Best Things to Do in Atlanta

BY Fifty Grande Editors | March 13, 2021

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Atlanta? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Atlanta?”

Pop quiz: Which city has the busiest airport in the world, is home to the College Football Hall of Fame and is a hub of Southern hospitality? How’d you guess!? But there’s a lot more to Atlanta than its 1.2 million-square-foot gold LEED-certified international airport, native quirks (more on that in a second) and sports. It’s an American gem of a city; a blend of the “old South” and diverse communities, of modern technology and traditions. It’s known for NASCAR, Civil War memorials, The World of Coca-Cola, Piedmont Park and hosting the 1996 Olympics. But the city really flexes with a stellar dining scene. You’ll find all types of cuisines that draw from the city’s immigrant population, and eateries that run the gamut from casual to high-end. There’s authentic Italian pizza and hot dogs that taste like they’re straight out of Chicago. There’s more than one place to get bagels and lox. It’s a fried chicken mecca. And of course, there’s amazing barbecue.

When here you’ll also notice a few quirks. For instance, life is sometimes framed in relation to I-285 interstate highway — the “Perimeter” — which effectively divides the city into two distinct parts. (Residents are either ITP or OTP — living inside or outside the perimeter). There’s a stereotype that the whole city is addicted to sweet tea, which nearly seems true. Another one’s about residents freaking out when there’s a forecast of snow. Also true. And though the encircling interstate can make it seem that Atlanta is a city strongly divided, nothing is further from the truth. The hometown of Dr. Martin Luther King lives up to its slogan as “The City Too Busy to Hate” and as a hub of Southern hospitality. Here’s what to do when you’re here.

You’re Here for Food. Start with Barbeque.

You won’t have problems finding the Southern goods in Atlanta. Grits, hominy, greens and, of course, fried chicken and barbecue are all staples in Atlanta. Grab some napkins and get tasting.  

Heirloom Barbecue in Atlanta
#1
Heirloom Barbecue in Atlanta

Heirloom Market BBQ

2243 Akers Mill Road, Atlanta, GA, USA

When you combine Southern and Korean BBQ, you get something unique. Whether you grab a brisket, pulled chicken or the restaurant’s top-seller spicy Korean pork, your taste buds won’t be disappointed. The ribs and chicken wings come with a unique Korean flare.

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Fox Bros BBQ in Atlanta
#2
Fox Bros BBQ in Atlanta

Fox Bros Bar-B-Q

1238 DeKalb Ave NE, Atlanta, GA, USA

Texas-raised twin brothers are a prime example of how hard it is to find a native Atlantean. Moving to Atlanta, the twins missed traditional spicy Texas BBQ. To satisfy their cravings, they opened Fox Bros Bar-B-Q. The sauce is spicy and filled with heat. The ribs are St. Louis style. Vegetarians will even find a sandwich and salads for them.

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Sweet Auburn Barbecue in Atlanta.
#3
Sweet Auburn Barbecue in Atlanta.

Sweet Auburn

656 North Highland Avenue Northeast, Atlanta, GA, USA

If you’re looking for a sweeter sauce, check out Sweet Auburn. You’ll find everything from brisket and smoked wings to barbecue shrimp scampi. When you get a craving for some Korean fare, you’re still at the right place. 

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You’re Also Here for Fried Chicken

Don’t forget, Atlanta may be a sleek, modern city, but it’s also in the South. You have to take time to try the fried chicken at least once.

Busy Bee Café in Atlanta.
#4
Busy Bee Café in Atlanta.

Busy Bee Café

810 Martin Luther King Junior Drive Southwest, Atlanta, GA, USA

When you want to experience real Southern fried chicken with all of the fixings, this cafe is the place to go. Fried fish and shrimp, along with barbecue ribs, are staples on the menu. Here, you can order either roasted or fried chicken, or why not try both? Despite your decision, you can’t pass on their signature fried chicken wings. What really drives people in is the Busy Bee’s Chicken & Waffles. It doesn’t get more Southern than this.

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Paschal’s in Atlanta.
#5
Paschal’s in Atlanta.

Paschal’s

180 Northside Drive Southwest, Atlanta, GA, USA

In the historic Castleberry Hill area you’ll find mouthwatering soul food. ATL is famous for its soul food that, of course, includes fried chicken. It’s one of Paschal’s signature dishes, along with black-eyed peas, collard greens and fried catfish. 

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Mary Mac's Tea Room in Atlanta
#6
Mary Mac's Tea Room in Atlanta

Mary Mac’s Tea Room

224 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA, USA

The Southern restaurant is a staple in Atlanta. It did close down for a few months due to COVID but is back open for pickup and delivery. You’ll hear locals talking about three things when you mention the restaurant. The first is fried chicken; the second is the chicken pot pies. Finally, you’re in the peach state, and you need a piece of their peach cobbler.

