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things to do in atlanta

Things to Do in Atlanta [2021 Sustainable Travel Guide]

When I moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 2010 I wasn't quite prepared for the unparalleled beauty of the “city beneath the trees”. During the decade that I lived here I learned so much about this historic city and compiled a great list of things to do in Atlanta. 

Atlanta captured my heart in many ways. You'll catch me saying, “It was love at first sight, then we got married”.

I was drawn to the Chattahoochee River right away. It was only a short walk from my first apartment. Being surrounded by the woods of the Chattahoochee Hiking Trails that lace alongside the river, my home was filled with the wonderful smell of pine. In many of the surrounding neighborhoods this is quite common, giving Atlanta its nickname – the city beneath the trees. I can not describe how such a large city could feel like a small town too.

When you’re out exploring things to do in Atlanta, the ease of walking in areas of town like Buckhead and Midtown astonishes me. I love being able to  walk to the grocery store, gym, and my favorite parks. The MARTA public transportation railway feels like being transported to another part of the world. Atlanta has so many different neighborhoods including Buckhead, Midtown, and Little Five Points. It’s not necessary to own a car to still easily enjoy all the things to do in Atlanta that you love. You can lower your carbon footprint by over 4,800 pounds annually by not having a car, too.

A couple of great things to do in Atlanta is visit Chastain Park and Piedmont Park. Just like the “pied” in the name suggests, these are great walking parks. Biking the Beltline, or renting a scooter to explore the city are super adventurous things to do in Atlanta.

Atlanta doesn’t just capture your heart, but your taste buds as well. Being immersed in delectable eateries all around Atlanta, like Flower Child and True Food Kitchen, is a joy. Speaking of deliciousness, some fun foodie things to do in Atlanta, is to experience local farms and farmer’s markets. This will create a sustainable travel experience that will allow you to experience Atlanta like a local.

things to do in atlanta
Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

Atlanta’s Tourism

Atlanta is one of the most vibrant cities for tourism in the world. For many years, Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson Airport has been one of the busiest airports, with 110 million passengers annually.

Atlanta Sustainability 

When thinking about things to do in Atlanta, what surprised me is just how many opportunities there are to experience sustainability. Just like it could be surprising that New York City can be sustainable, so is Atlanta! There are so many opportunities in Atlanta to reduce your carbon footprint.  

With tourism comes challenges for sustainability. The Mayor’s office has partnered on 9 Resilience Initiatives including, but not limited to, Clean Energy Plan, AgLanta Grows, Food Matters, and Parks and Greenspace, making the city a wonderful sustainable experience.

For a great list of things to do in Atlanta, I’ve put together this sustainable travel guide for you! Enjoy!

Things to Do in Atlanta

From exploring Atlanta's greenspaces to enjoying its many museums, there are plenty of things to do in Atlanta — especially for sustainable travelers! 

Read on to see what we recommend.

Atlanta Parks and Greenspaces

While many may know Atlanta for sports, concerts, and nightlife, you may be surprised to know that Atlanta offers extensive parks, green spaces, and outdoor festivals for the sustainable traveler. 

Piedmont Park

Founded in 1822, Piedmont Park has gone from a forest to farm to fairground, before becoming the urban park it is today. 

The 190 acre park’s slogan is: It’s not just a park, it's an experience. It truly is.

If you’re looking for some great outdoor things to do in Atlanta, Piedmont Park will offer you: Memorial Day Festivals, water-inflated balls to try walking on, Wanderlust Festival, fitness camps, or just plain wandering the Park or sitting by the reservoir. I’ve enjoyed them all!

The park is located in the center of Midtown Atlanta walking distance to MARTA. When you visit be sure to check out the reservoir, walking trails, fitness activities, pool, children’s playground, and festivals. 

Piedmont Park is free and open to the public from 6 am to 11 pm daily.

Within Piedmont Park is another must-see: The Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Visiting the Atlanta Botanical Gardens is one of my favorite things to do in Atlanta, and I often go alone or take my visitors to see the SUPERnatural art sculptures, orchids, and evening events like Garden Lights during the holidays. Atlanta Botanical Gardens does charge a fee depending on the type of visit.

things to do in atlanta
Photo by Kyle Sudu on Unsplash

Centennial Park

According to Discover Atlanta, Centennial Olympic Park not only serves as a legacy of the 1996 Olympic Games but is the center of things to do in Atlanta. Within the Park you will find the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Center for Civil & Human Rights, World of Coca-Cola, Georgia Aquarium, CNN Center, and Children's Museum of Atlanta.

I’ve found myself at Centennial Park numerous times enjoying the fountains, starting and ending races at Centennial Park, and visiting the National Center for Civil & Human Rights. 

