Explore the Top 10 Things to See and Do in Atlanta

4/18/202418 min read

coca cola can on table
coca cola can on table

Introduction

Welcome to Atlanta, Georgia! Known for its vibrant culture, rich history, and southern hospitality, Atlanta offers a plethora of exciting attractions and activities for visitors to explore. Whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or a food enthusiast, this city has something for everyone. In this article, we will explore the top 10 things to see and do in Atlanta, along with interesting facts and tips for first-time visitors.

Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, is a city that seamlessly blends the old with the new. As you wander through its streets, you'll be greeted by towering skyscrapers and modern architecture, while also being immersed in the city's deep-rooted history. One of the most iconic landmarks in Atlanta is the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which pays homage to the civil rights leader and his legacy. Visitors can explore his childhood home, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the King Center, where his tomb is located.

For those seeking a taste of nature, Atlanta boasts an impressive array of parks and green spaces. Piedmont Park, located in the heart of the city, offers a peaceful retreat from the bustling urban environment. Spanning over 200 acres, this park is perfect for picnicking, jogging, or simply enjoying a leisurely stroll. Another must-visit park is the Atlanta Botanical Garden, where you can marvel at stunning displays of flowers and plants from around the world.

No visit to Atlanta would be complete without indulging in its culinary delights. The city is known for its diverse food scene, offering everything from traditional southern comfort food to international cuisines. Be sure to try some mouthwatering barbecue at one of Atlanta's many renowned barbecue joints, or sample some soul food at a local eatery. If you're a fan of seafood, make sure to visit the bustling Krog Street Market, where you can find an array of fresh seafood dishes.

Aside from its historical and natural attractions, Atlanta is also a hub for arts and culture. The High Museum of Art is a must-visit for art enthusiasts, with its impressive collection of American art, European paintings, and contemporary works. The Fox Theatre, a stunning example of Moorish Revival architecture, is another cultural gem in the city. Catch a Broadway show or a live performance at this historic venue for a memorable night out.

With so much to see and do, it's important to plan your visit to Atlanta accordingly. The city experiences a humid subtropical climate, with hot summers and mild winters. Spring and fall are the best times to visit, as the weather is pleasant and there are plenty of outdoor festivals and events taking place. It's also worth noting that Atlanta is a sprawling city, so having a car or utilizing public transportation will make getting around much easier.

In the following sections, we will dive into the top 10 things to see and do in Atlanta, providing detailed information and recommendations for each attraction. Whether you're interested in history, nature, food, or culture, Atlanta has something to offer every visitor. So grab your walking shoes and get ready to explore the vibrant city of Atlanta!

Not only is the Georgia Aquarium an impressive attraction, but it also plays a vital role in marine conservation and research. The aquarium is involved in numerous initiatives aimed at protecting and preserving marine life, including breeding programs for endangered species, habitat restoration projects, and educational programs for visitors of all ages.

When you visit the Georgia Aquarium, you have the opportunity to not only marvel at the incredible diversity of marine life but also learn about the importance of conservation efforts. The exhibits are designed to be both visually stunning and informative, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the challenges facing our oceans and the steps we can take to protect them.

One of the highlights of the Georgia Aquarium is the Ocean Voyager exhibit, which is home to thousands of fascinating creatures, including whale sharks, beluga whales, and giant manta rays. This exhibit features a massive viewing window that allows you to feel as though you are underwater, surrounded by these majestic animals. It's a truly immersive experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

In addition to the Ocean Voyager exhibit, the Georgia Aquarium offers a wide range of other exhibits and experiences. You can explore the Tropical Diver exhibit, which showcases the vibrant colors and diverse species found in coral reefs. Or, you can visit the Cold Water Quest exhibit, where you can see animals that thrive in colder ocean temperatures, such as penguins and sea otters.

For those looking for a more interactive experience, the Georgia Aquarium offers several opportunities to get up close and personal with marine life. You can participate in a behind-the-scenes tour, where you can learn about the daily care and feeding of the animals. Or, you can even have the chance to swim or dive with the whale sharks, an experience that is truly once-in-a-lifetime.

