Whenever we go home for the holidays, we always make a beeline to talk to Aunt Vera during the countless winter parties. She may be one of the oldest gals there, but she always looks amazing in her super on-point ensembles, she knows exactly what’s going on with Kanye, Taylor and all the Ryans (Reynolds, Gosling, etc.) and she’s the life of the party as everyone makes their way to hear stories about times gone by and predictions for the future.

Aunt Vera is like Grant Park in human form. Grant Park is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Atlanta, rich in culture and history (with attractions like Zoo Atlanta and Oakland Cemetery), yet has reinvented itself as a place to be seen, where residents and visitors can stop by cool, one-of-a-kind restaurants and businesses. And at the center of this intown jewel is Grant Park itself, established in the late 1800s and visited by more than a million visitors yearly.

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Welcome to Grant Park! Image: Atlanta Intown Central

The neighborhood is situated in southeast Atlanta, neighboring Old Fourth Ward, East Atlanta and Edgewood. With I-20 running through the top end, major roads like Boulevard and Atlanta Avenue crossing paths within and home to many of the city’s top attractions, Grant Park is an easily accessible place to hang. Longtime resident Jennifer Cuthbertson says she “loves the fact that I can see downtown from my porch and hear the Atlanta Braves games … at least for the 2016 season. We watched the Olympic flame being lit from our home in 1996. The neighborhood continues to grow, evolve and get better.”

Grant Park has something for everyone: history buffs, animal lovers, nature enthusiasts, small business supporters, foodies and everyone in between. Let’s take a stroll through one of our favorite historical ‘hoods!

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Don’t be sad because Atlanta Cyclorama isn’t in this article — it’s just moving, silly! The building, which houses the 360-degree panorama painting of 1864’s “Battle of Atlanta,” as well as the Texas, an American steam locomotive from the 1860s, will move to the Atlanta History Center’s Buckhead campus. The new 23,000-square-foot Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker Cyclorama Building is set to open in fall 2017.

Grant Park: Attractions

Grant Park

840 Cherokee Ave., Atlanta
Hours: Open daily 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Obviously, you can’t have an article on Grant Park the neighborhood without talking about Grant Park the park. The 131-acre public space is home to some fabulous events throughout the year and is a great green space to ride bikes, play sports and just enjoy the great outdoors. Most of the land was donated by Colonel Lemuel P. Grant in 1881, eventually becoming a happening gathering place for turn-of-the-century ladies and gentlemen to have picnics, stroll the gardens and flirt coquettishly.

Today’s courtship rituals may be a bit different, but meeting up in this lovely outdoor space is still the same. Besides Zoo Atlanta and Cyclorama (see above), the park houses a much-needed pool for Atlanta’s brutal summers and awesome events, like the upcoming Run Before You Crawl 5K & Pub Crawl on April 9.

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Loads of green space and history await inside the park. Image: Grant Park Conservancy

Zoo Atlanta

800 Cherokee Ave., Atlanta • (404) 624-5600
Hours: Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Current hours are Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (last admission at 4:30 p.m.); Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (last admission at 5:30 p.m.) Hours change for November to March.

Take your wild ones to meet Atlanta’s wild ones at Zoo Atlanta. Besides the typical lions and tigers and bears, make sure to stop by the giant panda exhibit (a conservation effort with China) or the new state-of-the-art amphibian and reptile complex called Scaly Slimy Spectacular. And check out Wild Encounters for feeding African elephants or Aldabra tortoises. In addition to all the exotic animals, Zoo Atlanta throws amazing events throughout the year, like Boo at the Zoo and fundraisers, or rent the place out yourself if you’re thinking about having a massive formal to-do. Check Zoo Atlanta’s website for ticket prices and discounted rates.

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Zoo Atlanta is a popular destination for families, couples and animal enthusiasts.

Oakland Cemetery

248 Oakland Ave. SE, Atlanta • (404) 688-2107
Hours: The Visitors Center and Museum Shop is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Weekend hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. for most of the year (during the winter it’s 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

Okay, so if you’ve never been to Grant Park, heard of Oakland Cemetery or just don’t know much about Atlanta, you may be wondering why we’re including a cemetery as an “attraction.” Well, Oakland Cemetery has been an Atlanta institution since it got its official name in 1872 and even before that, when it was a public burial ground. The land has deep connections to the Civil War, becoming one of the major cemeteries for fallen soldiers. As time went by and the last burial sites were sold, Oakland became a popular destination to honor Atlanta’s past. Famous “residents” include Margaret Mitchell, Robert T. “Bobby” Jones, James G. Woodward and many other well-known Atlantans.

There is no fee to visit (you can take a self-guided tour), but we recommend attending one of the Special Topic Tours, which are offered throughout the year. This year’s themed tours include African-American History at Oakland, Fear and Accusation: The Leo Frank Story, Oakland’s Boys of Summer Baseball Tour and many others. Check the website to find the full schedule and associated costs with these tours.

