Living in Buckhead, Atlanta, GA: 2020 Neighborhood Guide
Buckhead is an upmarket, commercial district of Atlanta, situated six miles north of Downtown. It is classed as an “edge city”, having its own high-rise commercial center, shopping malls, and cultural facilities.
The 2010 census put the population as a little over 78,000. It has been described as having one of the most affluent zip codes in the southern states (30327) and has even be described as the “Beverly Hills of the South”. It boasts a wealth of restaurants, upscale boutiques, luxury hotels, and beautiful mansions.
Buckhead is close enough to central Atlanta to be considered a high-end commuter town. However, Buckhead is sufficiently self-contained to provide everything a resident might need to enjoy a high standard of living, without regular trips into the capital’s center.
In contrast to its considerable wealth in 2020, Buckhead’s origins were humble. In 1838 farmer Henry Irby bought a 202-acre parcel of land from Daniel Johnson for $650. Irby’s purchase was centered on a road intersection – Peachtree, Roswell, and West Paces Ferry - where he quickly built a general store and tavern.
It is rumored the settlement that quickly developed was nicknamed Buckhead for a deer-head that Irby had positioned somewhere prominent (his own moniker of Irbyville having failed to catch on).
The town became a popular vacation spot for wealthy Atlantans in the 1880s, being briefly renamed Atlanta Heights before its quirkier nickname resurfaced in the 1920s. Many luxurious homes were built amidst the rolling hills, the boomtime for development even continuing into the Great Depression.
Following race riots in downtown Atlanta in 1906, many black people moved north into the as-yet unincorporated Buckhead, many working in domestic service or the construction industries. Segregation and gentrification razed the black neighborhoods of Piney Grove, Johnsontown, and Macedonia Park in the 1940s and many of today’s modernist buildings and malls stand on the land occupied by these displaced communities. In 1952, the city was annexed by Atlanta.
From the 1980s to the early 2000s, the Buckhead Village area became a lively locus of nightlife, frequented by many of Atlanta’s black music stars including Outkast, Usher, and Jermaine Dupri, who commemorated the area’s party vibe in his song “Welcome to Atlanta”.
In recent years, there has been a movement for the city to secede from Atlanta and become a separate city again, largely in an attempt to lower its citizens’ tax burden. The city retains an independent spirit and is a commercial powerhouse within the greater Atlantan region.
Buckhead is such a large and diverse district that it’s difficult to succinctly describe its culture. Within Buckhead, there are neighborhoods with stately homes dominated by old money and buttoned-up patricians and areas bustling with nightlife and frequented by college students.
Furthermore, there are over 40+ neighborhoods within its borders. These neighborhoods range from being high-density areas filled with shops and restaurants (like Lindberg) to quiet, picturesque residential neighborhoods with large estates like Tuxedo Park.
While Buckhead is synonymous with luxury and features some of the most expensive neighborhoods in Atlanta, there are some areas that are surprisingly affordable. For example, the average home price in a condo-dominated Buckhead neighborhood like Peachtree Hills is below $200,000. Many do not realize that Buckhead isn’t necessarily unaffordable, especially if condo living is on the table.
Buckhead’s climate is temperate, with 216 sunny days per year (higher than the national average). Around 47 inches of rain falls annually, making it a little wetter than other cities, but at comparatively low altitude, snow is scarce. Temperatures can reach 90 degrees in July and August but remain pleasant throughout the year. In winter, the temperature rarely descends below 30 degrees.
The BestPlaces Comfort Index grants Buckhead a score of 7.5/10 for its climate, rating it one of the most pleasant climes in the state of Georgia.
Things to Do
Buckhead remains one of the top destinations in Atlanta due to its abundant shopping, dining, and recreational amenities. However, the sheer volume of things to do can be so daunting that it’s tough to cut through the noise and find out what’s really worth your time. Have no fear: we’re locals and have put together a comprehensive list of worthwhile things to do Buckhead based on category. Let’s dive in!
Built in 1959, Lenox Square is a prestigious collection of almost 200 retail outlets and eateries. You’ll find all the major high street brands here as well as Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, Louis Vuitton and Burberry’s.
Lenox Square is an indoor shopping mall located in the heart of Buckhead’s financial district. While Lenox Square is best known for its high-end shops (such as Bloomingdale’s and Neiman-Marcus), the mall has a diverse collection of retailers for every shopper. For example, there are nearly 200 shops and restaurants spread across four levels.
