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Do List Atlanta 2021
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 18 best things to do in Atlanta

The famous Coca-Cola museum and the Georgia Aquarium are only few of the best things to do in Atlanta

By Tiffany J. Davis, Jennifer Bradley Franklin and Krista Diamond
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The city may be known for its sweltering summer weather (prompting tourists to call it “Hotlanta”) and as the home to the world’s busiest airport, but the best things to do in Atlanta go well beyond all that.

Georgia’s capital and its largest city boasts historic sites and attractions like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthplace, vintage performance venues like the Fox Theatre, a vibrant nightlife scene and an eclectic range of activities to tackle with the kids in tow. Don’t forget the killer eats, too: the city carries bragging rights for some of the South’s most delicious restaurants, serving out-of-this-world meat-and-three dishes. Fun fact: The largest drive-in fast food restaurant in the world, The Varsity in Atlanta, serves more Coca-Cola by volume than anywhere else globally.

Shopaholics, art fiends, culture vultures, history buffs: we’ve got you all covered. Here is your Atlanta bucket list.

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere.

You can also learn more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world, or take a look at our list of the 50 best things to do in the world right now

Best things to do in Atlanta

Martin Luther King Center
Martin Luther King Center
Photograph: Courtesy Martin Luther King Center

1. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

Museums Butler Street

What is it: Conjure the spirit of the visionary civil rights leader on a stroll along Auburn Avenue for a few well-spent hours.

Why go: Take a ranger-led tour through Dr. King’s birth home, featuring restored rooms and original furnishings from his childhood, then pay your respects at his nearby crypt on the grounds of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Here, you can explore exhibits dedicated not only to Dr. King, but also his wife (an accomplished opera singer) Coretta Scott King and fellow social reformer Mahatma Gandhi. Since Dr. King inspired minds, hearts and socio-political change, it's no wonder that visitors here find the entire site infinitely moving. 

The Fox Theatre
The Fox Theatre
Photograph: David-Cosmos Smith

2. Fox Theatre

Theater Centennial Place

What is it: The city’s turn-of-the-century movie palace is now home to Broadway tour stops, top-billed bands and comedy headliners—in 2021, you can even see Hamilton.

Why go: The Fox Theatre is the place in the ATL to catch everything from the B-52s to Chelsea Handler to a summer movie series sponsored by Atlanta’s most famous local band to the schedule of Broadway Across America touring shows. The Egyptian-style venue includes the largest working Moller theatre organ in the world, “Mighty Mo,” built in 1929.

Want to see more? Book a tour of Atlanta's coolest neighborhoods.

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Piedmont Park
Piedmont Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Piedmont Park

Attractions Hillside Cottages

What is it: Atlanta’s answer to Central Park, Piedmont Park is a haven for joggers, bocce players and picnic lovers. With flourishing greenery, rippling waters and bustling wildlife, it's a world away from the concrete metropolis of the city.

Why go: This natural oasis is also a setting for frequent art fests throughout the year, including the Dogwood Festival, a spring celebration of flowers and fine art; Memorial Day weekend’s Atlanta Jazz Festival; outdoor performances by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in summer; and farmers’ markets.

4. Georgia Aquarium

Attractions Techwood

What is it: The largest indoor aquarium in the Western hemisphere doubles as a teaching hospital with over 100,000 water-loving residents.

Why go: This attraction, adjacent to Centennial Park, boasts enough fresh and saltwater habitats to keep even the most attention-challenged visitor happy for hours. The aquarium’s big stars include the massive whale sharks, Beluga whales, dolphins and penguins. There’s a free self-guided tour app available for download that will navigate you through the exhibits.

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5. Fat Matt’s Rib Shack

Restaurants Mayfair

What is it: A foodie joint that hosts some of the city’s best live blues nights—oh, and they barbecue downright irresistible grub, too.

