How to Spend a Day in Atlanta: All Things Famous in Atlanta, Georgia
Plane tickets? Check. Room booked? Check. Transportation arrangements? Check. All the time in the world to explore Atlanta? Uh-oh.
Going on a cross-country trip is exciting, but the tight schedule it brings with it can give you a major case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). You only really realize the true value of time when you are in a city as historic and as dynamic as Atlanta, and you hear the clock steadily ticking the minutes away. Where do you go? What do you eat? How do you make sure you consume everything that makes Atlanta famous and forever imprint its memories in your heart? It can all be a little overwhelming. But we’ve got you covered.
We have looked over all the places in Atlanta that you should visit, all the sights you should see, and all the meals you should eat – and that too in just 24 hours! So put on your traveling pants, and get hold of that fanny pack. Get ready to live one of the most exhilarating days of your life by discovering how to properly spend your time in Atlanta, Georgia.
What Makes Atlanta Famous?
Although Atlanta might get overshadowed by some of the more boisterous cities of the country sometimes, the charm that this city casts on its visitors can simply not be brushed aside. After all, it’s the capital and the most populous city of Georgia, a state known for its “southern” hospitality and, of course, delicious peaches.
If being home to the world’s busiest passenger airport says something, it’s that Atlanta is one city you can just not ignore. Being one of the most famous destinations in the southeast of the USA, it comes as no surprise that Atlanta has so many incredible things to offer. From its venerable historical sites to its passionate baseball games (Braves, anyone?), its assorted dining places to its culture of musical successes (John Mayer got his big break right here!) – Atlanta is famous for plenty of things. And you must not miss out anything that it has to offer.
Choosing to visit Atlanta, even if that means spending only a day, can easily lead to one of the most rewarding traveling experiences you’ve ever had. By following our carefully curated plan of all the places you must visit and all the things you must eat, you can spend a wonderful day in Atlanta!
All the Places You Must Visit: Atlanta in One Day
It can feel humanely impossible to get the ultimate A-Town experience in just 24 hours, but even if you get to cover half of the things on this list, you won’t be regretting anything. That is not to say you can’t visit all these places in Atlanta in just a day. Of course you can, it all depends on how dedicated to the city you are. After all, never say never, right?
Centennial Olympic Park
Centennial Olympic Park is the perfect place for you to get started on your A-Town journey. Not only is it a living reminder of how culturally-rich and famous Atlanta is, it’s also a very convenient place for tourists on a mission to see Atlanta in a day to start from. This is particularly because of all the other sites Atlanta is famous for lie in this Park’s vicinity, such as the Center for Civil and Human Rights, CNN Center, and the Coca-Cola World amongst others.
Right in the urban downtown, this park is a relic of the time when Atlanta was host to the Centennial Olympics. It was purpose-built to allow visitors and locals to enjoy the happening Summer Olympic Games in 1996. Now, it’s a hub of many different activities and the ideal venue for the city’s many concerts, festivals, and various other events.
Because you’ll have to see the rest of Atlanta on the calendar day too, you need not spend more than 30 to 45 minutes in this 21-acre park. Within that time, you can get a totally instagrammable picture by the Olympic Rings, gape at the digitally-interactive mural at the Visitor Center, and even see the Fountain of Rings show which takes place every 3 hours.
If you’re in a rush (understandable, so much to see yet so little time!), then you can visit back anytime you like and fully immerse yourself into the Centennial Olympic Park’s history via it Audio Walking Tour available on its website. Told you, you can really have that ultimate Atlanta experience all in a single day!
Historically-rich as the city is, Atlanta is also home to the world headquarters of one of the oldest news networks of the world, the CNN Center.
CNN Center is close to the Centennial Olympic Park, so you don’t have to worry about wasting your time while commuting. You can simply head over here once you are done with your Olympic Park tour and get right into the daunting yet supremely interesting business of broadcasting news.
Atlanta is famous for CNN Center because this is where you get to see the real behind-the-scenes world, the fast-paced environment which enables you to consume all the important news of the day flawlessly. If you choose to take a guided tour of this place, you will just need to dedicate an hour to experience the iconic nature of the news broadcasting world.
Within just an hour, you will have been on the world’s only freestanding elevator, seen the largest CNN studio in the world, and witnessed the working of both the weather map and the teleprompter first-hand.
Given that you’ll be running against time when trying to spend an unforgettable day in Atlanta, it’s advised that you book your tour beforehand. It will save your time and make sure you are ready to get on that infamous elevator as soon as you enter the doors of the CNN Center.
