Visit Atlanta, Georgia Things to Do, Attractions and Safety
Atlanta, Georgia, is one of those places most people stop in on their way to somewhere else. Despite its reputation as a secondary destination, there is quite a bit to do and see in Atlanta that makes a stop there one of the best.
This travel guide will help visitors both going to and going through Atlanta, with information on things to do, events, top restaurants, where to stay, safety information and tips, areas to avoid, transportation around the city, and for those staying a bit longer, the best time of year to visit, weather, and things to pack, and places to shop.
Things to Know About Atlanta Georgia
According to The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, about 42 million people visit Atlanta every year, ranking it the 4th most visited city in the United States. The Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is to blame for Atlanta’s popularity. The airport is within a 2-hour flight of 80% of the U.S. population, making it the go-to for lay-overs and cheap connections. It’s also the headquarters of Delta Airlines.
Nicknamed “The Big Peach,” “Gate City,” and “New York of the South.” Atlanta is big on green spaces, diversity, culture, and fun. It’s also known as the birthplace for the Civil Rights Capital of America. It was home to Martin Luther King Jr., Julia Roberts, Ryan Seacrest, and Cam Newton.
About half a million people live in Atlanta.
Atlanta is rated in the top 10 of best cities for long layovers because it’s a beautiful place to spend a night or two and has just enough to do, see, and eat, that most don’t even mind the extra time between flights.
Best Time to Visit Atlanta
Atlanta’s busy season is between March and May, when the weather is milder, and the city offers more events, concerts, and outdoor activities. This is also when most people are flying off to other parts of the world, so the airport is packed, and traffic and parking are nightmares. The most expensive time to visit Atlanta is between June and August, with most bookings filled, so if you visit during these months, get your reservations in advance. The cheapest time to visit Atlanta is January.
Weather In Atlanta
Atlanta has all four seasons, including beautiful springs and cool falls. Summers in Atlanta are hot and muggy (though not as bad as Texas). The hottest month is July, with highs around 89°F and lows around 69°F. Winters are cold and wet–occasionally snowy. The coldest month is January with highs around 53°F and lows around 33°F. It is partly cloudy year-round and rains an average of 7-8 days each month.
Georgia ranks high for allergies, with lots of slippery elm and brome pollens. The rain keeps the pollen down, for the most part, but it’s still a good idea to bring allergy medicine. Allergy seasons are usually between March and April.
8 Must See Attractions and Things to Do in Atlanta
Whether Atlanta is the focus of your trip, or just a highlight on your way to somewhere else, there are still plenty of things to do. These make for an incredible day trip, date, or family outing that bring much needed respite for those doing lots of travel.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden covers 30 acres of a well-maintained plant collection. It is both a research and display area. They have a mix of themed exhibits and plant sculptures. It takes about two hours to walk through.
The Georgia Aquarium is the biggest aquarium in the entire world, with more than 11 million gallons of water over 13 acres and more than 100,000 creatures big and small. Weekends are busy, so buy tickets in advance. They do a good job of crowd control so it’s never too packed. It takes about 3-4 hours to walk through.
- National Center for Civil and Human Rights
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a beautiful museum dedicated to representing the lives and sacrifices made to bettering humanity. Though relatively small, it is a powerful, emotional experience. It takes about 1-2 hours to walk through.
Located in the Midtown neighborhood, Piedmont Park is popular for its beauty and all the events it hosts. There is a walking/jogging trail that covers a 4-mile loop and all the scenic, photo friendly areas you could wish for. Great for picnics, sports, reading, and general relaxation.
- LEGOLAND Discovery Center
Though one of the smaller Legoland, The Legoland Discovery Center in Atlanta, is great for kids with a knack for building. The Lego Discovery Centers are not as much a resort as a children’s museum, but there’s still plenty to do and see. Most visitors spend 2-3 hours here.
The World of Coca-Cola is an interactive museum showing both the historical and modern sides to the world’s most popular drink. Fun for visitors young and old. You can try all different kinds of Coca-Cola products from around the world (only the brave try the Italian Beverly). It’s a little busy here, so buy tickets in advance. Most spend about two hours here.
Zoo Atlanta is home to 1,500 animals covering 40 acres. The highlight of the zoo is the platform for feeding the giraffes. While this zoo is well taken care of, it is relatively small. Zoo Atlanta’s a nice break for all kinds of travelers. Most spend 2-3 hours here.
