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Atlanta's neighborhoods: Best places to eat, drink and play

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Banshee is an upscale restaurant addition to the no-frills East Atlanta neighborhood.

Atlanta's neighborhoods: Best places to eat, drink and play

Banshee via CNN

Banshee is an upscale restaurant addition to the no-frills East Atlanta neighborhood.

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(CNN) - Downtown Atlanta is home to a host of densely packed attractions -- the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the College Football Hall of Fame and more.

But the city's real flavor comes from its neighborhoods, and any visit to Atlanta should skew heavy on food and beverage outings, as this guide does.

So while fans in town for the Super Bowl would do well to check out what the area around the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium has to offer, they should also explore a bit beyond downtown.

Grant Park

One of Atlanta's most interesting and storied spots, Historic Oakland Cemetery (248 Oakland Ave) opened in 1850, making it the city's oldest public park.

The graves serve as resting places and reminders of Atlanta's layered history. Jewish, Confederate and African American grounds are all part of its 48 acres. Mayors, former slaves, athletes and authors are all buried here.

The elaborate Victorian cemetery carries its dual role as a park into the modern era. Picnickers and dog-walkers are welcome, and Oakland Cemetery is host to a whole calendar of events from music festivals to Halloween tours. Tickets for various tours can be purchased in advance.

Memorial Drive near the cemetery runs along the border of the Grant Park neighborhood to Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown, where Petit Chou (662 Memorial Dr) and Home grown (968 Memorial Dr) are top spots for breakfast or brunch.

In the evening, Golden Eagle (904 Memorial Dr) serves up expertly crafted cocktails and bites in a knock-your-socks-off space -- think plush, retro hunting lodge.

For a kid-friendly outing, Zoo Atlanta (800 Cherokee Ave), located in 131-acre Grant Park, is a crowd-pleaser. The zoo is one of only four in the US to house giant pandas.

Old Fourth Ward

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birth Home (501 Auburn Ave) is located about a mile from downtown.

The National Park Service offers ranger-led tours that are first-come, first-served and limited to 15 people. Getting to the visitor center early in the morning to sign up is key.

The visitor center is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park (450 Auburn Ave), which is located in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King and his father served as pastors, is also nearby.

A block south of the MLK birth home, Atlanta's young (and youngish) gather along Edgewood Avenue.

Among its eclectic bars: "Nerdy dive bar" with arcade games Joystick Gamebar (427 Edgewood Ave) and Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium (466 Edgewood Ave) -- Church, for short -- where adult beverages meet ping pong, a church organ and all manner of irreverent religious art.

Also on Edgewood is Staplehouse (541 Edgewood Ave), named America's best new restaurant by Bon Appetit in 2016.

About a mile and half north, Ponce City Market is a beacon of adaptive-reuse development and premium dining and retail.

Casual chef-driven eateries -- fish shack, burger joint, fried chicken, tacos, ramen, doughnuts -- dominate the market's Food Hall, located in the rehabbed 1920s Sears, Roebuck & Co. warehouse.

Ponce City Market sits along the Atlanta BeltLine, a 22-mile urban trail that, when finished, will connect 45 intown neighborhoods. This stretch, the Eastside Trail, is the place to people watch and get a sense of Atlanta's rapid redevelopment.

A few blocks down Ponce, in the Poncey-Highland neighborhood, the Clermont Lounge (789 Ponce De Leon Ave NE) is a you-have-to-see-it-to-understand Atlanta institution where a 60-something stripper named Blondie crushes PBR cans with her breasts.

Upstairs, the trendy boutique Hotel Clermont recently opened, complete with a sultry lobby bar and a fun rooftop watering hole with great views of the city.

Midtown

In Midtown, the fabulous Fox Theatre (660 Peachtree St), has hosted musical acts, theater performances, movies and more in its ornate Moorish- and Egyptian-influenced auditorium since 1929. Ticketed tours of the space can be booked in advance.

The Center for Puppetry Arts (1404 Spring St) is the largest American nonprofit dedicated solely to puppet theater. There's a museum with a Jim Henson Collection and a Global Collection, rotating performances (for kids and adults), workshops and other programs.

The High Museum of Art (1280 Peachtree St) is wrapping up its blockbuster showing of "Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors."

Advance tickets are sold out, but for the patient and optimistic visitor, the museum offers 100 walk-up tickets to the Kusama exhibition each day. Lines for those tickets begin several hours before the museum opens. There's also a cache of tickets going on sale on February 5 for the final week of the exhibition (February 11-17).

Nearby, 200-plus acre Piedmont Park is Atlanta's biggest city park and a hub for exercisers, meanderers and a host of festivals and events.

Hungry now? Empire State South (999 Peachtree St) serves creative takes on Southern cuisine, while Lure (1106 Crescent Ave) is a stylish seafood restaurant.

East Atlanta Village

Southeast of downtown, East Atlanta Village is home to a bevy of casual bars (and food, too) at the intersection of Flat Shoals and Glenwood avenues.

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