As with most things in modern life, travel has become a bite-sized version of its former self thanks to on-the-go travelers’ limited itineraries. With some trips constrained only to a few hours—or whatever a layover allows—we’re giving you the fast-track tips to help you make the most of your precious time in Atlanta.
Even if you only have an hour or two to spare, pick one of the destinations below, and follow our tips to get the most out of your tight schedule.
One of Atlanta’s most popular parks, Piedmont Park was designed to unite the community with strolling paths and sprawling fields. Ample spaces shaded by lush trees make this the perfect place to catch your breath under a blanket of blue sky.
Dogwood trees, playgrounds and athletic fields pepper 182 acres of greenspace in Atlanta’s version of Central Park (both are designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, in fact). Piedmont Park is home to the Atlanta Botanical Garden and connected to Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail. Eat at one of the many restaurants bordering the park, like Park Tavern or The Nook, or enjoy a picnic on the perfectly manicured lawns. Eighty minutes gives you plenty of time to take a stroll and buy a popsicle from the King of Pops cart (look for the rainbow umbrella). The park is especially popular with joggers, bicyclists, and recreational sports leagues, and hosts festivals and events nearly every weekend during warm-weather months.
Stone Mountain Park
Climb to the peak of a big-ol' Southern rock to see sweeping views of Atlanta and its surrounding cities. You heard us right: Stone Mountain is in fact the world's largest piece of exposed granite and one of the state's most popular visitor destinations.
Known officially as a granite monadnock, or an isolated rock hill, Stone Mountain is almost two hours away from the North Georgia mountains, which makes its appearance on the horizon somewhat unusual. The granite dome and surrounding natural area are complemented by a family-friendly theme park, Stone Mountain Park, where you can take a Ride the Ducks tour and climb an intricate ropes course, among many other activities. On short time, we recommend hiking the one-mile trail to the peak. Skip the hike by riding the Summit Skyride, a high-speed cable car, to the top. Once you reach the summit, you'll be taken aback by breathtaking views of Atlanta's glimmering skyline. In clear weather, you may even see the Appalachian Mountains to the north.
Whale sharks and otters and penguins, oh my! It can take a full day to experience Georgia Aquarium’s several galleries and their distinct aquatic habitats. Use this guide to make the most of a quick trip to this jaw-dropping attraction.
When we say this aquarium is massive, we mean it. With hundreds of thousands of aquatic species to explore throughout 10 million gallons of water and 604,000 square feet, you could easily spend a day (or two) taking in the spectacular sights here. Even if you only have an hour or two to spare, we recommend stopping by one of Atlanta’s most famous attractions. Make it a point to attend the AT&T Dolphin Celebration presentation, which showcases dolphin behaviors and the special relationships they have with their trainers in an action-packed show. Next, head to the Ocean Voyager gallery, which is home to four giant whale sharks, elegant manta rays, sharks and an array of other creatures who roam the world’s oceans.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
This 35-acre area is home to a wealth of landmarks that guide visitors through Dr. King’s life, from birth to death. If you only have a couple hours at most to spare at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, we recommend beelining to the Visitor Center, which features several interesting exhibits about Dr. King and the civil rights movement. Here, you can also find out about the free Birth Home tours and other information about the historic site. Then, it’s time to visit the famous yellow Victorian home on Auburn Avenue where King was born and raised. National Parks Service docents lead free tours of the home while recounting the King family’s riveting history and childhood stories.
Finally, stop by the unassuming, brick-and-mortar Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was co-pastor with his father, “Daddy King.” King delivered some of his most famous sermons at the pulpit of this serene place of worship, including “The Drum Major Instinct,” which served as his eulogy only two months later. All stops throughout the site are free, including the popular Birth Home tours.
High Museum of Art
Not only is Atlanta’s largest art museum designed by two world-famous architects (Richard Meier and Renzo Piano), but it is also home to a breathtaking collection of over 15,000 works. Add to that a roster of exclusive and world-renowned traveling exhibits, and you may begin to understand why this is considered the region’s go-to art museum.
We recommend starting at the Iris van Herpen exhibition, “Transforming Fashion,” which is an awe-inspiring collection of 45 garments created by combining the art of fashion (impeccable construction), technology (like 3-D printing) and science (like metal-infused molten plastic). This exhibition takes over three floors of the Anne Cox Chambers Wing, so expect to spend half your time there.
Then, we recommend perusing the permanent European (Stent Family Wing, Floor 2), African (Wieland Pavilion, Floor LL) or Contemporary (Wieland Pavilion, Floor S) collections, depending on your personal preferences.
