What To See and Do in Atlanta When You Don't Have a Lot of Time

Growing up, I went to Atlanta almost every summer to visit my grandparents from my hometown in the Bay Area in California. In 2008, after my brother and I had already flown the nest, my parents decided to move to the Greater Atlanta area to retire. Although I was a frequent visitor, and lived there with my parents for a little over a year before grad school, I never really thought about the hot touristy spots or places to take someone on vacation there until my boyfriend and I went last week to visit my parents.

Although we didn't do all of these things, here is my guide for the best things to do in Atlanta if you've only got a couple of days (as we only had two full ones!).

Things to Do

The Fox Theatre

Okay, this is already a cheat since we didn't go there this trip. But I have been there a few times AND my grandma took me to see Titanic there back in the day during a visit to her house. Built in 1929, it was one of the country's grandest movie palaces. Now a performing arts venue, it hosts mainly touring Broadway shows, but also has special events, like the aforementioned Titanic. You can even take a tour if you're just interested in the old time-y architecture.

600 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

Take a peek at the inside.

Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War History Museum

Another cheat since this attraction is closed for renovation. Cyclorama features a 360 degree painting of the Battle of Atlanta, complete with life-like figures and rotating seats. For those who love fun facts, the actors in Gone with the Wind actually toured it during the premiere for the film (which was at, surprise, The Fox!). There is an accompanying museum all about the Civil War, complete with real artifacts including uniforms and a train. Although it's closed until late 2016, if you've visiting Atlanta during that time, I'd highly recommend it.

Atlanta History Center

The World of Coca-Cola

Since Luke and I are HUGE Diet Coke addicts, and I hadn't been there since I was about 10, this was for sure on the menu for our trip. You may or may not be aware, but Atlanta is the birthplace of Coca Cola and the "museum" takes you on an interactive trip through the story, history and tons and tons of memorabilia. At the end of the tour, you even get to taste Coke products from around the world at no extra cost, in addition to all of the syrup flavors (such as raspberry Diet Coke, etc.). There's also a gift shop where you can get a wide variety of really cute stuff...and I may or may not have purchased Diet Coke pajamas? I dunno...

The World of Coca Cola houses the Olympic Torches!  

Old fashioned vending machines!

The World of Coca-Cola 
121 Baker Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30313

The King Center and the Ebenezer Baptist Church

If you're at all interested in history and/or the Civil Rights Movement, The King Center is your stop for an interesting (and free!) afternoon. As Dr. Martin Luther King, jr was raised in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta, the King Center is located in its heart. This massive complex has a museum, free films on King's life and houses a library which has the largest source materials on King's life and the Civil Rights Movement in the world. You can also pay your respects to him and his wife by visiting their graves. Next to their tombs is the original Ebenezer Baptist Church, where MLK preached. A more modern reconstruction of the church is on the grounds, but as it is in use, it is not part of the tour. You can also visit the birth home of MLK, jr.

The King Center
449 Auburn Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30312


I confess, I don't know a TON about restaurants in Atlanta, but I do have my two favorites.

Mary Mac's Tea Room

One of the most famous restaurants in Atlanta, Mary Mac's presents Southern soul food in a home dining atmosphere. If you're not from the south or from overseas, this is a must visit.  To eat there, you'll need to put on your eatin' dress, because everything from dumplings to biscuits to mac and cheese, to peanut butter pie to fried chicken is on the menu. Even though I'm not a big meat eater, I can still find things to eat here, and always take out of town guests.

Mary Mac's Tea Room
224 Ponce de Leon Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30308

Brick Store Pub

Brick Store is a casual pub on the edge of town in Decatur, but sells some delicious food. Although it has a "local pub" flavor, it serves up some pretty delicious things like raclette, Bavarian pretzels, steak, fish and pot pies. But it also has pub favorites like fish n' chips, burgers and fries. And of course, there is LOTS of beer on tap and they specialize in Belgian brews.

Brick Store Pub
125 E. Court Square
Decatur, GA 30030

Where to Stay

I've only ever stayed in a hotel in Atlanta about three times in the last several years. As such, I've found I've gotten the most reasonably priced hotels via Priceline.com or Hotwire.com and mostly located in Buckhead. Although Buckhead is a bit of trek from most of the attractions, you can drive there in less than 20 minutes and many of the hotels are well connected to the MARTA through the stations outside or Lennox Square Mall.

Honorable Mentions

If you're in Atlanta with kids, check out Zoo Atlanta or the Georgia Aquarium. Kids will also love the Center for Puppetry Arts, which produces some amazing puppet theater and an attached museum.

All photos are mine, with the exception of the Atlanta Skyline image which is credited to Terence S. Jones under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

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