Atlanta United game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Photo by Ben Galland

Atlanta United game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Photo by Ben Galland

Best Things to Do in Atlanta

You haven't really seen Atlanta until you've been to these places.

It's enough to give almost anyone chills — the thunderous chant, in unison, of "A! T! L!" from tens of thousands of Atlanta United soccer fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium — and it speaks to the enthusiasm for Atlanta Metro's status as a cultural, economic, and sports powerhouse, home to some 6 million strong and growing.

Get to know metro Atlanta by exploring some of these neighborhoods and hot spots. And, keep reading for a few tips from a local about what to do, where to eat and great places to take kids in the city.

Explore Atlanta's niche neighborhoods

Atlanta is rich with unique neighborhoods that are inimitable and world-class. Locals talk about ITP (Inside the Perimeter, or Interstate 285) versus OTP (everything beyond) a lot, and both are loaded with special destinations.

Downtown Decatur, Georgia
Downtown Decatur, Georgia

ITP

Take, for example, transit-connected College Park, just south of downtown, which is experiencing the sort of culinary and housing revival that walkable Decatur, just east of Atlanta, has long been known for.

Closer to the intown core, funky Cabbagetown is perfectly suited for a walk among its cottages and restored shotgun houses, before dropping by Carroll Street Cafe for a burger and brew.

On the flip-side of downtown, Westside neighborhoods Westview, West End, Adair Park, and others are experiencing newfound popularity thanks to the Atlanta BeltLine's art-laden Westside Trail.

Canton Street in Roswell, Georgia
Canton Street in Roswell, Georgia

OTP

Be sure to visit the suburbs, too. Roswell in north Fulton County has emerged as a regional destination, with easygoing open-container laws in its beautiful downtown.

Gwinnett County's Duluth has fashioned its own happening downtown, seemingly overnight.

And on the metro area's southside, don’t miss Peachtree City, famous for its golf-cart paths and gorgeous greenspaces, and the live-work-play community of Serenbe, which has earned national praise as a smartly executed, agrarian wonderland.

More: Your Guide to Atlanta's Neighborhoods

Things to see & do

Mural in Atlanta. Photo by @wtfmymy
Mural in Atlanta. Photo by @wtfmymy

Mural mania

Atlanta artist Greg Mike's signature character — Larry Loudmouf, rendered in various chipped-tooth forms — has become more ubiquitous than streets named Peachtree. It's just one example of hundreds of public art pieces, from multicultural Buford Highway to cities near the airport and far beyond, that have made the region among the country's best for eyecatching art. Don’t miss the Krog Street Tunnel and the walls along Wylie Street, in the Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown neighborhoods. The area is widely considered the city’s mecca for murals.

More: Atlanta's Best Neighborhoods for Colorful Street Art

Rings sculpture at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. Photo by Matthew Conde, @condematt
Rings sculpture at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. Photo by Matthew Conde, @condematt

Rings Sculpture at Centennial Olympic Park 

Climb all over this interactive installation — and snap away — at downtown’s marquee greenspace, Centennial Olympic Park, an homage to the only Olympics held in the South.

More: Guide to Centennial Olympic Park

Chattahoochee River in Atlanta. Photo by @leslie_templeton
Chattahoochee River in Atlanta. Photo by @leslie_templeton

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area's 10,000 acres wending across the northern metro area are loaded with gorgeous photo ops. Visit the East Palisades Trail for backdrops of rapids and creek waterfalls.

More: Forget You're in Atlanta with a Hike Along the Chattahoochee River

Georgia Swarm lacrosse team playing at Gwinnett's Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth
Georgia Swarm lacrosse team playing at Gwinnett's Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth

Georgia Swarm

Head to Gwinnett County’s Infinite Energy Center in Duluth to help the Georgia Swarm "Bring the Sting." The popular lacrosse team won the top trophy of the National Lacrosse League in 2017, giving Atlanta its first professional world championship in 22 years. The season takes place in the winter and spring.

More: The Sports Lover's Guide to Atlanta

Burger and fries at New Realm Brewery overlooking the Atlanta BeltLine. Photo by @wizardgreencraft
Burger and fries at New Realm Brewery overlooking the Atlanta BeltLine. Photo by @wizardgreencraft

New Realm Brewing Company

Opened in 2018 and constantly hopping, New Realm Brewing’s original, sprawling brewery on the Atlanta BeltLine's Eastside Trail is an Eden for lovers of IPAs, Belgian blondes, and grade-A burgers. Enjoy the terraced patio, and check out the impressive views from its rooftop bar. The brewery has some of the city’s best people-watching.

More: Guide to Atlanta-area Breweries

Children at Marietta Square Market. Photo by @k8cl8n
Children at Marietta Square Market. Photo by @k8cl8n

Marietta Square Market

Atlanta's food hall craze has made it to Cobb County with Marietta Square Market, a block from the city’s famed historic courthouse square. The meticulously revitalized warehouse plays host to 20 restaurant and retail offerings, with everything from bulgogi and po’ boys to Maine lobster. Don’t miss the display of a 1922 curved-side streetcar, which now serves as a smoothie bar.

More: Guide to Marietta

Ameris Bank Amphitheater in Alpharetta, Georgia
Ameris Bank Amphitheater in Alpharetta, Georgia

Ameris Bank Amphitheatre

Snag a seat on the lawn and enjoy listening to music under the stars at Alpharetta’s 12,000-seat outdoor Ameris Bank Amphitheater. The venue, formerly known as the Verizon Amphitheatre, is a perennial destination for music lovers and fans of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Recent shows have run the gamut, from Kid Rock and Smashing Pumpkins to Brad Paisley and the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience.

More: 14 of Georgia's Best Outdoor Music Venues

Women jumping on beds at the Hotel Clermont in Atlanta. Photo credit Hotel Clermont
Hotel Clermont in Atlanta

Hotel Clermont

This recently renovated 1924 landmark, with a famous dive bar and strip club in the basement, is iconic from the street. Don’t miss Hotel Clermont's panoramic, rooftop skyline views.

More: Places to stay in Atlanta

Ask a local

Michael Jordan, @MichaelBJordan, is a culture writer for outlets such as Thrillist and Rolling Stone. He lives in East Point.

Atlanta Jazz Festival in Piedmont Park
Atlanta Jazz Festival in Piedmont Park

What’s one thing all visitors to your region should do?

My absolute favorite thing is the Atlanta Jazz Festival. Nothing that happens in Atlanta is as much of a representation of the city's unique makeup. It’s really beautiful, and it’s free.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

My favorite restaurant alternates between Tiny Lou’s and Lazy Betty. Eat everything that sounds good to you at either place, but both restaurants have insanely delicious desserts.

Historic Fourth Ward Park in Atlanta
Historic Fourth Ward Park in Atlanta

Where would you recommend someone go with kids?

Historic Fourth Ward Park. There's a splash pad, plenty of monkey bar action, and the playground has that soft foam ground.

What’s something surprising about your region?

There are awesome things happening that you can find out about through word-of-mouth, if you look in the right places and ask the right people.

What do you love most about living here?

Atlanta shows the world a beautiful spectrum of African American life.

Published: February 2020