Whether you're a marine enthusiast or simply looking for a fun and educational experience, the Georgia Aquarium is a must-visit attraction in Atlanta. With its impressive exhibits, commitment to conservation, and interactive experiences, it offers something for everyone. So, make sure to add a visit to the Georgia Aquarium to your itinerary when you're in Atlanta.

2. Explore the Atlanta History Center

For history enthusiasts, the Atlanta History Center is a must-visit destination. This expansive complex includes the Atlanta History Museum, which showcases the city's history from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. The museum's exhibits provide a comprehensive and immersive experience, allowing visitors to delve into the rich and complex history of Atlanta and its role in shaping the nation.

One of the highlights of the Atlanta History Center is the Civil War collection, which offers a fascinating insight into the city's involvement in this pivotal period of American history. Visitors can explore artifacts, documents, and interactive displays that bring to life the experiences of soldiers and civilians during the war. From the Battle of Atlanta to the aftermath of the conflict, the museum provides a deep understanding of the war's impact on the city and its people.

In addition to the Atlanta History Museum, the center boasts stunning gardens that offer a tranquil escape from the bustling city. The Swan House, a magnificent mansion located on the grounds, is a prime example of the city's architectural heritage. Visitors can wander through the elegant rooms, admiring the exquisite craftsmanship and learning about the lives of the families who once called this place home.

Furthermore, the Atlanta History Center is home to several historic homes that have been carefully preserved and restored. These homes offer a glimpse into the lives of different eras, showcasing the diverse architectural styles and lifestyles of Atlanta's past residents. From the Tullie Smith Farm, which transports visitors back to the 19th century, to the Smith Family Farm, which provides a snapshot of life during the Civil War, these homes offer a unique perspective on Atlanta's history.

For those interested in the arts, the Atlanta History Center also features the Margaret Mitchell House, the former residence of the renowned author of "Gone with the Wind." This literary landmark offers visitors the opportunity to learn about Mitchell's life and work, as well as the cultural impact of her iconic novel.

Overall, the Atlanta History Center is a treasure trove of knowledge and inspiration, offering a comprehensive exploration of Atlanta's past. Whether you are a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply curious about the city's heritage, a visit to the center is sure to be a rewarding and enlightening experience.

As you walk through the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, you will be transported back in time to the early years of this influential leader's life. The site includes not only his childhood home but also the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King delivered his powerful sermons that inspired millions.

Start your visit by exploring King's childhood home, a modest two-story house that has been preserved to reflect the conditions in which he grew up. As you step inside, you can imagine the young Martin Luther King Jr. playing in the rooms and experiencing the everyday struggles faced by African Americans during that era.

Next, make your way to the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King's father served as pastor and where King himself later preached. This historic church was not only a place of worship but also a gathering point for the civil rights movement. The walls of the church echo with the powerful words that King delivered from the pulpit, inspiring his congregation and igniting a fire for change.

During your visit, consider taking a guided tour to gain a deeper understanding of King's life and the impact he made on the world. Knowledgeable guides will share stories and anecdotes, providing context to the historical events that unfolded in this very place.

As you walk through the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, you will feel a sense of reverence and admiration for this remarkable individual who dedicated his life to fighting for equality and justice. The site serves as a reminder of the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done.

Take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by King and countless others who fought alongside him. Their courage and determination continue to inspire generations, reminding us of the power of peaceful protest and the importance of standing up for what is right.

Visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site is not just a journey through history; it is an opportunity to be part of a larger narrative. It is a chance to learn from the past and to carry forward the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., ensuring that his dream of a more just and equal society lives on.

4. Enjoy the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. With stunning displays of flowers, plants, and sculptures, this oasis offers a tranquil retreat. As you wander through the garden's various themed areas, you'll be greeted by a symphony of colors and fragrances that awaken your senses.

