Whether you’re from Atlanta or visiting here for the first time, this post is your guide to experiencing all the fun, food, culture, and magic Downtown Atlanta has to offer!
Downtown Atlanta is the heartbeat of our city – full of history, bright lights, tasty eats, exciting shows, thriving businesses, beautiful architecture, and fascinating people! In Downtown, you’ll never run out of things to explore and activities to enjoy. In this post, you’ll discover unique things to do, see, and eat in Downtown Atlanta, the capital of the South!
This article starts with some of our favorite under-the-radar Downtown Atlanta spots. Then, read about some of the most popular tourist hotspots. Be sure to view each venue’s website for the most up-to-date information, pricing, and more.
A few of our favorite Downtown Atlanta activities:
Read on for more details on these ideas – and plenty of other ideas!
- Explore delicious Southern foods at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market or Daddy D’z BBQ
- Take an unforgettable walking tour with Unexpected Atlanta
- Learn about Downtown Atlanta’s role in the Civil Rights Movement
- See art at the ZuCot Gallery, Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and MET Atlanta
- Catch a live music or comedy show at the Tabernacle
- Eat in the clouds at the iconic Sundial Restaurant
- See popular Downtown Atlanta tourist spots like the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola
In this post, you’ll find:
- Family-friendly activities in Downtown Atlanta
- Under-the-radar things to do in Downtown Atlanta
- Downtown Atlanta happy hour ideas for work
- Fun things to do in Downtown Atlanta
- Downtown Atlanta date ideas
- Where to eat in Downtown Atlanta
- Can’t-Miss things to do in Downtown Atlanta
- Top sightseeing ideas and tourist attractions in Downtown Atlanta
Under-The-Radar Downtown Atlanta Activities
Want to explore Downtown Atlanta’s hidden gems and under-the-radar activities? We’ve got you covered! From the best places where locals love to eat, to African art, Civil Rights history, and Atlanta’s vibrant culture – these off-the-beaten-path ideas will delight and entertain!
1. King Historic District Walking Tour – One of Our Favorite Downtown Atlanta Activities
Did you know – Downtown Atlanta is where Martin Luther King, Jr. was born and raised! On the Martin Luther King, Jr. Atlanta History Tour with Unexpected Atlanta, you’ll follow in Dr. King’s footsteps to learn all about his life, legacy, and impact on Atlanta and the world. During this tour, you’ll explore firsthand the places in Atlanta that inspired this Civil Rights leader.
For instance, explore Dr. King’s office at the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Dr. and Mrs. King’s final resting places and memorial, Ebenezer Baptist Church (when open) where Dr. King served as Reverend alongside his father, and more. Best of all, a live expert guide will lead your group during this experience, sharing knowledge and answering your questions along the way. You’ll leave with a much deeper understanding of Dr. King’s work and Atlanta’s role in the Civil Rights movement.
This walking tour of the Civil Rights Movement is one you won’t forget, and a can’t-miss activity for Atlanta locals and tourists! Appropriate for friends, families, couples, and colleagues to enjoy together. We highly recommend this experience if you want to truly understand and appreciate Atlanta’s history!
Fun Fact: Conde Nast listed this tour in their list of top 17 things to do in Atlanta!
2. Eat Well at Sweet Auburn Curb Market
The historic Municipal Market (now called Sweet Auburn Curb Market) is a food destination that’s close by to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Atlanta Walking tour mentioned above. Combine these activities to make for a unique Downtown Atlanta excursion!
The history of the Municipal Market’s building has been preserved from top to bottom. Here, you’ll find plenty of community and camaraderie. Delicious aromas and laughter fill the indoor food stalls, warming the whole space. With so many food and drink options, you can pop in for a quick lunch or stay and explore the food stalls for hours! Choose from Soul food, Caribbean and African dishes, tacos, sandwiches, Poké bowls, pizza, fresh juices, pastries, and more.
For corporate groups, check out Unexpected Atlanta’s unique team building activities – including a tour of Sweet Auburn Curb Market, followed by a hands-on biscuit-making class! This interactive group experience will bring teams together to bond over history and food, in the heart of Atlanta. Get out of the office and have some fun!
