The good news? If you’re planning an Atlanta vacation and have been stressing out about it, your stress ends here. As Sonny and Cher famous said, “I’ve got you, babe”!
The better news? Whether you’re looking for the cold, hard facts about things to do in Atlanta, or want answers to broader questions (“is Atlanta worth visiting?”, for example), I trust the next thousand words or so will cover all your bases, and then some.
What follows is a plug-or-play Atlanta itinerary, more or less, assuming you choose to use it that way. Alternatively, you can take the information I’ve laid out, and use it as a foundation for your own personalized trip. Let’s get started!
Where to Stay in Atlanta
Before I talk you through the specifics of how to spend your Atlanta vacation, let’s talk about where you should stay. If you’re a travel traditionalist (which is to say you like hotel—I do), I’ve got a few recommendations. Boutique properties such as Hotel Indigo, which is located in downtown Atlanta, offer a stylish, yet intimate stay. Big box properties like Hyatt Centric Midtown, meanwhile, kick up the luxury a notch, but can feel less personal. (And that might be what you’re looking for—no judgement!)
Although many Atlanta hotels are top-notch, I do realize we are in the Airbnb generation. And let’s be frank: Many amazing apartments and homes are available throughout Metro Atlanta, including those that have been re-purposed specifically to host short-term travelers. Personally, I love Buckhead (Atlanta’s uptown) for apartment and loft properties, while up-and-coming Summer Hill offers both standalone homes as well as apartment units.
Amazing Things to Do in Atlanta
Enjoy Atlanta’s Best Views and Vistas
Is Atlanta safe for tourists? Absolutely, unless you consider stunning gardens and sweeping views to be a hazard. Atlanta is home to some of the best green spaces in America, from sprawling Forsyth Park, to the lush Atlanta Botanical Garden, to Piedmont Park and its skyline views. Speaking of skyline views, you’ll want to make sure and take a ride on the SkyView Atlanta ferris wheel for the best view of downtown.
Discover the World of Coca-Cola
At first glance, a museum dedicated to the world’s most famous beverage might not seem like an appropriate focal point for your Atlanta vacation. But just as coke itself managed to endear all of humanity in spite of humble beginnings, the World of Coca Cola will delight and amaze you. Part of this is the sheer spectacle of it all. Far more than just an exhibition hall, this is a veritable soft drink city, equipped with a theater, decades of paraphernalia and of course, huggable polar bear mascots!
Walk in the Footsteps of Dr. King
Now more than perhaps anytime in modern history, Civil Rights are at the forefront of American identity. What is there to do in Atlanta for 3 days that best embodies this? Well, several options await you along Auburn Avenue in the Sweet Auburn District. Whether you simply visit The King Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, or visit Dr. King’s actual birth home, this will make for an enlightening, moving visit.
Go Underwater at the Georgia Aquarium
Atlanta might be far from the ocean, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go under the sea during your Atlanta vacation. Specifically, the gargantuan Georgia Aquarium contains more than 10 million gallons of salt water in all its tanks, where literally thousands of members of hundreds of species reside. As inspiring for children as it is for grown ups who have forgotten how small we all are, the Georgia Aquarium is as close to a must-visit in Atlanta as exists.
Scream Your Head off at Six Flags
You might not believe it now, but I was a massive rollercoaster fanatic when I was in high school. Six Flags Over Georgia remains one of my favorite theme parks in the United States, in spite of not being as record-breaking as some others. Whether you prefer the sky-scraping Goliath hypercoaster, or the gentler classic Dahlonega Mine Train, I do recommend buying your Six Flags Over Georgia tickets in advance to save money, and to avoid unnecessary crowds.
How Many Days Should You Spend in Atlanta?
How many days in Atlanta you spend will vary somewhat from traveler to travel, but I generally like to discover the city on a long weekend. Arrive Thursday evening and then, after a Southern-style breakfast at Buttermilk Kitchen on Friday, get straight to sightseeing, taking care of everything except for Six Flags on your first full day. Following a long Saturday at the park, you can return to the city for a nice dinner (I recommend Aria in Buckhead), then get a good night of sleep before flying out Sunday.
On the other hand, if you’ve got plenty of time (and don’t need to work Monday through Friday), you can take a longer Atlanta vacation. Come during the week to avoid crowds, whether you plan a standard sightseeing trip, or plan to intersperse the Atlanta attractions I’ve recommended with a remote workcation, as the cool kids are calling it these days. This—traveling to another while getting paid—is probably the smartest way to enjoy Atlanta.
Other Destinations in Georgia
Of course, if you have more than a week to travel, and you’re flying all the way to Atlanta, you might want to travel farther afield. The obvious option (at least if you’ve never been) is to fly from Atlanta to Savannah. Whether you’re more enchanted by the Spanish moss that hangs in the trees, the (apparently) haunted hotels or the incredible museums and young, artistic atmosphere of the city, it’s definitely worth the short flight or three-hour drive.
Speaking of a Georgia road trip, there are plenty of other places you can travel in the Peachtree State, too. Head to quirky Athens, which is not only home to the University of Georgia, but is the beginning of the so-called Antebellum Trail, a long chain of stunning Civil War era architecture. You could also head to Georgia’s cherry blossom capital Macon, or to Valdosta, a town on the Florida border that’s home to Wild Adventures Theme Park.
The Bottom Line
Planning an Atlanta vacation can be a nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be. Once you have a clear idea of things to do in Atlanta, and a short list of places to stay in the city, it’s really a matter of putting it all together (and, of course, getting on the plane). Likewise, while a weekend trip to Atlanta is always good for city slickers, you can also use your stay here as a springboard for a more extensive trip through Georgia, or the American Southeast more broadly. Here’s to hoping your trip to Atlanta is one of the record books!