We thought we’d come back after a stopover when we got back from Mexico (where we didn’t dare to leave the airport!), it’s now done! Atlanta was the first stop on our 3-week roadtrip in the Deep South of the United States that you were able to follow recently on my social networks, Atlanta is the capital of Peach State, Georgia (Savannah, which will be the last stop on our trip, is also in this state) and this first stop was a very good surprise for us! In this article, I give you all my good addresses and a sample itinerary if you only have one day (or one stopover) in Atlanta, as well as some additional suggestions, if you have more time ahead of you!
WHY VISIT ATLANTA?
In planning this trip, I saw that many people were just landing in Atlanta (which has many direct and cheap flights from Europe) but didn’t really take the time to visit the city before starting their roadtrip to Louisiana, Tennessee or South Carolina. Serious mistake!
It is true that Atlanta is far from being the most touristy city in the United States, but we have discovered an ultra vibrant, open, dynamic city that is in the process of being transformed. The city already has several very hipster neighbourhoods, is known for its craft beers and many microbreweries, and is creating a large green loop, with street art and cool places to land. The Atlanta BeltLine, created on the model of the High Line in New York, will allow you to walk or cycle around the city (we will talk about it later). In short, a city that is really becoming trendy, to discover now so you can say you were there before the others!
WHAT TO DO IN ATLANTA? ONE DAY ITINERARY IN ATLANTA
We spent two nights in Atlanta but we really had a day and a half there (we arrived in the afternoon of day 1 and left in the morning of day 3). What we have done can be done in one (big) day, the itinerary of which I suggest below, with different options for the evening depending on the weather and your desires… This one-day itinerary makes you loop through the city and allows you to see most of Atlanta’s main attractions. On the other hand, if you want to visit all the museums of the CityPASS, you will have to plan a second day (or skip the walks)…
For the record, it’s really easy to get around Atlanta: it’s quite feasible to get from one neighborhood to another, and if you want to shorten the distances, you can use the subway (there are day passes) or take an Uber (really cheap if you are two or more). Parking is not always easy and parking is expensive. However, free and easy parking was found in the Inman Park area (near Little Five Points).
PUMICE CITY MARKET & SOCIAL PANCAKE
We start the day at Ponce City Market, one of the best examples of the rehabilitation of former industrial buildings in Atlanta. It partly occupies the former Sears, Roebuck & Company building, dating from 1925, which is the largest brick building in the Southeast. This urban market is really a very nice place, with a large food hall and lots of shops.
We had breakfast at Pancake Social, a new restaurant in the Ponce City Market complex specialized, as its name suggests, in American-style pancakes. I’ve never seen pancakes so thick! It was very good but quite expensive.
In the morning Ponce City Market is a quiet place but later in the day it must be the perfect place to come for lunch or a drink with friends!
Address: 675 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta
WALK ON THE BELTLINE OF ATLANTA
Ponce City Market has direct access to Atlanta BeltLine, the city’s newest green loop, which I mentioned earlier, on the same principle as the High Line in New York. A great concept that will, of course, revitalize certain districts of the city! For the moment, there is only the eastern part of the project completed (Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail). The final project will consist of 22 miles of trails, parks and green spaces built on former railway lines. We walked on the section between Ponce City Market and Piedmont Park. It’s really well designed for both pedestrians and bicycles. When this is over, I think Atlanta will clearly gain in popularity with tourists. Besides, it’s full of street art! There is even an online map that shows them all, it’s convenient (we even found one in the colours of Belgium and Stella Artois!).
So the ride took us quickly to Piedmont Park, Atlanta’s large green lung. From the park (and especially around its lake, Lake Clara Meer) there are magnificent views of the Midtown Atlanta skyline. It is here that several major annual events take place, such as the Atlanta Jazz Festival or the Gay Pride Festival. Next to the park is the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which also looked nice, but due to lack of time we didn’t visit it.
SOUL FOOD LUNCH AT MARY MAC’S TEA ROOM
Still on foot, we then joined one of Atlanta’s food institutions, Mary Mac’s Tea Room, opened in 1945, for the first soul food meal of the trip! On the menu, a hearty plate of fried chicken with corn and okra, drizzled with sweet tea of course. Southern hospitality in all its splendour! In the good addresses section, we were also recommended the Torched Hop Brewing Company, just across the street, one of the best breweries in the city.
Address: 224 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta
NATIONAL CENTER FOR CIVIL & HUMAN RIGHTS
We continued our visits with the museum dedicated to civil rights, the National Center for Civil & Human Rights. I didn’t find it the easiest museum to get to the heart of the matter, it’s a little interactive but not as much as the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which is the civil rights museum I recommend if you have to be one in the United States (and I can tell you that this kind of museum is not missing in the southeast!). There is also a beautiful section dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. which can complete the tour of the historic site (see below). If you run out of time, that’s the visit I’d advise you to skip.
Address: 100 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd NW, Atlanta
WORLD OF COCA-COLA
We continued just next door with a visit to the museum of the iconic Atlanta brand: Coca-Cola. And yes, it was in Atlanta that Coca-Cola was born! The World of Coca-Cola allows you to discover the history of Coca-Cola and all the brand’s products (and there are many more than you think!!!) in the world. I’m really not a big fan of Coca-Cola at the base but the museum, ultra interactive, is very successful, you have to admit!
I really enjoyed seeing the evolution of advertising over the years, it’s very interesting and it says a lot about the times in question. It is also here that the famous secret recipe is kept… in a safe that is revealed to us after a small staging.