The Atlanta Botanical Garden is not just a place to admire nature; it also serves as an educational hub. The garden hosts a variety of workshops, lectures, and classes where visitors can learn about gardening, horticulture, and conservation. Whether you're a seasoned gardener or a novice enthusiast, there is something for everyone to discover and explore.

One of the highlights of the Atlanta Botanical Garden is the Canopy Walk. This suspended pathway takes you through the treetops, providing breathtaking views of the garden. As you stroll along the walkway, you'll be surrounded by a lush canopy of trees and foliage, creating a sense of being in a magical forest.

In addition to the Canopy Walk, the garden features several other notable attractions. The Fuqua Orchid Center is a must-visit for orchid enthusiasts, showcasing a diverse collection of these delicate and exotic flowers. The Edible Garden offers a unique experience, allowing visitors to learn about sustainable gardening practices and even taste fresh produce grown on-site.

For those interested in art, the Atlanta Botanical Garden also hosts temporary exhibits that combine nature and creativity. These exhibits feature sculptures, installations, and interactive displays that add an extra layer of visual delight to the already stunning surroundings.

Whether you're seeking a peaceful escape, a chance to learn about nature, or simply a place to appreciate the beauty of flowers and plants, the Atlanta Botanical Garden offers it all. With its diverse range of attractions, educational programs, and serene atmosphere, a visit to this botanical paradise is sure to leave you feeling inspired and rejuvenated.

As you step into the World of Coca-Cola, you are instantly transported into a world of wonder and excitement. The museum is a celebration of the rich history and cultural impact of Coca-Cola, a brand that has become synonymous with happiness and refreshment. With each step you take, you uncover a new layer of the brand's fascinating journey.

The exhibits at the World of Coca-Cola are designed to engage and captivate visitors of all ages. From the moment you enter, you are greeted by a larger-than-life Coca-Cola bottle, a symbol of the brand's iconic shape. As you make your way through the museum, you are immersed in the sights, sounds, and stories that have shaped Coca-Cola into the beloved beverage it is today.

One of the highlights of the World of Coca-Cola is the interactive exhibits that allow you to experience the brand in a whole new way. Step into the "Vault of the Secret Formula" and uncover the mysteries behind the legendary Coca-Cola recipe. Explore the "Milestones of Refreshment" exhibit and trace the evolution of Coca-Cola's iconic advertising campaigns throughout the years.

But perhaps the most exciting part of the World of Coca-Cola is the opportunity to sample different Coca-Cola beverages from around the world. From the classic Coca-Cola to unique flavors like Beverly from Italy or Fanta Melon Frosty from Thailand, your taste buds are in for a treat. You can even create your own personalized Coca-Cola bottle at the "Bottle Works" exhibit, a truly one-of-a-kind souvenir.

Before you leave, don't forget to capture a memorable moment with the iconic Coca-Cola polar bear. This friendly and photogenic mascot is always ready for a selfie or a hug, making for a perfect Instagram-worthy shot.

Visiting the World of Coca-Cola is not just a museum experience, but a journey into the heart and soul of a brand that has left an indelible mark on popular culture. It is a chance to learn, engage, and indulge in the world of Coca-Cola, and come away with a deeper appreciation for the beverage that has brought joy to millions around the globe.

6. Indulge in Southern Cuisine at Ponce City Market

Ponce City Market is a vibrant mixed-use development that combines retail, dining, and entertainment. Located in a historic building, it offers a unique shopping experience with a variety of boutiques and artisanal shops. Food lovers will delight in the diverse culinary options, with everything from Southern comfort food to international cuisines. Don't miss the chance to try some delicious fried chicken or mouthwatering barbecue.

When it comes to Southern cuisine, Ponce City Market is a food lover's paradise. The market boasts an array of restaurants that showcase the rich and diverse flavors of the South. Whether you're craving classic Southern comfort food or looking to explore innovative takes on traditional dishes, you'll find it all here.