If you need an evening food option in the area, other urban food halls nearby include Ponce City Market (PCM) and Krog Street Market.
3. Experience the Awe-Inspiring ZuCot Gallery
The ZuCot Gallery in the Castleberry Hill area is a true Atlanta arts gem. Founded in 2009 by corporate executive Troy Taylor, ZuCot is the largest African American-owned fine art gallery in the Southeast. The chic space is filled with beautiful work by living artists. Here, the owners enthusiastically celebrate living African American artists and culture.
Stop by when the gallery is open, or plan your visit around an upcoming Artist Talk or exhibition. ZuCot also offers Art Tasting experiences for corporate teams as well as private art consultations.
Curious how the ZuCot name came to be, or what it means? The gallery shares, “ZuCot was the nickname given to [founder Troy Taylor’s] paternal grandmother, Frances Ann Taylor. Mrs. Taylor was born in the late 1800’s on the British colony of Saint Christopher (now St. Kitts). She was one of the first women allowed to own a stall in the local produce market. In order to survive the fierce competition with her male counterparts, she developed the reputation of being ‘as tough as a zoo cat.’ … As the family migrated to America, they softened the name and refer to her as ZuCot.”
Fun Fact: This gallery isn’t just a place to experience. You can also purchase artwork for your home, or as a memorable souvenir of your time in the city.
4. Catch a Live Music or Comedy Show at the Tabernacle
The Tabernacle is a beloved Downtown Atlanta concert and comedy venue, located near Centennial Olympic Park. Originally built as a church in 1911, The Tabernacle’s building is more than 100 years old. In fact, it was transformed into a concert venue in anticipation of the 1996 Olympic Games hosted in Atlanta!
In the decades since then, local and tourist concert-goers have flocked to The Tabernacle to see iconic artists and laugh out loud comedy shows. Now hosting more than 200 performances every year, this is an unforgettable spot to catch a live show with friends in the heart of Downtown Atlanta.
Fun Fact: In addition to being built as a church, Tabernacle’s building has also served as a medical center and nursing school!
5. Taste the Brilliance of the O4W Distillery – a Local Favorite!
Founded as Atlanta’s first legal independent distillery since 1906, O4W Distillery purveys a variety of award-winning spirits including gin, vodka, bourbon, and more. A particular crowd favorite is their Lawn Dart ginger lemon liqueur, made with freshly-peeled lemon, organic cold-pressed ginger, and a hint of sugar cane simple syrup.
While O4W Distillery no longer offers tours of their facility, you can still get a taste of Atlanta by partaking in their products! Check out their unique lineup of local Atlanta spirits and purchase a bottle to take home as a keepsake! Browse O4W’s website for retail and restaurant locations. You can find their products in a variety of shops in Atlanta and beyond.
Fun Fact: When the pandemic first hit, O4W Distillery made and distributed hand sanitizer to the community!
6. Expand your Mind at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center
You’re sure to walk away from this experience with a fresh perspective! The unique artwork displayed at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (ACAC) pushes audiences’ viewpoints and encourages dialogue.
The Downtown Atlanta museum was founded in 1973 as Nexus, a grassroots cooperative for artists. Today, it is one of the leading contemporary art centers in the Southeast, presenting works from more than 200 artists each year. Moreover, visiting the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center is free, making this an especially accessible and budget-friendly activity! Donations from generous supporters make it possible for ACAC to welcome all who wish to enter, free of charge.
Check out ACAC’s impressive event lineup for a more interactive experience, including their signature Art Party annual fundraiser. You can also plan a date night with Contemporary Cocktails, the museum’s monthly event that combines art, mixology, dancing, and discussion. Contemporary Talks programs allow visitors to connect with artists, while Contemporary Kids programs introduce children to contemporary art through hands-on activities.
7. Get Saucy at Daddy D’z BBQ Joynt – One of Our Favorite Downtown Atlanta Spots
You can’t visit the South without eating some delicious BBQ! And, one of the best spots around is Daddy D’z BBQ Joynt. Even folks who don’t eat meat will appreciate Daddy D’z mouthwatering sides and desserts. Try the fried green tomatoes, collard greens, and a mini sweet potato pie along with classic barbecue options like ribs, pulled pork, and brisket.
