Atlanta is Georgia’s capital, and its biggest city. Though Atlanta itself has a population of under 500,000 people, the metropolitan area has more than 5 million. Atlanta is a historic and cultural Southern city that was famously burned during the Civil War. Since then, Atlanta has rebuilt itself into a major commercial center. When you visit, you’ll find a lot of history, which encompasses Atlanta’s successes and some of its hardest and most tense times. Atlanta gets seriously hot in the summer (nickname: Hotlanta) but any other time of year is wonderful for a visit.

Early Morning: Grab Some Grub

Who needs real food in the morning when you can have doughnuts? Sublime Doughnuts is a local doughnut shop with some seriously good sweets. It’s a little quaint and very sugary inside, and you can get all kinds of delicious things from the menu. The Chocolate Wild Berry Fritter is unlike any fritter you’ve ever tasted. Try the Fresh Strawberry N Cream for fried deliciousness topped with fresh-cut strawberries. Who needs protein anyway?

For travelers seeking something seriously Southern, Home Grown is your place for chow. You absolutely have to order the Comfy Chicken Biscuit. It’s super buttery, and it’s topped with fried chicken from a local farm, then slathered in sausage gravy. It’s kind of a calorie-fest, but who cares? It’s delicious and you’re on vacation.

martin luther king jr hitoric
The Martin L:uther King Jr. Historic Site in Atlanta.

Late Morning: Enjoy Some Historic Atlanta Sights

No visit to Atlanta is complete without visiting the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Throughout several blocks of Atlanta neighborhood, you’ll discover the house where Dr. King grew up, the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King was a pastor, and his and Coretta Scott King’s side-by-side graves. You can take a guided tour of the home led by a ranger, but the tours fill up quick. That’s why you should head here in the morning so you can grab a spot early.

After visiting Dr. King, head to the Atlanta History Center. This 32-acre spot features a museum, gorgeous gardens, and two historic houses. Look out for living history programs and other activities at the center, because chances are something fun and educational will be happening when you visit. If not, the Atlanta History Museum, the Swan House, and the Smith Family Farm are wonderful opportunities to learn about historic Atlanta. The trails through the gardens are an unforgettable walk.

Midday: Stop for Lunch

Your breakfast was kind of bad for you (sorry, not sorry), so get something more nutritious for lunch. Bocado is one of those places with healthy, local stuff on a menu that regularly changes. For lunch, expect things like deviled eggs, quinoa salad, grilled cheese, and roasted cauliflower. You can feel good about eating here because everything is fresh and delicious. If you want something a little unhealthy, don’t worry — they’ve got fried chicken.

Atlanta aquarium
The Atlanta Aquarium in Atlanta.

Early Afternoon: Visit Things That Are Liquid

The Georgia Aquarium is the Western Hemisphere’s largest aquarium. It has more than 10 million gallons of water hosting all manner of marine life. The exhibits range from regional wildlife and ecosystems to species that are from far-flung parts of the planet.

The Ocean Voyager exhibit is always worth a visit; this 6.3 million gallon exhibit features thousands of fish and is the biggest indoor underwater habitat on the planet. Cold Water Quest has beluga whales, which are always worth seeing. You can also learn about conservation efforts and see several shows at the aquarium. This is an especially fun activity for families with small children.

The downtown Atlanta attraction, World of Coca-Cola, is a seriously fun spot to visit. This history of Coca-Cola is kind of like a museum dedicated to the popular soft drink, but with extras like a 4-D theater and a tasting room. While there, you can taste more than 100 Coca-Cola beverages. Start with the domestic Coca-Cola options, then head to the international tastings. You can taste the Coca-Cola drinks that are popular in different geographic regions. You won’t believe the differences in soda preferences between cultures!

CNN
The CNN Center in Atlanta.

Late Afternoon: Tour CNN

End your sightseeing day with a 50-minute walking tour of the CNN Center. The tour runs every 20 minutes, every day of the week. The center closes at 5 p.m., so head there around 3:30 or 4 to catch one of the last tours. Reserve your tickets beforehand so you can be sure of your spot; walk-ups are welcome, but the tours are popular and you want to know you have a spot.

The CNN Center Behind-the-Scenes Tour shows you how the news is produced and broadcast to the far reaches of the world. See the ins and outs of how everything happens at CNN as you follow a knowledgeable tour guide through these well-traveled halls.

Evening: Settle Into Dinner

For a fine dining evening in Atlanta, head to Bone’s Restaurant. This steakhouse has high Zagat ratings and a good list of steak cuts and add-ons. With your favorite cut of steak, try the grit fritters or the hash browns. The appetizers are mostly seafood, so if you love crab and lobster, you’re in luck. The desert menu is no joke, either. You can’t leave Atlanta without having some pecan pie, and this is the best place to do it. The Mountain High Pie is a restaurant specialty featuring chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. Oh, and some whipped cream, too.

If you want cheap eats in Atlanta for dinner, head to Noni’s. This hip Italian deli features sandwiches, pasta, and antipasti at very reasonable prices. The cocktail menu is no joke, either. Try the risotto of the day, the meatball sub, or the lasagna Bolognese. Do not leave without ordering the tiramisu. Seriously.

state capital
The State Capital Building in Atlanta.