Centennial Olympic Park is a 22-acre public park located in downtown Atlanta owned and operated by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. The Park was created by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games as part of the infrastructure improvements for the 1996 Summer Olympics.

Centennial Park is free and open to the public from 10 am to 6 pm daily. 

things to do in atlanta

Chastain Park

A park you may not know about is Chastain Park. Founded in 1940, owned and operated by Atlanta’s Civic Association, the 260 acre park has a special place in my heart. 

It has a jogging/walking trail of 3 miles, playgrounds, tennis courts, public swimming pool, a horse park, and an amphitheater.

A great outdoor refuge for people during the pandemic, I would walk to a stream at the Park and sit on the swings for hours.

Chastain Park is open from 6 am to 11:30 pm daily.

Gibbs Gardens

I would be remiss if I didn’t share Gibbs Gardens as one of the best things to do in Atlanta. Although it is about 45 minutes from the center of the city, it is absolutely worth the visit.  

The Gardens sit on the private property of Jim Gibbs, who traveled the world viewing gardens of every style. His inspiration and travels resulted in an astounding property of over 300 acres, making it one of the nation's largest residential estate gardens. 

The Gardens include 24 ponds, 32 bridge crossings, and 19 waterfalls. His three feature gardens include Manor House Gardens, Japanese, and Waterlily Gardens. 

Gibbs Gardens is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 9 am to 4 pm. 

For ticket prices, visit their website.

things to do in atlanta

Atlanta Sustainable Transit

Although MARTA railway transit helps you reduce your carbon footprint while enjoying all the great things to do in Atlanta, it’s not the only way.

Atlanta continues its journey to be a bike-friendly city. In 2016, Atlanta ranked 43rd out of 50 for bike-friendliness in the USA. It has climbed to the Top 20 as a bonafide bike-friendly city with increased biking lanes, bike rental supply, and recognition of right-of-way by drivers. Biking is a great way to stay healthy when you travel too! 

A great place to bike is the Atlanta Beltline near Ponce City Market. The route is for pedestrians and bikers only, showcases street art, and boasts endless food options like Ponce City and Krog Market. I love biking on the Beltline!

Speaking of transportation, renting a scooter to explore the city is one of the most adventurous things to do in Atlanta. I explored Piedmont Park, Midtown, and Downtown on an electric scooter. Talk about a blast! (I did end up hitting a curb too fast and scraping my elbow).  All part of the fun!

Sustainable Stays

Atlanta has countless ways to experience sustainable stays with Airbnbs and homestays. You may opt to stay in an Airbnb, private room, or have a unique experience. 

I love doing staycations in and near the city! One of my favorite things to do in Atlanta includes staying a weekend in a  trailer with a compost toilet and self-sustaining shower, surrounded by a bamboo forest.

Speaking of bamboo forests, sustainability, and unique experiences, you may have heard of Atlanta Alpaca Treehouse in the Bamboo Forest. It is one of the most wish-listed Airbnbs in the world, on Netflix’s “World's Most Amazing Vacation Rentals” & “Love is Blind.” With over 600 stays, it is often reserved months in advance, and is one of the most popular things to do in Atlanta. I haven’t done it yet! It is on my list when I get back to Atlanta!

Stonehurst Place

things to do in atlanta

Stonehurst is the Winner of the EarthCraft Home, and Southface Renovation Project of the Year. The once 19th century home, turned midtown Atlanta boutique hotel, offers luxury combined with sustainability.

Stonehurst has implemented modern rainwater harvesting & potable water systems, and solar panel thermal hot water systems to decrease energy use, as well as other eco-friendly efforts.

To learn more about Stonehurst Place, visit here.

Sustainable Dining and Shopping

Dining is one of the best things to do in Atlanta and there are numerous options for sustainable dining, and more are coming on the scene. There are a couple of places I love that are sustainable, yummy, and offer countless options when you visit! 

Ponce City Market

Ponce City Market, Atlanta’s largest adaptive-use project, is a vibrant converted historic Sears building, now a market with a food hall, shops & living space. The space offers multiple options to enjoy sustainable dining and shopping. 

When you are shopping in Atlanta, or anywhere in the world, keep an eye out for sustainable fabrics for eco-friendly clothing.

Some of my favorite restaurants include Lucky Lotus and Marrakesh for Mediterranean food. The market continues to expand its focus on sustainability with new entrants like Sweetgreen.

Sweetgreen made its debut at Ponce City Market in 2021, alongside several other plant-forward eateries, with ingredients sourced from small and mid-size farmers committed to the decarbonizing food system.

Flower Child

The moment I saw Flower Child in Atlanta near Lenox Mall, I fell in love. It is a restaurant that does not disappoint. Their slogan, “Healthy Food for a Happy World” is right up my alley. 

