Top Atlanta Attractions: 16 Best Things To Do in Atlanta
Live in, near, or heading to Atlanta soon? Then this list of the 16 best things to do in Atlanta, highlighting the top Atlanta attractions, is for you.
If you're like me, Atlanta was never top on my places to visit list. But after having the privilege of experiencing the top Atlanta attractions over the past year thanks to the Atlanta Convention and Visitor's Bureau, I'm dying to return more often. Atlanta has quickly become one of my favorite places to visit.
Top Atlanta Attractions: The 16 Best Things to Do in Atlanta
Whether you are a tourist and are looking for the perfect vacation spot, live near Atlanta and are looking for the perfect road trip, or are a native and are up for a little more exploring, there is no time like the present to discover the top attractions in Atlanta. You can start with this list of the 16 Best Things to Do in Atlanta:
1. Appreciate Nature at the Atlanta Botanical Garden
Right in the heart of midtown sits the 30-acre Atlanta Botanical Garden. Art pops out at you all over the city of Atlanta, so it's no surprise that the botanical garden follows suit. From cast bronze figures, sculptures, and Chihuly chandeliers and art instillations to waterfalls and fountains, art is literally everywhere making this otherwise already little bit of heaven on earth even more awe inspiring.
I visited the botanical garden at night, allowing me to see the amazing garden lights, which would be extra awesome during the holiday season. But regardless of which time you go—in daylight or at night, during holiday season or at another time of year—make sure to check out the children's garden, the flowers in bloom, the plant collection, and if you have children, have them take a ride on the train.
2. Beware of Ghosts While Touring the Fox Theater
The Fox Theater in midtown Atlanta boasts some of the greatest plays and shows and therefore, easily makes it one of the top Atlanta attractions. And if you can get a ticket, experiencing the grandeur of this theater firsthand is for sure the way to go. Either way make sure to check out the behind-the-scenes Fox Theater Tours from bottom to top and on stage.
During our tour, we learned historical facts, were educated on terms and roles in the theater industry, met career theater employees, and we were even told about the ghosts that frequent many spots in the old theater. We also got to step foot in rooms where famous actors and singers have stayed and learn about some of their requests.
3. Bike Through Midtown's Historical Districts
Out of all of the top Atlanta attractions I've experienced, I could write an entire post on my amazing the Bicycle Tours of Atlanta I went on in 2015. The "Fall in Love With Atlanta" tour was one of my favorite things I've ever done on a vacation. Our tour guide, Robyn, was knowledgeable, friendly, and made the 3-hour tour go by in a flash. We visited popular neighborhoods in midtown and when I returned to Atlanta this year, I was surprised I could remember my way around so well. I attribute that to all we learned on the bike tour, which familiarized me with so many parts of the city. My favorite spots were the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic District and Jimmy Carter Center in the Old Fourth Ward, the street art in Cabbage Town, the instillation and other art along the Atlanta Beltline, the city view from Oakland Cemetery, and awesome people watching in Little Five Points.
If you are considering a bike tour in Atlanta, please determine whether a regular or electric bike is more your speed. I was in really good shape last year when I went on this bike tour. I remember thinking that if I hadn't been as fit, I wouldn't have been able to keep up. The hilly Atlanta neighborhoods aren't the easiest to bike for 8 miles and 3 hours straight and can easily tire you. This year, we were offered an electronic bike tour option. Those that went said it was absolutely amazing. Whenever they needed an extra boost, they simply transitioned into electric mode and off they went without any exertion. So, before you decide which bike tour to sign up for, consider how much you want to work out while on your bike tour.
4. Check Out the Street Art in Cabbage Town
Street art is a welcome past time for Atlanta natives and not something you'd typically see on a must-see list. But, the city completely embraces it as a vibrant art form, making checking out street art around town one of my favorite top Atlanta attractions.
Cabbage Town and the bridges along the Atlanta Beltline, which can be accessed from Cabbage Town, sported some of my favorite street art in Atlanta, but it's worth making your way through all the neighborhoods in midtown to check out the colorful walls. Also, make sure to learn more about the artists who are making Atlanta beautiful.
