Downtown Atlanta is the lifeblood of the city, bringing visitors and locals together in a mecca of hustle, bustle, excitement and innovation.
From attractions to green spaces to delicious eats, the Downtown District puts Atlanta, Ga on the map when it comes to adventure, culture and history! Read on for our list of all the must-do activities in The Capital of The South.
DOWNTOWN ATLANTA’S MAIN ATTRACTIONS
Georgia Aquarium. Families love the our world-renowned aquarium, with whale sharks, sea lions, penguins and a spectacular dolphin show. Don’t forget to bring the kids by Aquanaut Adventure, a discovery zone for kids. If you have time, the Behind the Scenes tour of the world’s largest aquarium is a must-do. Read More: 29 BEST AQUARIUMS IN THE U.S. YOU HAVE TO VISIT
World of Coca-Cola Museum. You’ll find the world’s largest permanent display of memorabilia from the soda most people prefer – Coca-Cola! The tasting room includes over 100 beverages from around the world. Make plans to see a show at the 4D Theatre and pose for a picture with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear.
Center for Civil and Human Rights. The Center for Civil and Human Rights is a powerful, moving museum that ties the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s with the today’s global Human Rights movement. Expect to see emotionally raw images and portrayals at this new Atlanta attraction, watching, seeing, hearing and interacting with history in an intimate and modern setting. Ideal for kids elementary age and up. Check out the Educator’s Guide before you go.
College Football Hall of Fame. Feel the excitement and spirit of college football fanfare from the moment you step inside the football-shaped building. The big draw for kids is the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Skill Zone. Kick a field goal, run through a training course, or take the quarterback challenge. After that, make your way to the Game Day Theater, where the energy of college football comes to life.
The above attractions are all within walking distance of each other and part of Atlanta CityPASS, which allows you to save up to 43% off regular ticket prices. AND…it’s even great for locals because you now have up to 30 days to use the tickets. See more info here.
Children’s Museum of Atlanta. Explore the newly remodeled kiddo museum, with interesting traveling exhibits and fantastic permanent play stations that include science, art and other fun missions that teach while kids play. Designed for kids 0-8 yo.
MORE THINGS TO DO IN DOWNTOWN ATLANTA
Atlanta Cruzers. One of the best ways to cover a lot of ground in Atlanta and see as much as you can is with the Trolley Tour or Electric Car Tour with Atlanta Cruzers. Whether you’re a local or a visitor, you’ll love the opportunity to see a small (usually unknown) jail cell in a public park, unmatched views of Atlanta’s best murals, filming locations like one of the houses in Lovecraft Country, and more.
Atlanta SkyView. Up, up, up…and over the city for gorgeous views daytime or night. Atlanta’s Ferris Wheel is the ideal place to catch a glimpse of Centennial Park and the surrounding area from 20 stories in the air. Want something extra-special? Try the VIP gondola boasting Ferrari style seats, a glass floor and a longer flight time.
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. As birthplace and home to the legendary Dr. MLK Jr, you can take a journey through special places in his life on a waking tour of the park. Not your typical national park, sites are spread in a several block radius of the main park building, including his birth home, Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Fire Station No. 6, The King Center, and more. (Buildings are currently closed, but this is still worth a walking visit.)
Centennial Olympic Park. This unique 21-acre park serves as Georgia’s lasting legacy of the Centennial Olympic Games. The Fountain of Rings is the world’s largest interactive fountain utilizing the Olympic symbol of five interconnecting Rings, and it is a local’s favorite for kids who love to run and jump in the water to cool off from the heat. You’ll find concerts, festivals and all sorts of events happening here year ‘round.
Carter Center. The Carter Center is the only presidential library in the Southeast. Tour the 35 acres for FREE, with two beautiful lakes and a Japanese garden. A small fee allows you into the museum where you can view Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize or take a photo in an exact replica of the Oval Office.
State Farm Arena. If you’re in town to catch a Hawks Game, then that is a must … but this is also the ideal venue for watching big-name music artists like Justin Bieber, The Eagles, John Mayer, Jennifer Lopez and more.
Mercedes Benz Stadium. If you’re not in town for a Falcon’s game, then try a concert or a United game. In summer you can enjoy the new Home Depot Backyard Greenspace with a playground, tailgating space, event venue and more. Finally, don’t miss touring the amazing art collection within the Stadium.