The National Center For Civil And Human Rights
Atlanta is famous for its role in both The Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement and you can witness the empowering culture of the city at the National center for Civil and Human Rights. Located in downtown Atlanta, this museum is also not very far from the other important attractions of the A-Town, so you don’t have to worry about travelling across the city especially for this. In fact, this 42,000-square-foot center is right next to the Coca-Cola World and the Georgia Aquarium so it fits right into your plan of spending a wonderful day in Atlanta.
A must-visit site for anyone who does not want to leave Atlanta without seeing the imprints the historical movements left on its being, you can actually book a tour of about 90 minutes and witness the Civil Rights Movement come alive in its contemporary counterparts. During this time, you can walk through the various exhibits accompanied by an expert and get a more personalized experience of the museum.
The World of Coca-Cola
The best thing about spending a day in Atlanta is that you can actually, logistically make the most of it. All the locations on this list are within reasonable distance of each other, so you all you have to do is stick to the plan and let the A-Town take care of the rest. Therefore, if you ever get to be in Atlanta, even if it’s just for one day, and you do not visit the amusing but also deeply fascinating Coca-Cola World, you will find yourself moping about it later.
The World of Coca-Cola is located adjacent to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, so you can almost instantly switch from the somber experience of historical movement to the preserved history of American Consumerism. Here, you can delve deeper into what first gave shape to one of the most loved soda drinks in the world today.
It’s always recommended that you buy your tickets and plan your visit to the World of Coca-Cola beforehand, especially when you’re on a one-day Atlanta spree. It will significantly help you cut down on the waiting time which you can then instead dedicate to tasting different flavors of Coca-Cola from around the world and watching how this famous drink is actually bottled.
Your time at the Coca-Cola World will be an educational yet a fun experience, one that you will not find anywhere else in the world. Once you enter the vault where the secret formula of the drink is treasured, you’ll always be reminded of your experience and the fantastic day you had in Atlanta every time you’d slurp down a coke.
If by this time you have still not fully grasped the versatile nature of A-Town, then you’re just in time to witness Georgia Aquarium drive the final nail in the coffin of boring cities. Located also in downtown Atlanta, you will find a treasure trove of marine life. Spend an hour or two of your precious day here, and you will know exactly what we mean.
Georgia Aquarium is home to more than a hundred-thousand aquatic animals, and this number includes up to five-hundred different species from all over the world, representing nearly sixty different habitats. You can spend as much time as you want to at Georgia’s Aquarium, as there’s a lot that this place has to offer. Be it the digitally-interactive coral reef tours or the realistic 4D theatre, the exhibits with Californian sea lions or the ones with friendly dolphins, there’s so much of the aquamarine life that you can experience through the Aquarium’s exhibit. Although you can choose to visit as many exhibits as you want, if you’re on a tight schedule (which you are – a day tour of Atlanta, remember?) and can only visit one exhibit, you must go and see the massive whale sharks and manta rays at the largest exhibit of the aquarium.
If you never thought you would be able to travel back in time to revisit history and its heroes, visit an Olympic venue, get a sneak peek into the world of news, look back at the history of American consumerism symbolized by the Coca-Cola Company and yet still be able to immerse yourself in the exuberant offerings of the marine life – then you don’t need to think about it either because you can actually experience this for yourself, all within a day in Atlanta.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
By the time you’d been to the Olympic Park, the CNN Center, the Center of Civil & Human Rights, and the Coca-Cola World, and the Georgia Aquarium, you’d be fully equipped with the knowledge of not only the city’s natural, historical, and cultural significance in the country but also its significance in the history of Olympics and the Coca-Cola Company. Now, it’s time to tap into the city’s intellectual prowess and see what jewels it boasts.
The Martin Luther King Jr. National Site will yet again serve as a reminder of the city’s significance in the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, but more than that, it will serve as a tribute to the individuals glorified for their impact on the country.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Site includes the Birth Home of the Civil Rights leader and winner of Atlanta’s one of the two Nobel Peace Prize. You can book a free tour of the house and see the early influences that shaped King Jr.’s personality or visit the Ebenezer Baptist Church and see where both Martin Luther King Sr. and Jr. were baptized. Along with all of this, the site also includes Fire Station No. 6 which was the first desegregated firehouse now redesigned to be a gift shop and an exhibit on the history of Atlanta Fire Department’s desegregation.
This site is not only a tribute for the American heroes related to Atlanta. Rather, its experience goes beyond the boundaries of the city. Here, you’ll also be reminded of all the other global pioneers of civil and social justice as you walk through the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. There’s also a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, so your one day at Atlanta will translate into a journey through the extremely important movements that changed the course of history.
