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Things to Do in Atlanta

Non-Touristy Things to Do in Atlanta

By April 15, 2024No Comments
Non-Touristy Things to Do in Atlanta

As the capital of the South, Atlanta is a city bursting with charm and surprises beyond the typical tourist checklist. Sure, the typical tourist hotspots are fun – but let’s dive deeper and explore the non-touristy things to do in Atlanta!

In this guide, we’re peeling back the layers of our city to reveal its lesser-known gems. From quirky neighborhoods buzzing with creativity to tranquil green spaces offering an escape from the urban hustle, there’s a whole other side to this city waiting to be explored.

Whether you’re a curious traveler or a local seeking fresh adventures, join us as we uncover the authentic heart of Atlanta. Get ready for a journey filled with hidden treasures and unforgettable experiences. Let’s dive in and discover the real Atlanta together!

A few of our favorite non-touristy things to do in Atlanta

In this post, you’ll find:

  • The best hidden gems in Atlanta
  • Off-the-beaten-path Atlanta ideas and adventures
  • Fun ways to explore Atlanta’s history, food, and culture
  • Unique Atlanta experiences for families, couples, and friends
  • Ideas to go beyond the popular tourist spots and see Atlanta from a local’s perspective

You’ve Heard Of: The BeltLine

But Have You Been To: Wylie Street?

wiley street art along the Eastside BeltLine trail

Murals along the Eastside BeltLine Trail along Wylie St. SE. Closest mural pictured is by artist Janice Rago, created as part of Forward Warrior 2022.

Atlanta’s Eastside BeltLine Trail is a popular place to go for a walk, bike ride, or run. But, when you venture a little bit off the trail, in Atlanta’s Cabbagetown neighborhood, you’ll find some of the best street art in the city!

Join the Unexpected Atlanta Cabbagetown Street Art Tour to experience how Atlanta’s street art carries out the mission of the city’s historic changemakers. Together, the group tour will venture out through Cabbagetown, the Krog Street Tunnel, and – yes, the Atlanta BeltLine!

An expert guide will share the stories behind the art and artists, while educating the group on how street art has shaped local Atlanta communities. Plus, an interactive street art activity will allow you to unleash your own inner artist!

Check out more Atlanta street art in the short video below!

You’ve Heard Of: the Atlanta Botanical Garden

For Your Next Adventure, Explore: The Carter Center Gardens

Named in honor of President Jimmy Carter, The Carter Center is a nonprofit organization focused on causes related to human right and the alleviation of human suffering. In the Poncey-Highlands area, near the Eastside BeltLine Trail, The Carter Center Gardens are a beautiful and often uncrowded place to explore on foot.

With 35 acres and free parking in the heart of Atlanta’s intown hustle and bustle, the grounds include a Rose Garden (home to 40 varieties, including the Rosalynn Carter rose!), waterfalls, sculptures, a Japanese garden, and more.

Pro tip: head to The Carter Center on Saturday mornings for the year-round (rain or shine) Freedom Farmers Market, hosted in the center’s parking lot!

You’ve Heard Of: Ponce City Market & Krog Street Market

You Need to Try: Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Atlanta Food Tour and Biscuit Making Class

Located near Downtown Atlanta, the Sweet Auburn Curb Market – also known as the Sweet Auburn Municipal Market – is a can’t-miss destination for foodies! Experience the best of the market with the Historic Market Food Tour + Biscuit Class with Unexpected Atlanta.

Founded in 1918 as an open air market, the Sweet Auburn Curb Market is Atlanta’s oldest market! It’s home to 30+ local businesses, with a wide variety of food vendors.

During the family-friendly Historic Market Food Tour + Biscuit Class experience, try 9 delicious tastings. Sample enough food for lunch – including bites from Panbury’s Meat Pies, Jikssa Ethiopian Cuisine, Metro Deli Soul Food, and Miss D’s Praline & Popcorn.

Plus, try your hand at making (and sampling!) delicious Southern buttermilk biscuits with local jam. You’ll take home a recipe card so you can replicate the perfect Southern biscuits at home!

You’ve Heard Of: Piedmont Park

Plan Your Next Outing At: Historic Oakland Cemetery

Piedmont Park in the heart of Midtown Atlanta is an iconic backdrop to explore the city. That said, Historic Oakland Cemetery is an underrated spot for your next outdoor stroll or picnic! In fact, their motto – “Where Atlanta’s history lives” – evokes the welcoming nature of this park-like cemetery, not far from Downtown Atlanta.

Opened in 1850, Historic Oakland Cemetery is host to plenty of fun and unique events – including their spring plant sale, the “Run Like Hell 5k,” a family festival, a “Malts and Vaults” beer event, and a variety of cemetery tours.

