If you’re planning on visiting Atlanta, consider this your definitive guide! Whether you’re traveling for fun or for work, there’s plenty to do in the capital of the South. From world-class museums and restaurants to important Civil Rights historical sites, discover all that Atlanta has to offer! Be sure to view each website for the most up-to-date information, safety precautions, pricing, and more.
TL;DR – in this post, you’ll learn:
- How to get around Atlanta
- Where to stay in Atlanta
- The best Atlanta restaurants
- Can’t-miss things to do in Atlanta
- A little bit about Atlanta’s history and culture
How to Get Around Atlanta
Can I get around Atlanta without a car?
Atlanta is known for being a “car city” – but you don’t need a car to get around! Atlanta has plenty of ride-share options like Lyft and Uber. Plus, you can use the city’s public transportation. Staying in a walkable in-town neighborhood will also allow you to explore Atlanta more easily on foot.
How is Atlanta’s public transportation?
Atlanta visitors and locals can get around Atlanta using MARTA, the city’s public transportation system. MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) operates buses and trains to get you around the city. To ride, you’ll need to purchase a “Breeze Card.” You can purchase a card at MARTA stations around town. Or, if you’re planning a trip ahead of time, buy your card online.
Is Atlanta traffic really that bad?
Atlanta’s traffic isn’t always fun. But, outside of rush hour, getting around town is pretty easy. Avoid highways coming into Atlanta around 7-10 am and leaving the city around 4-6 pm. You can use the city’s major highways to easily zip around during non-peak hours.
One note for Florida and North Carolina tourists. If you have an NC QuickPass or a Florida SunPass, your transponder will work in Georgia’s “PeachPass” express lanes! Google Maps and the Waze app are definitely your friend while visiting Atlanta.
Is Atlanta safe for tourists?
While questions about safety are always subjective, we’d consider Atlanta to be a safe city to visit. In 2018, Georgia welcomed more than 111 million visitors – a record for the state.
CBS did not include Atlanta in their most recent roundup of the 50 most dangerous cities in America. The list included other southern destinations such as Chattanooga, Houston, Nashville, Memphis, New Orleans, and West Palm Beach.
When you’re visiting Atlanta or any major city, it’s smart to be aware of your surroundings. Practice common-sense precautions. For example, hide valuables from view in your parked car and look up from your phone while walking around. In any major city, it’s a good idea to be mindful when venturing out after dark.
When is the best time of year to visit Atlanta?
Atlanta is beautiful year-round! Visiting Atlanta in the spring is a great time to see the dogwood trees in bloom, with comfortably cool weather and sunny skies.
If you’re averse to heat and humidity, you may want to avoid Atlanta’s summers. Temperatures in the summer months reach into the 90s with plenty of humidity. But, central air conditioning is the norm in Atlanta. Plus, the city has plenty of indoor activities to keep you cool.
Atlanta starts to feel like fall around mid-October and later. You’ll see plenty of foliage in this “city in a forest.”
A short drive to the North Georgia mountains allows for peak leaf-viewing. You can also make it a day trip to include a winery visit or hiking trails! Atlanta’s winters rarely bring snow. As a result, many snowbirds flock to the city to get a break from harsh winters.
Where to Stay in Atlanta
Which Atlanta hotel should I stay in while visiting Atlanta?
Atlanta has countless places to stay, from quaint B&Bs to luxury hotels and everything in between. Here are a few of our favorites.
Luxury Atlanta Hotels
- Ritz-Carlton Atlanta: Experience “contemporary southern luxury” in Atlanta’s bustling downtown. Guest rooms include a marble bath, rain showers, and 24-hour in-room dining.
- Loews Hotel Atlanta: In Atlanta’s artsy Midtown neighborhood, the Loews is walkable museums and restaurants. The on-site Exhale Spa will help you rejuvenate after a long day of sightseeing.
- Four Seasons Atlanta: Also in Midtown, the Four Seasons offers comfort, style, and top-notch accommodations. Little ones can enjoy bedtime cookies, childproofed rooms, and even child-size bathrobes.
