What to do in downtown Atlanta this week?
March 16, 2014 5:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm tagging along with my wife as she goes to a conference in Atlanta this week. We'll be staying Downtown Wednesday through Saturday (leaving Saturday afternoon). What's to do? Caveat: no car.

I've read through the previous threads, but I think it's always good to get some updated info! I plan to hit up the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca Cola - what else do you recommend? I'm a fan of 'unique' local-ly attractions and restaurants. Is there a unique Atlanta/Georgia cuisine/restaurant we should try (e.g., Cincinnati-style chili in Cincinnati, Ben's Chili Bowl in DC, crab cakes in Baltimore)?

I'll probably be on my own during the day if that matters. Is it worth it to get a 4 day pass on the MARTA? I think we'll take the MARTA from the Airport to our hotel downtown so that's $5 of the $19 pass right there. Any must-see attractions off the MARTA lines?

Thanks everyone!
posted by schwab to Travel & Transportation around Atlanta, GA (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Segway tour is great. Puppetry museum has a Skeksis Body puppet from the 1982 movie "The Dark Crystal".
posted by Sophont at 6:02 PM on March 16, 2014

Yes, get the pass. Downtown Atlanta is pretty boring, to tell the truth. You'll get a lot more of interest, as a person just wandering around the streets, if you take the train up to, oh, Arts Center station, in Midtown, and explore around there.

As for food, I've been away for a long time, and I don't know if the hardcore real soul food places like The Beautiful Restaurant are still there, but I'd go for that. I'd go for the theory that you have never had real fried chicken before, in your life, and go find some.

Maybe combine a visit to the Oakland Cemetery (if you like historic stuff and 19th Century kitschy gothic tombs) with a trip to the Auburn Avenue Rib Shack.
posted by thelonius at 6:03 PM on March 16, 2014

I have not been there yet, but my brother claims that the food at Glady's Knight's Chicken and Waffles is quite excellent, and especially their eponymous speciality.

The High Museum is pretty nice, too.
posted by jquinby at 6:08 PM on March 16, 2014

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site is quite good. It's walkable from MARTA, but it's not super close (despite the station being called King Memorial), or at least it didn't feel that way in July.
posted by hoyland at 6:10 PM on March 16, 2014

All accessible via MARTA:
The Varsity: the world's biggest drive-in restaurant, which unfortunately failed to franchise. North Avenue station.
The Atlanta History Center museums. They're not perfect .. 'Lincoln received no votes in Georgia,' w/o mentioning that he was banned from the ballot. But they're worth seeing. Buckhead station.
The State Capitol. Several statues on the grounds honor KKK leaders, but still. Five Points station.
Underground Atlanta. Five Points station.
posted by LonnieK at 6:58 PM on March 16, 2014

I was a tourist in Atlanta a few weeks ago; you probably saw my AskMe.

I really enjoyed the current exhibit at The Museum of Design. South City Kitchen is delicious and within walking distance. There looked like there were other interesting stores/etc in that general area as well.
posted by Fig at 7:13 PM on March 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

The High Museum is definitely great and it is a very short walk from the MARTA station.
posted by mmascolino at 7:16 PM on March 16, 2014

One extra thing no one has mentioned yet: the CNN tour is worth doing. As for the food thing, as Fig mentioned just above, she asked a similar question about places to eat in Atlanta, so I won't rehash the answers from that thread; though Fig had a car, many of the recommendations that came back were MARTA friendly. We've got plenty of Uber drivers here, too, so if you want to venture off the MARTA line, it wouldn't be hard to do. If you and the wife end up with an evening free, I would recommend taking MARTA out the east line to the Decatur station. There are bunches of great restaurants concentrated around the square, which is where the MARTA station is: Cakes & Ale; the Iberian Pig; Leon's Full Service; the Brickyard (craft beer); the Pinewood.
posted by kovacs at 8:17 PM on March 16, 2014

You'll be in walking distance of Mary Mac's Tea Room (classic soul food).
posted by brujita at 9:46 PM on March 16, 2014

Oakland cemetery is just off the MLK station. If it's a pleasant day, it's a nice walk. There's several restaurants on the south side of the park to eat at. At night you're only two blocks south from the bar scene on Edgewood Ave, which includes my two favorites: Joystick and Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium.

Arts Center stop has the High Museum, and the museum of design. Both are very good.

Downtown Decatur has its own MARTA stop and is a pleasant small town square with food and drinks and shopping. If you're into craft beer, you have to drink at the Brickstore and Leon's Full Service. I also recommend the tapas at the Iberian Pig.

