Hello + welcome back to this little mini-series about the road trip I took through the south over Labor Day Weekend with one of my best friend’s, Emma. Atlanta was the final stop on our tour—if you’re popping in on this post, definitely check out the other posts about our road trip below for more context. The short version is that we flew into Jackson, Mississippi on a Thursday night and flew home out of Atlanta on a Tuesday afternoon. Along the way, we stopped in Natchez, Oxford, Tuscaloosa, and Birmingham:
- Natchez by way of Jackson, Mississippi
- Oxford, Mississippi
- Birmingham by way of Tuscaloosa, Alabama
- Atlanta, Georgia (this post!)
Unlike the other stops on the tour, Atlanta was not a new-to-me-place. I’ve been several times, but before this trip, always seem to be just passing through or there for a wedding. This trip was the first time I played tourist for a full 24 hours in Atlanta, and though we were tired by this leg of the tour, we really did enjoy our stay and I feel like we got to see some of the best of Atlanta. We were there on the Sunday night ahead of Labor Day, so while most Sunday nights are normally quiet, the night we were there, the city really was alive with action and people!
This was the longest trip I took this year, and I forgot how much I enjoyed a good old fashioned road trip. (And especially the snacks that come along with it.) As we look forward to 2020 travel, definitely consider putting a road trip like this one on your list—we had the best time! x
HOW TO GET THERE /
Getting to Atlanta is super easy because they have such a large airport—Harstfield-Jackson. Whenever I fly to or from Atlanta, I try to fly Delta, if possible, because the airport is such a big Delta hub. If my flight gets delayed or canceled, given the volume of flights they have everyday, they have more options to help me get where I am going than a carrier with a smaller presence. I also think Delta has the best app of any major US airline, and I really hope they expand their presence in DC because I would love to make them “my” airline.
For this trip, we chose Atlanta intentionally since we knew we could get cheaper flights home than we could from a smaller airport. We drove to Atlanta from Birmingham, which was an easy two hour drive—so if you’re looking to go to Birmingham, definitely consider flying into Atlanta.
WHERE TO STAY /
If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know I am a loyalist to Marriott when it comes to hotels. They’re the chain I always stay with for work, and over the last year, I’ve built up a hefty collection of points and achieved Gold Status. So for our night in Atlanta, I used some of my Marriott points to book us a night stay at the Marriott Courtyard in Buckhead. It was a great, clean hotel, but in hindsight, we wished we had stayed somewhere closer to downtown Atlanta since that’s where everything we wanted to see was, so we ended up spending more on Ubers—we dropped the rental car off when we got to Altanta—than we probably should have.
Buckhead was a great neighborhood, but it definitely felt more suburban and anchored by a ton of office parks. There wasn’t too much to see there, so if you’re planning a trip to Atlanta based on this guide, I’d look to stay near Ponce City Market.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK /
Atlanta has no shortages of restaurants—here’s where I’ve eaten and drank before:
- Brezza—located in Ponce City Market, which I’ll chat about more down below, this was our first meal in Atlanta and we were hungry! It’s an Italian Jonathan Waxman restaurant, and the food was really good. I had a kale caesar and we split marina baked burrata. When we went, they were out of a ton of things we were interested in (I really wanted the mussels!) and the service was kind of meh, but I think that’s sometimes what you get when you eat in big markets like this.
- Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living—if you’re easily offended, I would not go here, hah! But, we really enjoyed the afternoon cocktail we had here. It’s decorated from top to bottom with faux religious pop art, and there’s even a themed photo booth.
- Red Pepper Taqueria—we ate at this Mexican spot on a Monday night and they had a great deal—$10 for fajitas! The margaritas and queso here were great. That all being said, this was a pretty average Mexican spot and we mostly picked it because it was close to our hotel. I’d definitely eat there again, but I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to do so.
- The Varsity—my first experience with The Varsity was all the way back in 2007 when I went to visit my cousin while she was at University of Georgia! A popular fast food burger joint with delicious fries and milkshakes, The Varsity is an institution down this way.