Want to experience Historic Oakland Cemetery from a local’s point of view? Join the Grant Park Food and Cemetery Tour for a guided stroll through Oakland Cemetery and the scenic Grand Park neighborhood, plus tastings of Atlanta’s best Southern foods!

You’ve Heard Of: The King Center

Delve Deeper with a Visit To: Dr. King’s Office

Prince Hall Lodge - MLK, Jr.

Maybe you’ve been to The King Center, or even Dr. King’s birth home – but have you visited his office at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge? This spot served as headquarters for King’s Civil Rights organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The building was also home to one of Madam C. J. Walker’s Beauty Shoppes (the first female self-made millionaire in America, and also a Black woman!).

The Prince Hall Grand Lodge is just one place you’ll see on the King Historic District Tour with Unexpected Atlanta. Get an insider’s look at the places most significant to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy: explore the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church (when open), see Dr. and Mrs. King’s memorial at The King Center, and hear immersive stories of Dr. King and other Civil Rights leaders.

You’ll also see jaw-dropping Atlanta skyline views at the Jackson Street Bridge overlooking Downtown Atlanta!

In the video below, discover 5 reasons why you can’t miss this MLK, Jr. Atlanta tour!

You’ve Heard Of: Atlanta’s thriving music industry

See The World’s First Hip-Hop Museum: The Trap Music Museum

The world’s first hip-hop museum, the Trap Music Museum was described by National Geographic as one of the best musical landmarks in the Deep South.

Explore Georgia sheds light on the history of this Atlanta landmark, writing, “Rapper T.I., who hails from Atlanta’s west side, coined the term ‘trap music’ with his 2003 album of the same name (spelled ‘Trap Muzik.’). It’s fitting that he also founded the Trap Music Museum, which features photos and authentic memorabilia from trap stars like 2 Chainz, Cardi B, and 21 Savage.”

Head to the Trap Music Museum (open on select days) to explore a recreated “trap house.” Plus, the museum hosts a Sip & Trap Happy Hour event on Thursday nights and an “Escape the Trap” escape room experience on select days!

You’ve Heard Of: Downtown Atlanta

Explore Nearby: Grant Park

Little Tart Bakeshop

Just a few short miles from Downtown Atlanta, Atlanta’s charming Grant Park neighborhood offers delicious food, unique Victorian architecture, and a close-knit neighborhood feel.

Taste centuries of Southern culinary innovation on the Grant Park Food and Cemetery Tour! Try 8 Southern food tastings from 3 favorite local restaurants: Six Feet Under, Firepit Pizza Tavern, and The Little Tart Bakeshop (pictured above).

Along the way, you’ll hear fascinating stories of Atlanta’s historic innovators, movers, and shakers who have shaped our city into an international hub and top-notch destination for foodies everywhere. The tour includes a jaunt through Historic Oakland Cemetery, where many noteworthy Atlantans have been laid to rest.

You’ve Heard Of: Having a million TV & movie subscriptions

Instead, Check Out a Movie From: Videodrome

Checking out a physical movie – in 2024? That’s right! Videodrome Atlanta – Atlanta’s only video rental store – is keeping it retro with old-school rentals.

Bust out the popcorn and Milk Duds and cozy up for a night in with an old favorite film or a new discovery. With DVDs and Blu-Rays galore in a variety of genres – including hard-to-find films that aren’t on streaming – you’re sure to find a movie you’ll love.

Plus: Videodrome’s knowledgeable staff can help you select a movie based on your tastes! This Poncey-Highlands area spot has been delighting Atlanta movie-watchers for over 25 years.

You’ve Heard Of: Georgia Aquarium & Zoo Atlanta

Now Try Visiting: Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary

Coyote Non-Touristy Things to Do in Atlanta

Looking for an animal experience that’s a little less (pardon the pun) zoo-y? Head to the Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary in Lilburn, GA! Around 40 minutes east of Downtown Atlanta (a few miles east of Stone Mountain), this spot is worth the short trek.

Head here to view a variety of animals – including grey wolves, an American black bear, turkey vulture, great horned owl, two-toed sloth, raccoon, coyote, lemurs, and more. Kids and adults alike will be delighted by the animals while supporting the work of this wildlife sanctuary.

For those with strollers and wheelchairs, note that the first 85% of the 1-mile loop trail is paved, with the remainder being packed gravel. Parking is free, and children 2 and under are free as well. Pro tip: buy 2 buckets of food to feed the animals in the Petting Yard area!

You’ve Heard Of: Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Keep Discovering with a Visit To: Fernbank Science Center

Don’t be confused by the names – these are two separate entities, with different ownership and in different locations! While both are worth a visit, Fernbank Science Center often flies under the radar as the lesser-known of the two.

Operated by the DeKalb County School District, Fernbank Science Center is a fun budget-friendly outing, with free general admission and free parking! They also host special events and exhibits, as well as planetarium programs for a modest fee. With events on a variety of topics, the center’s Jim Cherry Memorial Planetarium offers an immersive way to experience the stories of the cosmos!