Piedmont Park is only a few blocks from the Midtown stop. Also at that stop: The Federal Reserve has a small but interesting museum, and there's the Margaret Mitchell House, also there's shopping and eating on Piedmont and Peachtree Streets, so get a weird burger at the Vortex.

The North Ave Station is near the old Fox Theater, which has tours and is amazing and beautiful.

My only note to avoid is Underground Atlanta. Seriously. I am confounded as to why it is still recommended as some great shopping/tourist destination. If you want to shop a mall just go to Lenox Square.

Things off the MARTA worth seeing: The Zoo, Cyclorama, Fernbank Museum, Grant Park, Little Five Points, the Dekalb Farmers Market and all the great Asian food on Buford Highway.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:49 PM on March 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Atlanta City Pass is worth doing.

I really like the Aquarium, World of Coca Cola (both in the exact same place) and the CNN tour.

Marta is pretty good for getting to the specific places you need to go.

If you're in an adventurous mood, take the MARTA to Decatur E7 and hit Your Dekalb Farmers Market.

It's where I get my groceries, but you can do a morning poking around, they have a hot food line (cash only) so you may want to do that. Pick up pastries for in room nomming. The pastries are amazing.

Downtown Decatur is adorable. So is Virginia-Highland.

The Beautiful used to be located downtown in the "Sweet Auburn" part of town, next to Ebeneezer Baptist Church where Dr. King preached. (I attended services there once and I sat right behind Mrs. King!) It's moved and it's now south of I-20, so it's more of a neighborhood thing.

You can go to the Martin Luther King Historic Site, although the in-fighting among the family is depressing.

Nthing stay away from Underground Atlanta, it wasn't anything 20 years ago and it's less than that now.

Have fun!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:06 AM on March 17, 2014

Re Underground ATL ...
I know nothing about shopping, there or anywhere else. But it's worth seeing, and here's why:
There are plenty of 'railroad towns,' but Atlanta is THE rr town. Its origin was a stake in the ground that marked the junction of two sets of rails: one to the coast, and one to the Mississippi Valley. That's why Atlanta was so central to the Civil War, and one of the few American cities destroyed in war.
A few decades after the war, Atlanta was the the leading city in the South. But it was impassable, due to the rails.
So the city built several viaducts. The retail stores quickly opened 'viaduct entrances' -- which became the main entrances. Underneath them was .. Underground.
Sadly, you can't see the old Zero Mile Post that marked the original rail junction. But you can see the old streets and commercial fronts. It's not for everybody. But you might like it.
posted by LonnieK at 5:48 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Although it's not directly on a Marta train stop, the Beltline Eastside trail is one of the best things about Atlanta, if you're looking for a fantastic walk or want to rent a bike and go for a ride. It's a newly-built walking/biking trail that was once a rail line. It's got a bunch of neat sculptures along it and connects Piedmont Park (Atlanta's central park) to the Inman Park neighborhood (not actually a park). There are a bunch of restaurants, bars, and shops that back up to the trail in case you're interested in a drink along the way. On the weekends, it's so packed with locals enjoying the trail you almost have to push your way through the crowd.

The Dekalb Farmer's Market that Ruthless Bunny mentions is incredibly cool to see and definitely fits your definition of unique things to visit. More kinds of fruits and vegetables than you knew existed? Check. Pick your own live fish? Check. A huge tub of spices for 23 cents? Check. This is one of my favorite places to take guests from out of town, but then again I really like food.

The Little Five Points neighborhood (also not directly on a Marta train line, but not that far a walk from either the Inman Park or Candler Park stops) is full of quirky shops and restaurants and lively characters. Stop in at The Porter, my favorite restaurant and bar in the city. It's routinely ranked one of the best beer bars in the nation, if that's something that interests you. Then, head down the block to check out The Wrecking Bar brew pub. Both spots have really great food.

I'd also advise against going to Underground Atlanta (full of hair weave and nick-nack shops) and The Varsity (completely forgettable fast food). Both places are frequently listed as "must-visit" Atlanta attractions for reasons that I don't understand. More like "must-skip".
posted by wondercow at 6:14 PM on March 17, 2014

I'd also advise against going to Underground Atlanta .. and The Varsity.

Well, to each their own. But if you want the real Atlanta, you must go to the Varsity. (I will wager wondercrow isn't from the ATL)
And Underground isn't about hair-weaves, as explained above.
posted by LonnieK at 6:57 PM on March 17, 2014

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