With Atlanta, it took us a while. Time to digest our two visits (2012, 2016), to put all our ideas in place, but also to love this city (like many others). Our first impression on the capital of Georgia was initially mixed. In two days, in 2012, we saw a spectacular downtown, highways running through the city, Maousses animations but also some green districts and a little discreet potential. In 2016, four years later, we took it in a completely different way by spending more time there. And there, Georgia’s largest city conquered us, showing other facets, quite trendy. What to see? What to do about it? Where to eat and where to sleep? What to visit? We tell you everything you need to know to make a successful discovery of Atlanta with this city guide.
Before we go, almost everyone has already heard about Atlanta. Martin Luther King, “Gone with the Wind”, the 1996 Olympic Games, “Walking Dead”, Coca-Cola… In the activities, there are the traditional “big Bertha” style activities (Georgia aquarium, CNN, Coca-Cola, Centennial Park), with which we will start, but for a more in-depth, less superficial discovery, closer to the inhabitants, there is something to do. Let’s go for the “Big Peach”, the “Big Fishing”, the emblem of the State of Georgia, the “Peach State”.
WHAT TO VISIT IN ATLANTA?
WALKING AROUND THE CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK
In the heart of downtown, it is one of the city’s lungs and the Centennial Olympic Park, 85,000m2, is also one of the symbols of Atlanta’s renewal. Created in 1996 for the Summer Olympics, it is often used as a starting point for visitors. A few fountains, a few sculptures, we can’t talk about a must, but nevertheless, the Centennial is central (CNN, Coca, the aquarium, the stadiums are just next door) and dear to the heart of the inhabitants. On July 27, 1996, during the Olympics, it was here that a bomb attack killed two people (including one from a heart attack) and injured 111 others.
SEE CNN JOURNALISTS AT WORK
“Fake news”, would tweet dear Donald while visiting CNN headquarters. For us, it was a mandatory part of our first visit. Obviously, we are journalists in real life and we wanted to see one of the biggest, if not the biggest, information machinery in the world, created in 1980. CNN introduced the concept of 24/24 news. In short, the CNN Center can be visited. You can simply push the doors down to the lobby or take a 50-minute guided tour ($15/adult) to see some of the backstage. We remember the gigantic deskeurs’ desks, the weather stage with a green background, a live tour of the stage (behind a window of race) and a rather nice souvenir photo behind a desk.
LOOK FOR THE SECRET RECIPE OF COCA AT THE WORLD OF COCA COLA COLA
Atlanta and Coca Cola, it’s a story that works. Coke is a southern business. The firm is based in the capital of Georgia and it is a little bit thanks to her that the city hosted the 1996 Olympic Games. Thanks to lobbying, the company did not go light (haha) in Atlanta and opened a “museum”, World of Coca Cola, which is far from being zero (you still have it?). On several floors, an ode to the brand. The history of the recipe (which would be hidden in a safe, well-marketed route), the evolutions of the brand (and in particular the fantastic story of New Coke in 1985 which caused almost a state affair) and finally, the favorite part of all (except diabetics), a room to taste all the Coca Cola products around the world.
If you want to try Sparberry from Zimbabwe or Tanzanian Stoney Tangawizi, this is your time.
SAY HELLO TO THE GIANT PANDAS AT THE ATLANTA ZOO
Same remark as for the aquarium above. The zoo has its fans and critics, but the Atlanta zoo has a strong argument, and even several, black and white with a plush head. It is one of four zoos in the United States to shelter giant pandas. And who are we to refuse to see a panda? I’m asking you to.
So we visited the zoo during our 2016 visit and had a good time, especially with the koalas
WALK IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MARGARET MITCHELL AT HIS MUSEUM……
Margaret Mitchell, it doesn’t automatically speak to everyone in France. On the other hand, if I tell you Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler, it’s starting to interest more people. Yes, Margaret Mitchell, Atlanta icon, is the author of “Gone with the Wind“. Historical fresco on the society of the southern states and the tragedies of the Civil War.
In Atlanta, you can find its museum, listed on the national register of historic sites, which we visited. He is in the three-storey Tudor Revival building (1900), in which the young writer, who has not been spared life outright, wrote her Pulitzer Prize. A good time and beautiful lighting on her work, which she wrote on the ground floor of this building.
While the premiere cinema, Loew’s Grand Theatre, has been razed to the ground, the Georgian Terrace Hotel, which hosted the gala evening, still hosts guests.
TAKE A LITTLE FIVE-POINT GILL BOWL
Looking at it, every good-sized US city has a trendy neighborhood in its boxes. Mission or Haight Ashbury in SF, Deep Ellum in Dallas, Ballard in Seattle, Alberta and others in Portland… In Atlanta, it’s Little Five Points, a good concentration of trendy stores and bars a few blocks away. A little alternative culture in the Atlanta Eastside. Little Five Points was ranked #16 in the “Best Hipster Neighborhoods” by Forbes magazine.
