A Traveling Insider’s Guide to Atlanta

Let our expert travel guide show you why an Atlanta getaway should be the next trip on your list. | By Paul Oswell | June 14, 2022

Atlanta is one of the American South’s most cosmopolitan cities. It has a dynamic and fast-paced character that stands out in the region, backing up its claim as The Capital of the New South. A buzzing movie industry and a hosting stint for the 1996 Olympic Games have meant regular investment, resulting in an exciting, cultural powerhouse. Here’s how to make the most of your Atlanta getaway:

  • Bask in culture: From Coca-Cola to national history, there’s a museum for every interest

  • Witness history: The city encompasses important landmarks from the civil rights movement, including the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park

  • Fuel up: Discover that famous Southern hospitality, along with an exploding New South culinary movement

Young woman standing in Piedmont Park Atlanta
Enjoy nature and gorgeous views of Atlanta from Piedmont Park.

Why visit Atlanta?

Atlanta still has all the elements that make the Deep South such an alluring place to explore. It’s a city that’s brimming with sincere hospitality and charm, and you can find enough delicious, deep-fried comfort food to last a lifetime.

Atlanta’s fascinating history has had huge influences on the present, and events that will help shape the future. It’s a center of transformation, from the days of the Civil War when General Sherman broke the Confederate defenses, to being the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It has always been a politically exciting city, and its new role as a moviemaking hub brings an exciting, creative edge.

Nowhere is this new culture more apparent than in hip neighborhoods such as Little Five Points, with its colorful murals and craft beer bars. East Atlanta Village is also a trendy spot and typifies Atlanta’s indie spirit with its live music venues and LGBTQ+ scene. Civil War and civil rights history shaped the Old Fourth Ward (known locally as O4W).

In general, Atlanta is a vast sprawl of contemporary urban architecture. It might seem like it’s overwhelmed by concrete, but it is also home to developments such as the Atlanta BeltLine, a beautiful multi-use trail and green space, and one of the South's most exciting redevelopment projects. Centennial Olympic Park offers another sprawling greenspace, originally designed for the 1996 Olympics. Piedmont Park also has biking and walking trails, a tranquil lake and fabulous views of the downtown skyline.

As well as the civil rights museums, more American icons are on display in the city’s museums. The World of Coca-Cola is a temple to a global phenomenon, or for more cerebral exhibits, head to the High Museum of Art which counts Monet and Matisse among its impressive collection. The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum is here, and neighborhoods such as the Virginia-Highland district are like living museums, with its historical Craftsman homes and cottages.

The city is serious about claiming its spot as the leading cultural center of the New South, and it’s the perfect time to see what all the fuss is about.

When is the best time for your trip to Atlanta?

As with most destinations in the American South, the most pleasant times to visit by far are spring and fall. The locals aren’t joking when they call the city Hotlanta, as the summers here can be extremely hot and humid.

From March through to May, for example, visitors can really enjoy the milder weather, fresh sunny days and a wealth of outdoor concerts and entertainment options. There are also large music festivals in the fall but watch out for these weekends if you aren’t planning to attend as they can drive up hotel prices. Late summer and early fall are also within Atlanta’s hurricane season, and the city can be prone to bad storms.

Atlanta’s winters are fairly mild, though temperatures can drop in the evenings — a perfect excuse to enjoy the city’s many indoor entertainment options.

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Getting to and around Atlanta

Atlanta is served by the huge Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). It is regularly cited as one of the world’s busiest airports and is a hub for several airlines. It is located around 11 miles from downtown Atlanta and is connected by trains on the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) network.

Atlanta’s traffic is rightly joked about as being heavy sometimes, but for a large city in the South, it has a relatively decent public transportation network. MARTA’s transit rail system can get you to most of the popular neighborhoods, and it’s backed up by buses and a newish trolley service.

Biking is fine within specific neighborhoods, especially the smaller ones, as well as green spaces such as the BeltLine but it’s not really recommended for cross-city travel.

Atlanta’s culture and customs

Atlanta is geographically part of the South, but this region’s stronger characteristics are more in the background, and Atlanta feels more modern and cosmopolitan. Do a deep dive on Atlanta’s storied history at the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead. Black culture, both historic (civil rights) and contemporary (hip-hop) is widely celebrated here, and a diverse population is bolstered by a steady stream of transplants from across the country. Many large corporations have their headquarters here, so there’s a huge focus on commerce. There’s also a strong LGBTQ+ scene, and the city hosts one of the largest Pride parades in the country.

From the Civil War to the civil rights movement, Atlanta’s history is fascinating and important. Add to that a thriving culinary scene and diverse music and art offerings, and you have a vacation destination that is sure to please.

Paul Oswell is a British award-winning journalist and published travel author based in New Orleans, Louisiana in the United States. His books include Bucket List North America and The Great American Road Trip, as well as New Orleans' Historic Hotels. He has also been an editor of and contributor to several guide books/editions published by Dorling Kindersley (owned by Penguin), including New Orleans, Florida, Orlando, Los Angeles, California and The United States. His work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure (both of which he has written multiple online travel guides for) and The Guardian, as well as dozens of international newspaper and magazine titles, and inflight magazines for major airlines.

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