Little Five Points: Atlanta's Alternative Neighborhood




Little Five Points, one of the city's historic "streetcar'' suburbs, is also one of its most vibrant and diverse centers of shopping, dining and culture. Not to be confused with Five Points, the historic center of downtown Atlanta, this bohemian neighborhood is about ten minutes east of downtown. MARTA, Atlanta's public transit system, has a train station about five minutes away from the center of the neighborhood, and bus lines run through the area.

Little Five Points, or "Little Five,'' as Atlantans call it, is part of the Inman Park-Moreland Historic District. The first Atlanta streetcars ran just south of the neighborhood in the 1890s. According to the National Park Service, "As the population grew in east Atlanta in the area where the trolley lines converged, Little Five Points became one of the earliest major regional shopping centers.'' The area thrived until the 1960s, when "white flight'' and a proposed freeway through the heart of the area began to break up the neighborhood.

In the mid-1970s, Little Five began a comeback, this time as an alternative neighborhood. A local business owner, quoted in Creative Loafing, notes, "For three decades, Little Five Points has been ground zero for alternative Atlanta.'' At first, the area was only for the hard-core denizens of the alternative lifestyle. Over the years, the area has mellowed and gentrified, but not to the point of becoming generic. Frommer's says, "There are still authentic hippies here - and enough young people with wildly colored hair and pierced body parts to give you a '60s flashback.'' The shops and restaurants are still offbeat, the art a little edgy, but it is a popular shopping and entertainment district for both residents and tourists.

Some of the popular things to do and see in Little Five Points include:

Independent bookstores. A Cappella and Charis are two of the few remaining independent bookstores in the city. A Cappella offers serious fiction and political works and features a popular author lecture series. Charis caters to feminist and lesbian customers.

Vintage clothing. Psycho Sisters, The Clothing Warehouse and Rag-O-Rama all offer vintage and used clothes.

Recorded music. Criminal Records has new and used CDs and vinyl records, as well as comic books and underground magazines. Creative Loafing says, "Its in-store concerts are legendary.'' Wax N' Facts, a Little Five Points legend, focuses more on used vinyl, but also carries new and used CDs.

Live music. The Variety Playhouse features national indie acts. The Five Spot and Star Bar offer local acts in various genres.

Theaters. Three of the best small theaters in Atlanta are in Little Five Points. In order of increasing "alternativity,'' they are the Horizon Theatre, which features more popular contemporary works in a variety of genres; Seven Stages, a cutting-edge, nationally and internationally recognized company; and Dad's Garage, voted Best Theatre and Improv Group by Creative Loafing five years in a row.

Little Five Points also offers great dining, from the most contemporary gourmet cuisine at Kevin Rathbun Steak, to the best burgers in town at the Vortex, to the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, one of Details magazine's "Best Dive Bars in America.'' There's plenty more shopping - Junkman's Daughter sells, well, junk, and Sevananda is a health-food cooperative - and of course, people watching is always entertaining in Little Five.

Most reviewers on the Internet appreciate the neighborhood that the New York Times calls "Greenwich Village with peach trees.'' One person says, "A good way to spend an afternoon if you appreciate the alternative scene.'' Another calls it "a great, little eclectic community.'' Some visitors are uncomfortable here, with both the shopping venues and the crowd, but those who "get it,'' as one reviewer said, will have a great time. If you're looking for "a compact, vibrant neighborhood with great restaurants ... and a good night life scene if you want to avoid loud, big-city dance clubs,'' then Little Five Points is perfect.


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