Start your culinary journey with a visit to one of the many eateries that specialize in Southern comfort food. Indulge in a plate of crispy fried chicken, perfectly seasoned and served with a side of fluffy biscuits. Or savor the melt-in-your-mouth goodness of slow-cooked pulled pork, slathered in tangy barbecue sauce and served on a warm bun.

For those looking to explore beyond the traditional, Ponce City Market offers a variety of restaurants that fuse Southern flavors with international cuisines. Experience the bold and spicy flavors of Cajun cuisine, with dishes like jambalaya and gumbo that will transport you straight to the heart of Louisiana. Or venture into the world of fusion cuisine, where Southern ingredients are combined with Asian, Latin, or Mediterranean influences to create unique and exciting dishes.

But the culinary adventure doesn't stop at the main courses. Ponce City Market is also home to a range of dessert options that will satisfy any sweet tooth. Treat yourself to a slice of rich and creamy pecan pie, or indulge in a warm peach cobbler topped with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. And don't forget to wash it all down with a refreshing glass of sweet tea, the quintessential Southern beverage.

Whether you're a local looking to explore new flavors or a visitor eager to experience the taste of the South, Ponce City Market is the place to be. With its diverse culinary offerings and vibrant atmosphere, it promises a dining experience that is both delicious and memorable.

The Atlanta BeltLine is not just a trail, but a symbol of the city's commitment to urban revitalization and community development. As you stroll along the BeltLine, you'll notice the seamless integration of nature and urban infrastructure. Lush greenery lines the path, providing a refreshing escape from the bustling city streets. The trail is meticulously maintained, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience for walkers, joggers, and cyclists alike.

One of the highlights of the Atlanta BeltLine is the abundance of street art and public art installations. Talented local artists have transformed the walls and bridges along the trail into vibrant canvases, showcasing their creativity and adding a touch of color to the landscape. Each mural tells a story, capturing the essence of Atlanta's diverse culture and history.

Along the way, you'll also come across various parks and recreational areas that are perfect for a pit stop. These green spaces offer a chance to relax, have a picnic, or even join in on a game of frisbee with friends. The BeltLine has truly become a hub of community activity, bringing people together from all walks of life.

But the Atlanta BeltLine is more than just a recreational space. It is a catalyst for economic growth and neighborhood revitalization. The trail has spurred the development of new businesses, restaurants, and residential complexes in the surrounding areas. As you explore the BeltLine, you'll witness the transformation firsthand, with old warehouses being converted into trendy lofts and abandoned lots turning into vibrant marketplaces.

In addition to its physical impact, the BeltLine also hosts a wide range of events and festivals throughout the year. From art exhibits and live performances to food festivals and fitness classes, there's always something happening on the BeltLine. These events not only bring the community together but also attract visitors from all over the city and beyond, further contributing to the growth and vitality of Atlanta.

Whether you're a nature lover, an art enthusiast, or simply someone looking to experience the vibrant spirit of Atlanta, a stroll along the Atlanta BeltLine is a must-do. Take your time, soak in the sights and sounds, and embrace the energy of this remarkable urban oasis.

When visiting the High Museum of Art, make sure to plan enough time to explore all the different galleries and exhibits. The museum is known for its impressive collection of American art, featuring works from various periods and movements. From the Hudson River School paintings to the Abstract Expressionist masterpieces, there is something to captivate every art lover's interest.

One notable exhibit at the High Museum is the European art collection, which spans centuries and includes works by famous artists like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Degas. Walking through these galleries feels like stepping back in time, as you admire the intricate details and skillful techniques used by these masters.

For those interested in contemporary art, the High Museum has a dedicated space that showcases the work of emerging and established artists. This ever-changing exhibit allows visitors to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in the art world. Whether you're a fan of abstract paintings, immersive installations, or thought-provoking sculptures, you're sure to find something that resonates with you.

In addition to its impressive collection, the High Museum of Art also offers a range of educational programs and events. From guided tours and lectures to hands-on workshops and artist talks, there are plenty of opportunities to deepen your understanding and appreciation of art. These programs cater to all ages and levels of expertise, making art accessible and engaging for everyone.

