When I travel, I follow three things: my feet, my eyes and, most importantly, my stomach. They haven’t led me astray yet, and my trip to Atlanta, Georgia is a case of a job well done by these three things. Atlanta is perfect for the traveler who loves to walk, the traveler who likes to look at art and read about the history of a place and the traveler who wants to do nothing but eat. If you’re all or even just one of these, Atlanta is the place for you! Positively dripping with Southern charm, Atlanta is complete with the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, years of complex and rich history, a fantastic food scene and so much to do, you can’t get it all done in one trip.
The Atlanta BeltLine
The best way to see Atlanta is via the BeltLine: a multiuse trail that snakes around the city, connecting neighborhoods, people, local businesses, artists and green spaces. On this path, you’ll pass by families on a walk and people on their daily jogs, all while enjoying the different art pieces along the way. While it has sparked a lot of new and extremely expensive housing developments, it is publicly accessible to all who want to enjoy it. Taking a trek along this path is the best way to introduce yourself to the friendly, artistic and forward-moving city of Atlanta.
Little Five Points Neighborhood
Who says the South can’t have an alternative scene? This is a college newspaper, so it’s our obligation to hype up this funky thrift shop- and vinyl-filled neighborhood on the east side of Atlanta. Well known for its indie personality, unique shops and street art, you’re guaranteed to spend hours walking around while checking out the vintage shops and trying some burgers and fried zucchini at The Vortex.
Once again, if you’re a walker like me, I’d recommend taking the 20-minute walk through the Inman Park neighborhood to Krog Street. Inman Park is a historical suburb of Atlanta, home to some fantastic Victorian mansions that are just waiting to be pinned onto my “future home” Pinterest board. Once you hit Krog Street, make sure to check out the Krog Street Tunnel. This tunnel is filled with street art that is being constantly changed by the artists who curate the space. If you go multiple times during your visit, the space will probably look different, a fact you can confirm by the distinct smell of fresh spray paint. After all the walking you’ve been doing, you’re bound to get hungry, so check out the Krog Street Market and Revolution Doughnuts, both of which are a few blocks from the tunnel. Whether it be the fried green tomato bao from the Krog Street Market, a lemon poppyseed and peach tea from Revolution Doughnuts or all three (which is what I did), you’ll be glad for the BeltLine access nearby so you can walk off the food baby.
Head into the Downtown area for the real Olympian experience in Centennial Olympic Park. Built for the 1996 Summer Olympics, you can pose by the rings and chill on a bench with a nice view of the tall buildings and Ferris wheel. Nearby is the famous Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the world, as well as the World of Coca-Cola museum, the College Sports Hall of Fame and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. While more on the typical tourist-y path, you could spend an entire day in this one space and learn so much, from the American Civil Rights Movement to how fast a whale shark can swim.
The King Center
You can’t learn about Atlanta’s history without taking a trip to The King Center to pay your respects to one of the most influential men in the history of the United States. This National Heritage Site was started by Coretta Scott King in 1968, and it is both a nonprofit and a memorial site where you can pay your respects to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King at their crypt and learn more about their incredible lives. There is also a visitor center and Freedom Hall, where there are many exhibitions of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and the history of the Civil Rights Movement. Nearby is King’s birth home, for which you will have to make a reservation for a free tour beforehand, and Ebenezer Baptist Church, the place where King was a co-pastor with his father and also where his funeral took place. This is a moving space that not only educates about the history of civil rights in the United States but also calls all who pass through to go out and fight to make the world a better place.
This city has art in its veins. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find incredible murals and unique street art in both the suburbs and Downtown, there’s a rainbow crosswalk in Midtown and many restaurants and bars you go to are filled with interesting art fixtures. It’s a city for your eyes to be on the alert, so keep them off your screens and up at the building walls! If you’re looking for a place solely dedicated to creative expression, check out the High Museum of Art! This museum has an incredible collection of African, American and European art, ranging from Monet to amazing quilt work. Pro tip: if you happen to be in Atlanta on a second Sunday of the month, you can get in for free from noon to 5 p.m.!
The hungry traveler will be well-satisfied in Atlanta. If you want options, hit up Ponce City Market for its many food stalls, ranging from Cuban sandwiches to ramen. After your meal, you can go shopping at the market or hit up the BeltLine trail right outside. For brunch, go to Sun In My Belly, possibly the most fitting name for a restaurant we’ve ever heard. The cute decor, lavender biscuits, belly benedict and challah french toast leave you in the full, happy daze that only brunch can give you. If you’re 21 or older, check out Monday Night Brewing Garage, which is located between a bunch of breweries in the West End neighborhood. It’s a big warehouse with interesting art fixtures, a fire pit outside, board games and barrels of the finest brews in town. And last but certainly not least, go to Community Q BBQ for some fantastic Southern barbecue. Absolutely everything on the menu is good, so don’t hold back when ordering! If I had to recommend anything, I’d recommend the ribs, banana pudding and the mac n cheese. Make sure to get there as soon as you can because they sell until the food runs out!
Every time I’ve told someone I’ve visited Atlanta, they’ve looked confused and asked me, “Why?” To them, I’d say, “Why not?” Somehow, this extremely global and influential city has become one of the most underrated destinations in the United States, but I would rank it as one of my favorite cities in the country. It’s a vibrant city with a booming art and culture scene, fantastic food, museums, friendly people and a history that you could spend your whole life dissecting. If you’re looking for an authentic experience in a city with a million things to do, check out Atlanta — you’ll never get bored of this American gem.