While this Downtown spot might look unassuming, don’t be fooled! Daddy D’z cooks up some of the best Atlanta BBQ around. They cook their meat by hand on hickory and oak pits, sharing that “there are no shortcuts to our recipe.” Additionally, this is the only Atlanta BBQ spot that’s been featured on the Food Network! Stop by on Saturday nights for live music, or any time they’re open for a bite.
The Daddy D’z motto says it all: “We ain’t pretty, but we’re good.” And once you know – you know!
Fun fact: Daddy D’z also provides catering for corporate meetings, weddings, birthday and holiday parties, and more!
8. Stroll through the Summerhill Neighborhood
Located just south of Downtown Atlanta, Summerhill is one of Atlanta’s trendiest neighborhoods right now. Like much of Atlanta, Summerhill has been around for a long time. But, it looks a little different these days. Created as part of a redevelopment effort for Atlanta’s Olympic stadium and surrounding areas, Summerhill is now an 80-acre Instagram-worthy hotspot with a lot to see, eat, and do!
To learn more about the history of the Summerhill neighborhood, read this write-up from Curbed Atlanta that delves into the area’s development. As with many areas of Atlanta, racial divisions and discrimination played a role in how the Summerhill neighborhood came to be.
Today, you can head to this walkable and bikable neighborhood to check out restored historic buildings, colorful murals, and a variety of places to eat and drink. For example, try authentic Thai food at Talat Market. Then, get some ice cream and baked goods at Big Softie or Little Tart. Last but not least, enjoy local sips at Halfway Crooks Brewery.
Additionally, Summerhill is nestled between other popular intown Atlanta neighborhoods – including Grant Park, Cabbagetown, and Old 4th Ward. Stroll your way through each neighborhood to take in the sights, sounds, and tastes of the city! For a guided experience, check out the Grant Park Past & Future Food Walk.
9. Appreciate Graffiti and Creativity at MET Atlanta
Speaking of Instagrammable spots, MET Atlanta is home to many pioneering artists, makers, and innovative businesses. When you arrive, you will instantly feel the creative energy that’s central to this community.
MET Atlanta is a space for collaboration and connection, home to over 1 million square feet of office and event space just a few blocks from Atlanta’s Westside Beltline Trail. It’s also home to a dog park, open air plaza, and local dining options.
With plenty to see, you can plan to spend a few hours walking through the alleys and shops. You’ll find retail spots, film studios, media labs, and more. Or if you’re in a hurry, cruising through to admire the artwork is an option too!
Fun fact: MET Atlanta was originally known as “The Candler Warehouse,” built in 1914 to help struggling Georgia farmers. During World War II, the buildings served as a military manufacturing facility. Then, in the latter half of the 1900s, it was a hub for distribution. Finally, today it’s a “beacon for makers, creators, artists, and more.”
10. Eat in the Clouds at Sundial Restaurant
It might sound like an exaggeration, but a meal at Sundial Restaurant at the top of The Westin Peachtree Plaza is seriously like eating in the clouds! With unbeatable views of the city and a full delicious menu, Sundial is a spot that is sure to impress tourists and locals alike.
At 723 feet, the Westin Peachtree Plaza is the fifth-tallest building in Atlanta as well as the tallest hotel in the Southeast. The Sundial Restaurant at the top of the hotel features “an upscale restaurant, a cocktail lounge, and an observatory level with a breathtaking 360-degree panorama of the magnificent skyline…”
The experience starts off with a thrilling glass elevator ride that makes you feel like a giddy child in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The 73-story glass tower is a staple of the Atlanta skyline you can’t miss! Then, step out of the elevator and into the clouds to sample delicious dishes in an unforgettable atmosphere.
Fun Fact: If you don’t plan to eat at the Sundial, they also allow spectators to ride the glass elevator and gawk at the 360-degree views for a small fee.
