Imagine a glimmering city tucked safely in the heart of breathtaking natural beauty. Imagine a city filled with inclusive people with good ole’ fashioned southern charm. Picture a secret garden complete with mermaids and goddesses, and a jungle filled with exotic plants and wild animals. Dolphins perform and tiny doors are nestled among colorful art walls. Find birds perched all over the city, waiting to take you on a ride. You’ll never have to look far for a mouth-watering meal, and the modern town is filled to the brim with a rich history and exciting culture, all surrounded by sparkling rivers and lush forests.
If you don’t believe you can find all this (and more) in Atlanta, Georgia, you’ve simply been looking in all the wrong places.
In the month that I’ve been living here, I’ve fallen head over heels for this amazing city. Atlanta is truly the perfect town for any 20something looking for a fresh start or a new opportunity. If you’re coming for a visit, or thinking about moving to this magical city, read on for all the inspo!
1. Ponce City Market
Any Atlantan will tell you Ponce City Market is one of the first places you should explore. It’s practically its own little city all on its own, with so many shops, restaurants and drinks you could spend days there and still not get to everything. The massive old Sears building was converted to this bustling hub in 2014, and is now one of the treasures of the city.
After stuffing yourself at any of the 33 restaurants in the Food Hall, head outside, upstairs, downstairs–basically all around–to any of the shops, from Anthropologie to Williams Sonoma to Candlefish. Even pick up something for your furry friend at Barking Hound Village! After you’ve had a minute to digest, don’t miss out on King of Pops. They have their pushcarts located all around the city of Atlanta, but their large stand at Ponce City Market offers “poptails.” Yes, they have combined the delicious refreshingness (yeah, I just made that a word) of the perfect popsicle with some alcoholic amazingness.
But wait, there’s more…
Make your way up to The Roof, where the real fun begins. The Roof is the perfect place for a family outing, adorable date, brunching or even a solo hangout sesh. You can sit and sip or participate in any of the amusement park games, including mini golf. Also, don’t miss out on the picture-perfect photo op in their photo booth.
You can drive, walk, bike, or scoot to Ponce City Market as it is located conveniently on the Beltline.
2. The Beltline
When I first moved to Atlanta, everyone and their mother was referring to “The Beltline.” I was like, “Okay, seriously, can someone tell me what the heck everyone is talking about?!”
Turns out it’s basically the best thing ever… the Beltline is a no-car zone that runs through a lot of the city. During all seasons, at any time of the day, you can catch people walking, biking or riding Birds down the Beltline. Yeah, you read that right. People ride Birds in Atlanta. The Bird is an electric scooter, the hottest new addition to the vehicle sharing craze. Just download the app, select a period of time or destination, take it for a ride, and leave it wherever. Yeah, it’s literally that easy!
You’ll also find lots of people out and about walking their dogs, which was a huge selling point for me as I’m currently dogless in Atlanta. It’s kind of like Sleepless in Seattle but way less romantic and way more depressing.
There’s a ton of restaurants, breweries and homes along the Beltline, and there’s always something fun to see! Take some time to admire the brightly painted walls, and you may even be lucky enough to catch someone mid-creation and watch the magic happen.
If you are strolling slowly down the street, keep an eye out for tiny doors. Tiny Doors Atl strategically places literal tiny doors all around the city. They’re intricate and amazing and super fun to find. Plus, they make for a really cute Instagram post. Find their locations on their website, or wander around the city and see how many you can find yourself!
3. Atlanta Botanical Garden
Atlanta Botanical Garden is probably my favorite place in the entire city. When you think of a city, you probably don’t picture a jungle filled with exotic plants, flower people riding massive camels, secret gardens or earth goddesses playing in waterfalls…but you should!
The creativity and attention to detail of the massive plant art is simply astounding.
Each new sculpture I saw was more impressive than the last, the crowning jewel being the Earth Goddess.
During a day at Atlanta Botanical Garden you can explore exotic plants and animals, secret gardens, Japanese inspired gardens and cool greenhouses which are a welcome escape from the southern summer heat. Massive bridges and intricate paths connect parts of the grounds, leading you from one beautiful sight to another.
So, this is kind of embarrassing and also super expected for those that know me well, but my favorite part was the children’s garden. Don’t knock it ’til you try it…
4. The Georgia Aquarium
The Georgia Aquarium is located conveniently next to the Center for Civil and Human Rights (number five on this list.) Walking through the Georgia Aquarium basically feels like you’re on the set of The Little Mermaid or Aqua Marine. I was tempted to start a flash mob singing Under the Sea. I didn’t, which is probably for the best since I’m actually kind of trying to make friends here.