Lenox Square also remains one of the most accessible malls in Atlanta due to a MARTA Station located directly across the street. Additionally, garage parking is free and there’s also a drive-up valet.
For many, Lenox Square is their favorite destination in Buckhead. It’s a clean, modern, and vibrant mall with stores that cater to every price point. Don’t miss out on a visit if you enjoy shopping!
Adjacent to Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza mall opened in 1969 as the first multi-level mall in Atlanta. Its glitzy interior offers an escape from the summer heat, while you browse at Tiffany’s or Gucci, catch a movie at the 14-screen AMC, or eat at the Grand Lux Café or Agency Socialthèque.
Phipps Plaza is where you’ll find some of the most luxurious shopping in the Southeast. Retailers include some of the most sought-after brands, including Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany’s, and Hugo Boss. It’s not uncommon to spot some of Atlanta’s celebrities and most influential businesspeople shopping here.
Phipps Plaza’s exclusivity means that even during peak hours the mall remains uncrowded. Shoppers can also expect extremely attentive and professional sales representatives.
There are a few affordable things to do at Phipps Plaza, such as an AMC movie theatre and LEGOLAND. Some also enjoy visiting just to gawk at the ultra-luxury cars on display (such as Aston Martin and Rolls-Royce) or high-end merchandise in designer shops. But by and large, be prepared to shell out the big bucks if you plan on shopping here!
For a more modest shopping experience, head to this indoor farmers’ market, open seven days a week. Founded in 2009 by entrepreneur and market gardener Kim Wilson, the site grew from a converted gas station selling Kim’s own vegetables to a bustling store featuring a range of local produce including food, wine, flowers, and Lucy’s celebrated gift baskets.
Buckhead Village District
This shopping district gets a thumbs up from the resident Charlie Loudermilk statue but a thumbs down from drivers stuck in gridlock. Take public transport instead and start at Loudermilk Park, which marks the intersection where the city began.
Paces Drive is a highlight, with a stretch of pretty cottage-style homes turned into cafes, boutiques, and even hair salons. Finish your visit with a meal in the art deco ambiance of Aria, one of Atlanta’s most celebrated restaurants.
Miami Circle NE for Antiques
If you have a hankering for period furniture, head to this concentration of outlets selling everything from antique prints and paintings to old books, lamps, furniture, and rugs. Situated just off Piedmont Road NE, this retail park also boasts a tattoo parlor and bowling alley, for those who seek an alternative to the Gucci glamour uptown.
The Governor’s Mansion
The Governor’s Mansion is perched on a 16-acre estate and features gorgeous Greek Revival architecture. The Mansion features over 30 rooms and houses plenty of historical artifacts as well as our state’s chief executive! Touring the Governor’s Mansion is a great activity for those who are fans of Georgia’s history and politics.
Tours can be scheduled throughout the year on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday mornings. Visitors are able to partake in a semi-guided tour where they’re free to navigate from room to room. Guides are stationed in each room and can answer questions about the various historical artifacts in each room. There are also specially-themed tours during the holiday season, where the First Lady of Georgia greets you at the door!
Atlanta History Center
If a museum is more your thing than a rock concert or musical, quiet contemplation can be had in this 33-acre site with multiple historic buildings and gardens. Hosting nine permanent exhibitions and two temporary shows, the Center is a major educational resource, offering insight into Atlanta’s sometimes turbulent history. Highlights include the Smith antebellum farmhouse and the Wood Family Cabin, an 1820s family home, as well as the Swan House (see below).
The AHC hosts annual events and festivals including its Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in November and Juneteenth, a free weekend of events exploring the history of the slave trade and enslaved peoples.
The Atlanta History Center is Atlanta’s premier destination for history buffs. The Center’s most notable attraction is the Cyclorama, which is a 42-foot painting of the Civil War’s Battle of Atlanta. The painting’s mere size creates an unforgettable experience and it remains one of the most historically noteworthy pieces of art from Atlanta.
Visitors are also given a tour of The Swan House, a neo-classical estate built by the world-renowned architect Philip T. Shutze. The Swan House is an excellent example of the opulence and wealth of the 1930s and visitors are able to learn about its history and past residents.
Lastly, visitors can check out Atlanta’s oldest surviving farmhouse at the Smith Family Farm which provides an insightful look into 1890s agriculture. Exhibits include a kitchen, smokehouse, blacksmith, log cabin, and several gardens. There are live demos held on the farm throughout the year and the barn houses a variety of live animals like goats and sheep.