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Oakland Cemetery’s home to many of Atlanta’s former greats, including golf legend Bobby Jones.

Honorable mention: Turner Field

Grant Park: Food & Drink

Stone Soup Kitchen

584 Woodward Ave., Atlanta • (404) 524-1222
Hours: Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Stone Soup Kitchen is an unassuming brick storefront, but you are doing yourself (and your taste buds) a disservice if you don’t stop in for breakfast or lunch (or both). We love this diner that just screams Grant Park, with its eclectic menu featuring standouts like homemade pies, veggie-friendly tempeh tacos and the Hungarian mushroom soup. That last one might seem a bit out of place, but trust us when we say you need to treat your flavor palate to this creamy mushroom soup.

Don’t feel left out if you don’t work near Grant Park and thus, can’t make it for your lunch break or a premeeting breakfast — Stone Soup recently added weekend hours, so everyone can enjoy their blueberry flapjacks and the East Haven Scramble.

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The food is off the charts delicious at Stone Soup Kitchen. During my most recent visit, I went the lunch route and got the SSK Veggie Quesadilla, with sautéed mushrooms, red onion, arugula with pesto chevre and a fried egg.

Ziba’s Bistro

560 Boulevard SE, Atlanta • (404) 622-4440
Hours: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Ziba’s Restaurant calls itself Grant Park’s Best Kept Secret, but we guess the secret is out, because this neighborhood staple has been keeping residents happy since it opened in 2010. The intimate setting with a European vibe offers patrons tasty options like a mussels menu in flavors including white (white wine, cream, shallots and garlic) and coconut milk (lemongrass, cilantro and red chili flakes), plus so much more. Come for lunch or dinner, or even just a coffee (from locally owned JavaVino) or cocktail.

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Besides all the great food, Ziba’s serves some fabulous Sensations & Libations.

Ria’s Bluebird

421 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta • (404) 521-3737
Hours: Open daily 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

We won’t go into too much detail with Ria’s Bluebird since we previously devoted so much time (and Weight Watchers points) to this delicious dining spot. But in case you’re more interested in the CliffsNotes version, let us just say: 1.) The buttermilk pancakes are enchanted by magical breakfast fairies. 2.) It’s an awesome place to bring a friend who has eating restrictions but still likes good food. 3.) Ria’s does a lot for their surrounding community, which would definitely make their namesake and dearly departed owner/chef Ria Pell quite proud. FYI, be prepared to wait a bit for a table, unless you don’t mind setting your alarm and dining in your jammies (which we at StyleBlueprint totally don’t).

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Don’t fly away without making a stop at Ria’s Bluebird.

Bennett’s Market and Deli 

568 Boulevard SE, Atlanta • (404) 849-8467
Hours: Open daily 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Located a few doors down from Ziba’s Bistro, Bennett’s Market and Deli has an irresistible charm you’ll notice the second you enter. This hybrid restaurant + retail was opened in 2013 by owner Victoria Trestrail, a longtime Grant Park resident. There’s something comforting in knowing that the businesses you visit are owned and operated by the same people living next door. On the market side of things, customers can purchase local and organic meats, produce, cheese and jarred items. On the deli side of things, stop by the counter and stuff your face with a pimento cheese and bacon sandwich or a sinfully delicious Reuben.

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Order one of Bennett’s scrumptious sandwiches and pair it with a true Atlanta beverage — an ice-cold Coke.

Dakota Blue

454 Cherokee Ave. SE, Atlanta • (404) 589-8002
Hours: Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Everyone knows I love a funTOTstic meal, so the second I saw Death Tots! on Dakota Blue’s menu, I was in love (by the way, that’s beer-braised brisket, queso with a jalapeno and onion topping on golden tots). This self-described “neighborhood joint” offers simply amazing food, but it’s the burgers that really stir your creativity — you can customize your patty with options like the 1/2-pound, hormone-free beef patty, turkey burger, black bean veggie burger or chicken breast, then go crazy with the toppings, dipping sauces, sides and even a bun (they offer gluten-free versions). The menu is massive, so everyone is sure to find something they’ll love.

Little Tart Bakeshop

437 Memorial Drive SE, Atlanta • (404) 348-4797
Hours: Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

As our mama told us, the meal isn’t complete without dessert … which is perhaps why we’re simultaneously always looking to add a few more Spanx to our collection. No matter, the calories are worth it when you get to Little Tart Bakeshop inside The Jane complex (the bakery shares a space with Octane Coffee). There really isn’t a bad option to choose, but in the spirit of this article, we will steer you toward the sweets (you can try the savory stuff, which is also quite amazing, on your own time). Morning pastries include Local Jam Danish, Pain au Chocolat, almond croissant and, on the weekends, cinnamon-sugar Morning Bun. We could go into the details, but do you really need them?!