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The Colonnade in Atlanta
#7
The Colonnade in Atlanta

The Colonnade

1879 Cheshire Bridge Rd NE, Atlanta, GA, USA

The Colonnade is an Atlanta institution when it comes to fried chicken. Open since 1927, they’ve got the recipe perfected. Make sure you taste their warm, soft, straight-out-of-the-oven Southern rolls. The restaurant’s also known for a specialty drink, the Randy Rita: a top-shelf margarita named after a loyal customer.

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While in Town...

Buford Highway is where to go to experience an exceptional range of international cuisines. It’s a two-lane highway dotted with restaurants and markets, and more than a thousand immigrant-owned businesses, that draw from the area’s highly diverse population. You’ll find authentic Cuban, Dominican, Mexican, Korean and Vietnamese food, along with cuisines from about 15 more countries. The highway starts just north of midtown Atlanta and stretches northeast for 25 miles to the city of Duluth. If you want to know what to eat, we suggest taking this advice and trying “everything.” Due to current COVID restrictions, most eateries are only offering delivery and carryout. You’ll want to call and plan ahead before exploring.

 

How to Spend a Day

Atlanta isn’t a small city; you can’t cover it on foot. The MARTA transport system stops at most places you find in guidebooks, such as the Atlanta Zoo, along with some local secrets. There are also rideshare services that will take you to all of the must-see sights in ATL.

Folk Art Park in Atlanta
#8
Folk Art Park in Atlanta

Folk Art Park

Courtland St NE, Atlanta, GA, USA

The park recognizes the tradition of Southern folk art and its deep roots in the city. Featuring large-scale artwork, it’s an amazing and inspiring sight to see. The city founded the park in 1966 as a response to the more refined changes the Centennial Olympics brought to the city. It serves as a reminder and pays homage to the enduring art.

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High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
#9
High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.

High Museum of Art

1280 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA, USA

Located on Peachtree Street NE, the High Museum of Art opened in 1905. It houses over 11,000 works of art that include Monet, Ernst, Tournier and Tiepolo. It also hosts specific exhibitions throughout the year. 

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National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.
#10
National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.

National Center for Civil and Human Rights

100 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd NW, Atlanta, GA, USA

This museum and African American cultural institution is educational, spiritual and enlightening. It’s dedicated to the achievements the Civil Rights Movement has in the United States and worldwide. They also recognize and showcase the challenges the movement still faces in modern times.

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Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta.
#11
Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta.

Stone Mountain Park

1000 Robert E Lee Blvd, Stone Mountain, GA, USA

Boasting 3,200 acres, Stone Mountain Park is excellent for camping and hiking or just disconnecting for a while. There are water sports available, a hotel complete with several amenities, and you’ll also find an antebellum mansion, along with the 22-acre Civil War battlefield.

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Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.
#12
Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.

Oakland Cemetery

248 Oakland Ave SE, Atlanta, GA, USA

Within a mile of downtown Atlanta lies the city’s oldest public park. Even though they sold the last grave plots in 1884, burials still occur. Most are in family plots, and the others are in areas purchased by the city. Most notably, former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson lies to rest here.

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Ponce City Market in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.
#13
Ponce City Market in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.

Ponce City Market

675 Ponce De Leon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA, USA

It’s not just a market; it’s an entire community. Ponce City Market is the one-stop shopping destination. Along with a food hall, there are also clothing stores, restaurants, coffee cafes and even a thriving happy hour scene. Whatever you want or need, it’s probably at the market.

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Neighborhoods to Know

Here are the areas you need to know when you’re in Atlanta.

Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.
#14
Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock

Old Fourth Ward

Old Fourth Ward, Atlanta, GA, USA

Better known as O4W, it’s the oldest neighborhood in Atlanta. It got its name in 1854 when the city council decided to divide the area. To keep it separate from the new neighborhood, residents added “old” to the moniker. It’s also the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr.

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Midtown Atlanta. Photo by Shutterstock.
#15
Midtown Atlanta. Photo by Shutterstock.

Midtown

Midtown Atlanta, Atlanta, GA, USA

Bars, restaurants and coffee shops are scattered throughout midtown, along with some great neighborhood parks. It’s an urban neighborhood filled with energetic, young professionals.

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Downtown Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.
#16
Downtown Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.

Downtown

Downtown Atlanta, Atlanta, GA, USA

Sightseeing in downtown Atlanta will take more than a day, and you’ll want to get a guided tour of the state capitol. The historic center of the city boasts great shopping and world-famous restaurants, along with plenty of attractions that include the Centennial Park District.

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Little Five Points in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.
#17
Little Five Points in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.

Little Five Points

Little Five Points, Atlanta, GA, USA

More of a district than a neighborhood, marked by a bright red building, it’s a shopper’s paradise. Established in the early 1900s as a commerce center, it’s only expanded into a neighborhood devoted to merchants.

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Must-Try Live Music Spots

Atlanta is a city alive with music, especially at night. When you want to hear some great tunes, check out these favorite spots.

Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.
#18
Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.

Fox Theatre

660 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA, USA

When you want a Broadway show, ballet or comedy, the Fox Theatre is the place to go. You can also catch concerts and tours here. 

