point during in the next 9 days. The visit to the house itself is greatly enhanced by a tour with a docent, which does not cost extra but is not always offered, so call ahead to make sure you can get on it. There are several exhibits inside house as well as a two-hour film on the making of "Gone with the Wind" in an attached building, so give yourself enough time.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 11am–4pm; Sun: 1–4pm
First Church of Christ, Scientist

6) First Church of Christ, Scientist

First Church of Christ, Scientist is the main congregation for Atlanta's Christian Science community, whose service is very different from other Christian services. Those not familiar with the Scientist belief system should note that it originated in 19th-century New England with Mary Baker Eddy, who argued in her 1875 book "Science and Health" that prayer can heal the sick. The book became Christian Science's central text, along with the Bible, and by 2001 had sold over 9 million copies.

Opened in 1914, the church's historic Greek revival edifice is located on the corner of Fifteenth Street, N.E., and Peachtree Street in the city's Midtown section and is a contributing property in the Ansley Park Historic District. Aside for the architectural importance, it claims to be the first air-conditioned building in Atlanta, having used a primitive system of involving fans blowing over blocks of ice placed in the passages beneath the floor of the main auditorium.

Opening Hours:
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri: 11am–2pm; Wed: 6:30–8:30pm; Sun: 11am–12:30pm
Woodruff Arts Center / Alliance Theatre

7) Woodruff Arts Center / Alliance Theatre

Better bring your comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to take your time, as that's the only was to enjoy this multi-leveled performing arts center that hosts the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and the High Museum of Art. There are always new things to do, see and hear, so it never gets old; besides, the structure is beautiful and with many windows, so on a sunny day the natural light will guide you through.

Concerts at the Atlanta Symphony sound amazing due to the great acoustics (no bad seats on the floor, either); plays and events at the Alliance Theatre are unique and comfortable to watch; then, of course, there is also the High Museum of Art, one of the premier establishments of its kind in the world... Oh, and don't forget Twelve Eighty with its fabulous food, drinks, and service! There's a lot going on at the Center and the campus spans several city blocks. Hundreds (if not thousands) of people flock to here every weekend and, despite that, there is not a major disruption to life.

If you love art, you will love Woodruff. It's a place you should visit at least once a year.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am–8pm; Sat, Sun: 12–8pm
High Museum of Art

8) High Museum of Art (must see)

The leading art museum in the Southeastern U.S, 'the High' is much larger than usually expected, with beautiful and varied collections inside the modern, sculptural, enamel-clad building. Founded in 1905 as the Atlanta Art Association, it has evolved into one of the best curated art museums in the country where one can easily spend half a day.

With more than 14,000 works of art in its permanent collection (more than one-third of which were acquired at the turn of the 21st century), it's a great place for 19th- and 20th-century American art; European art (including Tiepolo, Monet, Matisse, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, Rodin), decorative arts (especially from the late 1800s and early 1900s), as well as modern and contemporary art and photography. Among special highlights are the eclectic chairs and object art found throughout the galleries, Deborah Butterfield's "Horse Sculpture", and pretty much the contemporary collection in general.

The High places special emphasis on supporting and collecting works by Southern self-taught artists, such as Howard Finster, and includes a contextual installation of sculpture and paintings from his Paradise Gardens. Curiously enough, a curatorial department is specifically devoted to the field of self-taught art, a distinction unique among North American museums. What the artists lack in formal training they make up for in invention and a lot of it is just plain fun.

This museum does a great job on the rotating collections – go to the website to find out what's on display. Also check out the docent 'Highlights Tour' at 1pm daily (reservations not required).

Opening Hours:
Tue, Wed, Thu, Sat: 10am–5pm; Fri: 10am–9pm; Sun: 12–5pm
Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)

9) Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)

Perhaps the only museum in this part of the country that is focused entirely on the study and recognition of design, MODA is unquestionably different from your standard art museum fare. You can take a comprehensive tour and learn more about the intricate world of design or stop at the museum's gift shop that sells an extensive variety of merchandise.

With about 6,500 sq-ft (600 m2) of exhibit space in two main galleries with clean, industrial lines and versatile concrete floors, MODA regularly features exhibitions on architecture, industrial and product design, interiors and furniture, graphics, fashion and more. The front desk area can double as a reception space and the back gallery has a vaulted ceiling with windows stretching up two stories. In addition, the museum impressively has a built-in A/V system with ceiling-mounted digital projectors, track lighting that switches on in the blink of a motion detector, and banks of security cameras.

If you find beauty in the objects around you and want to learn more about how they are designed and made, this place should be on your list. It's a great add-on to a day at the High, which is right across the street, or can be a stand-alone activity while out in Midtown Atlanta.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Wed, Fri-Sun: 12–6pm; Thu: 12–8pm

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