The moment you walk into the Lenox Square location, you are in awe of the bright colors and the wall that screams “Choose Happy”. Flower Child uses fresh ingredients sourced close to home and makes every bite from scratch. They definitely do not do flavor-free. As they say, what’s the happy in that?! 

Everything I have eaten at Flower Child is delicious including their Avocado Toast, Mother Earth, and Glow Bowls. Oh, and you haven’t lived if you haven’t tried their sides like the Grilled Italian Eggplant, Yuzu Brussels Sprouts, and Red Chile Glazed Sweet Potato.

Experiencing a Flower Child meal is one of the best things to do in Atlanta. Flower Child has three locations in Atlanta.

True Food Kitchen 

things to do in atlanta

A close contender for my favorite place to eat in Atlanta is True Food Kitchen. The warm ambiance when you walk in, the incredible kindness of the staff, and the delicious and health-conscious food, delight every fiber of your being.

The story of True Food Kitchen includes consciously sourced ingredients, crave-able food, favorite foods reimagined, and eating optimistically. They create just that.

Since they opened in Buckhead in Atlanta, I would visit at least once a month. Their roasted Brussels sprouts will make any Brussels sprouts haters rethink their choice. Their Spaghetti Squash Casserole is to die for. I barely eat meat anymore, but their Grass-Fed Burger is incredible. 

Museums

Atlanta does not simply offer entertainment, parks, sports, and delicious dining. Arts, culture and history options are some of the fun things to do in Atlanta. It’s one of the reasons it was never hard to get friends and family to visit while I was living there!

High Museum of Art

things to do in atlanta

You may recognize the High Museum of Art from the movies Allegiant and Black Panther. Tax laws favoring filming in Georgia, the Tyler Perry Studios, and an evolving entertainment scene have earned Atlanta the nickname “Hollywood of the South”.

The movie scene isn’t the only thing the High Museum is known for with over 11,000 pieces of artwork inside. Artwork includes American, European, and African art, as well as decorative art and photography. 

The High Museum often hosts evening and special events, including free family days. 

The hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from noon to 5 pm. 

To learn more and purchase tickets, visit here.

National Center for Civil and Human Rights

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a must-see museum on your list of things to do in Atlanta. Be prepared to feel an emotional impact when you go. Curators have created a museum experience of immersion that allows you a very personal and intimate feeling for what many people in the United States, and around the world have suffered and lived through.  

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights does an incredible job of connecting history to the human rights challenges of today.

You’ll find the museum across from Centennial Park in Midtown next to College Hall of Fame, Georgia’s Aquarium, and the Coca-Cola Museum.

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is open Tuesday to Sunday from Noon to 5 pm. 

To learn more and purchase tickets, visit here.

Atlanta History Center

things to do in atlanta

No guide would be complete without mentioning the Atlanta History Center. Its 33 acres of historic homes, gardens, and award-winning exhibitions will teach you more about Atlanta in a few hours than likely any other destination. 

The exhibits include Atlanta in 50 Objects, Atlanta 96 Shaping an Olympic and Paralympic City, More than Self, and more. The Swan House, an historical home of Atlanta, featured in the Hunger Games, may be experienced as part of the visit to the Atlanta History Center.

When I visited with my mom during one of her visits to Atlanta, I tried to capture the beauty of this Center. Photos do not do it justice.

Atlanta History Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm.

To learn more and purchase tickets, visit here.

The King Center

Many would say that the influence of Martin Luther King, Jr put Atlanta on the map. An excellent representation of his impact on the United States is the King Center, one of the most compelling things to do in Atlanta.

Similar to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, be prepared to be shaken. Visiting the King Center for the first time with a very close friend, we cried together, and the museum inspired us both to continue to take conscious action to combat racism in all forms. 

When you visit The King Center, you will see the crypts of Dr. and Mrs King, Freedom Hall, Dr. King’s Birth Home, and Ebenezer Baptist Church. 

The King Center is open 7 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. Admission is free and self-guided. 

Check for reservations for the birth home of Martin Luther King, Jr through The King Center

Sustainable Things to Do in Atlanta

Now that your head is spinning with sustainable and ethical travel activities, it’s time to start packing for your sustainable vacation to Atlanta! 

Don’t forget to download these sustainable travel apps to help you with tips and travel during your visit. Your travel to Atlanta isn’t the only way to be sustainable. When thinking about your loved ones back home, consider eco-friendly and sustainable gifts for travel lovers too!

Katrina Julia

Katrina Julia

Katrina is a multi-passionate entrepreneur, author, athlete, traveler, and Creator + CEO of FIT Life Creation. She has traveled to 28+ countries, speaks four languages, and is traveling full-time in 2021-22 to 7 Continents mindful of reducing her carbon footprint and supporting sustainability. Even before travel, she didn't have a car in Atlanta, GA for over 2+ years!

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