Not a reference to The Real Housewives of Atlanta, the RH, also called the Gallery at the Estate in Buckhead, is a new outlet of the Restoration Hardware brand. Built as an almost ridiculously opulent 70,000 square foot, six-story estate containing a 50-foot swimming pool and a huge rooftop garden, the building itself is worth a visit whether you’re a fan or a critic of capitalist excess. After all, today’s extravagance is tomorrow’s nostalgia.
A major draw within the Atlanta History Centre estate, Swan House is a Renaissance-style mansion designed by Philip T. Schutze in 1928. The house is named after the recurring Swan motif which occurs in sculptures and paintings throughout the estate. Emily Inman, a women’s rights activist in the Georgia Suffrage Party, lived at Swan House and participated in Atlanta’s first suffrage parade in 1913.
Parks & Recreation
Chastain Memorial Park
Chastain Memorial Park is a 268-acre site offering sports and recreation, walking trails, a golf course, and a horse park. There’s also the Chastain Arts Centre and the American Legion Post 140, whose hall can be hired for events. The quiet rolling hills provide a great view of Buckhead’s skyscrapers to the south.
Chastain Park is Buckhead’s largest and most noteworthy recreational park. There are miles of walking trails, a 9-hole public golf course, playgrounds, swimming pools, a baseball field, tennis courts, picnic areas, and even a horse stable! Basically, Chastain Park has any sort of amenity you might desire at a park. There are also yearly events held, including the Chastain Park Arts Festival.
Chastain Park is also an incredibly beautiful place, as the park features rolling hills and is extremely well-maintained, equipped with manicured grass. Nature lovers will also appreciate Chastain Park’s diverse ecosystem. Bluebirds, goldfinches, and even red-tailed hawks are commonly spotted by wildlife observers.
Lastly, Chastain Park also hosts the Cadence Bank Amphitheater. The venue attracts over 200,000 yearly spectators and has hosted a plethora of A-list talent since 1948, such as Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, and Frank Sinatra.
Blue Heron Nature Preserve
The Blue Heron Nature Preserve is a 30-acre nature preserve in Buckhead that is relatively unknown.
Boardwalks wind their way through this unique wetland preserve, where you might spot dam-building beavers, eastern box turtles, river otters, and the eponymous great blue heron.
It’s an excellent option for those seeking a getaway from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta and its lush canopy provides an escape from Atlanta’s heat. The Preserve is also conveniently located off of Roswell Road and free parking is provided.
While not the place for an intense hike, there are plenty of nature trails that run parallel to a serene creek. It’s also dog-friendly and commonly used by nearby apartment-dwellers to let their dogs exert some energy. Additionally, there are plenty of outdoor educational programs for adults, kids, and families.
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
If you really want to ramble, the CRNRA includes 48 miles of river and 10,000 acres of protected units along the Chattahoochee River, between Atlanta and the Lake Sidney Lanier reservoir. Head north to Sandy Springs to get a map from the visitor center there and consider starting with Morgan Falls Overlook Park, on a scenic river bend.
There are plenty of well-marked nature trails and there are trails offered at every skill level. You’ll find plenty of friendly Park Rangers who are more than willing to help with your questions as to which trail is best for you. You can also expect to see plenty of wildlife along the trails, such as blue herons, deer, and beavers.
The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is often viewed as a way for locals to enjoy some of the hiking and nature opportunities commonly reserved for North Georgia.
Situated on Parkside Drive NE, this urban oasis is the perfect place to jog, walk the dog, watch the fall colors changing or take a post-prandial stroll.
Hidden away behind the AT&T building, this is another local’s favorite, with wide green lawns, ornamental ponds, shady woodland walks, and even a red British phone box.
Atlanta Memorial Park
Elegant Craftsman homes line this 200-acre park adjacent to Peachtree Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River. Memorializing the Civil War Battle of Peachtree Creek, the park contains a nature trail, golf course, and tennis center. It’s prone to flooding, however, in the rainy season.
Shady Valley Park
An 11-acre green space in the Pine Hills district, the Shady Valley Park offers basketball and tennis facilities, a playground, and a meandering creek.
