Although not as famous for its architecture and beautiful public squares as Savannah, Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, still has its share of breathtaking sights and historical landmarks. With major roles played both in the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, Atlanta is a monument to hard-won freedoms and challenges faced by democracy. With attractions such as the beautiful Olympic Park, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, and the colossal Georgia Aquarium, you will never run out of things to do in Atlanta.
WHAT’S THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ATLANTA?
To get the most out of your visit, plan your stay during spring, somewhere between March and May. Those months are usually the best when it comes to the weather, with plenty of things to do in Atlanta due to the numerous concerts and outdoor activities in the city. During the summer, Atlanta, like the rest of Georgia, gets unbearably hot and humid. On the other hand, if you are more interested in getting a good deal, aim for December, January, or February. Hotel prices tend to go down with fewer visitors, but there are still a couple of exciting events, especially for foodies.
A FEW FACTS ABOUT ATLANTA
With 486,290 people living within city limits, Atlanta is the 39th most-populous city in the country – so, not exactly a megalopolis. However, its significance for the history of the United States is much greater than its size may indicate. During the Civil War, General Sherman burnt Atlanta to the ground, making it the only city in all of North America to be destroyed in an act of war. The city was literally rebuilt from the ashes and later adopted the phoenix as the city symbol. Also, two of Atlanta’s sons won the Nobel Peace Prize – Martin Luther King in 1964 and President Jimmy Carter in 2002. In addition to being peaceful, Atlanta is also quite nerdy, hosting Dragon Con, a massive convention for fans of fantasy, comic books, and science fiction.
ONE DAY IN ATLANTA ITINERARY
Follow this guide and make the best of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do on your one day in Atlanta.
Start Your Trip at the Centennial Olympic Park
Open from 7 AM till 11 PM, the Centennial Olympic Park, home of the Olympic Games of 1996, is now Atlanta’s main hub for art festivals, live entertainment, and various activities for children. Moreover, it is surrounded by many of Atlanta’s most famous landmarks, such as the College Football Hall of Fame, the Georgia World Congress Center, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Georgia Aquarium, and many others.
Since most of the Atlanta attractions don’t open until 10 AM, you don’t have to start your day too early. Spend an hour or so exploring the park, and then check out some of the landmarks before moving on.
Visit the CNN Center
The CNN Center is also near the Centennial Olympic Park, directly on its west side. From 9 AM until 5 PM, visitors can enjoy a CNN Studio Tour, with a behind-the-scenes look at how one of the largest TV news networks in the country operates. An hour at the Studio should be enough to see everything there is to see in CNN’s international newsroom. The tour is fun and informative, with the option to make a recording of yourself reporting the news – a nice souvenir for friends and family at home, if that’s your kind of thing.
Check out World of Coca-Cola Next
After CNN, make your way back to the park and take a short 8-minute walk to the north side across the park until you reach World of Coca-Cola, a museum filled with films, interactive exhibits, and iconic memorabilia about the most popular soft drink in the world – which coincidentally made its debut in Atlanta back in 1886, more than 132 years ago. Starting with Dr. John Pemberton and his “headache syrup”, the museum illustrates the history and the success of Coca Cola in a fun way.
Visiting the museum is among the best things to do with kids in Atlanta, with its 4D theater, as well as the option to taste more than 100 coke products from all over the world. Talking about fun things to do in Atlanta with kids…
Things to Do in Atlanta with Kids
Atlanta, in general, has lots to offer in terms of entertainment for the whole family. Both the Center for Civil and Human Rights and the world-famous Georgia Aquarium (see below) can provide your little ones with an entertaining and educational experience they won’t soon forget. However, if you would like to find some simple, fun things to do in Atlanta for kids exclusively (more or less), then your two best options are the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, recommended for kids between the ages of 2 and 8, and the Center for Puppetry Arts.
The Children’s Museum has its own troupe of professional actors called the Imaginators, who develop entertaining hands-on activities for kids, such as little musicals and other activities that children can participate in and learn while playing.
