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Bucket list: All the best things to do in Decatur

Decatur, Georgia, has long been a crossroads where city meets country. In the 1800s, it was a trading center for small farmers. These days, it's the things to do in Decatur that draw metro Atlanta residents and visitors from rural areas alike. Both groups enjoy the down-home eateries, outdoorsy family fun and endless shopping, sipping and festivals. Whatever draws you to Decatur, you're bound to leave with a new interest.

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This place is bursting with bucket list attractions and activities, all at the crossroads of friendly and fun. Here's a sample of the best of Decatur:

Family shenanigans

Comet Pub and Lanes in Decatur is family-friendly until 10 p.m.
Photo: Contributed by Comet Pub and Lanes/For the AJC

The Comet Pub and Lanes

2619 N. Decatur Road, Decatur. 470-225-1931.

This is one of the things to do in Decatur that you can't find just anywhere: a revitalized 1950s-era bowling alley. Old-school good times, that's what it's all about. They roll on 32 lanes and are quite affordable. For parents and lighthearted adults, the alley also features 16 draft lines and a full bar.

AMC North DeKalb 16

2042 Lawrenceville Highway, Suite F-22, Decatur. 404-634-0451.

Picked as a Best Movie Theater in Atlanta by AJC readers, this blockbuster movie house offers reserved seating, discount Tuesdays and RealD 3D movies.

Your Dekalb Farmer's Market is Decatur's massive source for produce, cheese, deli and more.
Photo: AJC/For the AJC

Your DeKalb Farmers Market

3000 E. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 404-377-6400.

The farmers market has become a standard family outing and this one does the honors with pride and fresh ingredients for the weekday menu. Cheese, deli, produce, seafood and even a restaurant are all here at this massive 140,000-square-foot warehouse.

Decatur Farmers Market

4-7 p.m. Wednesdays from early April to about mid-November and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays mid-April to mid-December on the lawn at First Baptist Church of Decatur, 308 Clairemont Ave., Decatur.

A little smaller in scope but quite charming, this market has honey, locally-grown fresh veggies, baked goods, kombucha, that sort of thing. It's also a feel-good place because it doubles SNAP dollars.

Fresh air outings

Native Botanical Gardens at Georgia State University Perimeter College

3251 Panthersville Road, Decatur. 678-891-2668.

Nearly a mile of easy walking trails winds through 20 beds of perennials native to Georgia, replete with bluebells, lady slippers and such. One really nice thing is that this sanctuary is open seven days a week, 9 a.m. to dusk. Every botanical bucket list should include a stop at the eerie-but-impressive "Ferns of the World" garden, which looks like a dinosaur might happen by any minute.

Mason Mill Park

1340 McConnell Drive, Decatur. 404-679-1349.

There are all sorts of kid-friendly parks in DeKalb County that are fun for parents, too. One of the best is Decatur's Mason Mill Park. It's open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., with two playgrounds so kids can play and a paved walking trail for a family walk or jog. It's also the place to bring bikes and enjoy plentiful naturalist programs.

Oakhurst Park

307 Feld Ave., Decatur. 404-373-1360.

This daylight-to-dark park is a casual spot to stretch your legs, play tennis or catch a high school softball game.

For history buffs:

The historic, formerly segregrated courthouse in downtown Decatur houses the DeKalb History Center.
Photo: Contributed by Casey Sykes/For the AJC

DeKalb History Center

101 E. Court Square, Decatur. 404-373-1088.

Admission is free to the history center in Decatur's historic DeKalb Courthouse, but seeing the evocative relics of DeKalb County history is worth millions. Exhibits are current and thoughtful, like, "Tears and Curses: A Human Focus on the Civil War." "Deep Roots in DeKalb: The Flat Rock Story of Resilience" focuses on one of the oldest African American communities in Georgia. Closed on Sundays.

Crowley Mausoleum

Walmart parking lot, 3580 Memorial Drive, Decatur.

This is an oddity every Georgia history buff should check out, but maybe only once. As the story goes, this land that later became a Walmart was owned by a Crowley family for more than a century. The 1960 builders agreed to leave the cemetery untouched, and visitors can still check out the mausoleum.

Dining in Decatur

Decatur's Southern Sweets Bakery is known for its cakes and serving BBQ at breakfast.
Photo: Contributed by Southern Sweets Bakery/For the AJC

Southern Sweets Bakery

186 Rio Circle, Decatur. 404-373-8752.

These folks have "homemade" down pat, from decadent cakes to fresh baked goods suitable for lunch. This also happens to be the unusual bakery that serves breakfast BBQ on a biscuit and Baked French Toast Casserole alongside piping hot coffee and flapjacks. Do you really need a special occasion to eat cake?

