From well known tourist spots to remote corners of the city, follow along as we get acquainted with my new hometown.
Welcome to Atlanta!
While many things may come to mind when you think of Atlanta: Coca-Cola, the Civil Rights Movement, the 1996 Olympics, hip-hop/rap music, horrific humidity, or simply our gigantic airport – it is because of all of those things and more that Atlanta is an awesome place to visit and an even better place to call home. Well… everything except the humidity at least!
Below you will find tips for navigating this great city, and some of my favorite places to eat, drink, relax, or have fun.
Fun Facts About Atlanta
Random Useful Things To Know About Atlanta
- OTP = Outside the Perimeter
- ITP = Inside the Perimeter
- Perimeter = the 66 miles of Interstate 285 that makes a loop around Atlanta (note: the speed limit is 55-65, but we don’t think of it as a racetrack because people maintain that speed)
- You will get stuck in traffic. I don’t care that its 11am on a Tuesday. Plan accordingly.
- Speed limits are only followed during aforementioned traffic. And that isn’t because anyone wants to be going that slow.
- Resist the temptation to call it “Hotlanta” or “the A-T-L”
- Each area of Atlanta has its own unique culture and experiences. Explore more than just downtown or midtown… and yes, those are two different areas.
- Do not forget to be specific with addresses/directions. There are 70+ streets that use Peachtree in the name. Using “turn left on Peachtree” isn’t going to cut it.
MARTA public transportation can be a low-cost option for people who are flying in and plan on doing most of their activities in the downtown/midtown area. I highly recommend checking the MARTA website for more information on service areas before planning to use this option. Our rail service has 4 lines and is not as extensive as would be expected for a large city. That being said, depending on your plans, you may be able to combine the use of public transportation with another option (like ride share) to keep costs down.
MARTA is our public transportation system and consists of buses and a semi-useful series of trains. Do not expect an incredible rail system like those found in New York, Washington DC, or Paris. Public transportation is an area where Atlanta has room for improvement. That being said, the train is one of the quickest ways to get around Atlanta when the limited routes service the area of your travels.
Train service provides access to the middle of the city from the east/west or north/south. Everything in the 4 corners of the city is excluded from easy rail service. The one good thing – it does go down the Airport! So you could reasonably use the trains as your main mode of transportation if you fly into Atlanta and are staying in downtown to experience most of the key tourist attractions.
Trains generally run every 20 minutes.
Buses are far more extensive. There are approximately 900 bus routes connecting Atlanta and the metro area.
Cost: $2.50 per fare (click here for more information on fares)
One of our newest attempts at public transportation, the streetcar services a 2.7 mile loop consisting of 12 stops between Downtown and Sweet Auburn. While not very long, it does connect a lot of places that may be of interests to tourists and also connects to the Peachtree Center MARTA Rail Station for further options.
Points of Interest Accessible by the Streetcar:
CNN Center, Center for Civil & Human Rights, GA Aquarium, College Football Hall of Fame, World of Coke, Mercedes Benz Stadium, State Farm Arena, World Congress Center, Children’s Museum of Atlanta, The Tabernacle, Skyview ferris wheel, Sweet Auburn Market, MLK National Historic Site, & Oakland Cemetery
Streetcars run every 10 – 15 minutes.
Cost: $1.00 per use (under 2 years old free) or $3.00 day pass
Purchase at the Breeze kiosk with credit/debit card (save your receipt to board!) or exact amount in cash can be paid at the box behind the operator.
Hours: 8:15am – 11pm (check site for changes & updates)
Ride share programs generally rely on the use of a phone app and a credit card to use. The app uses GPS to guide the driver on the points of pick-up/drop-off and provides route guidance.
There may be other ride share options in Atlanta, but I have used both Uber and Lyft with good results. Uber and Lyft are similar in price, and both have a variety of options. You can select a shared ride to save money, a larger car for groups, or a black/luxury option if that’s what you’re feeling. Uber also has an hourly option that I have not used yet.
One way to decide the best ride share option for you is to consider any affiliations with points programs.
For example, when using Lyft I get a 15% discount with my Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa card, and I get points added to my Delta Airlines Skymiles account and Hilton Honors account. Southwest Airlines also has a partnership program with Lyft.
With Uber, my Delta Skymiles Platinum American Express Card gives me $15/month cash back on Uber rides. Uber also partners with Starwood Hotels, InterContinental Hotels Group, and American Airlines.
This is not an all inclusive list – these examples are meant to be a starting point to illustrate that one ride share company may be more beneficial to you than others based on their partnership opportunities. It’s worth checking out!