11. Be Dazzled at the Atlanta Magic Theater
See Atlanta’s longest-running magic show! Located inside the Embassy Suites at Centennial Olympic Park, the Atlanta Magic Theater will leave you in awe! That’s because Magician Peter Morrison will entertain you with 75 minutes of unbelievable magic and clean, upbeat comedy.
This activity is perfect for a family outing or a unique date idea! Don’t be shy – this show promises “tons of audience involvement” along with cherished memories and good times.
Combine this activity with dinner at the SunDial (#10, above) or one of the other restaurants mentioned in this post for a dazzling and magical evening in Downtown Atlanta.
Fun Fact: Magician Peter Morrison has performed more than 6,000 shows across the country over the past 20 years. And, that includes 80 shows at the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood!
12. Learn About Civil Rights & Honor the Memory of John Lewis
Congressman John Lewis was an important and heroic figure in the Civil Rights movement. Additionally, from 1987 until his passing in 2020, he represented Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, which includes much of metro Atlanta. When visiting the city, take the opportunity to learn more about this courageous activist and leader.
To start, see the John Lewis “HERO” mural in Downtown Atlanta and honor the memory and impact of John Lewis. This mural was created by The Loss Prevention as part of their “Heroes” mural series honoring Atlantans who have made an impact on the world.
Additionally, you can check out the John Lewis statue in the new Rodney Cook Senior Peace Park in Vine City, just west of Downtown Atlanta. The park has 16 acres of greenspace and green infrastructure, making it a perfect destination for both sightseeing and leisure.
13. Stay in the Loop with the Special Events in Downtown Atlanta
Don’t have anything specific planned for your visit to Downtown Atlanta? Have no fear! Downtown Atlanta is a bustling hotspot for a variety of special, temporary, and pop-up events. In the capital of the South, there’s always something going on. Don’t miss out on all the fun while you’re here!
To help you stay in the know, browse this list of upcoming Downtown Atlanta events. For instance, some upcoming events at the time of writing include lunchtime musical street performances, a knitting meetup, community wellness programs, green markets, theatre performances, magic shows, yoga classes, and more!
To guide your experience, the Downtown Atlanta district’s website has a full list of the area’s restaurants, events, and activities. Additionally, their website includes a detailed history of Downtown Atlanta. You can also read about their innovative vision for the future of the neighborhood!
Top Tourist Spots in Downtown Atlanta
Want to see all the can’t-miss tourist spots in Downtown Atlanta? The activities below are perfect to enjoy alone, with friends, family, or colleagues – as part of a vacation or staycation. The activities listed below are all popular Downtown Atlanta spots for tourists and locals alike!
14. National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Visiting the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a truly moving experience that will stay with you forever. This museum explores the past, present, and future of the U.S. Civil Rights movement and “connects its legacy to ongoing human rights struggles around the world.” A visit here is the perfect activity for preteen and teenage children as well as adults!
Home to permanent and rotating temporary exhibits, this spot invites guests to engage with and learn more about issues of equity, social justice, dignity, and more. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights was built in 2014, with the goal of inspiring people “to tap into their own power to change the world around them.”
Head here to see important papers and artifacts exploring the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as explore the fight for civil rights and human rights across the globe. The Center also regularly hosts performances, book talks, lectures, and other educational programs.
Want to get a peek before you visit? Check out the interactive virtual tour of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
15. Centennial Olympic Park
This scenic park in Downtown Atlanta honors the legacy of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. With 22 acres of greenspace to enjoy, Centennial Olympic Park is the perfect part of Downtown to unplug, relax, and take a break! Stop here between museums, tours, and other sightseeing activities.
During warm weather, the Fountain of Rings allows little ones to cool off and splash around to their hearts’ content. Playgrounds, an amphitheatre, gardens, and more will also keep everyone entertained at Centennial Olympic Park.
Grab some lunch in between your other plans, throw down a blanket, and enjoy a picnic here to rest and refuel! Be sure to also check out the park’s lineup of concerts and festivals hosted throughout the year.
16. SkyView Atlanta
Soar to the top of this ferris wheel in the heart of Downtown Atlanta! Catching a ride on the SkyView Ferris Wheel is a perfect way to end your date night, or a thrilling adventure for the kiddos.
