The out of town visitor's guide to downtown Atlanta

June 12,2017

Rose Kennedy for the AJC

Hello, downtown Atlanta! Whether you're visiting the home of Coca-Cola, the Braves and the 1996 Olympic Games as a convention-goer, tourist or business traveler, downtown Atlanta is a cosmopolitan southern destination chock full of attractions, festivals and top-rate accommodations and eateries.

Following a few know-before-you-go tips will make your visit to downtown Atlanta even more enjoyable. Here's how Atlanta insiders make the most of a visit to downtown Atlanta.

It's all about attractions.

Downtown Atlanta has many draws for the tourist, conference-goer and business traveler alike. Just a few of the high points include the following:

The Atlanta Aquarium 
Situated across the street from the north end of Centennial Olympic Park, the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere has literally hundreds of thousands of fish and marine animals..

The Fabulous Fox Theatre 
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 4,678-seat theater books more than 300 performances every year, including Broadway favorites like "The Lion King," "Mama Mia!," "Rent" and "Hamilton."

Ponce City Market

A recent (six years ago) addition to the must-do downtown Atlanta attractions, Ponce City Market features the hottest events and a sweet mix of dining and shopping. Just a few of its most appealing features include the City Winery, WonderRoots Artist's Market and the rooftop amusement park known as Skyline Park, which opened in summer 2016.

Piedmont Park 
With over 180 acres of open space, walking trails, tennis courts and playgrounds, Atlanta's most central park is great fun for the outdoorsy traveler, and also features a seemingly endless array of festivals throughout the year. To navigate your way through all the park has to offer, don't forget your map.
Accessible history and culture are woven throughout the city.

History and culture buffs visiting downtown Atlanta won't want to miss the Carter Presidential Center Carter Center and adjoining Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum (collectively known as the Carter Presidential Center) on a 35-acre park east of Downtown Atlanta.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights 
An inspiring and empowering cultural attraction, the Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta employs imagery, artifacts and storytellingto to connect the civil rights movement in America to the global human rights movement. 

Amazing restaurants

Downtown Atlanta is a foodie's paradise, and also just a great spot to grab a quick snack or sit down to some homestyle family cooking. Standout lunchtime eats include "meat and three" at places like Fred's Country Kitchen; a gourmand's delight in downtown Atlanta means places such as White Oak Kitchen, a chef-driven spot with dishes including lobster mac 'n cheese, New York strip and duck confit. Coal oven pizzerias, ethnic sit-down spots with diverse options including German, Mediterranean and Asian are all available, too. And don't forget the food truck scene, like the spring and summer Food Truck Fridays at Broad Street Plaza at the Five Points MARTA Station in downtown.

You can also peruse the map of cheap eats in downtown Atlanta if you're a foodie on a budget.

And if you're looking to dash before you dine, consider these restaurants that are within walking distance of nearby Piedmont Park.

Need-to-go nightspots

A tourist or convention-goer who loves the nightlife can find it all within walking distance of popular downtown Atlanta hotels. Whether you're seeking a restaurant, lounge or night club, downtown Atlanta has a hot spot for that. Take your pick of celebrity hangouts like Staplehouse in the Old 4th Ward, sultry singers at cool lounges and very special spots for cocktails or live music from this handy list.

Take the direct route from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to downtown Atlanta.

Ready to roll into downtown Atlanta? To make the easiest entrance to downtown from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport by car, expect about a 15- to 30-minute drive of about 12 miles using this route.

If you aren't planning to bring a car into Atlanta as you tour downtown or attend a conference, consider a shuttle. Or, Atlanta's super efficient  MARTA train system offers practical and affordable transportation into the city from the airport.

The airport MARTA station is in the domestic terminal of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, and you can also walk, take a bus or request a car service such as Uber to your nearest MARTA station. Find a station map and train schedule to help you navigate from place to place and handy tips to keep in mind as you come and go on MARTA.

If you're new to Uber, you can even use promo code MARTAGuide to get $20 off your first Uber ride.