Ponce City Market
We'll admit it can be difficult to spend only an hour or two at Ponce City Market—with thousands of square feet of food stalls, restaurants, bars, shops and entertainment options, we always find ourselves spending full days at this dazzling destination. Fear not, our quick-travel tips will help you make the most of a drive-by visit.
The building that houses the recently opened Ponce City Market is far from new to Atlanta's landscape. The 2.1-million square-foot structure was originally built in 1926 by Sears, Roebuck & Co. as a warehouse and retail store, and later came to house an extension of Atlanta's City Hall. Today, the mammoth brick structure (which still holds the title of largest in the Southeast) is a gourmet and retail wonderland. If you only have a few minutes to stop by, we recommend picking your pleasure: shopping or dining. If eating your way through a James Beard Award-speckled food hall sounds like heaven, then brace yourself. Taste your way through the central food hall by stopping at each restaurant or stall for a bite—we love getting yucca fries at El Super Pan, Brussels sprouts at Brezza Cucina, a cocktail at The Mercury, jerky at Biltong Bar and chilaquiles at Minero. Or, hunt for treasures at Citizen Supply, Anthropologie, Goorin Bros. Hat Shop, Lou Lou, West Elm and many other boutiques. And if all you want is a beer and a game of rooftop mini-golf, then make a beeline for the old-timey, five-acre Skyline Park, which includes a beer garden, vintage carnival games and sweeping views of Atlanta.
Centennial Olympic Park
Built as a central gathering place for the millions of visitors that would flock Atlanta for the Olympic Games in 1996, Centennial Olympic Park is still one of the city’s most recognized greenspaces. If you only have a few minutes to spare, this park is the perfect place to spend your time.
At just 21 acres, Centennial Olympic Park is mid-sized and surrounded by Atlanta’s iconic downtown buildings. Here, you get 360-degree views of historic structures, world-class attractions and gorgeous greenery as you mosey through the park. We recommend walking the park’s perimeter, where you can find several memorials honoring not only the Olympic Games, but also those who were harmed during the infamous park bombing on July 27, 1996.
Grab a $3 popsicle from Atlanta’s beloved King of Pops while you stroll. Just look for a freezer cart with King of Pops’ signature multicolored umbrella.
While the BeltLine will ultimately encompass a 22-mile ring of trails in Atlanta, only a few sections of the massive project are open to the public. By far the most popular of these completed sections is the Eastside Trail. Stroll, run, bike or blade this popular intown path, stopping on the way to view public art installations.
Plenty of fabulous restaurants and shops line these 2.25 miles, which wind through Piedmont Park, Historic Fourth Ward Park and the Freedom Park trail. Rent a bike at Atlanta BeltLine Bicycle or start your BeltLine tour with a drink at Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall in Inman Park. Then, take in the sculptures and murals along the path before grabbing a refreshing treat at King of Pops’ window just before the BeltLine intersects Monroe Drive.
Download the app or check the website to find additional access points.
Krog Street Market
As Atlanta's old buildings are transformed into new spaces, multiuse developments are opening up in the city's most popular intown neighborhoods—like the culinary kingdom that is Krog Street Market.
This gorgeous marketplace is touted as a West Coast-style market, inspired by popular developments in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, Washington, and California's Bay Area. West Coast vibes aside, Krog Street Market became an instant local favorite upon opening in late 2014. Originally a stove factory and most recently a movie studio, the market represents Atlanta's new penchant for redevelopment (Ponce City Market and the Atlanta BeltLine being two of the largest examples of this trend).
Unless you're looking to have an all-day brunch at Superica (which we highly recommend), 80 minutes at this market is just enough time for a food tour of stalls like Fred's Meat & Breads, Yalla, Little Tart Bakeshop, The Spotted Trotter and Gu's Dumplings. Or spend your 80 minutes at one of the full-blown restaurants—our favorites are The Luminary and Craft Izakaya.
A destination for foodies, fashionistas and families, Decatur offers nearly 200 shops, restaurants, galleries and more in just four square miles. Our quick-travel guide helps you make the most of your time around the irresistibly charming historic square.
If any city in Metro Atlanta is an example of urban renewal and progress, it’s Decatur. Technically a separate city, but looked upon more like an intown neighborhood, Decatur earned the slogan “Where it’s greater” for good reason— some of the city’s best restaurants, bars and schools make a cozy home for themselves in this peaceful area, which manages to embody the best of suburban life (great schools, manicured lawns, beautiful homes) with metropolitan glitz (excellent eateries, boutique shops and bustling nightlife). Downtown Decatur is the heart of the area and the historic Decatur Square is its main artery. Surrounding the square is a melange of locally-owned restaurants, shops and watering holes that lend an electric energy and eclectic spirit to the quaint town.