- Willy’s Mexicana Grill—as I was heading to the airport to fly home from this past trip, my friend and Atlanta native, Louisa, texted me to get Willy’s in my terminal. It’s a popular fast casual Mexican restaurant in the area, and I knew it would be good when I got to it and there was a long line.
- Landshark at Lanier Islands—my cousin got married outside of Atlanta back in June, and my other cousin found this on the map and insisted we go as a family. I am so glad he did! Lake Lanier is a popular lake right outside of Atlanta, and Lanier Islands is a water park right on the lake. We did have to pay $15 to enter, but it was worth it to enjoy one of Jimmy Buffett’s restaurants. If you have a day in Atlanta and are willing to drive a little bit, I can’t recommend this place enough!
Like the other cities we visited on this trip, we had no shortage of Atlanta food and drink recommendations for our visit made by family and friends, so I wanted to share those here, too. In terms of food, one place we wanted to go, but was closed since we were there on Labor Day, was Taqueria del Sol. Emma’s friend, who is from Atlanta originally, raved about this place, and it’s at the top of my list for my next visit! Some others on the list were: 8 Arm for brunch or dinner, Antico Pizza for pizza and BYOB, Highland Bakery for breakfast or brunch, Beetlecat for The Den downstairs that has a bar and cocktails waiting to be ‘grammed, The Optimist for seafood, Amer for a fancy cocktail pre- or post-dinner, Bell Street Burritos for fast casual Mexican, The Vortex for burgers, Ria’s Bluebird for breakfast, and Mary Mac’s Tea Room for southern food that’s been served up since 1945 and and has been officially declared “Atlanta’s Dining Room” by Georgia’s House of Representatives.
For drinks, we were told to go to Hotel Clermont for their rooftop (it’s very popular, so lines might get long!) and the Clermont Lounge, which is a dive bar and strip club in the basement. Dark Horse Tavern is another place that came highly recommended, since they have great live band karaoke in the basement.
There’s also a ton of good eating in Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market, so I’ll list those recommendations down below in the “what to do” section.
WHAT TO DO /
One of the places we loved during our trip was Ponce City Market, which is where we ate at Brezza. Located in a historic building, it’s a retail market done by the same developers as Chelsea Market in NYC. I was really excited to see there was a Candlefish in Atlanta, as its one of my favorite candle stores that I discovered in Charleston several years ago. We also loved Archer Paper Goods—they had the cutest selection of cards and paper goods, and I could have bought them all!
Ponce City Market connects to Atlanta’s Beltline, which is an old railway corridor that’s now a 22 mile pedestrian loop around Atlanta’s core. If I lived in Atlanta, I would so walk this often. There are a ton of apartment complexes that back up to it, as well as some popular new breweries like New Realm Brewing. We also were recommended three restaurants on the Beltline if you’re walking and find yourself hungry—Ladybird, Two Urban Licks, and Parish. We walked the Beltline down to Krog Street Market, another food market similar to Ponce City Market, but on the smaller side. We weren’t hungry when we went, so we took a lap, and then enjoyed The Merchant, a really cute home goods store.
Before we headed to the airport, we went to World of Coca-Cola, and while it was extremely touristy, I really enjoyed our morning there! I learned a lot about the history of Coke through their exhibits, and especially enjoyed reading about their early marketing strategies. The tasting room where they have coke products from all over the world lives up to the hype, too! We went on a Tuesday morning, so it wasn’t crowded at all—but our guide did say it can get crowded on weekends, so just something to keep in mind.
On my next trip to Atlanta, I’d also love to get to the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which is right near Wold of Coke.
Alexa, play Midnight Train to Georgia! If you have any questions about our time in Atlanta, don’t hesitate to drop me a comment below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This post is so helpful!! Atlanta is definitely a place I’ve never visited extensively. We always seem to just pass through. I really want to go to the Georgia Aquarium, and you’ve also given great suggestions!
I’ve passed through a lot, too — next time you’re in the area, definitely stay a while 🙂
As a native Atlantan this is a great guide!! You really captured the best places in Atlanta and some of the fun, not so popular ones too!!
Thank you so much, Liz! xoxo