Anne Frank In The World Museum
Tucked away from the rest of the city on the busy Roswell Road, Anne Frank in the World Museum is another example of Atlanta being home to some of the most dynamic experiences of the world.
If you want to take yet another trip back in time, or have some extra time to spare, then you must visit this museum located in Sandy Springs. This museum illustrates a gripping tale of Holocaust and captures the unwavering feeling of hope symbolized by Anne Frank for its visitors to view. Home to over six hundred photographs, this museum narrates the tale of Anne Frank, a young girl who despite being one of the many who were murdered during Holocaust continues to be a source of strength and resilience for many. While in the museum, you can also watch a film based on Anne Frank and go over multiple photographic and essay exhibits based around the same theme.
This can be a quick stop during your hectic but incredibly fun day in Atlanta, but this will also be an extremely important stop – maybe one that you will not be able to shake from memory long after your day in Atlanta has passed.
When all is set and done, you might want to take stroll around this famous neighborhood of Atlanta. Although it doesn’t offer any particular experience or activity for you to participate in, visiting Virginia-Highland is more about imbibing the spirit of Atlanta in yourself.
As one of the most colorful and celebrated neighborhoods of Georgia, you’ll find an interesting mix of urban and suburban life around here. It’s frequently visited by locals and tourists alike, and if you could snatch a bit of a time out of your Atlanta-in-a-day experience, then this comes highly recommended.
In fact, going for lunch at one of the fashionably-styled patios at Virginia-Highlands makes a perfect excuse for your visit to this neighborhood. If not for lunch, then you can always visit this place for its many dazzling bars. After all, will you not need to unwind at the end of your fantastic day in Atlanta?
Foods That Atlanta Is Famous For
If you talk about everything that Atlanta is famous for but leave the culinary experience out of the equation, are you even talking about Atlanta?
There’s nothing like Southern hospitality and, of course, food lies at the very heart of it. The best way to get all close and personal with Atlanta is to sink your teeth in the spiciest pizza and the yummiest chili dog it has to offer.
So, regardless of how long you are going to be staying in Atlanta, you must grab at as many delicious bites as time would allow you to. Atlanta is famous for many of its food places, and we’ve developed a list of the best that you should definitely check out for the ultimate Atlanta experience.
Truva Turkish Kitchen
We have already emphasized the importance of visiting Virginia-Highlands when in Atlanta. We also mentioned that going for lunch or dropping by for brunch is a great excuse to drag yourself to the colorful neighborhood. Now, the exuberant food scene in Atlanta forces us to further reiterate why you must visit Virginia-Highlands – for the sake of Truva, of course.
You just might be amazed at how intensely delicious its food is. Truva offers excellently authentic Turkish cuisine. The food is great. The service is fantastic. At the time of this writing, it’s got a 4.8 stars on Google Reviews. It’s absolutely worth a visit.
If we were to recommend you something from this place as you end your stroll around Virginia-Highlands, we suggest that you sink your teeth in one of their epic tenderloin and lamb kebabs or treat yourself to one of their wonderful Truva Mediterranean salads. But that’s not where the menu of this place stops. At Truva Turkish Kitchen, you can even grab one of their mouth-watering vegetarian options. At Truva, everything is made with high-quality ingredients so you can satiate your hunger with full peace of mind. Go for it!
Nothing screams America like pizza for breakfast, and you can have just that in Atlanta at No, 246.
No. 246 is another restaurant which is quintessential of the Southern experience. It has both a rustic yet an inviting feel to it, much like the city of Atlanta. From pizza to pasta to salads, you will find all things Italian here. Both the ambience and the design will make you feel relaxingly at home while its food will give your taste buds a run for their money.
Especially given how you will be on a one-day spree in Atlanta, No. 245 might just make it the perfect place for you to stop by for brunch between one of your many attraction visits. It’s conveniently located in downtown, so you don’t have to make a choice between spending all your time hunting for a restaurant across town or dealing with FOMO later when you can’t drop by for the infamous breakfast pizza. You can quite literally just walk out of CNN Center or Olympic park and look for a stool by the chef’s corner to satiate your hunger.
Everything about traveling and tourism doesn’t have to fancy, especially not when it comes to food. The real taste of the region lies in the cafes and restaurants built in its nooks and cronies, those that might not necessarily stand out for their grandeur but have been around for long enough to become a part of the city’s identity.