Fernbank Science Center notes that hours and closure dates are subject to change, so be sure to check the center’s schedule ahead of time!

You’ve Heard Of: The High Museum of Art

But Have You Visited: The Michael C. Carlos Museum?

Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University

Located on the campus of the prestigious Emory University, the Michael C. Carlos Museum (or, the Carlos Museum for short) is a must for history lovers. Browse their permanent collections, “from Africa; ancient Egypt, Nubia, and the Near East; ancient Greece and Rome; the Indigenous Americas; and South Asia; as well as American and European Works on Paper.”

The Carlos Museum is also home to rotating seasonal exhibitions and a variety of public programs and workshops. For a relatively modest admission and parking fee, the Carlos Museum unlocks a world of learning and wonder. Public guided tours are offered on Sundays at 2pm, excluding holidays. Check the museum’s calendar ahead of time to plan your visit.

You’ve Heard Of: The World of Coca-Cola

Atlanta is Also Home To: The Waffle House Museum

The Waffle House Museum in Avondale Estates, GA is open by reservation only, for groups of up to 20 people at select times. Inquire with the museum about booking your group’s free private tour – but note that tours book up far in advance!

Now a beloved breakfast and late-night spot with nearly 2,000 locations, Waffle House began in 1955 with just one restaurant in Avondale Estates. The site of the company’s first restaurant has been “lovingly recreated” at this historic spot.

Reservation-only tours include a guided tour through the recreated restaurant and exhibits about the Waffle House brand, menu, uniform history, jukebox, and the famed Waffle House Index!

You’ve Heard Of: Peaches, pecans, & Coca-Cola

Eat Your Way Through: Buford Highway

Lee's Bakery Buford Highway Atlanta

Pictured: bahn mi at Lee’s Bakery on Buford Highway (photo by the author)

Atlanta is known for its Southern staple food items – among them, peaches, pecans, Coca-Cola – and of course, Soul food. But, have you and your taste buds explored Buford Highway? This stretch of road is known for its ethnic diversity and wide variety of restaurants.

In fact, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that an 8-mile stretch of Buford Highway between Buford, GA and Atlanta is home to over 100 international restaurants representing 21 nations. Head here for all types of cuisine you can imagine – from Peruvian dishes to Bangladeshi cuisine, pho, Cantonese-style BBQ, inclusive options like Harmony Vegetarian, desserts at Sweet Hut and White Windmill, and more.

Not sure where to begin? Delve in with Eater Atlanta’s guide, 35 Essential Buford Highway Restaurants to Know.

You’ve Heard Of: The Fox Theatre

See A Show At: The Strand Theatre

In Marietta, the Earl Smith Strand Theatre is a destination for live theatre, music, film screenings, comedy shows, and private events. The theater notes that “the opulent red and gold auditorium transports visitors back to the Golden Age of cinema.”

In fact, Marietta.com reports that the Strand, a nonprofit organization, is the last remaining historic theatre in the country! It first opened on the Marietta Square in 1935, as an “Art Deco movie palace.” While the Strand’s building has lived several lifetimes since then, a $5 million capital campaign restored the theater and led to its official grand reopening in 2009.

Know a theatre-minded child, tween, or teen? The Strand Academy offers hands-on programming for elementary, middle, and high school students. Browse opportunities including summer camps, audition workshops, and youth performances.

You’ve Heard Of: Stone Mountain

Now Hike Up: Arabia Mountain

Arabia Mountain Atlanta

While Stone Mountain has much to offer in the way of natural beauty and family-friendly entertainment, it’s also steeped in unfortunate history, described by Smithsonian Magazine as “America’s largest Confederate memorial.”

Around 12 miles south, the Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area offers 40,000 acres of scenic views and large granite outcrops. Enjoy free parking and hit 30+ miles of trails – but note that parking lots can fill up on weekends! Arabia Mountain is home to “dozens of rare and vibrant species, including some plant species found almost nowhere else on earth.” Here, you can also find 60 species of butterflies – making this area potentially in the top 2% of butterfly-count locations in the country! Take this hike to the top of the mountain for a moderate trek with panoramic views.

Nearby, check out the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, with a 2,000+ acre preserve, historic buildings, and a visitor center to learn about the history of the area and monasticism. See the Cloister and Abbey Church and learn why the building has been called “Georgia’s Most Remarkable Concrete Building!”

Ready to explore the city like a local? Join Unexpected Atlanta for an adventure off the beaten path! From bold street art to mouthwatering Southern cuisine, our expert guides will unveil the city’s best-kept secrets. Get ready to experience Atlanta in a whole new light with Unexpected Atlanta

Another great resource for finding lesser-known things to do in our city is this Atlas Obscura post on Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in Atlanta!