5. Eat Your Way Through Atlanta Progressive Dinner Style
Buckhead, a ritzy suburb of Atlanta, sports a lot of wonderful upscale restaurants. Get to know more than less of Atlanta's amazing cuisine by visiting one dinner for drinks and appetizers, another for a main dish and sides, another for dessert, and a final one for coffee and conversation. While we visited several restaurants during our progressive dinner, South City Kitchen, which boasts gourmet comfort food, quickly became my favorite with its shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, mashed potatoes, and more. I literally could have eaten there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout my trip it was that tasty. What I liked most about it was how it offered traditional southern cooking with a flair, giving me a peek into Southern living but with a fun, not to mention delicious, twist.
6. Enjoy International Eats at Buford Highway Farmers Market
If you are looking for the biggest variety of food from the most countries all in one spot, look no further than Buford Highway Farmers Market. When I think of farmers markets, I think of small business owners and farmers selling their goods and produce in local parks. So, I was surprised to see that from the outside, Buford Highway Farmers Market looked like a big box store as big as a Costco or Sam's Club. But inside, it was one gigantic grocery store with goods from all over the world.
The owners opened the market in the 60s after moving to Atlanta from South Korea. They started the market as a place where Asians could buy ingredients to make their favorite dishes from home. They then expanded the selection over time and today, you'll find food from literally all over the world. What's even more awesome is that while shopping there, you will see people from diverse nations. This market brings nationalities together all over a common bond: food!
7. Get Fancy for a Night Out at The Shops at Buckhead
Buckhead, as I mentioned, is a ritzy suburb of Atlanta. And The Shops at Buckhead tailor to its inhabitants. I'm not likely to buy a $6,500 coat (beautiful as it may be), but you don't have to be in the highest tax bracket or adore fine clothing and the prices that go with them to enjoy a night out at The Shops at Buckhead.
First of all, window shopping is a great past time. Go for a girls' night out and check out the beautifully decorated windows. Then, either enjoy a 'Shroom Burger at the Shake Shack if you are on a tighter budget or just want the best mushroom burger known to man. Or, head over to one of the many restaurants on property. I tried Doraku Sushi and am still wanting more of their sashimi. Mmmmm! Consider this spot for a fun girls' night out or a date night.
8. Go on a Guided Food Tour of Atlanta
Peachtree Food Tours was the first guided food tour I've experienced and I was instantly spoiled. Not only was eating my way through midtown Atlanta scrumptious, but my tour guide, John, kept our group entertained with stories and historical facts that truly made my morning delightful. My favorite memory was tasting the Sublime Doughnut Burger from Cypress Street Pint and Plate. For only $100, you can enjoy a fun morning food tour touring midtown Atlanta while testing food and drink from five of Atlanta's most awesome restaurants.
9. Pay Tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Old Fourth Ward
Every time I visit Atlanta, I make sure to go to the Old Fourth Ward to pay tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. Just walking the streets and seeing his childhood home is humbling. It reminds me that great leaders with vision who truly impact change begin as children, playing on the street.
10. Play Vintage Games on the Ponce City Market Roof
New to me this visit to Atlanta was the Ponce City Market. Not only does it have a variety of stores perfect for a day of shopping (my favorite included lots and lots of stationary), but also the restaurants are truly amazing (my favorite was W.H. Stiles Fish Camp due to their AWESOME in all caps clam chowder). But what's the greatest? The Roof otherwise known as Skyline Park. With one quick elevator ride taking you several stories up, you go from an awesome urban designed building to vintage carnival games with a fantastic skyline view of the city in a split second.
$10 gets you up on the roof ($7 for children under 12 and free for children under 3) where you can play carnival games and put put golf, go on a slide, or enjoy fabulous eats all while taking in the stupendous city view. My recommendation is to go in time for sunset. But pay attention to the hours as some nights are 21+ only.
11. Ride the Ferris Wheel Overlooking Centennial Park
Skyview Atlanta is downtown Atlanta's eye in the sky, allowing riders a great view of the downtown Atlanta skyline and Centennial Park. I rode the ferris wheel one afternoon in between meetings, but it would be the perfect spot for a fun family outing, night out with friends, or a date night. It's also within walking distance of the Inside CNN Studio Tour and World of Coca Cola.
