If your travels to Atlanta allow you just 1 day to take in the sights, you might feel overwhelmed trying to decide how to make the most of your time. However, you certainly don't want to miss a handful of special attractions among the many worthwhile ones in this city. Plan your day accordingly and, by the end of it, you'll have a strong feel for what this city is all about. Build your schedule around enjoying lunch at the Atlanta History Center's Swan House before leaving the premises. Not only will you dine in a historic setting, but you'll also save valuable travel time by not having to find a restaurant. Whether you choose to drive yourself or use public transportation to navigate the city, a full day of touring can be satisfying; it also might encourage you to return to see what you couldn't squeeze in during a 1-day visit. Start: Atlanta History Center (drive or MARTA to Lenox station).
If driving, take I-75 N. to exit 252A Northside Dr. and turn right; right on Arden Rd.; and right on W Paces Ferry Rd. NW. Or, take MARTA to the Lenox Station; bus 23 to Peachtree St. and W. Paces Ferry Rd.; then walk 3 blocks west on the latter.
1. Atlanta History Center
Grab your coffee and head up to Buckhead to tour the Atlanta History Center for a good overview of the city's history -- it will make the rest of your visit a richer experience. The 20,000-square-foot Centennial Olympic Games Museum addition houses a permanent exhibition about the 1996 Olympic Games hosted by the city of Atlanta. Another highlight of the center is the beautifully restored Swan House. House-tour tickets are limited and can be purchased only on the day of your visit, so arrive early to avoid disappointment. Enjoy lunch at the on-site restaurant, the Swan Coach House, where lunch is served from 11am to 2:30pm, Monday through Saturday. Get in on the early seating so you won't be pressed for time at your next stop. Consider choosing the signature chicken salad, served in delicate handmade timbales. No reservations are required for dining.
It's about a 15-min. drive back downtown via I-75 S. to the Williams St. exit; right on Baker St., right on Luckie St.; and park in the Pemberton Place deck on the right. Or, take MARTA from the Lindbergh station to either Peachtree Center or Omni/Dome/GWCC station and walk a couple of blocks to Baker St.
2. Georgia Aquarium
While the main attraction in Atlanta these days is the Georgia Aquarium, the world's largest indoor aquarium, it takes about 3 hours to see and enjoy it all, so head here quickly after an early lunch at the Swan House. Order tickets online first, and you'll be able to choose an entrance window that helps cut down on bottlenecking at the front gate. Of course, weekends are extremely busy, and you may find yourself shoulder to shoulder trying to nudge your way up close to see the fantastic exhibits. There's also a 4-D movie that shows every half-hour. When you enter the aquarium, decide what time to check out the show, and then work in your exhibits before and after. There are areas designed specifically for the little kids, too, so if they get antsy, they can run around and let off steam.
From the aquarium exit, walk west on Baker St. and turn left on Marietta St. NW. Continue walking until you reach:
3. CNN Studio Tour
Spend the next hour enjoying a CNN Studio Tour, the last one scheduled for 5pm daily. To save precious time, you can purchase advance tickets online, securing your spot when you arrive for the 55-minute guided walking tour that takes you behind the scenes of this international newsroom. Don't miss the gift shop, where visitors can don news-announcer garb and record themselves "reporting" the news. Buy your recording and take it home to share with friends and family.
From the main entrance to the CNN Center, walk across the street to:
4. Centennial Olympic Park
This park was the main gathering place during the 1996 Olympic Games. Kids love to splash in the Fountain of Rings here, especially during a hot Georgia afternoon. The park often plays host to live entertainment, activities for children, art festivals, and other fun events, so check the online calendar to see what's going on during your visit.
From the parking deck, drive east on Baker St.; right on Centennial Olympic Park Dr.; left on Harris St. NW; left on Piedmont Rd. NE; right on Ponce de Leon Ave. NE; and left on Monroe to reach the Virginia-Highland neighborhood. Or, take MARTA from Peachtree Center or Omni/Dome/GWCC station to North Avenue station.
Early in the evening, visit the shops and galleries in the very popular Virginia-Highland neighborhood. You've had a full day and have probably worked up a voracious appetite, so treat yourself to a great dinner at one of the many restaurants. Later, enjoy a nightcap or coffee and dessert in a bar or cafe along North Highland Avenue, where the nightlife is always jumping.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.