Nightlife: Atlanta is rated one of the top 20 U.S. cities for nightlife. There are the traditional bars and clubs, yes, but Atlanta also has a ton of other options, like live music venues, dance halls of every type, concerts, sporting events, and theaters. Other traditional options like bowling, mini-golf, and of course, late-eats tend to stay open longer in Atlanta than they do the rest of the country.
If you want to know more about Atlanta’s popular attractions, you can check them out here.
Top 10 Best Restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia
Traditionally, Atlanta is known for Barbeque, but there are tons of other great options as well. Atlanta takes spot number 9 for the most exciting food city in America, so no matter what you get, it won’t disappoint. The top 4.5+ star restaurants to eat from are:
- South City Kitchen Buckhead – Southern Food – Dine-in, takeout, delivery – $$$
- Poor Calvin’s – Asian Food – Dine-in, curbside, delivery – $$
- Bones Restaurant – Steak – Dine-in only – $$$$
- Agave Restaurant – Eclectic – Dine-in, curbside, delivery – $$
- Nan Thai Fine Dining – Thai Food – Dine-in, curbside, delivery – $$$
- Aria – American Food – Dine-in, curbside – $$$$
- Forza Storico – Italian Food – Dine-in, takeout, delivery – $
- Kyma – Greek Food – Dine-in, curbside, delivery – $$$
- The Optimist – Seafood – Dine-in, curbside – $$$
- Wisteria – Southern Food – Dine-in, takeout, delivery – $$$
Is Atlanta Safe to Visit?
Atlanta has a medium safety risk for travelers. The state of Georgia is ranked 36 in safety of the U.S.’s fifty states, with crime above the national average. Most of Atlanta’s crime is far from tourist attractions, but the line between tourist and non-tourist areas can be the difference of one street over. Being in the wrong area is incredibly dangerous, so make sure you know exactly where you are going. That, along with following normal precautionary measures, will make your trip safe, problem-free and fun.
The risk to women is relatively low, even those traveling alone. Families are also safe.
Safety Tips for Visiting Atlanta
To stay safe while visiting Atlanta, the best thing you can do is follow common safety practices. Doing that will put you out of risk’s way and ensure a safe, fun trip.
- Wear sunscreen. Sunburn is a thing. Skin cancer is an even bigger thing.
- Don’t go places where you feel uncomfortable.
- Stay alert and confident.
- Don’t set your stuff down. Pickpockets are common.
- Drink plenty of water. Heatstroke is more common than robbery.
- STAY CLEAR OF PROBLEM AREAS (listed further below)
- Don’t explore the city randomly.
- Avoid walking late at night.
- Lock car and hotel doors.
- Ask hotel clerks for directions and other safety tips.
Where to Stay in Atlanta
Where you choose to stay in Atlanta makes the difference between an alright trip and a great trip. It isn’t just which hotel service you choose, but also which neighborhood. Certain neighborhoods are more touristy, and others riskier. As in any city, different neighborhoods also offer different attractions and atmospheres.
Old Fourth Ward
Rated one of the coolest places to stay in Atlanta, Old Fourth Ward. However, it is important to note that Old Fourth Ward is farther away than most of the popular things to do in Atlanta. Even so, this historic neighborhood turned trendy is a great option to relax.
This is the best area to stay for first-time visitors, couples, and solo travelers. Atlanta’s downtown area has many attractions, and the best public transportation connections for those without cars. This is the “tall” area of the city and is a busier area. There is a mix of lodging options for visitors with different budgets.
Little Five Points
Little Five Points is a colorful neighborhood and is Atlanta’s best area for nightlife. Inman Park and Candler Park merge with Little Five Points, so they tend to be recommended together. These areas have lots of local shops and restaurants, and a very authentic low-key atmosphere. While you can still find hotels in these neighborhoods, Airbnb is the best way to go. These areas are great for couples and road-trippers.
Buckhead is a more stylish and commercial area of Atlanta with lots of great eateries, stores, and lively clubs. It’s one of the best places for shopping in Atlanta with luxury malls and high-end shops. Staying here is a bit pricier but appeals to couples, solo travelers, and those traveling with friends.
Cobb is 12 miles from Downtown and is good for families as well as those who want a little more diversity in hotel and Airbnb options. There’s plenty of food, plenty of nightlife, and plenty to do. Cobb is also home to Six Flags Over Georgia. Prices are all over the place here and fits most budgets. Public transportation doesn’t really exist here, making it a quieter area. It’s great for road-trippers and families.
