The capital city of Georgia is becoming a very popular destination lately and even has the distinction of being the only American city to land on a recent global “best in travel” list. And why not? With its warm weather, historical significance, happening restaurants, and major airport, it’s a fun, easily accessible place to vacation.
There’s a lot to do in Atlanta, from the Georgia Aquarium to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park; from the Ponce City Market (don’t miss the rooftop bar) to Piedmont Park. Here, you’ll find a list of 10 best things to do in Atlanta, Georgia, plus smart tips for enjoying every minute and staying on budget.
Best Times to Go to Atlanta
Spring and fall are usually considered the best times to go to Atlanta. Atlanta can get very hot and crowded during summer travel. For example, the average high temperatures in July and August are nearly 90 degrees, but it can feel much hotter, thanks to the city’s high humidity. Spring and fall also tend to be less crowded and have milder temperatures, while still being warm enough to spend the days outside. For example, April and October have comfortable average temperature highs in the low 70s.
A great time for music lovers to visit is at the start of summer: The Atlanta Jazz Festival is held on Memorial Day weekend, when you can expect average daytime temperatures to be in the still comfortable low 80s. However, you will also likely have to contend with higher prices and more crowds during big events on major holiday weekends.
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Bad Times to Go to Atlanta
Allergy sufferers may want to avoid springtime in Atlanta, as the city experiences an extreme pollen season. A visible dusting can be seen as early as January. Pollen counts peak in late March to mid-April, with cars and lawns blanketed in bright yellow pollen from oak and birch trees.
Winter is typically the slow season for tourists in Atlanta, and the city offers fewer events during this time. Because of this, hotel prices may be lower, so it may be enticing if you are looking for how to save money on hotels in Atlanta. For example, there are plenty of hotels available for $125 to $175 per night during a weekend in January.
If you do decide to visit in the winter, watch out for snow or ice in the forecast. Although frozen precipitation is rare in Atlanta, when it happens, it shuts down the city, which means you won’t be seeing the sights.
Average Cost of an Atlanta Vacation
As is the case with many city getaways, you can have a great time in Atlanta with nearly any budget. If you are visiting for a week, you can expect to pay an average of $2,419 for two people. That’s a good number to know as you decide where to keep your travel fund and start saving for your trip.
Hotels range from $100 to several hundred per night, with an average of about $180. Price depends on how fancy the hotel is, the time of year you visit, and the location of the hotel.
The pricey areas tend to be downtown and in the upscale Buckhead neighborhood. Less expensive areas include the suburbs and areas around the airport.
Beyond hotel expenses, you’ll find good news when it comes to food and entertainment. Thankfully, Atlanta is still much less expensive than other major cities like New York and Los Angeles or resort areas like Florida and Hawaii. You will eat well: There’s a vibrant restaurant scene, with everything from Indian food to soul food and back again Plus, there are loads of nightlife options, including comedy clubs and live music.
You’ll also need to decide how to get to Atlanta. Given what a major airline hub the city is, you may find affordable fares for plane tickets, though that will depend on where you are flying in from. It’s wise to learn how credit card travel insurance works when booking flights in case of cancellations, lost luggage, and the like. Then you can decide whether to purchase private travel insurance or use your credit card protections.
Worth noting, too, is the fact that the city does not have as extensive of a public transit system as some other cities. If you want to explore various sites, you may want to look into renting a car or budget for Ubering around town.
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10 Fun Must-Dos in Atlanta
Here’s the fun part: Deciding what to do in Atlanta. There is something for just about everyone in the city. Here is a list of 10 cool things to do in Atlanta, culled from those who have traveled to the city as well as loads of online reviews of top-rated attractions. Whether you’re taking a solo trip or one with friends and/or family, you will probably find more exciting activities than you can pack into your days in town.
While we also made sure to include several free activities, make sure to capitalize on your credit card rewards and use a card that’ll bring you points, miles, or cash back when charging your trip’s expenses.
1. Spend an Afternoon at the Aquarium
The Georgia Aquarium is practically a household name and for good reason. It’s the largest indoor aquarium in the western hemisphere. It even serves as a teaching hospital for marine biologists. You’ll encounter dolphins, penguins, sharks, and gigantic but adorable whale sharks, the largest fish in the sea. Take a free self-guided tour via an app that you can download for your visit.