Ride Share Tips
- Sometimes the GPS in Atlanta can be inaccurate. I don’t know if it’s the tall buildings or what causes it. Be sure to double check your pick-up and drop-off points and adjust them to your actual location if necessary.
- When possible, I use location names to help guide the driver in case the GPS starts wandering. And you can always reach out to the driver if needed.
- If you are leaving a venue with a lot of people, walk a few blocks away before requesting the ride. You will have better luck and be able to get out of traffic faster.
- If you are aware of the direction you are heading, be mindful of one-way streets when requesting your ride. Walk a block over and start out pointing in the direction you want to go instead of having to turn around (and possibly get stuck in more traffic) due to one-way streets.
Taxis, Limo Services, Airport Shuttles, Etc.
Not a fan of ride share? Taxis, limo services, and airport shuttles are still available at the airport and throughout the city.
It has been many years since I have taken a taxi around Atlanta. The last time I took one, there was a fixed rate for the ride based on the area. Taxi rides from the airport are also fixed rates that run between $30 – $40 (plus $2 per additional passenger).
I cannot recommend one taxi service over another since it has been so long since I have used one, but here are a few taxi services available in Atlanta:
Atlanta Checker Cab Company
Yellow Cab of Atlanta
There are many other taxi services available in Atlanta as well. Plus, they generally hang around the airport, popular tourist attractions, and hotels. It is easy to have a hotel contact one or simply hail one from the curb without making arrangements ahead of time. Additional information about fares can be found on the website of the taxi service of your choice.
There are also many limo services throughout the city. I have not personally booked any limo services yet, so I cannot give a recommendation. But I know they are out there if you prefer to use a limo service for your transportation needs.
Another option is to take a private or shared airport shuttle service. When I lived on the southside of Atlanta, I used Go 2 Airport Express to get rides to and from the airport for longer trips. They are a smaller company with excellent customer service and reasonable prices. We were often picked up privately in a black Cadillac Escalade by a super friendly employee.
Walking & Biking
One of my favorite things about Atlanta is the amount of trees. For a city, there are lots of trees, parks, and green spaces all over the place. That is why for shorter trips on nice weather days, I recommend checking out some of our walking and biking paths as a means of transportation around the city. Sometimes walking is an easier and more pleasant option, and gives you the chance to take in a little more of the city than you would get to see driving in a car or bus.
The Atlanta Beltline is a large system of mixed-use trails and green space being developed around the city. Any day of the week you can see people walking, biking, roller blading, or skating along the Beltline for pleasure or to access some of the many businesses now connected by the trail. Many places offer walking or bike tours along the Beltline.
The PATH trail system consists of over 300 miles of trails. One of our favorites is the 19 mile trail that runs from Downtown Atlanta to Stone Mountain. Regardless of where you are staying in the Atlanta area, there is likely a PATH trail near you!
Sounds great, but I don't travel with a Bicycle....
No Problem, Atlanta has Bicycle Rentals!
Relay Bike Share – There are many blue bikes across the city for rent through the Relay Bike Share program. You simply access an app, enter your account number, or tap your membership card to take a bike for a spin. You can return the bike to any Relay bike station, it does not have to be the same place you rented the bike. The rentals start at $3.50 for 30 minutes. There is a “hold” option if you want to get off the bike and then continue to use it later.
Many bike shops also rent bikes. If you are looking to rent a bike on the Beltline Eastside Trail, I recommend checking out the Atlanta Bicycle Barn. Chris and I both purchased bikes from there, and they are very courteous, helpful, and laid back. You can rent a regular bicycle for $5/hour (2 hour minimum) or an electric bike for $15/hour. Your rental includes a helmet, and you can rent a bike lock for $5.
Atlanta also has all of the usual car rental companies, but (for most travelers) I would strongly recommend NOT renting a car if you can avoid it.
Parking in Atlanta is hard to find, and often a pain in the ass. If you are lucky enough to find parking, it can be quite expensive, especially if there is an event going on nearby. Event parking is often $20 and up, as is overnight parking at many hotels. An hour or so can even run you $7 or more. So, if you plan on being within city limits during your time in Atlanta, I would highly recommend using ride share or public transportation. We live here and both had to keep our cars because we still drive to the suburbs for work, but once we get home we park them and rely almost entirely on walking, biking, ride share, or public transportation.
Renting a car would only be a good option if your travels include exploring outside the perimeter. If that is the case, you can rent a car at many places throughout the city instead of at the airport to use when you need it. That will help save you money in parking fees if you are staying at a hotel/AirBnb without free parking! However, if you are someone who loves the freedom of having a rental car, you can make it work, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Renting a car would also be an option if you are looking for a fun luxury experience. Looking to rent a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Maserati, or the like? Atlanta has you covered! While I haven’t had this experience, and cannot make an informed recommendation, there are multiple companies around Atlanta that offer exotic and luxury car rentals.
