Atlanta City Guide


Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Atlanta

We've told you all about the things to do in Atlanta -- from seeing the unique marine life at the Georgia Aquarium to scoping out the artwork at the Ann Jackson Gallery. Now it's time to put the sights, sounds, and tastes of Atlanta into logical groupings. In this section, we'll provide suggested itineraries that will enable you to hit on the highlights in your areas of interest -- including special events and attractions, arts and culture, architecture and landmarks, shopping, nightlife and entertainment, and relaxing and unwinding.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Atlanta's Special Events and Attractions

There is no shortage of must-see attractions in Atlanta. There also is no shortage of must-do special events. Here are some ideas for getting the most out of your trip:

1 day: If you only have one day in Atlanta, start off in downtown.
The Georgia Aquarium needs a minimum of two hours, so try to make reservations and get there when it opens at 9 am. Then walk north through Centennial Park, where visitors enjoy a steady schedule of activities, such as music in the park from noon to 1 pm every Tuesday and Thursday from April through September. Even if you just feel like taking a rest, it's always fun to watch kids playing in the fountains, shaped like Olympic rings.

Learn the behind-the-scenes mechanics of how a major network covers global news events with a 50-minute tour of the CNN Center. Then walk three blocks to Underground Atlanta for insight into the city's history. When you pop out the other end, you'll be able to view the world's largest collection of soft-drink memorabilia at the World of Coke Museum. Afterward, journey to the top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza and check out its revolving Sun Dial Restaurant, which has a spectacular 360-degree view of the city for its customers. Make sure to try some Georgia mountain trout or spiced pumpkin ravioli while you take in a complete view of the city's skyline.

The CNN Center in Atlanta has informative 50-minute tours.
©2006 Atlanta CVB
A tour of the CNN Center gives visitors an inside
glimpse at the iconic news network.

2 days: Atlanta's history is so rich that you can easily spend at least one day visiting various sites. Start at the Martin Luther King Center and visit Ebenezer Baptist Church for an education on Civil Rights history. While in the area, wander through the Victorian neighborhood of Inman Park, with all of its historical markers, before heading to Oakland Cemetery. Dating back to 1850, the cemetery in known for its ornate tombs. Noteworthy tombs or headstones include six Georgia governors, Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell, and golf great Robert T. (Bobby) Jones.

Follow the Boulevard south to the historic Grant Park neighborhood and take a stroll through the park itself. Cyclorama, located next to Zoo Atlanta, is a cylindrical painting depicting the Battle of Atlanta,
that's been on display since 1863. When you're through, walk over to
Zoo Atlanta and have a look at the pandas. Lun Lun and Yang Yang are one of just four pairs of pandas in zoos in the United States.

3 days: Start the day at The Ted, the locals' nickname for Turner Field.
Turner Field offers extensive tours in which guides take you to a skybox, the press box and stands, and the team's dugout and locker rooms. It's a great chance to see the inner workings of a sports facility. Then swing by the Mobil One-Star The Varsity Drive-in for lunch and load up on a chili cheese dog and onion rings before taking a drive to Stone Mountain Park. This 3,200-acre park offers a massive outcropping of granite that's adorned with a carving depicting Civil War generals. Hike the area, climb or ride up the mountain, or just hang around and enjoy the laser light show each evening.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Atlanta's Arts and Culture

Whether you have a little or a lot of time to spend in Atlanta, there is enough arts and culture to keep you occupied. Here are some activities to consider when planning your stay:

1 day: The High Museum of Art is Atlanta's premier museum and is definitely worth a stop. Your tour of the museum might take a while because the place is over 320,000 square feet. The permanent exhibit alone has more than 11,000 items, including Monets, Battistas, Tanners, and Closes. Furthermore, visitors can always find featured exhibits and lecture series. The museum has formed a partnership with the Louvre in Paris and will be featuring exhibits from the Louvre through 2009.

For unique artistic gifts, check out the museum's gift shop. Afterward, head north on Peachtree and make a left onto Bennett Street to explore a series of small galleries and shops. In the evening, try to find tickets to a performance of the Atlanta Opera or Atlanta Symphony.

The Atlanta Symphony has become world famous.
©2006 Atlanta CVB
The critically acclaimed Atlanta Symphony
provides a perfect way to spend an evening.

2 days: The fabulous Fox Theatre is amazing for live performances, but if you can't experience a play or a concert, at least take the tour of the venue and the adjacent Egyptian Ballroom. The Egyptian is a favorite location for weddings, proms, and even corporate events because of its classic architecture and exotic decor. Afterward, make your way to the Michael C. Carlos Museum, located on Emory University's campus. Often overlooked, the Carlos exhibits feature ancient art from Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the ancient Americas. It is the largest collection of this type in the Southeast and is well worth a stop. 

