An Expert Concierge's Guide to Summer Fun in Atlanta

Follow in the footsteps of one of Atlanta's best concierges to learn about must-see hidden gems, hot spots and historic sites in Atlanta.

On the rare occasion when a concierge earns membership into Les Clefs d'Or, they get more than crossed-key lapel pins. “The Golden Keys” denote the highest level of expertise a concierge can achieve. Janice Dempsey, concierge at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta, sports her golden keys proudly as she guides us through the best Atlanta has to offer this summer.

What does your Les Clefs d'Or designation mean? How do you get this designation?

Becoming a Les Clefs d’Or USA is the highest echelon achievement for a career concierge. Obtaining the “Keys of Gold” is a culmination of a lifetime endeavor that will further enrich and strengthen a concierge’s development. Wearing the keys confirms that you are dealing with an experienced concierge who is dedicated to providing excellent service to all. Through networking, knowledge transfer and education, Les Clefs d’Or concierges are able to keep up to date on the happenings in our cities and around the globe.

Janice Dempsey, Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta
Janice Dempsey is a concierge at the Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta and one of only seven Les Clefs d'Or concierges in Georgia. (Courtesy Janice Dempsey)

Becoming a Les Clefs d’Or USA member is an extensive and rigorous process including sourcing two current Les Clefs d’Or sponsors, strict guidelines, a detailed initial application, letters of recommendation, telephone interviews, secret phone shoppers and a highly involved written examination. If accepted, it is an honor and privilege that is shared by both the hotel and concierge.

What are your must-do summer activities for families?

Walking, biking, strolling and skipping on the Atlanta Beltline or in Piedmont Park. A family day at Stone Mountain Park including a picnic, hiking and the amazing "Laser Light Show." To cool off, try splashing in the Fountain of Rings at Centennial Olympic Park; Six Flags White Water or Six Flags Over Georgia. For something different and interactive, try The Children’s Museum, Fernbank Museum of Natural History and the Center for Puppetry Arts.

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta, is an ultra-comfortable and relaxing retreat offering a wide variety of wellness and beauty services. (Courtesy Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta)

What are the most common questions you get at the concierge desk during the summer?

Most guests are looking for fun outdoor activities to do with their families. We get lots of requests for golf courses, tennis courts and great outdoor dining. The most common question is, “Can I do something about the humidity?” or “What is the best spa to cool off in Atlanta?” Of course, it’s The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta!

What is the weather typically like during the summer in Atlanta?

Sunny, hot and humid with frequent thunderstorms

What is the strangest request you’ve ever gotten at the concierge desk?

An elderly guest looking for incontinent/colostomy supplies. I called all over Atlanta and finally found the items at the Shepherd Center Apothecary.

Turner Field, Atlanta, GA
The Atlanta Braves play at Turner Field, known as "The Ted" to locals. (Courtesy Turner Field)

Which summer activities do you personally look forward to most in Atlanta?

Any of the July 4 activities in Atlanta including barbecue, a swimming pool and fireworks! Atlanta offers many different arts-and-crafts festivals and street fairs around the city almost every weekend through fall. The Piedmont Park Arts Festival is a longtime favorite. The BB&T Atlanta Open has gained popularity and what is summer without taking in an Atlanta Braves baseball game?

What are three essential things visitors should pack for a summer getaway to Atlanta?

Bring lots of water, sunscreen and a smile—and prepare to have a blast!

Where can visitors buy the perfect Southern summer wardrobe?

Shopping and Atlanta go hand in hand. Try the fabulous Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza, Shops Around Lenox, Atlantic Station and the newly opened Buckhead Atlanta. For more eclectic districts, I suggest Virginia-Highland, Little Five Points and the Westside Provisions District. There is something for everyone to keep cool in Atlanta.

World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta, GA
The World of Coca-Cola is full of interactive and multisensory exhibits and experiences, like the Myths & Legends gallery pictured. (Courtesy The World of Coca-Cola)

What should a visitor do if they only have a day in the city?

I would suggest what I call the trilogy: Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca Cola and the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Guests can ride the newly opened Atlanta Streetcar to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and Sweet Auburn District including the Sweet Auburn Curb Market.

Which attractions, museums or sites do you consider hidden gems?

Many of our guests are looking to immerse themselves in Southern history. The Atlanta History Center is the best kept secret in Buckhead, and Atlanta Cyclorama will be moving there [from Grant Park] in two years! The Margaret Mitchell House and Museum for “Gone With the Wind” fans. And of course the iconic Fox Theatre for concerts, movies, theater and lots more. Since Atlanta has become such a film capital, I suggest the Atlanta Movie Tours including the popular Big Zombie Tours!

Six Feet Under, Atlanta, GA
Six Feet Under has two locations, one on the Westside (pictured) and one in Grant Park, each with its own expansive rooftop patio. (Courtesy Six Feet Under)

Which restaurants have the best patios in Atlanta?

Certainly patio and porch dining has become the big trend over the years. Del Frisco’s Grille near my own Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta is great for Buckhead viewing. Rathbun’s and Krog Bar in the Old Fourth WardJCT Kitchen on the WestsideSix Feet Under in Inman Park, Joe’s on Juniper in MidtownSTATS in Downtown Atlanta, and No. 246 in Decatur are just a few on the ever-growing list.