When I travel I use a variety of rental car companies depending on the deals I find. But in Atlanta, my preferred rental car company is Enterprise Rental Car. There is a location about 5 minutes from my condo that is super convenient, and they have a free van service that can drop you off or pick you up at nearby locations if needed.
Places to Stay
As with most big cities, you will not be at a loss for places to stay close to pretty much anything you hope to do. The most common options for lodging in Atlanta are the usual suspects:
a ton of hotels & AirBnb or VRBO, but there are a few other options as well.
- AirBnB & VRBO
- Couch Surfing
The most common and widely available choice for accommodations in Atlanta are hotels. Near our major sporting venues and famous attractions there are countless hotels to fit any budget.
With so many options, I don’t even know where to begin with hotel recommendations. It really depends on where you want to center your activities, budget, and preferred style. Hotel costs can vary by location and time of year, and hotel availability and cost can fluctuate around major events.
I am a sucker for unique or quirky hotels, or hotels with some sort of history to the place. These hotels are middle of the road in terms of cost for the Atlanta area as well. There are also budget options and high-end luxury options, so do not feel like you have to limit your search to these hotels. They are just a handful of my favorites.
Some of my favorite hotels in Atlanta are (in no particular order):
- The Hotel Clermont – Poncy Highlands / next to Ponce City Market & Beltline / above the world famous Clermont Lounge
- The Georgian Terrace – Midtown / across the street from the Fox Theatre / walk to restaurants / walk to the Shakespeare Tavern
- The Glenn Hotel – Downtown / walk to stadiums, museums, & more / rooftop bar
- The Artmore Hotel – Midtown / beautiful courtyard and garden bar / walk to shopping & nightlife
- The Ellis Hotel – Downtown / walk to stadiums, museums & more / right next Peachtree Center rail station
- W Atlanta – Midtown – Midtown / Awesome Spa / Rooftop Pool / walk to shopping & nightlife / walk to Botanical Garden & Piedmont Park
hotel search websites
One of my favorite websites for searching for hotels and the site I almost always check first is Hotwire.com. One of the ways to get a really good deal is to select one of what they call “Hot Rate Hotels”. I personally call them “Roulette Hotels” because you select the neighborhood and number of stars you prefer, then select a hotel based on the price and pay BEFORE you know the actual hotel you will be staying in, so its a little bit of a gamble. BUT, I have been using this feature to save money on hotels for years, and I have only had one experience where I was somewhat disappointed. The hotel was clean, safe, and in a good location… it just wasn’t as much of a bargain or amazing surprise as some of the others. More often than not I am pleasantly surprised by the outcome like the time I got to surprise Chris with a stay at the Waldorf Astoria Chicago for his birthday trip, or when we got to stay at the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans. I do not use the Hot Rate Hotel feature on Hotwire.com when I need a hotel in an exact location (ex. walking distance to a wedding/event/restaurant) versus a general area, or when I am planning a trip with other people. Hotwire.com also has traditional deals on hotels, where you pick an exact hotel and know the price before you book, but if you’re willing/able to take on the risk, the Hot Rate Hotels are always a much better bargain.
The other website that I always check when considering hotel options is Hotels.com. On Hotels.com, you are provided more traditional search results where you see the exact hotel and price prior to booking. Plus, if you stay a combination of 10 nights (at any hotel), you earn a free night. Chris and I earned a free night once, and used it to stay at the Bohemian Hotel Savannah Riverfront for my birthday one year.
There are plenty of other websites out there, but those are my personal favorites. I also always make sure to compare the prices listed on any general booking website against those listed on the hotel’s actual website. Sometimes you will find that hotels give discounted rates or other perks for booking direct, and it only takes a minute to look.
AirBnB & VRBO
I have not personally used AirBnB or VRBO in Atlanta, but I have used both platforms when traveling around the world and have yet to have a bad experience. I rely on conversations with the host and reviews of other travelers to make an informed decision about where to stay.
Prices for lodging on AirBnB and VRBO are often less than nearby hotels. Plus you can often find unique places to stay or places that can accommodate a large group better than traditional hotels. Another positive to this style of lodging, is that you can rent out an entire place, often giving you access to laundry machines, kitchens, and other comforts of home. Preparing a meal or two in your rental can be an easy way to save a little money or feel more like a local when traveling. We used VRBO to rent an apartment in Venice that was within walking distance to a local market. One of our favorite memories was shopping at the market and preparing our own locally sourced meal in the apartment looking out over the canals.
