Atlanta is full of history, charm, and true southern hospitality. In the 80s, the construction boom brought in transplants from all over the country. Atlanta was a city on the move and has grown by literally millions of people in the last decade. Unlike other major cities, which have grown taller, Atlanta has grown out. There are more trees and greenery in Atlanta than any other major metropolitan area I’ve ever seen.
Atlanta is the home of the World’s Busiest Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. With two major carriers, Delta and Airtran, it’s really easy to get a cheap flight here and back home again. While you’re here, make use of Atlanta’s public transit system MARTA. Using the trains and/or busses on the Marta system, you can get to just about anywhere you want to go without a lot of fuss. For points of interest Outside the Perimeter, you will probably want to rent a car.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
If you’re into outdoor beauty, Atlanta is your city. Sort of. For outdoorsy activities, September through May are your best months. June, July, and August are steamy and miserable (not to mention smog filled) months for Atlantans.
- Piedmont Park – Atlanta’s “Common Ground” since 1904, is located approximately 2 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta. It would take a week to experience all that you can do in Piedmont Park. There is a dog park, picnic areas, and playgrounds. You can grill, fish, picnic, bike, skate, swim, play tennis, watch the birds or walk your dog. It’s the site of Atlanta’s annual Dogwood Festival, Jazz Festival, and a myriad of other festivals, concerts and events.
- Centennial Olympic Park – The site of the 1996 Summer Olympics, there are a ton of great things to do here. Take in a free concert. Get wet while playing in the Fountain of Rings. Rest on a bench while the children run and play in the playground. Coming during the winter holidays? Check out the ice skating rink or the Holiday in Lights. Just want to take it all in? Grab a blanket and spread out for a picnic on the grass and just people watch.
- Kennesaw Mountain Battleground – If you’re into battlefield history, nature, or just great picnic areas Kennesaw Mountain National Battleground Park is right up your alley. It’s OTP and you’ll need to have your own wheels to get there, but it’s worth it. Weekends and major holidays, the road up the mountain is closed to direct traffic and shuttle busses provide transportation for $2 for adults, $1 for children over 6, free for children 6 and under.
- Chattahoochee Nature Center – CNC is dedicated to introducing people to the ecology of the Chattahoochee River watershed and works to provide a learning environment that allows people to better understand their impact on the natural world and make informed decisions. $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $2 Children 3 – 12, Free for children under 3.
- Stone Mountain Park – We go here at least 2 or 3 times a year, more if we can swing it. We love Stone Mountain Park. It costs $8 per car load (less than 14 people) and $20 for more for 14 and more. There are paid attractions inside, but the most enjoyable parts of the park are free. Our family goes to watch the free nightly laser show and fireworks on the carved face of the mountain.
MUSEUMS AND TOURS
When you’re playing “tourist” history is pretty high on the list. Atlanta has a full and rich history. You’ll definitely want to pay a visit to the places below.
- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site – From the website: “The Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site includes a number of facilities that are operated in partnership with the National Park Service, Ebenezer Baptist Church and The King Center. Within these facilities the visitor can learn about Dr. King’s life and and his influence on others.” Admissions and Parking are FREE.
- Atlanta Cyclorama – An excerpt from City Search’s review: “A cyclorama is a theater-in-the-round, affording a 360-degree view of a story as depicted on a massive painting. Only three cycloramas survive, and Atlanta’s, built in 1921, is considered the best. It permanently hosts the world’s largest oil painting. The painting depicts the Civil War’s Battle of Atlanta, a bloody event that cost 12,000 American lives and led to the fall of Atlanta.”
- The Georgia State Capitol Building – From Citysearch.com: “Visitors get acquainted with the spectacular golden dome outside and the marble interiors of the Capitol. You’ll learn about the state’s voting process, assigned seating in the Senate and practical joke-playing legislators. You can see a replica of Georgia’s official state reptile, the gopher tortoise, along with a stuffed armadillo, a black bear and a number of other animals and plants native to the state in the modest museum on the fourth floor.” Admission is FREE.
- Georgia Governor’s Mansion – Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 10:00 to 11:30 you can tour the Governor’s Mansion in Atlanta. The mansion is filled with museum quality antiques and is full of history. If you love either of those things, you may want to check it out. Admission is FREE.
Now we’re getting down to my favorite part. When I tour other cities, I am all about the museums and the sites. We can snap pictures of beautiful architecture and discuss the beauty of the plant life… but I am in love with trying out the local cuisine. When you get to Atlanta, give these a try!
- The Varsity – Forget high brow eats in Atlanta. Our first food love is The Varsity. Known for being the World’s Largest Drive-in Restaurant, you’ll hear shouts of “What’ll Ya Have!” coming from all over. This is comfort food at its finest! Hot dogs, hamburgers, chili, fried pies, French fries and onion rings… any way you want them. WARNING: If you have high cholesterol, this is NOT the place for you! Everyone else, bring your appetite (and maybe some Tums).
- Fat Matt’s Rib Shack – The South is famous for barbecue. Fat Matt’s is one of the best. The restaurant itself isn’t much bigger than a walk-in closet, but the live blues, barbecue, Brunswick stew and cold beer keep the people lined out the door all evening long. If you make it to Atlanta and get a hankering for barbecue, Fat Matt’s Rib Shack is for you. Rather have chicken? Fat Matt’s Chicken Shack is right next door!
- Eats – A cafeteria style restaurant, there are no frills in the décor. ALL of the effort is put into the food. Big portions, good food, low cost. If you’re not looking for ambiance, you’ll really enjoy your meal at Eats.
- The Real Chow Baby – From the website: The Real Chow Baby is Atlanta’s first and only create-your-own stir-fry restaurant, complete with a market-fresh stir-fry bar and the hottest grill in the Southeast. The Real Chow Baby gives you the opportunity to make your own unique culinary creation with a delicious blend of Asian and American flavors that you choose yourself.
- Papi’s Cuban & Caribbean Grill – I haven’t made it to Papi’s yet, but here is a review from Access Atlanta “A simple and unassuming spot and after a few mojitos you will think you really are in Havana. The food tasted homemade and delicious. This is not for the “weight watchers” crowd because you will want to finish your plate. I love this place!! I suggest you go on off nights like late evening mid week or late sat nite if you don’t want to stand up and eat!! Now stop reading and go eat!!! NOW GO!!!!”
That should be enough to get you started. Look me up when you get to town!
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Are you from Atlanta, or just familiar with it? Do you have favorite frugal places to visit? I need more new ideas!