The Center for Puppetry Arts also has its own workshops, performances, and classes that bring its large collection of puppets to life. The Center’s Worlds of Puppetry Museum features the largest collection of Jim Henson puppets and artifacts on display anywhere in the world. For things to do in Atlanta with kids, look no further than the museum’s Family Series Performances. Teens, on the other hand, may appreciate its New Direction Series. The Children’s Museum is near the Centennial Olympic Park, across the street from the World of Coca Cola, but the Center for Puppetry Arts is about 2 miles north on Spring Street.
Don’t Miss the Center for Civil and Human Rights
With art, photos, and artifacts from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the Center for Civil and Human Rights chronicles not only the epic struggle within the United States, but also the challenges faced by basic freedoms and rights throughout the whole world.
In addition to the Center’s exhibits, speeches, and newscasts portraying the history of Jim Crow laws, visitors can also learn about the Apartheid, women’s rights, the rights of children, and so much more. Best of all, the Center for Civil and Human Rights occupies the same area as The Children’s Museum, the World of Coca Cola, and the Georgia Aquarium, so it can easily be coupled with all these other things to do in downtown Atlanta.
Grab a Bite to Eat at the Atlanta Breakfast Club
In spite of its name, the nearby Atlanta Breakfast Club, just north of the Center for Civil and Human Rights across the Ivan Allen Jr Boulevard, serves not only breakfast, but also other standard American fare such as BBQ, burgers, and so much more. Join the waitlist before arriving at the restaurant if you want to avoid waiting in line for more than 20 minutes. This place really is that good! With top-notch service, mind-blowing crab cakes, and warm smiles on everyone’s faces, you will love this charming little diner with its beautiful retro setting.
Check out the Georgia Aquarium
After lunch, just cross the Ivan Allen Jr Boulevard again and make your way down to the Georgia Aquarium. With interactive galleries, scores of fish and marine mammals, and thrilling permanent exhibits, it takes about 3 hours to explore the Georgia Aquarium, currently the largest indoor aquarium in the world. While visiting the aquarium is certainly among the best things to do in Georgia, if you want to make your visit as smooth and hassle-free as possible, make sure to order your tickets online in advance to avoid waiting in line at the front gate. Also, steer clear of weekends if at all possible.
Move on to the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)
And now for something completely different. The Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA) is small museum midtown with rotating exhibits that explore the effects design and art have on everyday life. You can get there by walking east down Ivan Allen Boulevard until you reach the Civic Center Station, then take the Red or Gold Metro line northbound to North Springs Station.
The Museum also features a craft and activism exhibit where you can get hands-on and make something with the provided art supplies. As an alternative, you can visit the nearby High Museum of Art with its rich art collection housed inside a famous architectural marvel by Renzo Piano and Richard Maier.
Free Things to do in Atlanta
If you’re on a budget, you might be interested to hear about a couple of things to do in Atlanta for free. For example, there are several free museums in Atlanta that you can visit instead of the High Museum of Arts, the Georgia Aquarium, and other attractions listed above. When it comes to free things to do in Atlanta with kids, consider the Fernbank Science Center, featuring planetarium shows, live animals, and hands-on exhibits.
There’s also the Anne Frank in the World Museum in Sandy Springs, a great educational experience featuring 500 photographs, in addition to documentaries and original artifacts from the war. Lastly, consider The King Center, a nonprofit with photos and artifacts of MLK, or the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum, a public museum and research institution focused on preserving the history of paper technology.
Prepare for a Night on the Town
To close out the day, you’ll need to grab a bite to eat before downing a couple of beers or cocktails – whatever floats your boat. If you are stuck Downtown, your options will be mostly limited to lounge-type bars that are quite touristy and usually avoided by locals. Instead, head to PeachTree Center and check out Gibney’s Pub, a traditional tavern that stands out with its dark-wood décor, pool tables, and a jukebox.
