I just had the most amazing, whirlwind press trip with the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau. They flew a bunch of us bloggers out to tour the city and get a taste of what it has to offer. We spent more than a day exploring, but I really believe that a small group on a mission could see some amazing highlights in just 24 hours in Atlanta.
The city’s diversity, up-and-coming artist community, food scene and its affordability impressed me! When I asked a stranger what the city’s known for, a gal I met there commented, “A lot of people spend 24 hours in Atlanta. They see the airport, Buckhead and…well…the airport again.” I’ve personally visited several times and I’m embarrassed to say that’s all I had ever taken in, which is sad because there is so much to enjoy.
Next time you're headed to the city, book in some extra time. Here is exactly what to do with 24 hours in Atlanta.
24 Hours in Atlanta: A Detailed Itinerary
First things first, Centennial Olympic Park is on the way from the airport into vibrant Midtown and is where all of the “touristy” stuff is located. Most of the museums and family experiences sell a CityPass that lets you see all the top attractions at a discount without standing in line repeatedly. It’s an excellent value, and it’s the only way to get expedited entry into the Georgia Aquarium.
I recommend splitting your time at Centennial Olympic Park into two stops: one for CNN and the adjacent College Football Hall of Fame and Skyview Ferris Wheel, and one for the more self-guided attractions which are clustered at the other end of the park.
If you’re not traveling with kids, check into the chic, conveniently-located W Atlanta Midtown and walk or grab an Uber three-quarters of a mile over for dinner at Cypress Street Pint. The Sublime Doughnut Burger is a sight to behold, and you can't miss out on their pub fries with truffle mayo! If you do have kids in tow, skip the trendy scene and head to Marriott Suites Midtown, with dinner at the nearby South City Kitchen.
For breakfast, start bright and early by walking over to Cafe Intermezzo and ordering from their fifty-page beverage book. They also serve over seventy drool-worthy pastries as well as a huge assortment of large and small French-inspired plates. If you didn’t get dinner at South City Kitchen last night, you can get a taste of southern cuisine with a quick stop at Einstein’s for brunch – order the Shrimp & Grits and Fried Green Tomatoes small plates.
Burn that all off with a walk over to Piedmont Park to see how locals spend an enjoyable afternoon with family. Dockside is the closest lookout point from Midtown, but you can also venture further and take a quick jaunt on the bridge over Lake Clara Meer for some phenomenal photo opportunities.
Also on this end of town, Atlanta Botanical Garden is incredible but a bit pricey. We were lucky enough to catch the temporary “Field of Light” exhibit by world-famous Bruce Munro. Check out their site to see if there are any special exhibits before you go, and note that they’re closed on holidays.
Next up is Margaret Mitchell house, so brush up on your Gone with the Wind before visiting.
You can see this space in a self-guided manner, but tours are well worth it for the anecdotes you’ll hear about the famed author’s feisty spirit. Tours are offered every half hour beginning at 10:30am Monday through Saturday and starting at 12:30pm on Sundays.
Make a quick stop at Sweet Hut Bakery on the next block to load up on snacks for the day and grab some macarons to take back home.
Also walkable within Midtown, the Fox Theatre is a must-see stop. I recommend booking a show if you can squeeze it in. They have guided tours available for advance purchase on their website running throughout the late morning and early afternoon on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Even if you can’t get inside, it’s worth taking a peek.
Back down the block at Hi-Five, grab the Miso Caesar Salad for a fast and light lunch before heading back to Centennial Park for a quick walk through the CityPass sights you haven’t yet seen. We managed to speed through the aquarium in an hour (even though it was packed) and devoted about forty-five minutes each to the World of Coca-Cola and the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
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I want to give a HUGE thanks to our hosts at the W hotel and the visitors bureau, as well as to John at Peachtree Food Tours. John helped me suss out the top sights and tastes for 24 hours in Atlanta, and he is the best tour guide I've ever had. If you're traveling without wee ones and have time you should definitely join one of his tours. If you're pressed for time or have the little ones along, it's worth a call to ask if he can do a private tour for you. The man is charming and filled with historical knowledge, and was absolutely one of the biggest highlights of our trip!