The Georgia Aquarium is definitely on the “don’t miss” list. You can crawl into a cavern and emerge amidst real penguins, ride a moving sidewalk through a dazzling display right under a massive shark, and see dolphins perform in an unforgettable show.
The aquarium is a great place for meeting up with friends or going a date. It’s especially good if it’s a first-time Bumble, Tinder, Hinge, etc. date since since you can go during the daytime and it’s highly populated…less chance of getting chopped up into tiny pieces by a dating app serial killer, ya know?
5. The Center for Civil and Human Rights
I won’t spend too long on this one since I wrote a previous post about it, but just to recap:
- Incredibly moving
- History comes to life
- Connects you to the world
- Educational and fascinating
- Important af
If you’re planning on visiting multiple places, including the aquarium and the Center for Civil and Human Rights, consider purchasing a CityPASS to save 40% on admissions to these attractions. The pass gives you access to:
- Georgia Aquarium
- World of Coca-Cola
- CNN Studio Tours
- Zoo Atlanta OR Center for Civil and Human Rights
- Fernbank Museum of Natural History OR College Football Hall of Fame
I can’t vouch for some of them since I’ve yet to visit, but if you are planning on visiting them all then the pass is totally worth it.
6. Take a Hike
In the middle of the crowded city filled with bustling traffic and giant skyscrapers, discover scenic escapes like East Palisades Trail. The trail runs along the beautiful Chattahoochee River. We chose to hike the trail, but you can also opt to “shoot the Hooch,” aka float on tubes down the river in a big group with lots of fun and maybe a little drinking.
The trail wasn’t too hard and was about a 4-mile round trip. There are you are here maps on posts along the way, which was really helpful since my sense of direction is basically nonexistent.
The first thing I noticed was the famous red clay, which I expected, but what I didn’t expect was that it literally sparkles!!!!!! The dirt in Georgia sparkles!!!! And if that isn’t a reason to love this state I don’t know what is. The Edward Cullen sparkling in the sun-like shimmering was caused by shiny crystal rock thingies. Sorry, that’s the best scientific explanation I can give you, but it’s so worth seeing. If anyone can explain this scientific miracle I’d so appreciate you leaving a comment!
After a while, you reach the sparkling river that looks more like a Monet or a Van Gogh than a real place. There are ducks floating peacefully across the glass surface, butterflies flitting about and the occasional dog happily splashing into the cool water.
This is just one of the many beautiful hikes all over the city. Though I haven’t yet had the chance to check out the Bellwood Quarry, it’s at the top of my list!
Check this out for some more Atlanta hiking trails!
7. Food, Food, & More Food
It’s a good thing I’ve been so active since I’ve gotten here because I’ve definitely eaten like quadruple my daily recommended calories by lunch. With so many amazing restaurants in the city, it’s hard to know where to even start.
But here are a few of my favorites so far:
- Antico Pizza Napoletana
Do it. Seriously, do it. The pizza is to die for and the atmosphere is super fun. You get to watch the chefs laughing while tossing the perfect fluffy dough into works of art…brb going back there right now.
- 9 Mile Station
Located on The Roof at Ponce City Market, 9 mile station is the perfect brunch spot. You get a great view of the city while enjoying some of the most delicious food the city has to offer. I had the Eggs Benedict on the pretzel croissant and I might want to be buried in it.
Ladybird has incredible brunch and great drinks. I haven’t tried their other food yet, but if it’s anything like their brunch it’s probably to die for. The decor and ambiance is adorable, and it’s located right on the Beltline.
- BRASH Coffee
In the popular area of West Midtown, find the cutest little coffee shop you’ve ever seen. I had the most delicious iced coffee there and the baristas couldn’t have been nicer.
I went to the Inman Park location and loved it. The tacos were great, the server was super nice and helpful, and best of all, they gave us tokens for two free tacos just for filling out a quick comment card on the way out. I’ll be going back there to cash them in very soon.
- The Vortex
Okay, so I’m not normally a huge burger person, but Atlanta knows what they’re doing with these suckers! Visit the Little 5 Points location for the best experience so you can take in a truly unique area of the city.
- Yeah! Burger
Their burgers are just… yeah! So so good. I had the “impossible” burger. I’m not a vegetarian, but I was just in a kind of hippie dippie heal the world mood that day, so I tried it out. It genuinely was impossible to taste the difference between that and real meat.
Well, I hope to see ya’ll in Atlanta real’ soon! (Am I southern yet??)
Sending you lots of love today and always, my little chickadees.