One thing to think about when deciding between a traditional hotel and renting a room/place from a host, is the timing of your travels and your needs. Hotels can be more flexible, with a front desk person staffed 24/7 to assist with late check-in, or a place to store luggage if you arrive early or leave late. However, when we arrived quite early in Paris, our wonderful AirBnB host allowed us to put our luggage in her residence while the AirBnB flat was being cleaned. All we had to do was ask!
While definitely more common in Europe, Atlanta does actually have a few hostels. I have not personally stayed in any of the hostels in Atlanta, but I greatly enjoyed my hostel experience at Balmer’s in Interlaken and some people swear by hostels when traveling worldwide. For any of these options please do your research and read reviews to figure out if either of them is right for you!
Atlanta Midtown Hostel is located within walking distance of all sorts of shopping and restaurants in the popular area of Midtown Atlanta. This hostel is unique in that it is in a large Victorian style house. Stays are in the $25 – $31 per night range, provide separate rooms for both male and female guests, and include WiFi, linens, and towels. Atlanta Midtown Hostel is rated 8.6 / 10 by reviewers on Hostelworld.com.
The Atlanta Men’s Hostel is a dorm style privately owned house providing lodging for guys only on the Southside of Atlanta near the West End MARTA Station (about 2 stops from downtown). Prices are around $50 – $60 per night and includes free parking and Wifi. This is a smaller place ran by Tim Ogletree who can be reached via cell at 404-643-5584 or email Tim.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. The Atlanta Men’s Hostel is rated 3.8 / 5 by reviewers on Google.
Couch Surfing & House Sitting
Two other budget (even free) options for lodging in Atlanta are couch surfing and house sitting. I have not tried couch surfing or house sitting, but many other people have and find it to be a way to travel on a budget and have a more authentic experience in a new place. Since I do not have firsthand experience with this, but know there are options available in Atlanta, I am including a few links to articles from other travelers who have used couch surfing or house sitting during their travels around the world to help you make an informed decision about these less common options.
After looking at reviews and the experiences of other people, couch surfing looks like a viable option for adventurous travelers looking to meet new people and really experience a new place. While there could be the occasional bad experience, it sounds like most the experiences are so amazing that people continue to travel this way. It sounds like this style of travel usually includes more interactions with hosts, sharing their space (a couch or sometimes a spare bedroom), and possibly having a guide or someone to pick you up from the airport/train station. The most important thing seems to be speaking to the hosts ahead of time and finding the right person to stay with in a city you plan to visit.
Want to make new friends & have a completely unique travel experience?
Find a Couch! Couchsurfing.com
Like couch surfing, it sounds like most of the experiences with house sitting have been positive. All it takes is a little research, and the willingness to take some time out of your vacation to care for the home, pets, and plants for your host. I am not the best with plants, but as an animal lover, I would love having a furry companion during my travels – especially cats! Compared to couch surfing, while you miss out on the company, expertise, and convenience of having the host at home, you also have a little more privacy, more space, and may feel less worried about bothering the host if you keep long hours.
Looking to save a little money on travel accommodations while helping someone out?
Find a House to Sit! TrustedHousesitters.com
I am not sure if people traveling to Atlanta realize the depth of the food scene that exists here. I know I did not fully appreciate it until I moved downtown. You can find pretty much any type of cuisine and creative cocktails that your heart desires, but as soon as you fall in love with a place it could disappear before your eyes as the Atlanta food scene is also ever evolving. Sure, there are a handful of restaurants that have been around forever, but even those often change their menu or style to stay relevant and bring in customers. And then there are the intentionally here today / gone tomorrow pop-ups that are almost always delicious and a fun experience.
While Atlanta has its fair share of awesome well-known tourist attractions, there are so many lesser known spots as well. Moving downtown has given us the opportunity to continue to seek out new things to do, and I know we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.
This list is by no means an exhaustive list of things to do in Atlanta, but I hope you are able to find a few new ideas to enhance your Atlanta experience!
It doesn’t matter what time of year you find yourself in Atlanta, there is never a shortage of festivals and events to explore – some better than others.
Atlanta for Cats!
Thinking of relocating to Atlanta with your cats and need recommendations?
Do you travel with a feline companion?
Do you love interacting with cats during your travels?
COMING SOON: My favorite spots for interacting with local cats and businesses that do their part to help the cats of Atlanta. Also, browse my recommendations on veterinarians, cat behaviorists, where to purchase cat supplies or products, and more!