As you stroll through the colourful streets between the graffiti (look for the works of local artist R. Land), you will be given some good addresses. First, there is The Vortex Bar & Grill. First of all, his entrance, a skull, is quite insane. Secondly, I hear his burgers are divine (we weren’t hungry yet). Then go to the Junkman’s Daughterliterally “the flea marketer’s daughter”. In this huge store (930m2), find colours of madness, groovy, sexy, offbeat. As if Alice (“in Wonderland”) had opened a store under LSD. Check upstairs for the shoes. Other address :Criminal Records a great record store for music fans. And finally, The Porter Beer Bar to have a little one. A wide variety of beers but, unfortunately, a very small terrace for this establishment.
> Addresses: The Vortex Bar & Grill, 248 Oakland Ave SE, Atlanta. Junkman’s Daughter, 464 Moreland Ave NE, Atlanta. Criminal Records, 1154 Euclid Ave NE A, Atlanta. The Porter Beer Bar, 1156 Euclid Ave NE, Atlanta, Neighborhoods: Inman Park and Candler Park.
AND A BREATH OF FRESH AIR AT THE FOOT OF MOUNT PARK
You will see it when you arrive: Atlanta is a lot of highways, a lot of big avenues. But if you look carefully, the city has several green lungs. And Piedmont Park is the jewel with its beautiful Clara Meer Lake. As you walk around, you will come across royal views of the skyline. There is also a picnic area, tennis courts, a swimming pool and a dog park.
SPEND A BEER EVENING AT THE MONDAY NIGHT BREWING CO
“Weekends are overrated.” That is the slogan of this brewery made in Atlanta, Monday Night Brewing. If you want to spend a tip-top evening (so 90’s) in Atlanta, this is the place for you. For $10, we had four coupons to test the beers and we left with the glasses. But not before he visited the brewery thanks to the completely crazy Duck, one of the employees, not before he posed in front of the tie wall and not before he played the cornhole, this drinking game adored by Americans. Ah, and the beers were excellent. Since our visit, the brewery has opened a second branch in the West End.
WATCH THE SUNSET ON THE JACKSON ST BRIDGE IN THE WALKING DEAD MODE
A little advice. Take a walk on Jackson St. Bridge at sunset, with the highway in the foreground and the skyline on an orange background. In addition, this bridge is a must for Walking Dead fans. In season 1, Rick arrives in Atlanta on horseback as hundreds of wrecks litter the tracks. The plan was made from this bridge.
> The address: corner of Cain St NE and Jackson S NE, Atlanta. Neighborhoods: Old Fourth Ward and Sweet Auburn.
TAKE A PICTURE OF THE FOX THEATRE
The Fox Theatre, which the Atlantians call with love “Fabulous Fox”, is one of those old cinemas with a vintage name that we love. And in Atlanta, it was in Midtown that we found this pearl. First built as a Masonic temple, the room was recovered by the Fox chain which made it a cinema (5000 seats please), opened in 1929 with the premiere of “Steamboat Willie”, the official birth of Mickey’s character. You can be satisfied from outside but also visit it during a guided tour or during one of the 250 shows that take place there every year.
FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MARTIN LUTHER KING
Martin Luther King, an icon of the civil rights struggle, and probably one of the most prominent men the country has ever produced, was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929 at 501 Auburn Avenue. In this city where 54% of the population is African-American, he is a demigod, whose heritage still weighs heavily. The pastor, author of the famous “I have a dream” and Nobel Prize winner in 1964, has been on all fronts (Montgomery, Birmingham, Albany, Chicago, Saint-Augustine), advocating non-violent civil disobedience.
In the Sweet Auburn district, the little house where he was born is still standing and has been transformed into a museum. It is part of a complex managed by the NPS, the MLK Jr National Historic Site. It includes the house, a Visitor Center, Historic Fire Station 6 (39 Boulevard NE), Ebenezer Baptist Church (407 Auburn Ave NE) and the grave of Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta at the King Center. The latter is installed on a small island, in the middle of a swimming pool. On the grave of the man murdered on April 4, 1968 on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, are inscribed the last words of his speech “I have a dream”, from the negro spiritual “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! Finally free! Thank God Almighty, we are finally free!)
MAKE A SCENE AT THE STARLIGHT SIX DRIVE IN OR THE PLAZA THEATRE
Two good addresses to make a web in Atlanta. First the Plaza Theater, a small nugget from 1939 (what a front, OMG), the oldest cinema in the city to have operated continuously. The programming is quite sophisticated.
The other is a drive-in, the Starlight, in the southeast of the city. For a typical US outdoor evening.
AND A DRIVE-IN IN THE VARSITY HISTORY
“What’ll Ya Have?”At Varsity, it always starts like that. The largest drive-in in the world, in the heart of Atlanta near I85, is an institution, a fast-food temple, created in 1928. The huge red “V” welcomes you non-stop from 10am to 10.30pm (or 11.30pm on Friday and Saturday). So, on the other hand, in terms of food, you can’t expect anything wonderful. It’s cheap, not extraordinary and quickly swallowed. Come on, move the car forward and wait for your waiter.