After immersing yourself in the world of art, take some time to relax and reflect in the museum's beautiful outdoor spaces. The High Museum is located in the heart of Atlanta's arts district, surrounded by lush gardens and sculptures. You can stroll through the tranquil landscapes, enjoying the serenity and natural beauty that complements the artistic experience.

Before leaving the museum, don't forget to visit the gift shop, where you can find a wide selection of art books, prints, and unique souvenirs. Whether you're looking for a memento to remember your visit or a gift for an art-loving friend, the shop offers something for everyone.

Overall, a visit to the High Museum of Art is a must for anyone interested in exploring the world of art. With its diverse collection, engaging exhibits, and educational programs, this museum offers a rich and rewarding cultural experience that will leave you inspired and enriched.

9. Catch a Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Sports fans will love the opportunity to catch a game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home to the Atlanta Falcons (NFL) and Atlanta United FC (MLS). This state-of-the-art stadium offers a unique fan experience with its retractable roof, massive video board, and various dining options. Even if you're not a die-hard sports fan, attending a game or tour of the stadium is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is not just a venue for sporting events; it is a cultural hub that showcases the vibrant spirit of Atlanta. The stadium's design is a testament to the city's commitment to sustainability and innovation. Its retractable roof, for instance, is made of a translucent material that allows natural light to filter through, creating a bright and inviting atmosphere. This architectural marvel not only provides shelter from the elements but also enhances the overall experience for spectators.

Inside the stadium, fans are treated to a visual spectacle like no other. The massive video board, known as the "Halo Board," encircles the entire circumference of the stadium, immersing spectators in high-definition images and videos. Whether you're watching a touchdown or a goal, the Halo Board ensures that you won't miss a single moment of the action. The stadium's cutting-edge technology also extends to the seating, with comfortable and spacious seats that provide optimal viewing angles.

When it comes to dining options, Mercedes-Benz Stadium has something for everyone. From gourmet cuisine to classic stadium fare, the stadium's concession stands offer a wide variety of food and beverages. You can indulge in mouthwatering barbecue, savor a juicy burger, or satisfy your sweet tooth with a decadent dessert. The stadium's commitment to providing diverse culinary experiences reflects the rich culinary landscape of Atlanta, a city known for its diverse and innovative food scene.

In addition to attending a game, visitors can also take a tour of Mercedes-Benz Stadium to get an up-close look at its impressive features. The guided tour takes you behind the scenes, allowing you to explore the locker rooms, the press box, and even step onto the field. You'll gain a deeper appreciation for the stadium's design and learn about the history and significance of the teams that call it home.

Attending a game or taking a tour at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is not just about the sports; it's about immersing yourself in the energy and excitement of Atlanta. The stadium serves as a gathering place for fans, friends, and families to come together and create lasting memories. Whether you're cheering on your favorite team or simply enjoying the atmosphere, a visit to Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a must-do when exploring the vibrant city of Atlanta.

The Fernbank Museum of Natural History is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the wonders of the natural world. As you step through the museum's doors, you'll be transported back in time to the era of dinosaurs. The museum boasts an impressive collection of dinosaur fossils, including the famous Argentinosaurus, one of the largest dinosaurs ever discovered. Marvel at the immense size and intricate details of these ancient creatures as you learn about their fascinating lives and the environments they once inhabited.

But the museum doesn't just focus on dinosaurs. It also offers a comprehensive exploration of Georgia's natural history. Through interactive exhibits and engaging displays, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the state's diverse ecosystems, from the coastal marshes to the Appalachian Mountains. Learn about the unique plants and animals that call Georgia home and discover the intricate web of life that sustains these habitats.

One of the highlights of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History is the opportunity to explore the outdoor Fernbank Forest. This 65-acre nature preserve is a hidden gem nestled within the bustling city. As you wander along the forest trails, you'll encounter towering trees, vibrant wildflowers, and a symphony of birdsong. Keep your eyes peeled for glimpses of wildlife, such as deer, foxes, and even the occasional owl.

