6 reasons to visit Atlanta, Georgia

Whether you come for the food, the parks, the filming locations or the history, you won't want to leave Georgia's capital...

3 mins

1. The funky neighbourhoods

Colourful shops in Candler Park (Shutterstock)

Colourful shops in Candler Park (Shutterstock)

Atlanta is a city of neighbourhoods, each with their own distinct personality and charm. It’s how locals define themselves and, for visitors, they ensure that every day in Atlanta is different.

For vintage clothes, records stores and live music, you’ll want to head to Little Five Points. East Atlanta Village is another area popular with the cafe crowd and is home to some of the city’s best street art. Historic Old Fourth Ward, once home to Martin Luther King, has been given a polish, but hasn't lost a bit of its personality. A visit to Ponce City Markets is a must.

Elsewhere, Castleberry Hill is all industrial chic, Midtown remains a hive of bars and restaurants and Virginia Highlands is full of substantial homes and southern charm.

The good news is that getting from one neighbourhood to another is easy. The new BeltLine is a series of walking trails and eco-friendly trams designed to connect 45 different neighbourhoods.

2. The epic Civil Rights history

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta (Shutterstock)

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta (Shutterstock)

Atlanta is regarded as the home of the Civil Rights Movement. Dr Martin Luther King Jnr was born here and it was he first found his voice as a preacher. It is also where African-American leaders first met with white business and civic leaders to create a new integrated world.

For an overview of the this momentous period in history, your first stop should be the new National Centre of Civil and Human Rights. Permanent exhibits include a timeline about the civil rights movement, King’s personal papers and a lunch counter similar to the ones where black students staged sit-ins demanding to be served food alongside whites. Along with the nearby King Centre, it continues to fight for equal rights around the world.

Head to the Sweet Auburn district, where Martin grew up, to find the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. The 35-acre tribute includes a visitors’ centre, a museum about American civil rights movement and a firehouse containing an exhibit on the desegregation of the Atlanta Fire Department. You’ll find the home where Dr King was born at 501 Auburn Ave. Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he delivered his first sermon in 1949, is just down the road.

3. The lively patios

In Atlanta, every roof top is a bar (Shutterstock)

In Atlanta, every roof top is a bar (Shutterstock)

Dining and drinking al fresco is something of a tradition in Atlanta, and patios sit at the heart of that tradition. A patio is any outdoor dining and drinking space – a roof top, a sidewalk, basically anywhere you can set up a table – and during the hot steamy days of summer, they are a respite from the sun and a cool place to hang out, chow down and sip a long cool Georgia tea. 

You’ll find patios in every neighbourhood and every Atlantan has their favourite. Some are high end. Some are cheap and cheerful. All of them have an undeniable buzz on weekends and in the evenings when work has finished for the day. O-Ku, on the Westside, is famous for its sushi and gorgeous views across the city skyline. South City Kitchen, renowned for its fried chicken, now has four branches and a host of celebrity regulars including Will Farrell, Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz.

To be honest, you really can’t go wrong when choosing a patio. Follow the hum of voices and laughter, grab a stool and enjoy.

4. The irresistible food

Atlanta’s bustling Food Truck Park (Shutterstock)

Atlanta’s bustling Food Truck Park (Shutterstock)

From pizza shops, burger stands, and barbecue markets to oyster bars, steakhouses, and the above-mentioned patios, Atlanta’s foodie scene something for everyone. Wander around any neighbourhood and you’ll find something delicious and affordable to satisfy even the most demanding palate.

Food in Atlanta is diverse and tasty, with a nod to southern traditions. The Bone Garden Cantina in Midtown offers Mexican favourites like tacos but with a hipster twist. Ammazza in Old Fourth Ward is old world Italian. Gunshot in Glenwood Park serves Brazilian churrascaria-style dining and Chinese dim sum. Home grown GA on Memorial Drive, is arguably the best southern dining experience in town. People come from all over the city for their fried green tomatoes and chicken sandwich.

Not sure what you’re in the mood for? Then you need to head to the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. There’s 11 different food outlets there. Or the Atlanta Food Truck Park. As well as a cavalcade of trucks serving every kind of dish imaginable, you can also browse local art and buy fresh produce.

Just remember, you’re in the south in Atlanta. The portions are generous!

5. The multitude of gardens and parks

Garden art at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (Shutterstock)

Garden art at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (Shutterstock)

For a city famous for its urban sprawl, Atlanta is crammed with green spaces where locals can unwind, take in a public performance or cool down in the hot summer sun. 

Grant Park is Atlanta’s oldest municipal park. It sits on the historic Eastside, surrounded by some of the city’s finest Victorian homes. Sprawling Piedmont Park in Midtown is everything you want from an urban park. On the hottest days of the year its seems everyone in Atlanta has descend on the free public pool and splash pad. 

For something a little more sophisticated, drop by Freedom Park. Right next door to the hip Little Five Points neighbourhood, it’s is full of sculptures and outdoor artwork, often on a political theme.

6. The Stranger Things filming locations

Old courthouse in Jackson, Georgia (Shutterstock)

Old courthouse in Jackson, Georgia (Shutterstock)

Fans of Netflix's hit series Stranger Things may find some of Atlanta and its surrounding areas familiar. That's because it's an essential filming location for the first three series. The story is set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana – but really it's the small town of Jackson on the outskirts of Atlanta. The town makes a perfect 1980s filming location with its classic high street stores, library and cinema still intact, and all making an appearance on the small screen. 

As for the series' Hawkins National Laboratory, this was filmed at Emory University's Briarcliff Campus – a building with a fascinating history as a mental health institute. Head to Piney Wood Lane in East Point to spot the houses used as the character's homes (only the exterior, though).

Beyond Stranger Things, Atlanta pulls in other high-end productions. Scenes from Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Anchorman 2, The Vampire Diaries and The Walking Dead were shot across the city.

For more information, head to Explore Georgia

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