Why go: If you like blues, mini pecan pies and sauce so deliciously sweet and tangy you mourn the moment your ribs or chicken are gone, brave the epic (but mercifully fast-moving) line at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. A half-bird, accompanied with fresh collard greens and slaw? Juicy.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Museums Lake Claire

What is it: Between the stunning atrium featuring a suspended life-scale brontosaurus skeleton and swank after-hours events, Fernbank isn’t just a school-trip destination.

Why go: Walk through swampland and foothill dioramas populated with prehistoric, Mesozoic and modern day flora and fauna in the crowd-pleasing exhibit “A Walk Through Time in Georgia” or take in a larger-than-life educational 3D IMAX film.

Save on top Atlanta attractions with a CityPASS

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High Museum of Art
High Museum of Art
Photograph: Courtesy High Museum of Art

7. High Museum of Art

Museums Midtown

What is it: World-renowned and captivating, the High Museum of Art houses a cross-era, international scope of work. Living up to all you've heard about it, this white concrete, glass and steel art behemoth is striking inside and out.

Why go: Originally designed by starchitect Richard Meier, and featuring a 2005 expansion by Renzo Piano, the High Museum of Art's collection includes everything from African art to modern and contemporary work by Ellsworth Kelly and Spencer Finch. The museum is particularly strong on American photography, including a photographic retrospective on 180 years of female photographers.

Indie Craft Experience
Indie Craft Experience
Photograph: Courtesy Indie Craft Experience/Bonnie J. Heath

8. Indie Craft Experience

What is it: Indie Craft Experience events have the vibe of your favorite Etsy page, only better.

Why go: Christy Peterson and Shannon Mulkey have spent a decade curating and cultivating the Atlanta craft scene. The duo’s themed Atlanta crafting “retreats,” seasonal pop-up events and shopping markets, bring together makers, re-makers, collectors and those that delight in swapping DIY wares and sharing the stories and techniques behind them. 

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Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Photograph: Anthony Masterson

9. Atlanta Botanical Garden

Attractions Morningside

What is it: Pretty flowers are just the beginning at this 30-acre botanical center bordering the northeast side of the city’s largest public park.

Why go: Traipse through oak, hickory and poplar treetops on the 600-foot Canopy Walk footbridge suspended 40 feet above the blooming hydrangeas, perennials and bulbs below. Afraid of heights? Go zen in an authentic Japanese garden dating back to the 1960s, featuring a 300-year-old lantern, gurgling waterfall and a seasonal rotation of irises, azaleas and maples.

Krog Street Market
Krog Street Market
Photograph: Courtesy Krog Street Market/Barry Cantrell

10. Krog Street Market

Restaurants Old Fourth Ward

What is it: A handful of the city’s most buzzed-about food makers and restaurateurs have put down roots in a former cast-iron stove factory.

Why go: The network of tempting stalls sells everything from bacon cheeseburgers at Fred's Meat and Bread to fresh scoops at Jeni’s Ice Cream and craft beer at Hop City Store and Bar

Still hungry? Book a foodie tour of Historica Inman Park 

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11. Historic Oakland Cemetery

Attractions Grady

What is it: Its green spaces and beautifully maintained stones and statues make Oakland Cemetery one of the most popular picnic spots in the city.

Why go: Strike out on a self-guided tour to view the final resting place of Atlanta notables including Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell and Atlanta’s first African-American mayor, Maynard Jackson. Guided tours ($12) explore various strands of city history through its late inhabitants, from local scandals to brewing. 

Love 'Gone With the Wind'? Book a literary tour of the city.

12. Starlight Drive-In Theatre

Movie theaters Browns Mill

What is it: This Art Deco drive-in that first opened in 1949 is still a beloved date spot for loved-up locals.

Why go: Grab some wheels to check out the nightly double features and retro Tex-Mex food stand (serving sodas, candy and popcorn) at this old-school drive-in theater. On Saturdays, head to Starlight between 6am and 3pm for a swap meet (with the retro admission price of 50 cents) chock full of Americana goods, vintage clothes, records and some good ol' people-watching.

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Photograph: Shutterstock

13. StoryCorps

Things to do Buckhead Triangle

What is it: Anyone can record their story through this oral history project run by StoryCorps, the Atlanta History Center and WABE 90.1 FM. 