- Decatur Alpaca Cottage: This charming Airbnb is a popular spot with tourists and locals alike. It’s located on an urban farm just outside Atlanta. Get up-close with Alpacas, Llamas, and the resident flock of chickens.
- Highland Inn: Built in 1927, the Highland Inn is filled with historic charm. This budget-friendly option is located in the walkable Poncey-Highlands neighborhood. It has an on-site cafe and even a resident hotel cat!
- Hotel Clermont: For a fun modern option, try the Hotel Clermont. The posh hotel offers spectacular views of Atlanta from its rooftop bar. For those 21+ who are feeling saucy, head to the basement. The separately owned Clermont Lounge is Atlanta’s oldest and longest continually operating strip club.
Can’t-Miss Atlanta Experiences
Outdoor Activities in Atlanta
- Atlanta Food Walks: Taste some of Atlanta’s best food and stroll through historic neighborhoods with an expert guide. On the Grant Park tour, try classics like fried catfish and okra. You’ll also stroll through Historic Oakland Cemetry.
- The BeltLine: The Beltline is one of the largest urban redevelopment projects in the US. It consists of 33 miles of multi-use urban trails and 1,300 acres of green space across the city. The trails were built over the areas where Atlanta’s old railroad tracks used to run.
- Piedmont Park: In the heart of Midtown Atlanta, Piedmont Park boasts 185 acres to relax and enjoy skyline views. The Olmstead brothers (sons of Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed New York City’s Central Park) helped conceptualize the vision for the park.
- Historic Oakland Cemetery: Going to a cemetery to hang out or have a picnic? It’s not weird at Oakland! Visit the graves of golf legend Bobby Jones, Co-Founder of the national PTA Selena Sloan Butler, Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell. You can also learn more about the Civil War here.
- Centennial Olympic Park: This 22-acre park serves as the legacy for Georgia’s 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Located in Downtown Atlanta, Centennial Olympic Park is known for its iconic Fountain of Rings. This spot is perfect for splashing around in the summer. You can also ride the Skyview Ferris Wheel nearby for breathtaking views of the city.
Things You’ll Only Find in Atlanta
- National Center for Civil and Human Rights: At this museum and cultural center downtown, you can explore the U.S. Civil Rights movement. The museum also presents exhibits and programs on current human rights challenges across the globe.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park: See the birth home of MLK, Jr., the King Center, and more. Operated by the National Park Service, this site is a can’t-miss spot when you’re visiting Atlanta. To make the most of your visit, take a guided tour with Atlanta History Tours.
- World of Coca-Cola: Open happiness! At the World of Coca-Cola, you can learn all about the history of the world’s most famous soft drink. Plus, meet the beloved Coca-Cola Polar Bear. Finally, sample different types of Coke beverages from around the world.
- Center for Puppetry Arts: This spot is perfect for all those who are young at heart. At the Center for Puppetry Arts, you’ll find jaw-dropping live performances and workshops for all ages. Plus, explore the Center’s Worlds of Puppetry Museum. There, you can see the world’s largest collection of Jim Henson puppets, props, and costumes.
Sports Activities in Atlanta
- Attend an Atlanta United game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium: Atlanta United joined Major League Soccer in 2017. They won the 2018 MLS Cup in just their second season. And, the club has set several league records already – including season ticket sales and single-game attendance. Join in the fun at the beautiful Mercedes-Benz Stadium with its iconic retractable roof.
- College Football Hall of Fame: At this spot downtown, you can explore the legends of college football. Learn about all the game-changing moments and players. Then, get into the action with game-day footage in the 4k ultra hi-def theater.
- Catch a Braves Game at Truist Park: In the northwest part of Atlanta, cheer on the home team at Truist Park. It was designed to maximize sightlines so that every seat feels like the best seat in the house!
Atlanta Top Attractions
Consider this an honorable mention- we couldn’t leave these spots out!
- Fox Theatre
- High Museum of Art
- Atlanta Botanical Garden
- Fernbank Museum of Natural History
- Atlanta History Center
- Georgia Aquarium – (don’t forget the whale sharks!)
