When you pop into Atlanta on a whirlwind trip, you may find yourself inevitably drawn to Centennial Olympic Park. After all, it’s in the heart of downtown and flanks the city’s most well-known attractions: Georgia Aquarium, CNN Center, World of Coca-Cola, and the newest in the lineup, the giant Ferris wheel known as SkyView Atlanta.
These amusements are great, but they aren’t always the best way to really get to know a city. If you’ve got 48 hours, then you’ve got time to dig a little deeper and discover the down-home Atlanta that the locals are proud to call their own.
A Perfect Morning
Start off your day at Krog Street Market, a bustling indoor bazaar filled with food vendors inside a converted warehouse. Translation: hipster heaven! Snag breakfast at one of the many counter service stalls specializing in locally sourced food. For a healthy option, try a smoothie bowl at Nature’s Garden Express, or forget all about “smart” choices and indulge in a flaky pastry and steaming cortado at The Little Tart Bakeshop.
Either way, you can burn it all off on the BeltLine right outside. This rails-to-trails path is extremely popular with local walkers and cyclists, and you’re certain to feel like an Atlanta native when you join the pack. There’s plenty of outdoor art to gawk at, plus pop-up shops and the occasional free class on yoga, skateboarding, and the like. If you come across a King of Pops stand, buy a gourmet popsicle — watermelon mojito, anyone? — to get a sweet taste of Atlanta with a unique twist.
On your way out of Inman Park, drive through Krog Street Tunnel. Before traffic gets bad — it’s Atlanta, after all — late morning is a great time to snap a few pics of the much-hyped graffiti murals covering the walls.
For lunch, go for variety. The year-round Freedom Farmers Market at the Carter Center has a wide selection of farm-fresh staples, plus a kids’ tent and chef-made meals. Various other neighborhood markets, including Decatur, Ponce City, Grant Park, and East Atlanta Village, also have great food and tons of friendly people.
If you want to eat in a funky atmosphere, Amélie’s French Bakery is your answer. This Midtown café has borderline bizarre bohemian art and cool board games to entertain as you linger over lunch. Don’t skip the to-die-for macaroons.
Ready to burn off some more energy after refueling? Head to The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, a free educational center built in honor of Georgia’s former commander in chief. The huge complex includes 35 acres of hills and ponds, a replica of the Oval Office, and exhibits on everything from the Panama Canal to space exploration.
If that sounds too serious, skip the museum and tackle the rock wall, swings, and shooting water at the nearby Historic Fourth Ward Playground & Splashpad. It’s designed with special appeal for kids and pre-teens, of course, but you don’t have to have kids with you to take a run at the wall.
Wrap up at least one evening in Old Fourth Ward. This edgy intown neighborhood is a cultural destination home to street art and an experimental culinary scene. The Mercury has great drinks along with classic American food like burgers and mac and cheese. It’s one of more than 60 shopping and dining outlets inside the new Ponce City Market, where you can window shop — or drop some actual cash — for hours.
The PCM roof is the city’s most vintage hangout. Skyline Park has an old-timey, Coney Island-style amusement park feel with mini golf, skee ball, ring tosses, a giant slide, and a beer garden. It also gives you some Instagram-worthy views of the city as the sun sets.
For another amazing sunset shot, try the Jackson Street Bridge about a mile south. The locals swear by it for the best views of downtown. Fan of “The Walking Dead?” You may find the bridge eerily familiar.
If you prefer some laughs with your entertainment, get your chuckles at The Basement Theatre, an improv comedy club on the north side that even offers a few family-friendly shows to crack you up on a rated G or PG-13 level. Grab dinner at Greater Good BBQ, with the “greater good” being craft beer, lick-your-fingers barbecue, and Southern sides like collard greens and potato salad. A kids’ menu and live music make it a no-brainer for almost anyone.
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