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Atlanta Travel Guide: Where to Stay, What to Eat, and More

The unofficial capital of the South, Atlanta has gone through remarkable boom days since the turn of the 21st century. The city boasts a venerable restaurant and bar scene, top-notch museums, and a spate of major historical attractions. It’s also home to a burgeoning film industry, which has earned it the moniker “The Hollywood of the South.” Flying into ATL lands you in the world’s busiest international airport, meaning you’ll rarely have a long stopover when booking a flight. Yet despite the staggering size (encompassing some 133 square miles), Atlanta feels less like a big city and more like a collection of small towns woven together into a metropolis. Exploring its diverse neighborhoods and leafy parks is one of the best ways to experience Atlanta.

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Where to Stay

Atlanta does not lack great options. You’ll find a plethora of charming B&Bs, luxury high-rise hotels with grand views, and lots of choice Airbnb listings that put you right in the heart of the neighborhood of your choosing.

Best Luxury Stay: The Whitley

Set in the upscale district of Buckhead, the Whitley has a timeless elegance, with beautifully furnished rooms, most of which offer spectacular views over the city skyline. The wood-paneled Lobby Lounge draws both out-of-towners and locals who stop in for well-made cocktails after work. It makes a fine prelude to creative Southern-inspired cuisine served up at Trade Root. The heated indoor pool is spacious enough to swim laps, and its large skylights over the pool give ample natural light. There’s also a spa and a well-equipped gym overlooking the pool. Another big draw is the location, which puts it within a short hop of the Buckhead Village District.

  • Nearest airport: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Time: 35 minutes by car
  • Distance: 18 miles

Rates: From $269/night

Best Budget Airbnb: La Pequena Casa Azul

If you’ve ever been curious about staying in a tiny house, La Pequena Casa Azul in southwest Atlanta makes a great base for living like a minimalist. Inside a striking blue carriage house with red shutters, the well-equipped studio has everything you need (bathroom, kitchen, ample sunlight) in a quaint space that doesn’t feel cramped. The friendly owners have a wealth of information on exploring Atlanta, and it’s a short walk to the Oakland Marta station, which provides speedy access to downtown. Pets are welcome.

  •  Nearest airport: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Time: 12 minutes by car
  • Distance: 6.5 miles

Rates: From $50/night

Best for Animal Lovers: The Social Goat B&B

In a leafy neighborhood near 131-acre Grant Park, the Social Goat is set in a Queen Anne Victorian originally built-in 1900. Once a working farm and homestead, the property has slimmed down over the years (to its present 3/4 acre size), but it still has a miniature barnyard that’s home to Nigerian dwarf goats, ducks, chickens, cats, and even a turkey. The wide-ranging accommodation options include several antique-filled rooms and suites as well as a more spacious carriage house, a treehouse, and a two-bedroom cottage on a nearby street. The B&B is about a 12-minute drive northwest to downtown Atlanta.

  •  Nearest airport: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Time: 15 minutes by car
  • Distance: 9 miles

Rates: From $155/night

Read more: Kayak.com Hotel Deals

Where to Eat

Atlanta is as famous for its traditional southern recipes as it is for its ethnically diverse dining scene. Sometimes unfairly called “Transplant City,” Atlanta has benefited tremendously in recent years from talented cooks whipping up authentic dishes from Colombia, India, Ethiopia, the Philippines, and myriad other places. As the pandemic continues, many restaurants have enlarged their outdoor dining spaces and increased carry-out and delivery service.

  • “$” = budget-friendly or cheap
  • “$$”= average
  • “$$$”= expensive

Best Global Cuisine: Krog Street Market

Set in a converted 1920s warehouse, Atlanta’s best food market is home to over a dozen eateries whipping up a wide range of temptations, plus produce sellers, chocolatiers, and fashion stores. Indian samosas, Vietnamese noodle soups, and Neapolitan-style pizzas fired up in a wood-burning oven are among the many highlights. One of the market’s newest ventures is Soul: Food and Culture, where you can sample some of the best fried chicken and catfish sandwiches in town. It was opened by culinary innovator and cookbook author Chef Todd Richards, who runs the renowned Lake & Oak BBQ restaurant in East Lake.

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Best Fusion: Redbird

Chef Zeb Stevenson earns rave reviews for his wildly imaginative, seasonal menus that showcase both small plates (roasted cauliflower with miso vinaigrette or sourdough mac and cheese) and heartier main courses like New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp or grilled cobia with spring ramps. Redbird has an industrial-chic aesthetic, with big windows onto Midtown Atlanta and an inviting courtyard terrace. You can also order for take-out or delivery.

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Best Seafood & Cocktails: The Optimist

An icon of the Westside district, The Optimist is one of Atlanta’s most memorable dining experiences. The mouthwatering seafood is flown in fresh daily and you can linger over ten different kinds of oysters at the raw bar or focus on satisfying plates of zarzuela (a Spanish-style mixed seafood and chorizo stew) or nicely spiced whole grilled branzino in the elegant dining room. There’s also mini-golf out front, where you can kick off your shoes and line up your shot while sipping perfectly blended cocktails — like the Pont Neuf made from quince gin and French brandy.

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Read more: Kayak.com Flight Deals

What to Do

There’s much to see and do in this dynamic city, from immersing yourself in the lore of America’s favorite fizzy drink at the expansive World of Coca-Cola to visiting the inspiring Center for Civil and Human Rights in Centennial Park. Atlanta has its share of historic places, including the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum, where the author wrote her epic Gone With the Wind.  Even more famous, the neighborhood of Sweet Auburn was once the heart of African American culture in the city, and it’s today home to the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site, which commemorates the great American visionary.

There are also plenty of opportunities to get outdoors, including running or cycling along the Atlanta Beltline, a 33-mile greenway built on disused rail lines that loops around the city. Further afield, you’ll find charming food-loving towns amid forests and farmlands and picturesque lakes ideal for aquatic adventures.

Lake Lanier

About an hour’s drive northeast of Atlanta, Lake Lanier makes a speedy getaway when you need a heady dose of nature. Here you can laze on the beach, go fishing for striped bass and bluegill, hire a motorboat for the day or get a workout kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding amid the lovely scenery of the 38,000-acre reservoir. The shoreline offers its own rewards with forested trails that take in the fine views.

Silver Comet Trail

Proof that you don’t have to venture far from the big city to escape into the wilderness, the Silver Comet Trail follows a former rail line between Smyrna, Georgia, all the way out to the Alabama state line. The 62-mile trail traverses trestles over rushing rivers, winds past sun-dappled forests, rolling fields, and an 800-foot-long traverse through a mountain tunnel. If you want to keep going, the trail connects to the 33-mile-long Chief Ladiga Trail in Alabama. A good place to hire bikes is at Comet Trail Cycles in the town of Mableton, some 18 miles northwest of Atlanta.

Read more: Kayak.com Car Rental Deals

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