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If you’re on a diet, we suggest you don’t step into The Little Tart Bakeshop … or just make sure it’s a cheat day.

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Sorry, but this place requires two photos so you can see all the devilishly delicious pastries (hello, chocolate caramel tarts)!

Honorable Mentions (seriously, we wish we could include all of these but we just ran out of space): Home Grown, Mi Barrio, Daddy D’z BBQ Joynt, Grant Park Coffeehouse, Doc Chey’s Noodle House , Republic Social House, Mix’D Up

Grant Park: Looking Good

Hawkins & Clover Salon & Apothecary

318 Cherokee Ave., #102, Atlanta • (404) 922-1684
Hours: Open by appointment only

Hawkins & Clover is a super cute salon, open by appointment only, that offers completely customized service with the client’s needs always at the forefront. No really, it’s a “gratuity-free environment” that thrives on customer loyalty and their ability to tame even the toughest of styles (we’re looking at you, Curly Sue). In fact customers are so loyal, some come from as far away as the Swiss Alps, says owner Erika Audrey. She says Hawkins & Clover is an entity all its own, where all shapes and color services receive a complimentary spa shampoo with essential oil massage, lavender eye pillow and warm towel conditioning treatment. And no, you cannot move in — just make sure to book an appointment because there are no drop-ins at this salon.

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Owner Erika Audrey, pictured here, describes her salon’s aesthetic as Kate Spade meets Anthropologie. Hawkins & Clover is not your ordinary hair salon, so be prepared for the works.

Live Free Tattoo

566 Boulevard SE, Atlanta • (404) 635-9414
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

In order to write a properly researched story, of course I had to get the StyleBlueprint logo tattooed on my temple (a la Mike Tyson’s face tattoo). Or … I could just take a grand perusal of Live Free and pretend I’m a tough chick. Since I’m tattoo-free, I didn’t have a lot to go on, so instead, I went with neighbor recommendations of this tattoo studio, which opened in 2012. The available artwork to choose from and customize and the obviously talented staff waiting to ink you up make Live Free Tattoo a great option in the Grant Park neighborhood.

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Wear your heart (or skull and crossbones) on your sleeve by getting tatted up at Live Free Tattoo.

Honorable mentions: Only You Tattoo, Relish Salon, Salon Styles by Tomica, Razz Dazz Girls

Grant Park: Miscellaneous

Garden*Hood

353 Boulevard SE, Atlanta • (404) 880-9848
Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Those with green thumbs and those with just, well, thumbs will both feel comfortable making a trip to Garden*Hood in historic Grant Park. The knowledgeable staff with extensive horticultural training will help find you the perfect plant to spruce up your living space. Besides offering planting advice, the nursery offers garden design services, as well as classes about raising chickens in an urban setting (!).

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Garden*Hood has the intown swag AND horticultural roots (get it?)

Iron Root Studio

563 Memorial Drive, #C, Atlanta • (678) 561-2697
Hours: Depends on class schedule

Located directly across the street from Oakland Cemetery, Iron Root Studio is a great way to increase fitness, improve endurance and create stronger, more flexible bodies. The studio opened in 2014 and offers kettlebell, group fitness and yoga classes, all operating on a membership model (so students can take as many classes as they want). Get more information about membership pricing, class times and Iron Root’s mission by visiting the website.

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Don’t end up like this guy. Strengthen those muscles at Iron Root!

Nirvana Yoga Studio

464 Cherokee Ave., #201, Atlanta • (404) 420-0999
Hours: Depends on class schedule

Looking for a little “om” in your life? Grab your mat and head over to Nirvana Yoga Studio (above Dakota Blue) for a deeply fulfilling workout for your mind, body and spirit. Whether you’re a trained yogi or someone just starting on this path, there are lots of available yoga classes to choose from. For example, Rise & Shine Yoga is for you early risers; there’s Gentle Yoga, which is great for beginners or those with injuries; and even Goodnight Moon, offered in the evening as a restorative practice to prepare your body for sleep. There are loads more classes available with very specific goals, so make sure to visit the website. Drop-in guests cost $12; if you enjoy Nirvana Yoga Studio, then sign up for a Class Card (in various denominations) faster than you can say “Namaste.”

Honorable Mentions: Dance 411 Studios, Zone Bootcamp, Baby Love

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If your name is Mona or Lisa (or anything), you’ll probably really like Republic Social House.

There are many, many more great places we couldn’t quite fit in this one article. Also, keep in mind, Grant Park juts up against Cabbagetown, Glenwood Park, East Atlanta and Edgewood and thus, we tried to stay true to this specific neighborhood and only feature those falling in its borders. We love this eclectic neighborhood and are interested to see what happens as projects like the $20 million proposed entertainment district near Atlanta BeltLine’s planned Southside Trail move into the area.

So cozy up to Aunt Vera, or in this case Grant Park, and find out what this fascinating lady has to say about the historical things she’s seen and what the future holds for her.

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