Grant Park is one of the best areas for families as well as those who enjoy nature over city. Grant Park has tons of Airbnb options and is also considered one of the safest areas in Atlanta. There are plenty of events in this area, with lots of visitors. It’s a tiny bit out of the way of public transportation, so expect a little bit of walking if you don’t have a car.
This is the most artistic area of Atlanta, as well as the most LGBTQIA+ friendly. It is simultaneously the most expensive and most budget area to stay. Midtown puts you closest to Atlanta’s museums like The High Museum of Art and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, as well as the famous Botanical Gardens. Food is readily available as are a few well-rated nightlife venues. This is one of the more walkable areas, and public transportation is readily available.
Safest Areas of Atlanta, Georgia
Statistically, the safest neighborhoods in Atlanta are Collier Hills North, Atlantic Station, Morningside/Lenox Park, Brookhaven, Argonne Forest, North Buckhead, Peachtree Heights, Chastain Park, and Virginia Highland. Only a couple of these are tourist oriented, and most won’t have many attractions or public transportation.
Most Dangerous Areas of Atlanta
The most dangerous neighborhoods in Atlanta are Oakland City, Lakewood Heights, West End, Grove Park, Adamsville, Adams Park, Center Hill, Adair Park, and Cascade Heights. With a higher-than average crime rate, we recommend avoiding these areas while traveling, even if they have cheap accommodations.
Traveling Around Atlanta, Georgia
Getting around Atlanta is easier now than it ever has been, with options for every type of traveler and every budget. If you’re not sure which method to use, you can compare routes and transit methods–which are all current–in Apple and Google Maps.
MARTA is Atlanta’s official public transportation system and is by far the cheapest way to travel. MARTA includes buses, trains, and the new Atlanta Streetcar. Over 400,000 people use Atlanta’s’ public transportation system each weekday and is one of the best ways to connect you from the airport to your hotel to the downtown area to other attractions. You can check MARTA routes and fares here.
Public transportation in Atlanta is generally safe, though it does get crowded, and transit takes almost twice as long as driving. Overall, that ranks Atlanta’s public transportation as one of the lowest of all big cities.
Taxi’s or and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are also popular, and though these options cost more, drop-off/pick-up is much more convenient than public transportation.
Renting or Driving
Atlanta has various car-rental services available, including rentals directly in the airport. Just be aware that snowy roads cause lots of accidents in Atlanta every year, and traffic is always bad. If taking a road-trip, parking your car at the hotel, and using public transportation is worth consideration.
Walking and Biking
Atlanta ranks 21 out of 100 for most walkable cities in the U.S. That means while it’s not as good as New York or Boston, it’s still pretty great. Using a bicycle is also convenient. If you’re making a quick stop in Atlanta or waiting on a lay-over, taking a stroll through the city is one of the best ways to stay active and help prevent some jetlag.
Things to Pack for Atlanta
- Clothes you don’t mind getting wet.
- Warm clothes for winter, breathable clothes for Hotlanta summers.
- Comfortable shoes for walking.
- Rain jacket. Thick coat for winter, breathable jacket for fall.
- It’s better than a jacket during the summer.
- Insect repellant. Georgia is ranked in the top ten worst states for mosquitos.
Should You Stop In or Visit Atlanta?
Atlanta has a lot to offer its visitors but isn’t as heavily tourism oriented as other cities. This makes it a great budget option as both a destination and stop. Atlanta does have enough to do and see, that if you can, try to fit at least a day trip in.
For Families: Atlanta is ranked highly as a family-friendly city for safety and accommodations, and while there is plenty to do, cities like Boston tend to get higher rankings for child-oriented attractions. Where Atlanta beats other big cities is in beauty, culture, and price. If you’re traveling on to other destinations, Atlanta is perfect for stretching out, experiencing the local culture, and unwinding for a bit.
For Couples: Atlanta is so green, so pretty, and so great for getting photos with your sweetheart and enjoying a walk or drive. New York can’t say that. Downtown Atlanta has tons of low-key date options for all-day fun and romance. If you need a quick mid-trip date, Atlanta has you covered.
For Solo Travelers: Atlanta is great for solo travelers who want to be in nature but don’t want to get lost in the wilderness. Accommodations are nice, and you’re within a short distance of many other attractions (and the airport). There are lots of parks and even more tour options. For solo travelers, Atlanta is awesome to get away from the heavy travel atmosphere and relax a bit.