But the most fun part of the visit is the tasting room where you can taste a good part of Coca-Cola’s brands around the world (more than 100 drinks), classified by continent! I almost felt like I was drunk at the end with all that sugar! I advise you to do the tastings at least twice if you want to taste everything (at the beginning and at the end of the visit, it is ideal). It was really funny to see how well the products are adapted to the tastes of the countries. There were a lot of ultra sweet ones, not really to my taste, but I still found some good ones, like the Indonesian tea and honey soda and the cucumber soda distributed in Russia.
Address: 121 Baker St NW, Atlanta
THE PANORAMA OF THE WESTIN PEACHTREE PLAZA
We then climbed to the top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel to get a panoramic view of Atlanta. At the beginning, I had read somewhere that you could go up to the 77th floor for free. Finally, we were taken to the 72nd (Sun Dial Restaurant) which is normally charged (8 dollars per adult), but as the bar was closed, it was not closed that day (to check but in any case, it’s a beautiful panorama!).
Address: 210 Peachtree St NW, Atlanta
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. NATIONAL HISTORICAL SITE
We ended the day in Martin Luther King Jr.’s original neighborhood, Sweet Auburn. It is in this area that the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Site is located, which includes his tomb (guarded by an eternal laziness), his church and the house where he was born. There are many old houses in this area that are very well preserved. If you want to visit the small museum at the reception centre, you have to come earlier in the day (it closes early).
Address: 450 Auburn Ave NE, Atlanta
AN EVENING IN ATLANTA, SEVERAL OPTIONS
As in real life, we spent two nights in Atlanta, I give you several options to end this day of visits!
LITTLE FIVE POINTS
For our first afternoon in Atlanta, we visited THE hipster district par excellence of Atlanta, Little Five Points, with its small stores and many street art. We more or less followed the detailed street art walk on this site. We also did a little shopping in one of the original stores in the area, Junkman‘s Daughter (not bad if you want to bring back some extravagant souvenirs!).
At Little Five Points, we ate at the Vortex L5P, a restaurant and bar with an original décor and a great atmosphere. They have a very large choice of local beers (I really liked the Hoplanta from Atlanta Brewing Co.) and very good and hearty burgers.
Address: 438 Moreland Ave NE, Atlanta
We also had a beer flight (tasting of different beers) in a very cute little brewery, Wrecking Bar Brewpub. They have some really original beers, including a series of wood aged beers or a special Vanilla Milkshake IPA…! The brewery was on the edge with another great neighborhood, Inman Park, where Atlanta’s most beautiful houses are located!
Address :292 Moreland Ave NE, Atlanta
KROG STREET MARKET
Another option, another very nice food market, the Krog Street Market, where we ate the second evening. The Krog Street Market, smaller than the Ponce City Market, is also located in renovated old warehouses. The atmosphere was really nice. We tasted local beers at Hop City and ate a barbecue (but it was hard to choose, there were lots of things we wanted!).
Address :99 Krog St NE, Atlanta
STARLIGHT DRIVE-IN THEATER
We ended this stay in Atlanta with a typically American activity that I wanted to do for a very long time… a drive-in cinema, at the Starlight Drive-In Theater! It was such a cool experience, I loved it! We watched Shazam (not the best movie, but we had already seen all the others…) while eating nachos with cheese, we were pretty well settled! Besides, it’s cheaper than a normal movie screening. If you want to have a different and local experience (I don’t think there are many tourists here…) and if obviously you have a car on the spot, I recommend you this drive-in which remained in its original state (it was located to the east of the city, really not far from our accommodation of which I speak below).
Address: 2000 Moreland Ave SE, Atlanta
WHERE TO SLEEP IN ATLANTA?
We spent two nights in Atlanta in a very nice and above all ultra original motel, since we slept in a real vintage 1969 Airstream, renovated of course! It was located near the East Atlanta Village district, a very nice district, a little hipster too (we had been recommended in this district the Argosy restaurant for its pizzas and beers, but we didn’t have time to go there).
We preferred not to take the car in town, so we moved in Uber to the centre (cheap and practical!). The accommodation was very quiet (except for the owners’ cute chickens, ducks and goats!) and the decoration was really nice. We had our bathroom in the main house, as well as a kitchen that we could use. The only downside is the Airstream’s bed, which was really small for two. There were also two other accommodations on site, in tipis (with slightly larger beds). If you have never used Findhotel, I recommend this site which will allow you to compare hotels in the city.
If you prefer to stay in a hotel, be aware that downtown hotels in major cities in the United States, including Atlanta, are generally not very cheap but you have much more affordable motels on the outskirts. East Atlanta Village was a very nice neighborhood, we don’t regret our choice.
WANT TO VISIT ATLANTA DURING A STOPOVER?
Atlanta Airport is Delta’s hub, so it is not uncommon to have a stopover from Europe before reaching your final destination in America. It’s fast enough to get out of the airport (I’ve rarely seen so few people at customs, but it may not be every day like this!). To get to the city centre, it takes 30 minutes (or an hour by subway to Centennial Olympic Park for example (as I told you earlier, most museums are located around the park). If you have half a day, you can visit the Coca-Cola Museum and/or do the CNN Studio Tour. Another option may be to stop at a station near the BeltLine and walk a little bit. If you prefer to go to Little Five Points, I recommend you to take a Uber or a Lyft, they are really not expensive here. I don’t think it’s worth leaving the airport if you have less than 6 hours of stopover time.