Nightlife & Entertainment
The Painted Pin
The Painted Pin provides an experience far different from your ordinary bowling alley. This bowling alley offers a relaxed, yet upscale ambiance with a heavy emphasis on alcohol. The food is also stellar, so much so that some describe it as an upscale restaurant with an attached bowling alley. There’s also plenty of games offered beyond bowling, such as shuffleboard, darts, skee ball, and bocce ball.
The Painted Pin is a great venue for friends, family, and even business associates. One more quirky thing: they have a pretty interesting twist on bathrooms. The handwashing station in each bathroom actually faces each other, meaning that random members of the opposite sex can strike up a conversation while washing their hands! Personally, we’ve never seen anything like it before and it adds tons of character to the overall experience.
Johnny's Hideaway is an old school bar known for its dance floor. The interior resembles that of an old lounge in Las Vegas, with plenty of memorabilia on the walls from various decades. Amazingly, the bar caters to people of all ages and it is not uncommon to see people in their 60s dancing next to people in their 20s. The music is similarly indiscriminate: they play everything from Frank Sinatra to Bruno Mars.
Conveniently located across the street from Lenox Square, Bucket Shop provides a solid bar for people who live and work in the area. It’s the type of place where you can always find the “vibe” you’re looking for - whether it be blowing off steam after a long day, a date night, or meeting a business associate for a meeting. The interior ambiance is somewhat old school; it’s the type of bar reminiscent of the one on “Cheers”.
There’s a popular patio area outside with mounted TVs and plenty of seating. It’s a great place to go for any sporting event, as they’ll certainly have it on the TVs. This is especially true for Auburn games, where there is an ardent fandom that meets up here for every game.
Built in 1930, the Buckhead Theatre was built in the Spanish Baroque style as a second-run cinema and venue for concerts by the Buckhead Symphony Orchestra. Over the years it has changed its name many times, having once been the Capri Ballroom and The Roxy. Redeveloped in 2010, the Theatre has become a major music venue, with concerts from artists ranging from Waylon Jennings, Elvis Costello, and Peter Tosh to Kesha and The Airborne Toxic Event.
Cadence Bank Amphitheatre
Located in Chastain Park and opened in 1944, the amphitheater is known as Atlanta’s oldest music venue. After a slow start in the post-war era, the venue began hosting free open-air shows for the Atlanta Pops Orchestra, drawing crowds of up to 30,000 music fans. Operating between April and October, the amphitheater currently hosts up to 6900 seated visitors. Table seating is sometimes available in the orchestra pit area, with visitors permitted to bring their own food and drinks. Cadence’s “Theatre under the Stars” events are a particular draw, featuring Broadway shows and comedies featuring star talent.
Peachtree Road Farmers Market
The Peachtree Road Farmers Market features only local and organic vendors every Saturday from March to December. There are strict protocols in place to ensure that everything present at the market has been “grown, raised, or made” by the individual selling it. The Peachtree Road Farmers Market is such a staple of the Buckhead community that it’s often just referred to as the “Buckhead Farmers Market”.
Atlanta Startup Village
Interested in entrepreneurship? Check out the Atlanta Startup Village, a monthly gathering of entrepreneurs at the Atlanta Tech Village. Startups practice their “pitch” to an audience of skeptics and then field questions that challenge their business plan. Basically, it’s comparable to a real-life Shark Tank experience. There are actual investors in the crowd, and the entrepreneurs attempt to impress them into funding their company.
Things to Do for Kids
LEGOLAND Discovery Center
The LEGO Discovery Center Atlanta is a great destination for children who are creative and love legos. Located within Phipps Mall, it’s best described as a “mini-LEGOLAND” with a few rides and various areas to build and play with legos. Interestingly, they’ve managed to create an impressively large version of Atlanta entirely in Legos!
Kazoo Toys provides a unique take on toy shops. All toys are sourced from environmentally-friendly materials and are designed to help aid in the cognitive development of the children who use them. You won’t find any video games or mass-marketed junk here. Staff is extremely attentive and makes the toy-buying process an engaging one for both you and your child.
Buckhead Real Estate
It should come as no surprise that Buckhead features some of the most luxurious homes and gated communities in Atlanta. After all, Buckhead remains the “old money” capital of Atlanta and houses some of the most influential and prestigious individuals in the United States. This provides a very unique opportunity for visitors to check out some of the top estates in Georgia.
Those who love to ogle at grandiose homes should consider a drive through communities like Tuxedo Park and Historic Brookhaven. A fair warning: some of the estates are so sequestered that you may only be able to catch a glimpse from the road!