From hip neighborhoods to local hangouts, here's how make the most of your visit to ATL
You're coming to Atlanta, and you want to get a genuine feel for the city. Sure, you might have the Georgia Aquarium on your hit list, and maybe you don't want to miss the Martin Luther King Center or the World of Coca-Cola. All are good ways to spend your time in Atlanta.
But if you want to see the real Atlanta, here are 7 fun and interesting ways to explore the city that will make you feel like a local. And if you decide to move here after seeing the way we live, hey, don't blame us!
1 Stay in a hip neighborhood
First of all, Atlanta has many fine hotels close to all the activity. If you rest your head in Downtown, Midtown or Buckhead, these are all lively areas that are visitor-friendly. And you're sure to be surrounded by...well, other tourists. But if you want to feel more like a local, consider staying in the Inman Park or Old Fourth Ward neighborhoods. Both flank the Atlanta BeltLine, which you won't want to miss (see tip no. 2 below).
For an AirBnB in the trendy Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, check out this listing by friends of mine, Sylvia and Edwin. Their place is a block away from the BeltLine, which means you can take advantage of the trail and walk to scores of restaurants within minutes. This BnB is a gorgeous, safe space run by good people.
Another unique place to stay in Atlanta is the Hotel Clermont, a local legend. Ask any ATLien about it, and they will undoubtedly have a story. The Clermont is infamous for its basement bar, which features aged-out strippers and includes among its clientele such celebrities as Anthony Bourdain and Mick Jagger. But the strip club is no longer the main event. Since this 1920s hotel was restored a few years ago, it is now a favorite hangout among ATLiens for its rooftop bar with skyline views, as well as its excellent French restaurant, Tiny Lous. With beautiful and quirky rooms, this is where I would stay if I were visiting ATL. And travelers agree: it earned a TripAdvisor Travelers Choice award in 2022. My favorite feature is the Library, a book-filled room where you can enjoy cocktails and small bites. And for fans of the film The Shining, come in October and book the "Here's Johnny" room themed after the cult classic.
2 Play on the Atlanta BeltLine
This is where Atlanta shows its creative side. This former railroad converted into a walking and biking trail runs through the heart of city. Here you will find stunning murals by some of the city's most celebrated street artists, and get a glimpse of local color. The trail draws 2 million people a year, and on any given weekend, this is the place to see and be seen in Atlanta.
But don't try to go it alone. Take a Food and Street Art Tour of the BeltLine to discover favorite neighborhood restaurants along the most vibrant section of the trail. You will learn secrets behind the street art, uncover hidden gems that only locals know about and get a sampling of this city's diverse culinary scene, from Detroit style pizza to Southern food to NOLA beignets.
3 Find your festival
When locals are looking for fun things to do in Atlanta, they have a long list of festivals to choose from, featuring everything from art to music to ethnic celebrations and more. These events also draw people from across the country – the Inman Park Festival in April to Music Midtown in September to dozens of food, wine and art festivals throughout the year. There's literally a festival to celebrate everything, including wine and beer, restaurant tastings and more. If Grilled Cheese is your thing, there’s even a festival for that! Some are free, while others have an entry charge. Check out this comprehensive listing from Go South.
4 Dine on Buford Highway
You might think Atlanta is known for its Southern food. Well, yeah, but our culinary scene has exploded in the past decade. Come for the fried chicken or BBQ, but don't leave without sampling some of our international offerings. When locals want authentic international cuisine, they head to Buford Highway, a commercial strip in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. Here you will find mom and pop restaurants representing nearly every country. Feast on authentic Korean food at Stone Bowl House, or try Malaysian at the popular Food Terminal. For more options, check out Eater Atlanta's 35 essential restaurants on Buford Highway.
5 Stroll through Piedmont Park
The crown jewel of Atlanta, Piedmont Park is a luscious green space with a playground, public pool, tennis courts, walking trails and a lovely pond that is the site for many a wedding. Come here to stroll the grounds, watch a game of pickup soccer or have a picnic on the lawn. You will find entrances at 10th and 14th streets. Parking is limited so you may want to rent a scooter or bike to get there. You can ride down the BeltLine, crossing over Monroe Drive into the park.
6 Shop Local at the Farmers Market
In Atlanta, outdoor Farmers Markets are the place to be on the weekends. With fresh produce and small-batch foods like honey, pickles, jams and cheese, it's as much about the experience as bringing home groceries. A good one to check out is the Freedom Farmers Market, held on Saturdays. In addition to dozens of stalls selling food, you can find live music, local chef popups and colorful wildflowers for sale. And if it seems like nearly everyone has brought their dog...well, that's because they have. Don't miss getting a breakfast pastry from Little Tart or Star Provisions - it's worth standing in line. Just be sure to get there early. The market opens at 8:30 am, and the goods go quickly. The market is held at the Carter Center - an NGO founded by President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn. So after browsing for produce, why not visit the Jimmy Carter Library next door. Can't make it on Saturday? Check out the Grant Park Farmers Market on Sundays. It's next to Zoo Atlanta, another fabulous attraction.
7 Grab a pint at Bantam Pub
Do you seek out a local pub in every city you go to? This is Atlanta's version. In its unassuming spot on a residential street, this pub is truly a neighborhood hangout. Here you can belly up to the bar and strike up a conversation over a standard draft like Stella, or cap off a late night. The menu is mostly unchanging, with a delicious take on a chicken sandwich that includes bacon, mushrooms and jalapeno aioli. Other favorites are the mussels, smoked wings and a mac n cheese that will put all others to shame.
If you want to sample some of the best restaurants in Atlanta, book a BiteLines Food and Street Art Tour of the Atlanta BeltLine. Margaritas and chocolate included! And dog lovers, we've got an activity exclusively for your fur baby. Bring your dog on Barks & Bites: Doggie Food Crawl on the BeltLine. Book today before they sell out!
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An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the Founder and CEO of BiteLines, which offers walking Food and Street Art Tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. To sample some of Atlanta's best restaurants and street art, join us on our fabulous Food and Street Art Tour of the Atlanta BeltLine. Or bring your fur baby on Barks & Bites: Doggie Food Crawl on the BeltLine. Follow on TikTok and Instagram @bitelinesatl.