3 days: It's road-trip time. Get a car for the day and head 20 minutes up Georgia 400 off Interstate 85 and take Holcomb Bridge road over to Historic Roswell. At the convergence of Highway 9 and Canton Street, you'll find a host of galleries that range from photography at the Ann Jackson Gallery on Canton to works by local artists at the Raiford Gallery.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Atlanta's Architecture and Landmarks

Atlanta is an architectural treasure, featuring a mix of historic and modern buidlings. If you follow these suggested itineraries, you'll be sure to see the city's most notable sites.

1 day: Walking around downtown Atlanta can give you a full mixture of architectural types. Atlanta's original name was "Terminus" because of its railroads, and the area around Underground Atlanta was at the heart of it all. Now a struggling below-ground retail area, the six block stretch of sunken cobblestone streets gives visitors a sense of Atlanta's past.

When you come up top, walk over to Atlanta's modern City Hall (68 Mitchell St) and look for the phoenix carvings decorating the tiled walls. This motif is appropriate considering the city seal is a phoenix rising from the ashes, which is symbolic of the city surviving two major fires in its early history.

Explore the century-old gold-domed State Capitol Building (206 Washington St) before meandering through the Fairlie-Poplar District, which combines buildings from the early 1900s with modern structures. When you get hungry, treat yourself to the international cuisine offered in a formal rooftop setting at the Mobil Three-Star Nikolai's Roof 
(255 Courtland St). This is the place to try piroshkis filled with beef tenderloin, pheasant, and lobster, or orange sorbet flavored with a splash of caramel vodka, as you look over downtown Atlanta.

Atlanta's State Capitol Building is a century old.
©2006 Atlanta CVB
If history is your thing, stop by the 100-year-old State Capitol Building.

2 days: Start your second day in Inman Park to take in some classic Victorian homes. A drive down Edgewood or Euclid Avenue will take you along tree-lined streets and past houses that look like they should be atop weddings cakes. A favorite is the Callan Castle, on the corner of Euclid and Elizabeth Streets, which was built by the founder of Coca Cola, Asa Candler. It's a perfect setup before taking a drive along Peachtree Street.

From Ponce de Leon Avenue heading north, you'll see the fabulous Fox Theatre, which hosted the world premiere of Gone With The Wind in 1939. Today, it's the premier performance arena in Atlanta. If you have time, visit the restored home of Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone With the Wind, at 10th and Peachtree. Mitchell's home contrasts the gleaming skyscrapers that fill out the rest of the neighborhood in Midtown.

3 days: One of the most amazing arrays of residential architecture in the Southeast, if not the entire United States, can be found in Buckhead. Juxtaposed with the high-rise buildings on Peachtree are homes ranging in architectural style from Georgian and Italian to Tudor and pseudo Southern Plantation. As you view homes nestled in large, wooded lots, there will be "ooing" and "ahhing" at every turn.

Tour buses frequent the rolling neighborhood, but it's a scenic drive if you'd rather explore on your own. Visit the Atlanta History Center 
(3120 Slanton Dr) and enjoy the elegant Swan Coach House or get a sense of farm life in the 1800s with the Tulley Smith Farm, which was relocated to the center's grounds.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Atlanta's Shopping

When it comes to shopping, Atlanta features everything from behemoth department stores (Bloomingdales) to offbeat shops (Mitzi and Romano). Below, we'll tell you how to plan your shopping expeditions.

1 day: If you have limited shopping time in Atlanta, you really should spend it exploring Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza. Lenox Square is a bit more down to earth, with Macy's, Bloomingdales, and Neiman Marcus department stores as its anchors. Phipps Plaza is a tad more upscale, featuring stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany's, Versace, and Jimmy Choo.
Phipps Plaza is a perfect place for shopping in Atlanta.
©2006 Atlanta CVB
Phipps Plaza is a shopping hotspot that shouldn't be missed.
There are also several unique shops located in the Around Lenox shopping area. You can also head to the New Atlantic Station's live-work-play development off of the Connector at 17th Street. Dillard's is the largest store, but there are other fun shops like White House/Black Market, Ann Taylor, and Banana Republic.

2 days: Start the morning in the Virginia Highlands neighborhood and enjoy its eclectic shops and restaurants. First developed in the early 1900s, the neighborhood's architecture helps create a relaxed shopping atmosphere as you stroll along Highland and take in such fun stores as Mitzi and Romano clothing and shoes or Metropolitan Home and Gift Store.

If all of that shopping makes you hungry, restaurants such as Murphy's or Atkin's Park are good places to stop. When you've had your fill, make your way to the nearby Little Five Points. Even if the vintage shopping and urban clothes don't appeal to you, it's a good spot for people-watching.

