Atlanta has made a reputation for reinventing itself, but the city hasn’t lost its Southern charm in the process. Locals welcome visitors into their neighborhood cafés and fine-dining restaurants. They readily offer tips on what to see and where to shop. And they always mix business with a dollop of pleasure. The city’s elegant homes and canopy of trees make Atlanta easy on the eyes. And its rich history stretches from colonial America and the antebellum South to the civil rights movement and beyond.
Atlanta is the main transportation hub of the southeastern United States and its international airport is one of the busiest in the world. While the city is famous for international brands like Coca-Cola and CNN, no single industry dominates the local economy. Business services, logistics, music, film, news media and information technology companies all thrive in Atlanta.
Getting to and from the airport
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is located 7 miles (11 kilometers) south of downtown. Atlanta’s public transit system, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, or MARTA, connects to the airport, and travel time to downtown is less than 20 minutes. Taxis are available in the ground transportation center at the west end of the domestic terminals building. A one-way trip to the city center carries a flat rate of $30 plus tip. Several hotels offer complimentary shuttle services. Use courtesy phones in the airport to check shuttle schedules.
Getting around Atlanta
Locals rely primarily on their cars. Roads are often packed, and traffic jams are a fact of life. But visitors will find they can use public transportation to get to most business districts—including downtown, Midtown, Buckhead and the Perimeter—as well as to most tourist attractions. MARTA offers rail and bus options. A one-way trips cost $2.50. You’ll need to load your fare on a Breeze card that costs $1. You can also buy daily, weekly and monthly passes.
Where to stay
You’ll find luxury accommodation at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead (3300 Peachtree Road NE; Ph: 1-404-237-1234) For upscale accommodation, try Hilton Atlanta (255 Courtland St. NE; Ph: 1-404-659-2000), Hyatt Regency Atlanta (265 Peachtree Street NE; Ph: 1-404-577-1234), Omni Hotel at CNN Center (100 CNN Center; Ph: 1-404-659-0000), Embassy Suites Atlanta Perimeter Center (1030 Crown Pointe Parkway; Ph: 1-770-394-5454), Wyndham Atlanta Galleria (6345 Powers Ferry Road NW; Ph: 1-770-955-1700) or Hyatt Place Atlanta Perimeter Center (1005 Crestline Parkway; Ph: 1-770-730-9300).
Midscale options include Melia Hotel Atlanta (590 West Peachtree St. NW; Ph: 1-404-877-9000), Best Western Plus Inn at the Peachtrees (330 W. Peachtree St. NW; Ph: 1-404-577-6970) or La Quinta Inn & Suites Atlanta Perimeter Medical (6260 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road; Ph: 1-770-350-6177).
Things to see and do
Atlanta is a sports lover’s paradise. You’ll find live sporting events no matter the season. The city is home to three major professional franchises: the Atlanta Hawks of the National Basketball Association, the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball and the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League. It’s also home to a women’s pro basketball team, the Atlanta Dream, and is awaiting the arrival of Major League Soccer. A still-unnamed MLS team is expected to begin playing in 2017. Visit the team websites for scheduling and ticket information.
The city is also home to several world-class tourist attractions. The Georgia Aquarium houses marine mammals and aquatic species in more than 10 million gallons of water. Visitors can explore more than 60 exhibits designed to entertain and educate. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $35.95 for adults and $29.95 for children.
Right next door to the aquarium, you’ll find the World of Coca-Cola. This interactive museum pays tribute to the history of the iconic fizzy drink. You’ll find memorabilia dating back more than a century. The highlight is being able to sample Coke products from around the world. It’s open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $16 for adults and $12 for children.
If you’re a news junkie, don’t miss the Inside CNN Studio Tour. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the operations of the global news powerhouse. Tours run every 10 minutes from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children.
Atlanta also has a fine selection of museums including the High Museum of Art. It displays European and American works from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as contemporary artwork and Southern folk art. It’s worth a visit to the High just for the architecture. The multi-level, white building features a sleek, modern design by Richard Meier and an addition by Renzo Piano. Admission is $19.50 for adults and $12 for children. It’s closed on Mondays.
Immerse yourself in local history at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which offers tours of the birthplace of the famous civil rights leader, and at the Atlanta History Center, home to impressive exhibits on the Civil War and the 1996 Olympics.
If you’re planning to visit several attractions, consider purchasing a CityPASS. The coupon booklet gives you admission to five tourist attractions and saves you 46% off the regular box office prices. An adult pass is $74 and child pass is $59.
Where to eat
Jerilyn Jones, product marketing specialist in the Atlanta area, always keeps an eye on the latest additions to the city’s restaurant scene. For a celebratory evening out, she recommends Gunshow. It’s owned by celebrity chef Kevin Gillespie (a finalist on TV’s “Top Chef”) whose inventive spin on Southern cuisine has made him a local favorite. After toiling away in the open kitchen, Gunshow chefs walk the restaurant floor with their dishes. Rather than order from a menu, guests choose their dishes from the chefs themselves. With options that range from beef Wellington to squid-ink risotto, you really can’t go wrong at this East Atlanta hotspot. Find it at 924 Garrett St, Atlanta; Ph: +1 404-380-1886.
For pizza that doesn’t disappoint, sit down for a meal at Double Zero Napoletana. The house specialty at this upscale Italian restaurant just outside the Perimeter (i.e., Interstate 285) features arugula, prosciutto and buffalo mozzarella. And there’s more than just wood-fired pizza on the menu. Take your pick from a selection of small plates, pastas and main dishes. Find it at 5825 Roswell Rd, Atlanta; Ph: +1 404-991-3666.
At his flagship Restaurant Eugene, chef Linton Hopkins showcases his near-obsessive attention to detail. Almost everything he serves is made in house, right down to the mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup. The menu changes frequently to adapt to the local growing season. The tasting menu is pricey but gives you the chance to try an assortment of artfully prepared dishes. Find it in Buckhead at 2277 Peachtree Rd NE, Atlanta; Ph: +1 404-355-0321.