- Zoo Atlanta
The Best Places to Eat in Atlanta
On an 8-mile-long stretch of Buford Highway in the Chamblee area, you’ll find a diverse, multicultural community. The area’s restaurants represent twenty-one nations. Stop at Northern China Eatery for dumplings (pictured above). Or, check out Lee’s Bakery for the “best Banh Mi in America,” according to The New York Times.
Additionally, you can also find some of the best Mexican food in the city at El Rey Del Taco. Afterward, be sure to visit Sweet Hut for a wide variety of sweet buns, cakes, bubble tea, and more. Finally, stop by the Plaza Fiesta shopping mall while you’re in the area.
Kimball’s House is an upscale oyster bar and restaurant in the Decatur neighborhood. This spot is known for its impeccable service. They offer a variety of gourmet entrées and cocktails, plus their raw oyster bar.
This destination isn’t actually a tea spot – it’s a restaurant. Mary MacKenzie founded her namesake restaurant in 1945. You’ll find plenty of southern classics here. For instance, try the barbecue, fried chicken, cheese grits, cornbread, collard greens, peach cobbler…or just about anything!
Once a full-service restaurant, Staplehouse currently operates as a market with patio and garden seating. Here, you can enjoy charcuterie, pastries, market goods, butcher options, drinks, and more. Staplehouse’s story is deeply connected with Giving Kitchen. The latter is an Atlanta nonprofit supporting restaurant workers who have fallen on hard times with financial aid.
For a family-friendly option or casual spot, try Taqueria Del Sol. With several locations around town, this local taco spot is popular for good reason. The menu is small, but the flavor is big!
Note: For the best vegetarian and vegan spots, check out our blog post Best Vegetarian-Friendly Restaurants in Atlanta in 2021.
Why is Atlanta named Atlanta?
In 1837, the area we now know as Atlanta was given the name Terminus. This is because its location marked the endpoint of the Western and Atlantic railroad. In 1843, it was renamed Marthasville in honor of the daughter of the then-governor. Just two years later, the city was renamed Atlanta, a reference to the Western and Atlantic Railroad.
The origins of the nickname “Hotlanta” are debated. But, most locals don’t use this nickname at all. Instead, we call our city simply “ATL.” Or, when saying “Atlanta” out loud, it’s “Atlannuh!”
Who is the Atlanta airport named after?
If you’re flying into Atlanta, you’ll probably spend some time at the world’s busiest airport. The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is named for two past Atlanta mayors: William B. Hartsfield and Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr.
William B. Hartsfield served as mayor of Atlanta for six terms, from 1937-1941 and 1942-1962. He’s the longest-serving Mayor of the city. And, Hartsfield bolstered Atlanta’s reputation as the “city too busy to hate” during the Civil Rights movement. Fun fact: for many years, Zoo Atlanta had a beloved gorilla named Willie B. in his honor.
Maynard Jackson was the first Black mayor of Atlanta (or any major southern city, for that matter). He was also the second longest-serving mayor of Atlanta. His legacy includes efforts to improve race relations in the city. Jackson also completed many major public works projects during his time as mayor, including modernizing Atlanta’s airport.
What is Atlanta known for?
Cue Justin Bieber’s recent hit Peaches. While we love the fruit our state is known for, you’ll find more than just peaches here! A few things you might think of when you hear “Atlanta” include Coca-Cola, Delta, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Civil Rights, amazing food, southern hospitality, the film industry, and of course, music.
Some famous ATLiens include André 3000, Future, Lil Nas X, Elton John, The Indigo Girls, Tyler Perry, Julia Roberts, Ed Helms & Brian Baumgartner (Andy & Kevin from The Office), Jane Fonda, and many others. Keep an eye out when visiting Atlanta; you never know when you might spot a celebrity.
Have fun exploring all that Atlanta has to offer! To make the most of your visit, be sure to sign up for a tour with Atlanta Food Walks. You’ll experience some of the city’s best food while visiting local landmarks and historic sites!