So you've heard the buzz about the Atlanta BeltLine, and you want to check it out. But where do you go exactly? Where do you park? What is there to do?
Or maybe you've been to Ponce City Market and seen some of the trail, but you know there's so much more to explore. So many restaurants to try, so little time.
I have lived on the BeltLine for 9 years and walked over 1,000 miles on it. It's my backyard. And when it comes to the restaurants, I have been to nearly every one. It's what prompted me to launch BiteLines Atlanta Food Tours, so I can share my favorite neighborhood restaurants with visitors and metro Atlanta residents.
So here's the lowdown on the BeltLine for you, from parking to restaurants, and where to capture the best selfies. Here is your Atlanta BeltLine 101.
What is the Atlanta BeltLine?
It’s an abandoned railroad corridor converted to a walking/biking/jogging trail. When completed, it will circle Atlanta for 22 miles, connecting the city’s neighborhoods and parks, so that one day, you will be able to ride a bike or scooter from one end of the city to another. So that Atlantans don’t have to get in their cars to go to dinner or grocery shopping. It essentially turns this car-dominated town into a walkable city.
Projected to be completed in 2030, it is one of the largest urban development projects in the U.S. Don't believe it? Hit the trail on the weekend, when half of Atlanta is out there.
Who came up with the Atlanta BeltLine?
The project is the brainchild of Ryan Gravel, as outlined in his Georgia Tech master’s thesis in 1999, and later adopted by the city of Atlanta.
What is there to do on the Atlanta BeltLine?
Walk. Bike. Rent a scooter. To learn how, read my previous blog post, How to Rent a Scooter or e-Bike on the Atlanta BeltLine.
Take pictures. Look at street art. People watch.
Have a drink on a patio. Eat at one of the two food halls or 55+ restaurants. For restaurant ideas, check out What are the best restaurants on the Atlanta BeltLine's Eastside Trail?
For even more details, check out my blog post, How to Enjoy the Atlanta BeltLine.
How do I get to the Atlanta BeltLine?
It depends on what you want to see and do. See below.
Where to start on the Atlanta BeltLine
The Eastside Trail gets the most traffic because of its many restaurants, bars and abundance of street art. There are multiple access points. The most traveled section is arguably between Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market, both historic buildings turned into food halls.
If you want to experience the BeltLine scene, I recommend starting at Ponce City Market and heading South to Dekalb Avenue. This is about 1.5 miles. It’s a leisurely but long walk/not-too-long bike or scooter ride, with lots of murals on walls and under bridges, and plenty of restaurants to stop at if you get hungry or thirsty (read more about this below).
Some highlights of this route are the North Avenue bridge with a photo-worthy view of the skyline, as well as a rotating gallery of street art under the John Lewis Freedom Pkwy. bridge next to the Skatepark (a great place for selfies).
On the other side of town, the Westside trail, which winds through some of Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods, is more residential and less populated. It is very scenic and beautiful. A good starting point on the westside is the Lee + White development, where several Atlanta breweries are located. Read my previous blog post about the Westside Trail.
Where do I park for the Atlanta BeltLine?
If you are heading to the Eastside Trail, there are numerous places to park, some even free.
If you are going to Krog Street Market, you can find paid parking in their surface lot off Lake Street, or in a garage behind the market on Krog Street. There is also paid parking in the garage at Ayla Apartments on Krog Street.
If you are going to the restaurants at SPX Alley, you can pay to park in the garage at Studioplex and take the stairs or elevator down to the restaurants.
If you're lucky, you might find free parking in the limited spaces on Ralph McGill Boulevard, Willoughby Way or Edgewood Avenue. Or try the Sampson Street lot behind Ladybird.
Where are the best restaurants on the BeltLine?
With two food halls (Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market) and 55+ restaurants, the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail is a food lovers’ dream. You can find pizza, tacos, burgers, tapas, ramen, sushi, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Italian, ice cream, smoothie bowls…I could seriously keep going. I have written lots about restaurants on the Atlanta BeltLine.
Check out my previous blog post, What are the best restaurants on the Atlanta BeltLine's Eastside Trail?