Where to Stay

Hotels

If you want to stay in luxury in Atlanta, you’re in luck. Many centrally located Atlanta hotels are very high-end, with top-notch amenities and gorgeous accommodations. The Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead and the W Atlanta Downtown both offer stylish interiors, luxurious rooms, and fantastic locations near everything you want to see. They’re a bit of a splurge, but if you’re visiting Atlanta for a celebration, anniversary, or birthday, these hotels are totally worth the price tag.

Get an affordable stay in a historical building when you choose The Georgian Terrace Hotel. The hotel opened in 1911 and has hosted famous names like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tallulah Bankhead. Despite the affordable room rates, this spot is decked out in chandeliers, marble columns, and huge windows.

When you’re saving on accommodations so you have more to spend sightseeing, you’ll find tons of hotel options in Atlanta. The Best Western Gwinnett Center Hotel, The Highland Inn, and La Quinta Inn and Suites Atlanta Airport North are all inexpensive options with good reputations and favorable reviews.

Vacation Rentals

Depending on your vacation needs, the length of your stay, and the number of people traveling with you, a vacation rental in Atlanta might be the perfect spot for you to sleep every night. On longer trips to Atlanta, you’ll probably be more comfortable in the homey environment of a vacation rental, where you’re free to use a full kitchen, stock up on your favorite foods, and use a laundry machine no other guests are using.

Many vacation rentals in Atlanta are cottages and bungalows near the center of town. These average from $100 a night to almost $250 a night depending on how big they are and when you book them. When you’re staying with a bigger group, like a girls’ trip, a bachelorette getaway, or your kids, a cottage vacation rental is just the thing for a perfect Atlanta trip. On the other hand, an apartment in downtown Atlanta can be a romantic option for you and your sweetheart on your anniversary weekend.

ebenezer baptist church
The Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

Airport Guide

Though the Atlanta area is home to a dozen municipal airports and a military airport, the only airport most travelers have to worry about is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). Hartsfield-Jackson sits seven miles away from central Atlanta, making it the most convenient place to fly into if you’re visiting the city. It is one of the busiest airports in the world, winning the title of world’s busiest airport for many of the past few years.

Airlines and Flights

ATL is Delta’s biggest hub, and almost three-quarters of the flights that land in ATL are Delta flights. The other major airlines that fly into and out of ATL are Southwest, Frontier, and Spirit. That being said, you can catch many different airlines at ATL, including British Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Air France.

Terminals

The Atlanta Airport has two terminals: domestic and international. It also has seven passenger concourses which sit between the two terminals. If you’re flying into or out of the Domestic Terminal, it is divided into Terminal North and Terminal South. Delta has Terminal South, and all other domestic flights go through Terminal North. The concourses are: T, A, B, C, D, E, and F. Between all of them are more than 200 gates.

Keep in mind: the concourses in ATL are spread out. If you’re connecting in Atlanta for any reason, give yourself an hour between flights at least. If you land in one terminal and need to get to another one, the journey can be difficult. A tram called the Plane Train runs between terminals in both directions, but you still have to go down escalators or stairs to catch it, and given the passenger volume in ATL, it’s often crowded.

On the other hand, if you choose to walk between concourses via the Concourse Mall, the paths are decorated with glowing artwork on the ceilings, giving you something gorgeous to look at during your travels. There are people movers in the Concourse Mall, but it’s sometimes easier to walk the normal way instead of trying to squeeze onto a crowded mover.

Transportation

Get to Downtown, Midtown, or Buckhead Atlanta with a shared-ride shuttle from the Airport. You’ll find multiple providers of these shared-ride vans, which run to and from the airport. They depart the airport every 15 minutes during the daytime, and you can find them in Ground Transportation stalls three through 10. The prices are: $16.50 per person to go to Downtown, $18.50 per person to go to Midtown, and $30 per person to go to Buckhead.

You can also pick up local shuttles if you’re heading to Gwinnett, Clayton, Cobb, Fulton, or DeKalb.

Many area hotels offer airport shuttles. The list is long, so check the airport site’s full list of hotels offering shuttles, or check with your hotel specifically to get shuttle information.

To grab a rideshare like Uber or Lyft, you need to head to the economy parking lots. Both the North and the South lot are available for rideshare pickup. You can walk to either lot from baggage claim. Head downstairs via the escalators near baggage claim, then follow the orange signs. The airport staff asks that everyone request rides only once you’ve arrived in the parking lots.

Renting a car? ATL partners with many car rental agencies. The full list includes: Advantage, Airport Rent-a-Car, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, EZ, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless, Sixt, and Thrifty. Take the Sky Train to get to the car rental area, which is just a few minutes away from the airport.

Speaking of the Sky Train, you can stay on it to get to the Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway, the SpringHill Suites Atlanta Airport Gateway, the Renaissance Atlanta Airport Gateway Hotel, and the Georgia International Convention Center.

piedmont park
Piedmont Park in Atlanta.

Your Atlanta Journey Starts Here

Visit Atlanta to absorb serious American history, eat delicious Southern cooking, and enjoy yourself mightily. You’ve heard that everyone’s friendly in the south. Isn’t it time to see for yourself? Head to Atlanta’s three major areas: Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead, to experience what this city has to offer. Whether you’re staying for a single day or more than a week, you’ll find plenty to do here. This old railroad town is waiting for you to arrive.