WORTH THE DRIVE FROM DOWNTOWN
The Varsity. (<2 miles) The Varsity is the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, and it’s been serving the locals since 1928! Don’t be intimidated by the quick order-taking staff…they just want to make you happy. I recommend the chili-cheese-slaw-dog with onion rings and a Frosted Orange.
Zoo Atlanta. Lions and tigers and bears…and so much more. Our favorite has to be the twin panda cubs. Come see the new safari habitat for the elephants, zebras, giraffes and other African animals. Or take to the trees like a Toucan, and enjoy the ropes course.
Insider Tip: Zoo Atlanta is also part of Atlanta CityPASS. Click here to see how you can save up to 43%.
Center for Puppetry Arts. (3 miles) Show your love for all things puppets at the Center for Puppetry Arts. Regularly playing host to puppet performances for adults and children, the site is also home to a museum featuring permanent and visiting exhibits. Most puppet shows are for elementary age and up, though there are often adult-centric performances, too.
Fernbank Museum. (5 miles) This highly interactive museum provides activities, stories, crafts and performances. Regular interactive traveling exhibits always offer something new. Permanent exhibits include kids’ favorite Fernbank NatureQuest, the newest way for kids to explore nature and science through immersive exhibits.
Insider Tip: Fernbank is also part of Atlanta CityPASS. Click here to see how you can save up to 43%.
Six Flags Over Georgia. (12 miles) Catch-your-breath fun for everyone! Attractions include The New Revolution Virtual Reality Roller Coaster, DC Super Friends Bugs Bunny Boomtown (great for young kids) and Hurricane Harbor Water Park.
Stone Mountain Park. (26 miles) Stone Mountain is filled with family fun adventures in the outdoors. Climb to the top of the mountain or take the train around the giant outcrop. Golf at the championship courses or the mini-golf course. Explore the park in the daytime and stay until dark for the fireworks and laser show extravaganza. There is also camping, glamping and two Marriott hotels.
DOWNTOWN ATLANTA HOTELS
Hilton Garden Inn Downtown. We’ve stayed at this hotel countless times because of the great service and the location, location, location. It’s easy access to all the attractions, State Farm Arena, Tabernacle, Centennial Park and more.
Omni Hotel Atlanta. Omni is located within the CNN Center and next to Centennial Park. It includes an outdoor pool and babysitting available. Ask about the Omni Sensational Kids program.
Sheraton Atlanta. Heated pool with courtyard, Free Wi-Fi with Deluxe Rooms ideal for families.
Hyatt House Atlanta Downtown. Spacious guestrooms and suites are ideal for families. Fully-equipped kitchens available. Free Wi-Fi, outdoor heated pool, 24-hour market.
Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Another family favorite, the Hyatt Regency is comfortable but sophisticated. Outdoor pool, Free Wi-Fi, easy access to Marta.
RESTAURANTS IN DOWNTOWN ATLANTA
Dos Bocas. Dos Bocas is easily accessible from the Hilton Garden Inn and Centennial Park. We love the Louisiana-Texas take on food (and the black bean soup is to die for.) Ask for a seat on the patio for wicked views of the Aquarium, Ferris wheel and more.
Der Biergarten. As the name suggests, this is a German beer garden with an authentic German menu and beer selections. One of the owners is an Atlanta resident and native of Germany, and he brings to life dishes like jägerschnitzel (my fave), käsespätzle, reibekuchen and more!
Googie Burger. An ideal stop within Centennial Olympic Park. There’s outside eating only, so Googie is seasonal, and everything is from scratch. Don’t need to drive? Grab an adult-milkshake to enjoy while the kids are at the playground. (Currently closed)
Gus’s Fried Chicken. Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken has flickered on the edge of national recognition for a decade, ever since GQ Magazine cited it in 2001 as one of the top five restaurants in the country worth hopping on a plane for a meal. Originally in Memphis and now in Downtown Atlanta, this is fried chicken you don’t want to miss.
Hard Rock Café. Grab a delicious hamburger in a fun environment. In town Monday? You can experience free live concerts here. Great for teens and tweens.
Paschal’s. Southern cooking since 1947, Paschal’s Restaurant is the “soul” of Atlanta, serving favorites like Paschal’s Fried Chicken. There’s also a Civil Rights history here you won’t want to miss. This amazing restaurant is a shining star in our foodie city.
The Curb Market. Ride the trolley to Sweet Auburn for a series of delicious eats from Huskers to Sweet Auburn BBQ. Rawsome Juicery is also a fun treat for the kids.
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