Most travelers usually only see the inside of the ATL airport. Frequent fliers [especially] have a love/hate relationship with the airport because of the sheer volume of people and overpriced food. In reality, Atlanta is actually pretty awesome! There are LOTS of thing to do and cool places to visit if you have a few hours or days.
I have an office in Atlanta and travel here very frequently. The biggest single piece of advice I can offer is if you have the ability to use public transportation – TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT. Atlanta traffic (much like the ATL airport) is absolutely insane, especially anytime around rush hour. To answer your next question; Yes, I have lived in Los Angeles however metro Atlanta (inside I-285) is just as bad as LAX.
Atlanta’s downtown area looks like a bustling business district full of skyscrapers. Spoiler alert: It is. Don’t get discouraged, downtown Atlanta has a bunch of really cool things to do, all some-what walkable (read: Bring some comfy shoes, you’ll need them). MARTA is your best choice of transportation in to downtown as there are three main stations that get you into the southern, central and northern side of downtown.
Things to do on the southern side of downtown (5 Points)
- CNN Center
- Centennial Park
- Philips Arena
- Georgia Dome
Thing to do in central downtown (Peachtree station)
Things to do on the northern side of downtown (Civic Center)
- Coke-a-cola museum
- Georgia Aquarium
Midtown Atlanta is a fantastic place to visit! There are tons of amazing restaurants with every type of food imaginable.
Midtown is just north of Downtown reachable via MARTA using the North Avenue or Midtown stations.
Peachtree Street is where all the bars, restaurants and nightlife is, however there are TONS of amazing places just off of Peactree by a block or two. Everything is walkable and uber’s are great option when you’re tired!
On the northern side of Midtown, visit Piedmont Park; a great place to relax or get your run on. If you’re in town during their music festivals, Piedmont Park is an awesome outdoor venue (assuming the weather cooperates).
Downtown and Midtown don’t have a centralized place to shop. Many high-end retailers may have a random stand-alone store, however no mall. So what does one do when they want to purchase high-end stuff in Atlanta? Jump on the MARTA Red Line or hop in the car – Buckhead is 15’ish minutes north of the city and fairly easy to find.The first thing you’ll notice traffic. Even when traffic isn’t horrible on the highway or in the city, you can count on horrible traffic in Buckhead. Most everything is centralized to Peachtree Road and radiates from the Lennox Square Mall. Let me iterate, traffic SUCKS in this area. Red lights in Buckhead seem to be viewed as recommendations, not the law – as an avid runner, I was nearly ran over 3 times during a simple 2 mile run.
From my nerdy perspective, the coolest thing about Buckhead is the architectural designs of the office buildings. You’ll see oddly shaped, tapered buildings with crazy overhangs dozens of stories above street level – reminiscent of Downtown Altanta.
The nightlife is popping in Buckhead with the who’s who and random Tinder dates trying to impress someone at one of countless restaurants and lounges in the area. You can find almost any type of food your pallet desires – be sure to make reservations, in the middle of August it was tough to get into some places.