With 42 climate-controlled private gondolas on this ferris wheel, you can experience amazing views of the Atlanta skyline in style and comfort! VIP options are also available for those seeking an extra-special experience.
For nearly a decade, SkyView Atlanta has delighted locals and visitors with mesmerizing views of the city. They sell group tickets for outings of 200+ people, as well as an add-on “Love is In the Air” package that includes a box of chocolates!
17. Georgia Aquarium
A visit to the Georgia Aquarium will make you feel like a kid again! This is the largest aquarium in the United States, with more than 11 million gallons of aquatic adventures to explore. Despite its enormous size, the Georgia Aquarium is centrally located in Downtown Atlanta and convenient to other attractions nearby.
At the Georgia Aquarium, you’ll come face-to-face with countless creatures. From penguins to sea lions, dolphins, sharks, and more – you’re sure to find your favorite underwater creature here! For added fun, ask about their animal encounters, swim and dive sessions, and other incredible experiences.
You can also host a birthday party at the Georgia Aquarium, find kid-friendly eats at Café Aquaria, and enjoy dolphin and sea lion presentations!
18. The World of Coca-Cola
Atlanta is the home of The Coca-Cola Company, and Atlantans are loyal to Coke as their soft drink of choice! As a result, visiting the World of Coca-Cola is a classic, must-do Atlanta activity.
Here, you can learn all about the history and culture behind this iconic company and the world’s most famous soft drink. Our favorite part of this experience is tasting the flavors of Coke from around the world!
At the World of Coca-Cola, you can explore interactive museum exhibits, see hundreds of artifacts, grab a bite in the Bottle Cap Cafe, and take home a piece of the excitement from the Coke Store on-site. Plus, get closer than ever before to the vault that houses the top-secret Coca-Cola formula!
19. Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame
Did you know – only 0.2% of college football players and coaches have the honor of being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame? Pay tribute to these legends at this unique Atlanta site!
Sports fanatic or not, the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame is an experience that will score you some points! This is an interactive experience for all things related to the sport.
At the College Football Hall of Fame, you can honor the history of the game while learning all about college football legends through exhibits and interactive areas. Plus, try kicking a field goal on an 45-yard indoor football field! Here, the whole family can enjoy “94,000 square feet of the most immersive sports museum there is!”
20. Children’s Museum of Atlanta
Your kids will want to spend the whole day at the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. And, the best part is, parents will have just as much fun as the little ones! Burn off some energy at this interactive museum geared toward young children.
This kid-friendly spot includes 3 rotating exhibitions per year. Additionally, see six beloved permanent exhibits – including Let Your Creativity Flow, Step Up to Science, Fundamentally Food, and more. Here, the focus is on interactive learning through play.
The museum also hosts special events and programs. These include art studio activities, an “innovation station,” science bar, cultural programs and celebrations, and more. Be sure to check the museum’s website schedule ahead of time to see which programs might be planned during your visit!
21. Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Head to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to catch an Atlanta United soccer game, Atlanta Falcons game, or a concert! Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a sleek and shiny Atlanta destination, always buzzing with excitement for the next big event.
In addition to amazing views and state-of-the-art amenities, this stadium has gained national attention for its extremely reasonable concessions pricing. It’s all part of the stadium’s commitment to keeping refreshments affordable for guests and families!
If you’re curious to check out the stadium but your visit doesn’t line up with an event you’d like to attend, you can still book a stadium tour! This unique experience includes a peek at the locker rooms, the field, Window to the City, Skybridges, and Club areas. Or, book a tour to familiarize yourself with the venue before coming back for an event!
22. Zoo Atlanta
See amazing exhibits of animals from across the world at Zoo Atlanta! Located in the Grant Park neighborhood just outside Downtown Atlanta, Zoo Atlanta is a popular spot for many Atlanta families and tourists.
Explore the Zoo’s calendar for family-friendly events as well as after-hours events for adults! For instance, “Brew at the Zoo” and “Sippin’ Safari” allow the 21+ crowd to mix and mingle, while “Boo at the Zoo” and “Cookies with Santa” will delight little ones.