The aquarium is located next to Centennial Park (see below) and is open daily from 9am to 6pm Mondays through Thursdays, 9am until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 9am to 4pm on Sundays. Admission can be pricey, around $43 to $48. GeorgiaAquarium.org
2. Get Outdoors
Atlanta may be a city, but you can easily get some greenery on your trip. Piedmont Park, for instance, is a huge park located in midtown Atlanta (between downtown and Buckhead) that offers trails for walking, running or biking, picnic locations, ponds, greenery, and wildlife. Arts festivals, music festivals, concerts, and farmers markets take place throughout the year, adding to the fun. And may we mention that it’s a great destination if you are traveling with pets? It’s a free thing to do in Atlanta and is open daily from 6am to 11pm. piedmontpark.org/
Or check out the adjacent Atlanta Botanical Garden, a 30-acre natural delight with a canopy-level footbridge, suspended 40 feet above lush woodlands, and a Japanese garden. It’s open every day but Monday, and admission ranges from $23.95 to $34.95. atlantabg.org
3. Enjoy an Urban Mall
Ponce City Market is a super-fun food and retail hub (there are even some apartments plus office space there) tucked into a circa-1926 Sears & Roebuck building. Located in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood along the BeltLine (see below), there are local “shop-small” boutiques, with cards, crafts, jewelry, denim, and more, along with national retailers like Sephora and JCrew. Great food abounds inside in the a/c’d premises, whether you’re looking for a latte or yakitori. And don’t miss the rooftop bar and amusement park. Open from 10am to 9pm Monday through Saturday; on Sunday, the shops are open 10am to 6pm and the eateries from 10am to 8pm. poncecitymarket.com/
4. Stroll the BeltLine
The Atlanta BeltLine is an amazing urban revitalization project: It’s a former railway corridor that is being transformed in part into a public path that has art, planting, parks, and attractions. While the complete loop is not fully paved yet (it is expected to be finished around 2030), sections are available for strolling, running, and biking. The BeltLine connects popular locations like Ponce City Market and Piedmont Park, and, since it’s free, can be a way families can afford to travel. Events are held throughout the year, including fitness classes, art events, and concerts. beltline.org/places-to-go/ or consider a bus, bike, or walking tour beltline.org/things-to-do/atlanta-beltline-tours/
5. Visit the Soda Headquarters
Coca-Cola has been advertised as “the pause that refreshes,” so you might enjoy a refreshing pause by visiting the company’s World of Coca-Cola, near the Georgia Aquarium. Coke was invented in Atlanta in 1886, and its global corporate headquarters are still located in the city today. The World of Coca-Cola, which highlights the brand’s history and the soda industry, features a pop-culture museum, a 4-D theater, replica soda fountains, and beverage dispensers where you can try dozens of sodas from around the world. Ticket prices range from $15 to $19, and the attraction is open from 10am to 5pm on Mondays through Thursdays, and 10am to 6pm on Fridays through Sundays. worldofcoca-cola.com/plan-your-visit
6. Honor Martin Luther King Jr.
This park is a great way to remember a great man: It preserves the home where Martin Luther King Jr. was born and raised, as well as the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he was once a pastor. Guided tours are available. The visitor center has exhibits on the Civil Rights Movement and its important figures. Worth knowing: The last scene of the Marvel movie Black Panther was filmed two blocks away from the park. This free attraction is open from 10am to 4pm daily, with small ranger-led tours available. nps.gov/malu/index.htm
7. Eyeball Some Great Art
Atlanta’s High Museum of Art is located in a stunning modern building between the Midtown and Ansley Park neighborhoods. Visitors will delight in the museum’s permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, with masterpieces spanning folk, self-taught, African, American, and European art and more. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm, Sunday from noon to 5pm, and is closed on Mondays. Admission costs $18.50. high.org/visit/
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8. Let Your Imagination Soar at the Delta Flight Museum
Atlanta is home to the busiest airport in the world, but the airport isn’t the only place to see planes in the city. The Delta Flight Museum, located inside an airport hangar, has aviation artifacts, several airplanes, a hot air balloon, and the country’s sole full-motion flight simulator open to the public (though that’s a pricey experience). If you or a member of your travel posse loves flying, this can be a fascinating place to spend a few hours. The museum is located outside of Atlanta’s airport, which is about eight miles south of downtown, making it a convenient stop if you are heading into or out of the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. The museum is typically open from 10am to 4pm (closed on Wednesdays), but it’s wise to check in advance as it sometimes is closed for private events. Tickets range from $10 to $15. The flight simulator is a separate ticket, costing $425 for up to four people. deltamuseum.org/
9. Pit-Stop at the Varsity
Feeling hungry? Pull into Atlanta’s renowned Varsity, where you can indulge in chili dogs, onion rings, a frosted orange milkshake, and a fried peach pie. It’s an iconic eatery that opened in 1928 and is a popular drive-up experience; there are now six locations around town. You just may want to snap up a Varsity t-shirt after you’ve had your fill of their food. thevarsity.com/pages/locations
10. See a Show at the Fox Theatre
Ready for some entertainment as you look for fun things to do in Atlanta? Head to the Fox Theatre, an amazing space that was built as an auditorium for the Shriners organization and was inspired by Egyptian temples, among other structures. It’s a treat to be inside, and you can catch a show before it hits Broadway. The Fox also hosts comedy shows and concerts. Cool fact: It’s home to “Mighty Mo,” the largest working Moller theater organ in the world, constructed in 1929. foxtheatre.org/
Atlanta is a lively, vibrant city with so many attractions and experiences, from strolling along the BeltLine to visiting a historical site to dining at a food court inside an old Sears building. By learning more about what Atlanta has to offer, you can be sure to make the most of your trip to this buzzworthy destination.
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What are some things to do in Atlanta for free?
Atlanta offers plenty of free or cheap attractions, like walking on the Atlanta BeltLine or window shopping in the Ponce City Market. You could also pick up some groceries for a picnic in Piedmont Park.
What are things to do in Atlanta, Georgia with kids?
The Georgia Aquarium, the Atlanta Zoo, and the World of Coca-Cola are some of the more popular attractions for children. There are also many parks and outdoor spaces for kids to run around and play, like the Centennial Olympic Park and Piedmont Park.
What are some things to do in Atlanta at night?
Atlanta has a robust nightlife scene. There are numerous restaurants, bars, and clubs throughout the city. Other options include the Starlight Drive-In movie theater, comedy clubs, and music venues.
What’s the symbol of Atlanta?
Atlanta’s official symbol is the phoenix. The mythical beast represents the city’s history: The area was destroyed in the Civil War during the Battle of Atlanta, then rebuilt from the ashes.
Photo credit: iStock/Sean Pavone
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