Your Trip to Atlanta: The Complete Guide

•••

 

Daniela Duncan/Getty Images 

Not only is Atlanta Georgia's capital city, but it's a major transportation, commercial, and cultural hub for the entire Southeast. While most visitors' first taste of the city is via its bustling airport or its notorious traffic, the city's world-class attractions, ample parks, award-winning restaurants and popular shopping districts make Atlanta a destination all by itself.

From navigating the city and finding the best places to stay, eat and play, here are some tips to make the most of your visit to Atlanta.

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: Mild temperatures, longer days, trees and flowers in full bloom, and ample outdoor activities before the heat and humidity set in make spring (mid-March through end of May) an ideal time to visit. Autumn, with its temperate weather and opportunities to take advantage of nearby fall foliage, also showcase Atlanta at its best.

Language: English, though the city and nearby suburbs are home to large immigrant and refugee communities.

Getting Around: While Atlanta is a car-heavy city, visitors staying downtown or Midtown can easily walk or take the city's transit system, MARTA, to most popular attractions. Otherwise, renting a car or using a ride-share app is the best way to get around.

Travel Tip: As mentioned above, both downtown and Midtown are served by public transportation and are quite walkable, so if you don't want to be car-dependent, those are your best bets for hotels. Also, no trip to the city is complete without a walk or ride on the popular Beltline Eastside Trail, a three-mile mixed use paved path from Midtown to Reynoldstown that connects Piedmont Park, Historic Fourth Ward Park, and the Freedom Park trail.

Things to Do

Atlanta truly has something for everything. There are plenty of options for family-friendly outings, such as Zoo Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium and the Center for Puppetry Arts. Foodies, history buffs, nature enthusiasts, art lovers, and sports fans will also find attractions that cater to their tastes.

Here are the top three can't-miss attractions in the city:

  • Learn about the city's origins at the Atlanta History Center, which features permanent and rotating exhibitions on everything from the city's railroad origins and its role in the Civil War to folks arts and legendary golfer Bobby Jones, plus year-round programming for children and adults alike. Stroll the grounds and visit the Smith Family Farm, Atlanta’s oldest surviving farmhouse, which includes hands-on demonstrations of foodways, crafts and carpentry.
  • Visit the 200-acre Piedmont Park, Atlanta's version of Central Park, which has a weekend farmers’ market, tennis courts, public swimming pool, off-leash dog park, sports fields, playgrounds and miles of paved paths for running and cycling. Don't miss the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, which is adjacent to the property and hosts the largest collection of species of orchids in the United States in addition to stunning year-round gardens.
  • Stroll or rent a bike at Piedmont Park and travel down the Beltline Eastside Trail to Ponce City Market, an adaptive reuse project in the old Sears, Roebuck & Co. building featuring apartments, offices, shopping, a food hall, and a rooftop with an 18-hole miniature golf course, boardwalk-style games and ample seating to sip a cocktail while savoring panoramic views of the city.

Explore more attractions with our full-length articles on the top things to do in Atlanta, the best free activities, family-friendly outings and guided tours.

420Fest2014-362--Large.jpg

What to Eat and Drink

While traditional Southern cuisine is easy to come by in Atlanta, the city's food scene extends beyond the standard fried chicken and meat and three plate. From international fare on Buford Highway to award-winning fine dining spots to neighborhood gems and food halls, the city offers a cuisine and price point for every budget and palate.

Atlanta's also a top destination for beer lovers, with over 20 breweries like the pioneering Sweetwater Brewery, many of which offer public tours and tastings. For spirits lovers, the city is also home to several distilleries producing everything from vodka to whiskey. Atlanta's cocktail scene is also stellar, with Decatur's oyster depot Kimball House being a 2018 James Beard Finalist for Outstanding Bar Program and Krog Street Market's Ticonderoga Club, founded by some of the leaders of the city's modern cocktail revival, leading the way.

For more on the city's dining and drink scene, explore our articles on Atlanta Restaurants on the Big Screen, Dining in Atlanta With Kids and the 22 Best Nightlife Spots in Atlanta.

Where to Stay

Both the downtown and Midtown neighborhood are on the city's public transit system, MARTA, and are walkable to many top attractions. For shoppers and foodies, Buckhead is a popular spot with several hotels and also easy access to MARTA. To see how the locals live, book an AirBNB in one of the city's charming neighborhoods, like Cabbagetown, Inman Park, or Decatur.

There are also several airport-adjacent hotels that tend to be less pricey than accommodations in town, and these are our recommendations for the best hotels in the city overall.

Getting There

For those traveling by air, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the only airport serving the area and is located approximately 20-30 minutes south of the city, depending on traffic. Read our guide to everything you need to know about navigating the airport here.

You can take MARTA from the airport directly into the city if you're staying along points north (downtown, Midtown, Buckhead or Sandy Springs) or east and west.

Taxi and rideshare services are also available at the airport as well as other points in the city, so no need to rent a car unless you plan to drive to the far suburbs or points of interest in the rest of the state.

By car, the city is accessible via I-75 and I-85 from the south and north and I-20 from the east and west.

Money Saving Tips

  • Visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site for free. Located on Auburn Avenue, once the wealthiest African-American street in the country, the site encompasses several buildings, including the King birth home, Ebenezer Baptist Church (where Dr. King was baptized and ordained), a visitor's center and the King Center, which contains the crypts of Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, as well as hundreds of Civil Rights-era documents and oral histories. The historic site is approximately one mile east of downtown Atlanta and is accessible via car as well as the Atlanta Streetcar.
  • Stroll through Atlanta's oldest public park, the 48-acre Historic Oakland Cemetery. Located less than a mile from downtown, the cemetery houses the graves of former mayor Maynard Jackson, author Margaret Mitchell and golfer Bobby Jones. Explore on your own for free, or sign up for one of the guided tours, which are $12 for adults and $6 for children, students and seniors.
  • Take advantage of free admission to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta’s premier art museum, the second Sunday of each month from 12 to 5 p.m. Active and veteran military personnel get free admission plus a guest daily.
  • Enjoy festival season (April and May). From the Dogwood Festival and Atlanta Jazz Festival (Memorial Day weekend annually) in Piedmont Park to the Inman Park Festival, Atlanta offers several free festivals that offer games, music, art, and more for the whole family.
  • Explore the galaxy at the Fernbank Science Center, which offers free admission to its observatory and exhibits. Planetarium shows are $7 adults and $5 students.
  • Celebrate the legacy of the1996 Olympic Games at Centennial Olympic Park, the country's largest downtown park and adjacent to the city’s most popular attractions like the CNN Center and the World of Coca-Cola. The park's mobile website offers a walking tour that explores downtown’s history, architecture, the legacy of the Olympic Games and the Fountain of Rings show features dancing water choreographed to music, sound and lighting effects. Check the schedule for special events, like ice skating in the winter and music festivals like SweetWater 420 Fest and Shaky Knees Music Festival in the spring and summer.

    Learn more about the cheapest ways to have fun during your stay in Atlanta by exploring our tips for visiting Atlanta on a budget and its most affordable attractions.

    Was this page helpful?