Popular animals to see at Zoo Atlanta include elephants, lions, a giant tortoise, flamingoes, giant pandas, and more. While you’re at Zoo Atlanta, stop by the Kidzone play area, enjoy a splash fountain and carousel, take a ride on the Zoo Train, and walk along the Treetop Tykes Trail! You can also visit the petting zoo to get up-close with goats and sheep!
Be sure to stop by the gift shop on your way out for a new plush, cuddly friend to remind you of your adventures.
23. Things to Do in Downtown Atlanta – Plan a Day of Family Fun
Want to combine the best parts of Downtown Atlanta into a family-friendly day out that everyone will love? Let’s do it!
- Start by fueling up with a delicious breakfast. Head to Atlanta Breakfast Club for Southern favorites like chicken and waffles, shrimp and grits, peach cobbler French toast, and more.
- For families with little ones, head to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta (see #20 above) for an interactive morning of play and learning.
- If the kids are age 9 or older, delve into Atlanta’s role in the Civil Rights movement and the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Unexpected Atlanta’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Atlanta History Tour. Or, enjoy the best of Atlanta’s food and history (plus taste 8 delicious dishes!) on our Grant Park Past & Future Food Tour.
- Then, break for a picnic lunch in Centennial Olympic Park (#15). Grab takeout slices from Rosa’s Pizza or BBQ from Daddy D’z (#7) and enjoy 22 acres of green space in the heart of Downtown Atlanta. Bring a frisbee or football to toss around if the kids have extra energy to burn off! If it’s raining, head to the Sweet Auburn Curb Market (#2) instead to explore a wide variety of delicious indoor food spots.
- In the afternoon, head indoors and explore the National Museum for Civil and Human Rights (#14), The World of Coca-Cola (#18), or the College Football Hall of Fame (#19), depending on your interests.
- For dinner, try The Varsity just north of Downtown for iconic Atlanta fast food eats, or Max’s Coal Oven Pizzeria.
- Finally, end the night with a mesmerizing ride on the SkyView ferris wheel (#16), with enchanting views of Atlanta’s Downtown skyline.
- Have extra time on your hands between activities? Be sure to see some of Atlanta’s monuments between activities – including the John Lewis “HERO” mural (#7) and the Ambassador Andrew Young statue.
After a long day of exploring the best of Atlanta, settle in at one of Downtown Atlanta’s many fabulous hotels for a good night’s sleep!
24. Downtown Atlanta Date Night Ideas
Planing a Downtown Atlanta date night? Look no further! Romance your date with these fun, special, and unique date ideas. First, set the tone with flowers from Gresham’s Florist of Atlanta. As the oldest florist in the city, Gresham’s is a family-owned business that’s been serving Downtown Atlanta and beyond since 1913!
Then, take your date to one of these Downtown Atlanta restaurants:
- SunDial Restaurant (see #10 above) for an unforgettable backdrop, with panoramic views of the city. Reservations required!
- Paschal’s Restaurant for classic Soul food and live jazz every 1st & 3rd Friday of the month. Paschal’s has served as a meeting place for notable public figures, including Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, Andrew Young, Maynard Jackson, Al Gore, and Dr. Martin Luther King.
- White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails for upscale bites and a warm, polished Southern vibe.
Cap off the evening with a romantic ride on the SkyView ferris wheel (#16). Take in stunning views of Atlanta’s skyline in a private, climate-controlled gondola. They even have a “Love is In the Air” add-on box of chocolates option when you purchase tickets online! Feeling extra fancy? Add a VIP package to skip the line, enjoy Ferrari-style seats, and take in captivating views with a glass floor.
If you’re planning a daytime date, swap the dinner for an unforgettable food tour of the city! Unexpected Atlanta’s Grant Park Past & Future Food Walk is a unique date idea. This walking food tour shares the best of Atlanta’s food and history – and you’ll taste 8 delicious dishes along the way!
Have fun exploring all that Downtown Atlanta has to offer! For a unique experience with a local guide who can give you the insider’s scoop, sign up for an Unexpected Atlanta walking tour – rated #1 in “Atlanta Tours & Activities” on TripAdvisor!