Take a Food Tour of the Atlanta BeltLine
Overwhelmed by all the restaurant choices? Get a sampling of some of the BeltLine's best restaurants by joining a BiteLines Food Tour on the Atlanta BeltLine. Starting at Krog Street Market, named "one of the world's best food halls" by Travel + Leisure, you'll get a taste of Atlanta's thriving food scene, from Southern bites to Detroit style pizza to New Orleans beignets and more. Along the way, uncover secrets behind the BeltLine's iconic street art – including ties to Hollywood.
Where can I get a drink on the Atlanta BeltLine?
When it comes to local brews, the Atlanta BeltLine is the place to go. For recommendations on the Eastside Trail, check out my blog post, 7 Places to Get a Drink on the Atlanta BeltLine.
On the other side of town, the BeltLine's Westside Trail should be called Brewery Row, as it hosts Monday Night Garage, Wild Heaven, Best End, Hop City and more. Learn more about these breweries in my previous blog post.
And enjoy it before the crowds come. The Westside Trail may soon become a lot more popular with the opening of a new food hall. Read Get Ready to Eat: New Food Hall to Open on BeltLine Westside Trail.
Where is the best art on the BeltLine?
The best art is under the bridges. Some of it is part of Art on the Atlanta BeltLine, a rotating art installation that runs 12 miles down the BeltLine and has earned a reputation as the largest outdoor art exhibit in the South (if not the country). You can find murals, sculptures, photo banners and even performances. Other art is spontaneously created by street artists.
In my opinion, some of the most appealing art is under the John Lewis Freedom Pkwy. bridge, next to the Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark. It is a constantly changing outdoor art gallery, with murals seemingly disappearing and appearing overnight. Here is where you will find a memorial to the late rapper, Takeoff, painted by artist Armondo Monoletti. This mural endures despite graffiti everywhere else. Learn more about the BeltLine's art, including interviews with artists, in my previous blog posts.
Is the Atlanta BeltLine safe?
Generally speaking, yes! I have walked on the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, several times a week for the past 9 years, and never encountered a problem.
The Eastside Trail attracts neighborhood residents, Atlanta suburbanites and tourists from around the world. Weekends are packed. The BeltLine is also lively around dinner time, even after dark, so no worries there. The volume is a deterrent to crime, although doesn’t prevent it entirely.
The Westside Trail is less populated, and in places, you might be the only one on the trail. I have never felt unsafe there, but would recommend being cautious, and going during the day or early evening when other people are around. I also suggest sticking to the section around the Lee + White development. If you’re not familiar with Atlanta, you may want to stick to the Eastside Trail.
I would not recommend being on any part of the BeltLine - east, west, north or south - late at night when it is mostly deserted. Common sense, right?
Is there a streetcar on the Atlanta BeltLine?
A key component of the BeltLine from the outset has been a streetcar or light rail. It's been questionable if this would ever happen. But now MARTA is moving forward with plans to expand the downtown streetcar's route down the BeltLine from Krog Street Market to Ponce City Market, with 5 stops. It is expected to be complete in 2028.
How long is the Atlanta BeltLine?
Eventually, the Atlanta BeltLine will form a 22-mile circle around Atlanta. When you add in connecting parks, it’s 33 miles. To date, sections have been completed in every direction, but they don't all connect. See below for details.
How much of the Atlanta BeltLine is completed?
To date, more than half of the 22 miles has been completed - about 12 miles. Other parts of the BeltLine are open to the public as interim trails. Interim can mean it’s paved but without lighting and other features, or it can simply be a dirt hiking trail.
To learn more about the overall project, check out the Atlanta BeltLine website.
When will the Atlanta BeltLine be finished?
The Atlanta BeltLine says 2030. However, most of it will be done before then. At least 80% will be complete or under construction by the end of 2024. You can read about trail construction updates here.
Updated August 2023, because things on the BeltLine just change that fast.
An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the Founder and CEO of BiteLines Atlanta Food Tours, which offers walking food 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 unforgettable Food Tour of the Atlanta BeltLine. Or bring your fur baby on Barks & Bites: Doggie Crawl on the BeltLine. Follow on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram @bitelinesatl.