ACTIVITIES BY DISTRICT
To make it easier for you, in a large metropolis, we leave you this map to group your visits. The city was built on a north-south axis materialized by the I-85. On the axis, three highly urbanized neighbourhoods: Downtown, Midtown and Buckhead. 10 km south of Downtown is Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. On the security side, the southwestern part of the downtown can be dangerous.
- Downtown: Centennial Olympic Park, CNN, Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Center for Civil and Human Rights
- Midtown: Margaret Mitchell Museum, Piedmont Park, Botanical Garden, Fox Theatre, Varsity, High Museum of Art
- Grant Park and CabbageTown: Atlanta Zoo, Oakland Cemetery
- Inman Park and Candler Park: Little Five Points
- West Side: Monday Night Brewing Co
- Sweet Auburn: Jackson St Bridge, Martin Luther King National Historic Site
- Mechanicsville: Terminus
- Poncey Highland: Plaza Theatre
- East Atlanta: Starlight Six Drive-In
THE ATLANTA IDENTITY CARD
Population: approximately 456,000 (Atlantic). Population of the urban area: 5,500,000 inhabitants
Name: there are several origins to the name of Atlanta. For many, it is one of the only toponyms in the United States that is completely invented. For others, the name comes from J. Edgar Thomson, a Georgia Railroad manager. He would have named it after Governor Wilson Lumpkin’s daughter. His second name was Atalanta.
Nickname: The Big Peach
Particularities: former Creeks territory, capital of the state of Georgia, hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics, Walking Dead shooting location, Coca Cola headquarters, CNN, Delta, Home Depot…
Nearest cities: Macon (Georgia, 1h20), Birmingham (Alabama, 2h15), Chattanooga (Tennessee, 2h10)
Festivals: Atlanta Dogwood Festival (spring, when dogwoods are in bloom), Atlanta Streets Alive (year-round, road closures that become pedestrian)
City personalities: Martin Luther King, Dwight Howard, Andre 3000, Margaret Mitchell, Spike Lee, Brittany Murphy, Cee Lo Green, Usher, John Mayer
How long will it take?
Two to three nights: Atlanta can be a good starting point for a trip to the South or a good stopover after or before a trip to the coast. Visiting Atlanta in one day is not ideal, which is why we recommend two full days with two or three nights: one day for the big attractions of the downtown area, the other for the greenery and other areas. Some possibilities:
- In 1 day: choose two big attractions, grab a hot dog at Varsity and go see the sunset at Piedmont Park or Jackson Street Bridge
- In 2 days: Day 1 then go for breakfast at Ria’s Bluebird, go to Oakland Cemetery before going to Sweet Auburn to see Martin Luther King’s birthplace and grave. Then Little Five Points before going for a drink at Monday Night Brewing
- In 3 or more days: the previous two days with a good part of the above program
Integration in a roadtrip? Atlanta can be a good starting point for a trip to the southern US. The city can be part of a circuit with Tennessee (Memphis, Nashville), Mississippi (blues route), Louisiana (New Orleans) or even North Carolina (Smokies, Asheville, Charlotte), coastal Georgia (Savannah) and South Carolina (Charleston). The city has a huge airport with non-stop flights from Europe (Paris, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome…)
Average budget. Atlanta is a large southern city and the accommodation budget can be reduced by getting out of the downtown area. For the price, we’re far from San Francisco or New York. Food is also available. On the other hand, activities (aquarium, zoo, CNN, Coca) can quickly represent a good budget, hence the interest of theCityPass.
Where to sleep?
First of all, in which neighbourhood to sleep? Most of the hotels are located in Downtown and Midtown. To visit the World of Coca-Cola and co, these are the closest accommodations. But you can also find them in Buckhead, Decatur and in the Little Five Points area, for a little more calm. It is advisable to book your hotel in Atlanta in advance to get the best rates.
- Our plan: we tested theHilton who’s in the downtown area. He is impressive. The advantage is that we are very quickly in the downtown area, but also very quickly outside.
- The cheapest plan: the Highland Inn.Also tested. He’s a little far away, not far from Little Five Points. The neighborhood is nice, green, young. And the very small price
- The camping map: Stone Mountain Park will probably be your best spot.
- The unusual plan: this tree house is an AirBNB hit. To save a few euros, we can sponsor you (send us an email)
- The luxury plan: the Georgian Terrace Historically, the Four Seasons or the Oriental Mandarin
Where to eat?
Atlanta is huge and you can eat anything. We tested some good addresses and were recommended others, which we will deliver here.
- Waffle House: First of all, you should know that the Waffle House chain, one of the most popular for breakfast, was born here. So why don’t you take a look around?
- Ria’s Bluebird (421 Memorial Dr SE): a restaurant loved by locals with great southern classics such as a slow-cooked brisket (14 hours) or banana pancakes.
- The Varsity (61 North Avenue NW): the historic Varsity where you don’t really go for food but rather for experience.
- So, we hope that with this article, you will be armed for a great discovery of Atlanta. The city deserves more than a passage, more than a discovery of downtown. Take your time, stroll through parks, neighbourhoods.