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Atlanta, GA - February 27th, 2018: British alternative rock back Nothing But Thieves opening for Awolnation at Tabernacle concert hall in Atlanta.
#19
Atlanta, GA - February 27th, 2018: British alternative rock back Nothing But Thieves opening for Awolnation at Tabernacle concert hall in Atlanta.

The Tabernacle

152 Luckie St NW, Atlanta, GA, USA

Built in 1910 and now an award-winning concert hall, you’ll hear amazing music from local musicians and from around the world. You’ll find The Tabernacle in downtown ATL just inside Centennial Olympic Park.

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Masquerade in Atlanta.
#20
Masquerade in Atlanta.

The Masquerade

75 Martin Luther King Junior Drive Southwest, Atlanta, GA, USA

Atlanta’s nightlife is in full gear at this live music venue. It caters to all music styles and boasts some of the most eclectic decor you’ll find in any music club.

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Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta.
#21
Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta.

Smith’s Olde Bar

1578 Piedmont Ave NE, Atlanta, GA, USA

Opened in 1993, you’ll find food, drinks and great music at this venue. Tickets are affordable to the shows, and you get to experience the city’s thriving music scene.

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Cool and Unusual

Ready to try or see something new? Here’s a look at Atlanta’s cool and unusual shops and activities.

The Junkman’s Daughter in Atlanta.
#22
The Junkman’s Daughter in Atlanta.

The Junkman’s Daughter

464 Moreland Ave NE, Atlanta, GA, USA

Want to get something unique from Atlanta? The Junkman’s Daughter is the perfect place. You’ll find eccentric trinkets along with clothing, posters and much more. It’s not far from Five Points and impossible to miss.

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Switchyards Ping Pong Club in Atlanta.
#23
Switchyards Ping Pong Club in Atlanta.

Switchyards Ping Pong Club

151 Ted Turner Drive Northwest, Atlanta, GA, USA

In the middle of downtown Atlanta’s corporate buildings is the Switchyards Ping Pong Club. Go in to play or watch a tournament. There’s even a bar to relax in between sets.

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Atlanta, GA, - A glass full of Coca Cola painted in a old wall in Atlanta. The city is the home of Coca Cola. Photo via Shutterstock.
#24
Atlanta, GA, - A glass full of Coca Cola painted in a old wall in Atlanta. The city is the home of Coca Cola. Photo via Shutterstock.

Coca-Cola Secret Formula Vault

121 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA, USA

See where 125 years of history is kept in the Coca-Cola Vault. Open to the public, you can see the vault, but you can’t go in. The secret formula will forever remain a mystery…

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Atlanta, Georgia: December 19, 2019: The Center for Puppetry Arts, which is the largest organization dedicated to the art of puppetry. The Center for Puppetry Arts was established in 1978. Photo via Shutterstock.
#25
Atlanta, Georgia: December 19, 2019: The Center for Puppetry Arts, which is the largest organization dedicated to the art of puppetry. The Center for Puppetry Arts was established in 1978. Photo via Shutterstock.

Center for Puppetry Arts

1404 Spring St NW, Atlanta, GA, USA

Puppet lovers will rejoice at a museum and interactive center dedicated to their old friends and favorite characters. Along with the two galleries and shows, there are also traveling exhibits that include Jim Henson’s nostalgic creations.

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Other Favs

Atlanta has more sights than you can see in a day or even a week. Here are a few consistent crowd pleasers.

College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Photo via Shutterstock.
#26
Atlanta, GA - View of the the College Football Hall of Fame, of the National Football Foundation (NFF), located near Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo via Shutterstock.

College Football Hall of Fame

250 Marietta St NW, Atlanta, GA, USA

Want to see memorabilia from the greatest college football players of all time? The Hall of Fame is where you want to go. Along with the museum, there are also plenty of interactive events. 

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The Georgia Aquarium facade at night in Atlanta, Georgia. The boat shaped landmark is the world's largest aquarium with more than 8 million gallons of water. Photo by Shutterstock.
#27
The Georgia Aquarium facade at night in Atlanta, Georgia. The boat shaped landmark is the world's largest aquarium with more than 8 million gallons of water. Photo by Shutterstock.

Georgia Aquarium

225 Baker St NW, Atlanta, GA, USA

The largest aquarium in the world is in Atlanta. The Georgia Aquarium houses over 100,000 sea creatures, including whale sharks. You’ll also see penguins and gators among the live exhibits.

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Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta. Photo by Shutterstock.
#28
Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta. Photo by Shutterstock.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History

767 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA, USA

The three-floor museum covers all aspects of natural history. It also puts on shows, exhibits and movies to make your learning experience fun and interactive.

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Chattahoochee River in Atlanta. Photo by Shutterstock.
#29
Chattahoochee River in Atlanta. Photo by Shutterstock.

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

1978 Island Ford Parkway, Sandy Springs, GA, USA

When you want to take a break from the city and head outdoors, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area comes packed with places to hike, explore and relax. There’s also fishing and boating on the river during the warm summer months.  

 

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