In the heart of the South, Atlanta has a decidedly cosmopolitan and fast-paced ambiance, attracting visitors with its thriving restaurant scene and abundant cultural attractions. People from all over the country have relocated to this commercial hub, contributing to the city's unique feel. The new Atlanta is progressive and eclectic: Museums and performance venues bring in the culture hounds, just as verdant parks attract outdoorsy types. Meanwhile, families flock to the city's larger-than-life aquarium and World of Coca-Cola.
Whatever your preferred vacation, you could easily spend the brunt of a two- or three-day trip in the downtown area, exploring the most popular and best things to do. In the evening, migrate to the trendy Buckhead and Westside neighborhoods for a taste of Atlanta's thriving restaurant scene and hopping nightlife.
The best time to visit Atlanta is from March to May, when you can take advantage of mild weather while enjoying the city's concerts and outdoor activities. Though you'll also have access to various events between June and August, Atlanta summers are notoriously hot and humid, and room rates are at their highest. To save a few bucks, try planning a trip in December, January or February, when hotel prices dive and cooler temperatures drive visitors away. Foodies will especially love late winter's events. You may also find a good deal in September, October or November when one of Atlanta's large music festivals isn't taking place, but like summer, autumn falls during the Atlantic hurricane season, so you may encounter weather issues if a storm passes through.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
Although Atlanta is situated in the Deep South, it lacks the typical Southern charm that you find in cities like Savannah or Charleston. Rather, Atlanta is big, bustling and mostly occupied by professionals who have moved into the city for business. As part of the effort to become one of the most progressive cities in the South, these new residents chose to build up a modern skyline. Atlanta now has one of the tallest buildings in the U.S. (the Bank of America Plaza) and hosts major companies like Coca-Cola, UPS and Home Depot.
Atlanta also a stronghold in show business, as the headquarters of Turner Broadcasting, CNN and several hip-hop record companies like BME Recordings, So So Def Recordings and Grand Hustle Records. What's more, many artists have called Atlanta home, including Usher, Ludacris, T.I. and Lil Jon. Several popular movies and television shows (think: "The Vampire Diaries," "The Blind Side" and "Zombieland") have been filmed in the area as well.
But the city's culture is still tied to its roots, particularly in the country's civil rights movement. Atlanta was the birth city of Martin Luther King Jr., and it holds a large contingent of influential groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Once a city with its fair share of racial tensions and protests, Atlanta is now the "city too busy to hate," a label a growing mix of residents proudly stand by. The city also has an active gay community and hosts one of the largest gay pride parades in the country every October.
Atlanta may be quickly climbing the country's culinary ranks, but that doesn't mean it's left its traditional Southern roots behind. The Big Peach is known for hearty comfort foods like fried okra, fried chicken and sweet tea, but a growing immigrant population is broadening the playing field. For everything from Korean to Peruvian, head to Buckhead, where most of Atlanta's top dining spots are located. Also save time for one of Atlanta's up-and-coming foodie neighborhoods: West Midtown.
If you're looking for a more upscale meal, travelers recommend steakhouses like Bones, The Capital Grille and Chama Gaucha Brazilian Steakhouse and contemporary American establishments, such as Canoe and The Optimist. But if want to grab a more casual (and affordable) bite to eat, Fat Matt's Rib Shack, the Atlanta Breakfast Club and Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q are favorites, as are ethnic options like Aviva by Kameel and Desta Ethiopian Kitchen. Meanwhile, visitors suggest quenching your thirst at the Prohibition-style speak-easy Red Phone Booth.
Although the main touristy areas are generally safe, you should still use common sense when maneuvering around a big city like Atlanta. Do not flash valuables and use caution when walking around, especially at night. Be extra mindful of your surroundings when visiting neighborhoods in southwest Atlanta.
The best way to get around Atlanta is by MARTA, Atlanta's public transportation system. MARTA operates both bus and rail lines throughout the city and into nearby suburbs. For $2.50 per person, you can take the Red or Gold train from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), which sits about 10 miles south of downtown. You can also use the city's newest mode of transportation, the Atlanta Streetcar, to get to locales not within walking or biking distance of one another, but this system only stops by select downtown and Eastside attractions. Driving – though notoriously hectic here – is another option, and you'll find rental car kiosks in the airport. Taxis and ride-hailing apps are available as well, but expect high rates due to time spent sitting in traffic.See details for Getting Around
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