Chai Pani Decatur

406 W. Ponce de Leon Ave., Decatur. 404-378-4030.

Who would expect a former trading post like Decatur to have such delectable and authentic Indian food? This is one of metro Atlanta's top spots for Indian street sandwiches and "we'll have what you're having" thali special platters. Kids have their own menu that will have them appreciating Indian cuisine in no time.

Revival

129 Church St., Decatur. 470-225-6770.

Gourmet Southern cooking awaits at Revival, which prides itself on traditional Sunday dinner fare. Be prepared to sit family-style and enjoy your food at a place that was once the home to the Campbell family of Decatur at the turn of the 20th century. You'll be dining on fried chicken and other farm-fresh ingredients and three-tier red velvet cake, that kind of thing. They have to take a break from providing so much awesomeness, though, so be aware that they're closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Seasonal pasta is on offer all year round at No. 246 in Decatur.
Photo: Contributed by No. 246/For the AJC

No. 246

129 E. Ponce De Leon Ave., Decatur. 678-399-8246.

Seasonal cooking with high-quality ingredients is the motto at No. 246. Pizza and pasta abound, so it's a great date night destination. And be on the lookout for the communal Black Sheep Table that seats up to 12 for fixed-price family-style dining.

Kimball House

303 E. Howard Ave. Decatur. 404-378-3502.

Food and drinks at Kimball House reflect the season and honor Decatur's farming heritage. The best time to visit is no doubt Raw Bar Happy Hour 5-7 p.m. Monday through Friday. It's a rare chance to revel in fresh oysters in the metro Atlanta area.

Sip and quaff

Brick Store Pub in Decatur helped kick off the curated beer bar trend (no televisions!) more than two decades ago.
Photo: AJC file photo/For the AJC

Brick Store Pub

125 E. Court Square, Decatur. 404-687-0990.

Curated beer bars with great conversation and local charcuterie plates are a metro Atlanta fixture these days, but Decatur's Brick Store Pub is one of the oldest and still one of the best. The brick storefront and gleaming hardwood give this quaffing spot a neighborhood pub feel, and the Belgian Bar upstairs annex is even cozier.

Three Taverns Brewery & Tasting Room

121 New Street, Decatur. 404-660-3355.

Whether you're a beer snob or just aspiring, this craft beer tasting room and its "parlour" has you covered. Sip, take an hour-long tour of the brewery, taste, repeat step 1 and step 3. Leashed, well-behaved dogs are also welcome to hang with their owners outside.

Independent Distilling

731 E. College Ave. Suite D, Decatur. 678-576-3804.

That's right, there are only a few places where you can find bourbon distilled in Georgia, and Decatur is one of them. Independent Distillers has fulfilled its no-frills approach since 2014 and makes Hellbender spirits using local ingredients and a 100-gallon copper pot. Try a cocktail and tour during open hours Thursday and Friday evenings or Saturday afternoon or evening. You can also purchase bottles during those same times.

Fetes and festivals

The children's parade heads down East Ponce de Leon Avenue at the day's start of the AJC Decatur Book Festival Saturday, September 1, 2018. The festival kicked off Friday night and continues Sunday. (Photo: STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC)

AJC Decatur Book Festival

It only comes around once a year, so mark the family calendar for Labor Day weekend and add a couple of stars for this special gathering. The presenting authors are all-stars, too, whether they're bestselling cookbook authors, soulful poets or children's authors with cache. The event is free and takes over more than a dozen venues downtown. A parade and great booths put this over the top as one of the bucket list things to do in Decatur.

The Decatur Wine Tasting Festival is always scheduled for early November.
Photo: Contributed by Decatur Wine Tasting Festival/For the AJC

Decatur Wine Tasting Festival

Old Courthouse Square in Downtown Decatur, 101 E. Court Square, Decatur. 404-371-9582.

Here's one for a girlfriend's weekend or romantic escape. Each year in early November, Decatur showcases 500-plus wines with 3,000 of its closest oenophile friends. Proceeds from the festivities benefit the Decatur Arts Alliance.

Decatur Arts Festival

Downtown Decatur Square, 101 E. Court Square, Decatur. 404-371-9583.

Every Memorial Day weekend is devoted to the arts in Decatur's downtown square. Admission is free and the artsy opportunities include anything from dance and music to improv, an artist's market and a children's festival.

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