Atlanta, GA. Home of some of the best eateries, historical districts, and sports events of the South. Walk, bike, or commute via train and bus, this eco-friendly city has become the mecca of new businesses, non-profit organizations, and musical entertainment. Here are some of my favorite must-see spots if you’re visiting my home town. A little bit of fun, a little bit of history, and a whole lot of sunshine and good food! I’ve loved this city since I was little… I think you will too!
Downtown Atlanta has no shortage of things to do. Make your first stop a tour of the CNN center – you can even star in your very own newscast!
Must do: Grab exclusive CNN apparel at the CNN Store.
And directly across Marietta Street, near Ted Turner Blvd, take a stroll, grab a juicy burger, fries and float at Googie burger, or let the kids run through the ring fountain at Centennial Olympic Park – which was built and opened during the 1996 Olympic games. Now the park boasts several events and visitors throughout the year. Depending on what time of year you’re in town, you could be in for a special performance treat, and often for FREE! Downtown Atlanta’s newest attraction near Centennial Park is Sky View – the 20-story high ferris wheel. It’s a great way to see all of Atlanta, and even catch a glimpse of Stone Mountain far off inn the distance!
Must do: Do some people watching! No, really. This park’s scenery alone is perfect for doing absolutely nothing.
There’s an ongoing debate among transplants to Atlanta and natives between Waffle House and IHOP. The famous American chain, many of who’s locations are only in the South, will fill you up on delicious breakfast food, served diner style, without pinching the wallet. Go’head and get your hash browns scattered, covered, and smothered – it’s the southern way 😉
Must do: Have the pecan waffle. I mean, it is “waffle” house after all 🙂
Believe it or not, the Georgia Aquarium is a non-profit facility that is home to thousands of marine animals, profits of which go toward aquatic research. The Aquarium holds over 10 million gallons of water. How’s that sound if you’re thirsty!
Must do: Take a gander through one of visitor’s most favorite exhibitions – the Ocean Voyager Tunnel. Feel like you’re under the sea as you watch an assortment of fish, whales, and turtles swim over your very head. The experience is breathtaking!
Atlanta is also the birthplace of Coca-Cola, and around here we call it soda not pop thank you very much. Cool fact from Coca-Cola’s website “Did you know? The first servings of Coca‑Cola were sold for 5 cents per glass. During the first year, sales averaged a modest nine servings per day in Atlanta.” Think about that the next time you pay $1.69 plus tax for your beverage! Mmmmm. Ice cold fizz.
Must do: The World of Coca-Cola museum. Learn about and sample colas from all around the world!
Did someone say football? No, not the NFL… College Football! Check out the College Football Hall of Fame to find out how your favorite team scores around the nation! Georgia is home of the UGA Bulldogs, GSU Panthers, and Georgia Tech Buzz. With all the visitors to Atlanta each day, there’s pretty friendly rivalry to discuss… or not so friendly haha Go Panthers! (yes, I’m a GSU alumna)
Must do: Walk over to Stats to catch a game and grab a cold beer. You’ll probably work up an appetite after all that friendly competition!
The Atlanta Streetcar is the perfect way to hop off and on in downtown Atlanta to take in all the attractions. So, if your feet are getting tired, or the little ones just need a break, let the streetcar take over for you. You can pick up the streetcar at several locations throughout downtown, and for a minimal fare. Sit back in a climate-controlled motorized trolley and hop off and on through the Fairlie-Poplar, King Historic, and Sweet Auburn districts.
Must do: Visit the King Memorial Center. The first stop on the streetcar, and loaded with history from our favorite native civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a must-see attraction in downtown Atlanta. Nestled in the heart of downtown Atlanta, on land donated by the Coca-Cola company, the Center for Civil and Human Rights is an interactive, cultural experience enjoyed by all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. You’ll leave learning much about civil rights, human rights, and the dignity for all.
Must do: Sit at the lunch counter exhibit. Sometimes history is painful, but this exhibit makes the discrimination of some brave African Americans during the Civil Rights era real and literally in-your-face.
MARTA – It’s smarta! Five Points MARTA station is the center of it all. Although it’s name comes from the convergence of the five main streets of downtown Atlanta – Marietta, Edgewood, Decatur, and the legs of Peachtree Street – the train station has become more popularly known for it’s center convergence of the north, south, east, and west lines of the MARTA train lines. Directly south will take you to the airport, while either direction north can take you to Doraville or shopping in Sandy Springs. Head west for the Atlanta University Center, or far east and take a hike up Stone Mountain. Leave the car, and hop on the train. Grab a day pass for easy off-and-on access.
Must do: Visit Underground Atlanta. Once a thriving underground merchant shop, now rich with history and a food court that’s sure to have something for everyone!
The South’s LGBTQ community calls Atlanta home. From bars to events, there’s no shortage of activities, establishments, and must-see events. When you’re ready to leave the bustle of downtown Atlanta, hop over to East Atlanta village – just a couple exits east of downtown’s Capital. East Atlanta Village is a hip, concentrated, friendly local mini-town, and the location of Mary’s – voted Atlanta’s best gay bar 5 years in a row!
Must do: Everything. EAV has something for everyone. Suki Suki Collective – a mash of food vendors all in one convenient location. Stop in to Grant Central for a slice of delcious pizza, or Tomatilla’s if you’re feeling Tex-Mex, or 5 Thai for sushi and noodles, or Argosy for a cold beer and some people watching on their open patio. Can you tell I love EAV?? Yep. No shame.
In summary, as you can tell, I love my city! There’s so much to do, and there’s definitely something for everyone. These are my favorite attractions, but they only scratch the surface. I’d love to hear about your favorites when you’re in my city!
(Special note: This post was created as part of a scholarship entry. The pictures in this post are original captures made by me.)