The Fernbank Forest is not only a beautiful natural oasis, but it also serves as an important research site. Scientists and researchers study the forest to better understand the interconnectedness of ecosystems and the impact of human activity on the environment. By visiting the forest, you'll not only be immersing yourself in nature but also supporting ongoing conservation efforts.

Whether you're a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking for a fun and educational experience, the Fernbank Museum of Natural History has something to offer everyone. Step into the past, explore the present, and gain a deeper appreciation for the wonders of the natural world.

Aside from these well-known facts, there are many other interesting tidbits about Atlanta that make it a unique and vibrant city. For example, did you know that Atlanta is home to the largest indoor aquarium in the Western Hemisphere? The Georgia Aquarium houses thousands of marine animals and offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with creatures like whale sharks and beluga whales.

Another fascinating aspect of Atlanta is its diverse culinary scene. The city is known for its Southern comfort food, but it also boasts a wide range of international cuisines. From traditional Southern dishes like fried chicken and biscuits to innovative fusion restaurants and trendy food halls, Atlanta has something to satisfy every palate.

Furthermore, Atlanta is a hub for the arts and culture. The city is home to the High Museum of Art, which features an impressive collection of European paintings, American art, and contemporary works. Additionally, the Fox Theatre, a historic landmark, hosts Broadway shows, concerts, and other live performances throughout the year.

For sports enthusiasts, Atlanta offers plenty of options. The city is home to professional sports teams like the Atlanta Braves (baseball), Atlanta Falcons (football), and Atlanta Hawks (basketball). Attending a game at one of these stadiums is a thrilling experience that brings the community together.

Lastly, Atlanta is a city that embraces its natural surroundings. With over 343 parks and green spaces, residents and visitors can enjoy outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and picnicking. Piedmont Park, located in the heart of the city, is a popular spot for jogging, playing sports, or simply relaxing amidst the beautiful scenery.

These are just a few examples of the many reasons why Atlanta is such a fascinating and vibrant city. Whether you're interested in history, culture, food, or outdoor adventures, Atlanta has something for everyone to enjoy.

Another tip for first-time visitors to Atlanta is to explore the city's rich history and cultural heritage. Atlanta played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement, and there are several museums and landmarks dedicated to this important period in American history. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site is a must-visit, where you can tour Dr. King's childhood home, visit his final resting place, and learn about his legacy at the King Center.

In addition to its historical significance, Atlanta is also known for its thriving sports culture. If you're a sports fan, be sure to catch a game at one of the city's iconic stadiums. The Mercedes-Benz Stadium is home to the Atlanta Falcons (NFL) and Atlanta United FC (MLS), while the State Farm Arena hosts the Atlanta Hawks (NBA) and various concerts and events throughout the year.

For nature enthusiasts, Atlanta offers plenty of outdoor activities and green spaces to explore. The Atlanta BeltLine is a popular trail that connects several neighborhoods and offers scenic views of the city. You can rent a bike or simply take a leisurely stroll along the trail, stopping at various parks and art installations along the way.

If you're traveling with children, Atlanta has numerous family-friendly attractions to keep them entertained. The Georgia Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the world and is home to thousands of marine species. The Atlanta Zoo is another popular destination, where kids can get up close and personal with animals from around the world.

Lastly, don't forget to indulge in some retail therapy during your visit to Atlanta. The city is known for its shopping districts, including the upscale Buckhead neighborhood and the trendy Ponce City Market. You'll find a mix of high-end boutiques, local shops, and well-known brands, making it the perfect place to pick up souvenirs or treat yourself to something special.

With its rich history, diverse culture, and abundance of attractions, Atlanta has something for everyone. Whether you're a history buff, a sports fan, a nature lover, or simply looking for a fun-filled vacation, this vibrant city is sure to leave a lasting impression.