Even better, take a short cab/Uber ride to the Virginia Highland area near Piedmont Park and go over to The Highlander, with classic pub grub, a nice outdoor patio, pinball, air hockey, and pool tables. The people are cool and the food is great, especially the excellent Southern Slam Burger with a loaded baked potato on the side.
WHERE TO STAY IN ATLANTA?
Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta
With a supreme location in Midtown Atlanta, the luxury Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta stands out with its top-class on-site restaurant, its full-service spa, and a modern health club. The comfortable rooms all come with a full marble bathroom which includes both a standalone glass-enclosed shower and a deep bathtub. In case that’s not enough, spoil your senses at the hotel’s indoor saline pool with the adjacent sauna and steam room.
Hyatt House Atlanta Downtown
A stone’s throw away from all the exciting things to do in Atlanta, including attractions such as the Georgia Aquarium and The World of Coca Cola, this modern property offers a number of amenities such as a fitness center, free Wi-Fi, and barbecue facilities. The staff at Hyatt House Atlanta Downtown is really knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to answering questions concerning restaurants, grocery stores, and nightlife. Vegan friendly with a wonderful selection of fruit.
Hampton Inn Atlanta-Georgia Tech-Downtown
Located directly across the street from Coca-Cola Worldwide Headquarters and in the immediate vicinity of Georgia Tech, it is nearly impossible to beat this hotel’s supreme location. With modern facilities, comfortable accommodations, a great city view, a number of free amenities, and an affordable price, the Hampton Inn Atlanta-Georgia Tech-Downtown gives the competition a run for its money. Although many Atlanta attractions such as the Mercedes-Benz Stadium are within walking distance, the hotel also offers a free shuttle service within a 3.2 km radius.
DAY TRIPS FROM ATLANTA
Atlanta Historical Homes Tour
If you want to learn more about the history of Atlanta, the best way to do it is to book a tour of Atlanta’s historical homes. On this tour, learn about the city’s history and architecture with a stop at the beautiful 1928 Swan House and a visit to either the Margaret Mitchell House, the governor’s mansion, or the Rhodes Hall. Details of the tour depend on the day of the week and other details, but with three historic homes and two famous neighborhoods, you will learn more about Atlanta than on any other city tour.
Biplane Rides Over Atlanta
For something a little bit more adventurous and exciting, go for a biplane ride over Atlanta in beautiful vintage airplanes. Perfect for birthday presents, wedding anniversaries, and the like. The pilots usually fly to Stone Mountain and over Atlanta’s recognizable landmarks, such as the Mercedes stadium, Piedmont Park, and Downtown. You will love the tranquil, smooth flight as the pilot points out the attractions, explains little details, and makes sure you have a great time.
If you can, book a sunset tour over Atlanta in an open cockpit plane for an unforgettable experience. There’s also a “You Fly” option, where you can take the controls during the flight with the pilot’s help and guidance.
Pop The Cork Wine Tours
Also, a good choice for special occasions, a day trip from Atlanta to the North Georgia Wine Country is just as fun and exciting, even if it may be a bit more grounded. With safe transportation, all fees included, and a delicious picnic lunch, you can visit a number of wineries in Helen, Cleveland, Dahlonega, and Taccoa. With small groups, there’s never a rush, and you will certainly love the knowledgeable, friendly, and professional personnel.
EXTRA TIPS FOR VISITING ATLANTA
-Although Atlanta is not a particularly dangerous city, it is still good to know which neighborhoods to avoid. For example, areas southwest of the I-20 and I-85 are not quite as safe as Midtown and the suburbs.
-A few other safety tips: when relying on an app like Uber or Lyft, try to share a ride with a friend. Don’t divulge any personal information. If you’re driving your own car, pay attention to parking and try not to leave your valuables where they can be easily seen – generally common sense in most cities.
PIN FOR LATER!
If you have any other propositions for this One Day in Atlanta Itinerary, feel free to share them in the comments below!