3 days: Start by doing a bit of gallery shopping. Take in the ever-varied Miami Circle to look for everything from designer fabrics to antique furniture, then head to the Chattahoochee Warehouse District off Howell Mill Road. It truly is a warehouse area, so it is a bit difficult to find, but deals can be found at Ballard's Backroom (1670 DeFoor Ave, NW) or AJ Shoe Warehouse (1178 Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard). Male shoppers can find suit bargains at K & G Men's Center (1750-A Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard).

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Atlanta's Nightlife and Entertainment

If you're a creature of the night, Atlanta will keep you busy into the wee hours. The city has turned into a nightlife and entertainment mecca, so you'll probably need help sifting through all of the options. Here are our suggested itineraries:

1 day: Be entertained by just experiencing an inside look at the fabulous and historic Fox Theatre. Then head to the Mobil One-Star Colonnade (1879 Cheshire Bridge Road, NE) for the epitome of "a meat and three vegetables" dining experience. Order anything fried and it will be the next best thing to Southern home cooking. But make sure to save some energy for the evening. Start off at Happy Hour at Twist (located in Phipps Plaza, 3400 Peachtree St), then head to the Punchline Comedy Club for some down-home laughs.

2 days: You'll need to sleep in after the previous night's festivities, so get some rest and then head to Six Flags Over Georgia
. The park has 10 roller coasters, including the appropriately named Goliath. The steel monster soars 200 feet above the park and loops through an area 8.5 acres in size. You also can venture to Six Flags Whitewater Atlanta and dive 90 feet down the "Cliffhanger" water slide or float around in the tidal wave body flume.

In the evening, check out the concert schedule and take in some live music at either Smith's Olde Bar (1580 Piedmont Ave) or Eddie's Attic (515 North McDonough St, Decatur). Or you can enjoy a cocktail while watching a movie at the Buckhead Backlot (3340 Peachtree Road, NE).

3 days: Visit the Little Five Points neighborhood for the best spot in the area for people-watching.  Between the tattoo parlors and body piercing, you'll see just about anything. Once the sun goes down, you must visit Johnny's Hideaway just to experience it. You will see people of all ages enjoying the mix of tunes -- from modern music to Big Band -- and filling up every square inch of the dance floor.

End your evening by walking next door to that glowing yellow beacon advertising the Waffle House. The restaurant chain started in Atlanta, so it's a fitting tribute to end your stay. Try the world-famous hash browns "smothered and covered" in cheese and onions or one of the golden crispy pecan waffles. 

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing and Unwinding in Atlanta

For those who want to take a more low-key approach, Atlanta has that covered, too. Here are some suggested itineraries that will help you find some peace and tranquility:

1 day: While in downtown Atlanta, you can leisurely enjoy the views without stepping into a hectic pace. Make your way to Centennial Park and check out the fountains and statues. The main library of the Atlanta System
(One Margaret Mitchell Square) is a good place to visit because it has a gallery and a gift shop. Then go to the largest number of tennis courts in the city, offered at the Bitsy Grant Tennis Center at Atlanta Memorial Park. To quench your thirst, it's worth the trip to travel to the Virginia Highlands neighborhood to visit Manuel's (602 North Highland). It's a legendary hangout for politicians and journalists.

2 days:
Piedmont Park is a good way to start the morning. The 180-acre park has footpaths and a lake and affords a beautiful view of the Midtown Skyline. On the park's north end, you'll find the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Featuring indoor and outdoor exhibits, the garden always has something green and beautiful in bloom. Finish your day by heading to the laidback Virginia Highlands neighborhood to enjoy one of its many restaurants, such as Cajun-inspired Fontaine's or Highland Tap Steak House.

The Atlanta Botanical Garden is on the north end of Piedmont Park.
©2006 Atlanta CVB
A walk through Piedmont Park isn't complete without a stop
at the lush Atlanta Botanical Garden [above].

3 days: You can go as leisurely as you please at the Bobby Jones Golf Course (384 Woodward Way NW), which is named for Atlanta native and golfing great Robert Trent Jones. Or drive on Interstate 85 for about an hour to get to Chateau Elan for a round at one of the finest courses in Georgia. The bonus is that the Mobil Three-Star Chateau Elan also is a winery with a resort and spa attached that will enable you to continue to relax and unwind.

Regardless of your tastes -- whether you like spas, nightlife, or museums -- Atlanta has something for everyone. Take a trip to Atlanta and find out why it has become the centerpiece of the South.

©Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Janice McDonald may have traveled the world as a CNN producer for more than 20 years, but she always came back to Atlanta. She's logged time in more than 70 countries and all seven continents. Now an independent writer, Janice writes for a wide variety of travel publications and is a contributing editor for Travelgirl Magazine.

Related Links

Atlanta Bicycle Campaign
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Carter Center
Fernbank Science Museum

Fox Theatre
Georgia Aquarium
High Museum of Art
Inman Park

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum
Inman Park
Martin Luther King Center Tours
Michael C. Carlos Museum

National Black Arts Festival
Piedmont Park
Vinings
Zoo Atlanta