How to Visit Atlanta Like a Movie Star
Eleven ways to follow in the footsteps of Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Lady Gaga, and more.
Georgia is no stranger to the stars: It has the fastest-growing film industry in the world, with nearly 250 productions filmed in the Peach State in 2015. Much of the action is centered in Atlanta, earning it the moniker “Hollywood of the South.” Here are a few ways to experience the city like the many A-Listers who come here.
Where to Eat
Robert Downey Jr. is known to drop in for the signature Sunday brunch at Serpas True Food, a contemporary American restaurant in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. Small wonder: The menu of cast-iron sunny-side-up eggs and banana brown-sugar French toast is tough to resist. The restaurant is also a favorite of Scarlett Johansson.
The Buckhead neighborhood’s upscale sushi restaurant Umi is crawling with celebrities, including Jennifer Lawrence, who orders the avocado salad, spicy tuna crispy rice and black cod misoyaki and washes it down with her typical cocktail, a dirty martini. She’s sometimes joined by her Hunger Games costar Liam Hemsworth, who prefers the madai carpaccio, tuna carpaccio, Kobe beef nigiri, otoro caviar, and sea bass yu-an yaki. His drink of choice? A bottle of Sapporo or Dassai 50. Keep an eye out for other regulars, including Kate Winslet and Robert De Niro.
If you’re standing in line to order at Buckhead’s Farm Burger, pay attention to who’s around you: Jennifer Garner recently waited her turn to order from the menu of locally sourced hamburgers, salads, and fries. Usher is also a fan, selecting collard greens and roasted Brussels sprouts during a recent visit.
Ponce City Market in the Old Fourth Ward is one of Atlanta’s most buzzed-about developments, and many a curious celebrity has turned up to see its shops, bars, and restaurants. Bellina Alimentari, an Italian restaurant in the market’s Food Hall, is a favorite of Owen Wilson, who recently ordered the tagliere misto (cured meats and cheeses board), lasagna alla bolognese, tagliolini della sorellina (mushroom ragu), and a salad.
Where to Drink
Speaking of Owen Wilson, he was just seen hanging out on the patio of Living Room at the W Atlanta Midtown with his older brother, Andrew Wilson. The two sipped cocktails while watching college football on the patio’s flatscreen TVs.
Over at Bar Margot, a newly opened hotspot in Midtown’s Four Seasons hotel, NBA analyst Charles Barkley forgoes the signature cocktails for his go-to drink: Tito’s Vodka with a splash of cranberry juice. He also noshes on the fried olives, charcuterie plate, and twice-fried chicken.
The saucy showplace Clermont Lounge attracts the most celebrities with its kitschy charm. Maybe it’s the faded velveteen wallpaper, or perhaps it’s “Blondie,” the senior-citizen dancer, but stars can’t seem to get enough of this joint in the Poncey-Highland neighborhood. Recent lounge-goers include Morgan Freeman, Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, and Woody Harrelson.
Where to Play
Atlanta’s scaled-down version of Central Park, Piedmont Park in Midtown has rolling meadows, open fields, a lovely lake, and miles of trails. It’s this diverse landscape that makes it a popular filming location; Mother’s Day with Jennifer Aniston recently shot scenes here.
After a long day of filming, where do celebrities go to cool off? The Georgia Aquarium downtown, which has welcomed everyone from Betty White to Jennifer Lopez to Melissa McCarthy. The stars usually opt for a Behind the Seas tour, which showcases the research and conservation efforts of the world’s largest aquarium.
Related: Things to do in Atlanta
Where to Stay
According to our sources, Lady Gaga stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta when she passed through town last year. Maybe she liked its location in the heart of Buckhead’s luxury shopping district, or perhaps it was the 15,000-square-foot spa that lured her. Regardless, it’s possible she spotted other stars during her stay; the hotel is also a favorite of Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman.
In September, Jennifer Aniston pulled up to Buckhead’s St. Regis Hotel in a black Suburban packed with cases of Smartwater. She was in town filming Mother’s Day, and she clearly wanted to stay hydrated at her home away from home. Also spotted at this AAA Five Diamond hotel? Chris Evans, whose movie Gifted filmed a scene here in November.
Allison Entrekin is an executive editor with Southbound Magazine and the Georgia Travel Guide. She covers the Southeastern United States beat for Travel + Leisure. Follow her @aweissentrekin.