12. Take a Turn in the Past at Oakland Cemetery
Remember the Bike Tours of Atlanta I was telling you about? Well, as part of that tour, we rode through the famous Oakland Cemetery. Not only does it give you an amazing skyline view of the city as it is located only a mile from downtown Atlanta, but the cemetery itself is a work of art and full of natural beauty. It's odd to include a cemetery in the top Atlanta attractions, right? But, when you consider that the cemetery hosts a variety of events, it makes perfect sense. From scavenger hunts and tree walks to Daffodil Days and Halloween Tours, Oakland Cemetery is not your average quiet burial spot.
13. Talk a Walk on the Atlanta Beltline
One of my favorite places to walk or to ride in Atlanta is on the Atlanta Beltline. Per it's website, "This sustainable project is providing a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit by re-using 22-miles of historic railroad corridors circling downtown and connecting 45 neighborhoods directly to each other."
Before leaving Atlanta on my last visit, I headed to the Atlanta Beltline for a Sunday stroll. As with any other visit, what I loved the most was its different art displays. From street and installation art under its many bridges to a photo wall and sculptures, you feel like you're in an outdoor museum lined with great places to eat, full of families and friends, and demonstrating some of the city's greatest talent.
14. View the Skyline From Four Key Spots
Can a city skyline be an attraction? If yes, then I think finding places to get the best view should be on the list of top Atlanta attractions. When considering the perfect spots to take in the view and snap skyline pics, here are some to consider:
- Jackson Street Bridge (overlooking downtown Atlanta)
- Oakland Cemetery (1 mile from downtown Atlanta)
- Piedmont Park (in the heart of midtown Atlanta)
- Skyline Park (on the Roof of Ponce City Market)
- Skyview (ferris wheel overlooking Centennial Park)
- Sun Dial Restaurant, Bar and View (360 views of Atlanta and beyond)
15. Visit Local Attractions for a Discount With CityPass
CityPass makes visiting multiple top Atlanta attractions at a discount possible and is perfect for families. An adult pass is $76.75 and a child's pass (for kids 3-12) is only $62.50 plus tax. Sound pricy? Think again. This pass includes admission to five different attractions and is good for 9 days from the first date of use. What's more? CityPass helps you avoid long lines. What family doesn't appreciate that? So, if you are looking to visit the Georgia Aquarium, take the Inside CNN Studio Tour, test out your favorite flavor at the World of Coca Cola, enjoy either the Fernbank Museum of Natural History or get your game on with the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-Fil-A Experience, and the Zoo Atlanta or the Center for Civil and Human Rights, CityPass is a great way to do so at a reduced rate.
16. Wear a Hat While Eating at The Varsity
The Varsity, touted as the world's largest drive-in restaurant, has been serving the people of Atlanta and beyond since 1928. Upon a recommendation from several Atlanta friends, I stopped by one afternoon for a hamburger and peach pie. I mean, when in Rome, I mean Georgia, right? I also decided to try out the onion rings, which ended up being my favorite part of the meal.
The best part? The servers handed me a hat with my order, so I embraced the opportunity and wore it while eating. Can anyone say hat selfie? Try it! I promise it's fun.
Note: The Varsity also has locations in the Hartsfield Jackson Airport (Terminals C and F) and several other suburbs outside of Atlanta.
These top Atlanta attractions are just scratching the surface of what this amazing city has to offer. I'm excited for my next visit where I hope to take my family and do many of my favorite things from the list above, but also add the following to our experience:
- Get a CityPass and take advantage of all it has to offer.
- Visit the Delta Flight Museum.
- Take my boys riding: my oldest at the Porsche Experience Center Atlanta (he is crazy for cars!) and my youngest at the Old Fourth Ward Skate Park.
- Watch an Atlanta Braves game at Turner Field.
- Go on the Atlanta Movies Tour (some of our family's favorite flicks and TV shows were filmed in Atlanta.
What top Atlanta attractions would you most want to experience?