The varsity is one such place where you should try and drop at during your Atlanta visit. Located midtown, the word has it that this place offers the best chili cheese dogs at the best rates possible. The bites that you grab here will be pretty cheap and budget-friendly, giving you the very local Atlanta experience.
After all, The Varsity really has been part of Atlanta since 1928, making it almost an essential part of the city’s identity. The fast food that it offers, such as chili cheese dogs with onion rings on the side and orange drink to gulp it all down, is also ideal for anyone one-the-go. Eating at The Varsity will equally be as much about enjoying your food and feeling fulfilled as it will be about gorging yourself with the Atlanta experience.
Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q
Barbecue, of course, is an inherent part of anything American. Atlanta, of course, wears its Barbecue places like jewels in a crown. So, this means you can hunt down many different barbecue restaurants as you visit one Atlanta sight after another. But, if we were to recommend a barbecue place for you, it will be the Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q.
Up and running since 2007, Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q is an essential element to the Atlanta’s barbecue culture. Hailing originally from Texas, the Fox brothers have only increased their influence in Atlanta ever since they decided to start their own food place. Now, you can find this barbecue restaurant while roaming around the city at DeKalb Avenue and stop for a very delicious and an extremely fulfilling barbecue meal. Some of the things that this place has to offer include mouthwatering brisket, jumbo wings dipped in finger-licking flavorful sauce, and huge smoked ribs that are to die for.
If you’re a foodie on a one-day trip to Atlanta, then you will definitely not want to miss out its barbecue scene, one of the most delicious things that Atlanta is famous for.
Steaks, right? If you’re someone looking to get the best culinary experience in Atlanta and feel like a posh hot-shot, then you should definitely head over to this steakhouse.
Located at Piedmont Road, Bones has been around Atlanta for quite a long time now. This is where you should go after a long day of visiting places and indulging in activities across the A-Town, because the generous food dishes it offers will put both your stomach and heart at ease. Be it a pork chop or a side of wedge salad, you will leave this place full to the brim. But Bones is not best-suited to dinner only. You can also head over to this steakhouse for a large lunch too and eat up one of the best gourmet burgers that the city has to offer.
So, you’re in Atlanta and you have a day to take in all that it has to give to you. Naturally, you would want to feast on its burgers, its breakfast pizzas, its steaks, and its peaches. But how about you diversify a little and really look into the eclectic food scene this city has to offer?
If you’re on of the more curious travelers, then Chai Pani is the perfect place to let your taste buds travel a bit towards SouthAsia. Chai Pani is located in downtown, so it means it fits perfectly into your travel plans too. And soon its Indian spices will fit perfectly onto your taste buds too.
Chai Pani essentially creates an example out of the Indian street snack culture and brings it right here for visitors to Atlanta. A perfect place to grab your spicy Indian bites from, you can head to Chai Pani to get anything from okra fries to curry to sandwiches and wraps. You also don’t have to spend a lot of money to indulge your taste buds either, so honestly, Chai Pani is a win-win if you’re the adventurous kind of a person.
Mary Mac’s Tea Room
Nothing screams Southern hospitality like Mary Mac’s Tea Room. With 70 years of serving Atlanta under its belt, Mary Mac’s Tea Room is a famous Atlanta spot known for its many classic Southern offerings. So if you really want to fully immerse yourself in the authentic Atlanta culture, then you must head here to feel like the ultimate local.
Nicknamed “Atlanta’s Dining Room” because of how closely tied It’s to the city’s identity, Mary Mac’s Tea Room serves all things southern. You can load your plate with authentic Southern cuisine food items like fried chicken and grilled liver and onions and you will definitely head back home with a deeply rewarding Southern experience in Atlanta.
So, at the end of the day, if you were to choose one place to eat on the only day you’ll be spending in Atlanta, we urge you to head over to Mary Mac’s Tea Room. After all, where will you go if not to Atlanta’s Dining Room?
Although having all the time in the world to explore your favorite places and eat your favorite foods is what we all dream of, in the real world the schedules are tight and timetables hectic. There’s so much to see, so many places to visit, so much to know, and so much to eat. But there just isn’t enough time to do all of that. In cases like these, It’s easy to be resigned and stick with just a couple of the superficially famous things of the place. But, not in the case of Atlanta. You can simply not do yourself or Atlanta justice if you do not let yourself fully explore the place. It’s crucial that you visit every place Atlanta is famous for, eat at the restaurants that make Atlanta famous, and truly lean into the dynamic and culturally-rich spirit of the city. With our detailed guide on how to spend a day in Atlanta, you will be sure to have the time of your life in one of the best Southern cities of America.