Why go: The Atlanta History Center is the only permanent recording location in this otherwise roving network. Recordings (which are archived at the Library of Congress) memorialize milestones both historical (J.T. Johnson and Al Lingo’s 1964 protest to integrate a Florida swimming pool) and deeply personal (Brent Hendricks and his mother Barbara’s talk about his sister’s terminal cystic fibrosis diagnosis). Book an appointment to add your story to the mix. There's currently a "virtual recording booth" to facilitate off-site storytelling.

14. The Clermont Lounge

Attractions St. Charles Greenwood

What is it: Everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Jennifer Lawrence has made it a point to visit (and rave about) the basement strip joint beneath a Ponce de Leon Avenue motel. These days, the “motel” looks different, thanks to a multi-million dollar renovation, which re-launched the property as Hotel Clermont, complete with a rooftop bar, swanky rooms and Tiny Lou’s, a French restaurant.

Why go: Yes, the exotic dancers are all-natural (and many are older than you’d expect), crush beer cans with their ta-tas and change in the customer restrooms. But naked ladies aside, the Clermont Lounge has a gritty, raunchy, “real Atlanta” allure that’s hard to describe unless you see it up close.

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The Goat Farm
The Goat Farm
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Wikimedia

15. The Goat Farm Arts Center

Things to do Bankhead

What is it: Apart from “a former goat farm,” the Goat Farm is hard to classify as any one thing—and that’s precisely why it’s become so popular. Built in the 19th century, you can always expect the usual arts suspects (think dance, drama and music), many of whom rent studio space in the rambling complex.

Why go: Highbrow art critics, creatives and laptoppers love it for a great cup of joe (at Warhorse Coffee Shop) and an eclectic slate of events in its exposed-brick breezeways—from writers’ workshops to experimental art shows.

World of Coca-Cola
World of Coca-Cola
Photograph: Courtesy World of Coca-Cola

16. World of Coca-Cola

Attractions Brooklyn

What is it: This gleaming museum chronicles the history of Coca-Cola as well as the soda industry itself.

Why go: Coke is king—and ubiquitous—in the city that saw its invention in 1886 (and also houses the brand’s global corporate headquarters). True to the name, when it comes to total soda universe domination, the World of Coca-Cola is totally overwhelming, in a fun, fizzy, hyper-commercialized sort of way. Check out replica soda fountains, the pop-culture museum, 4-D theater displays and DIY beverage fountains dispensing flavors from around the world. Feeling thirsty? Pick from over 100 beverages, including all the classics as well as limited editions.

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The Wren's Nest
The Wren's Nest
Photograph: Courtesy The Wren's Nest

17. The Wren’s Nest

Museums West End

What is itAfrican-American folklore comes alive via the gifted storytellers at the former home of Uncle Remus author Joel Chandler Harris.

Why go? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter, who spent four years working on a plantation in his youth, popularized traditional tales of Brer Rabbit, Mr. Fox and others through the character. Tour the well-preserved Victorian Harris family home ($10) and have a snoop in the author’s bedroom, which is virtually unchanged since the early 20th century. 

Atlanta Civil Bike Tours
Atlanta Civil Bike Tours
Photograph: Courtesy Atlanta Civil Bike Tours

18. Civil Bikes Tours

What is it: Jump on a guided Civil Bikes tour and get pedaling—it’s a sure-fire way to get to know the Atlanta spots bursting with stories.

Why go: Breeze through the historic Sweet Auburn District, the site of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. and his father preached for decades, and pedal back in time to sites related to the landmark human rights campaign to free African-American widow Rosa Lee Ingram.

Planning a trip with youngsters?

Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 15 best things to do with kids in Atlanta

Things to do

Old-school arcades, iconic theaters, treetop jungle gyms—the best things to do with kids in Atlanta are sweeter than a Georgia peach. Whether in the heart of the city or kayaking the Chattahoochee River, you can’t help but fall for the Southern charm and family-friendly destinations.

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