A weekend in Atlanta is long enough to experience a few of the best attractions in the city. I’ve been living in Atlanta since 1997, and there’s so much to explore. It’s difficult to to narrow it down to just a few destinations (there’s so much to see!), but these are my favorite things to do if it’s your first time to Atlanta and you’re visiting on a short 2 day or 3 day weekend getaway trip:
Weekend in Atlanta Day 1 – Midtown Atlanta
You’ll start out your first day in Midtown–the arts district of Atlanta. Midtown is known for its series of art museums, science centers, theaters, and eclectic eateries that line Peachtree Street, leading up to Piedmont Park. It’s the perfect place to start your Atlanta weekend.
Place 1 – Breakfast at R. Thomas
We’ll start our weekend with breakfast at R. Thomas. It’s one of the most unique restaurants in Atlanta. When you first approach the building, you’ll notice the exterior is lined with exotic plants, tropical birds (that talk), home-grown herbs, windmills, and other funky garden decor. Seating is in an outdoor, enclosed tent type of patio, with windchimes and greenery hanging from its ceiling.
The owners pride themselves on “treating carnivores and vegetarians with equal respect” and serve a wide variety of organic, locally-grown foods that cater to both types of diners. Almost every item on the menu can be made vegan by substituting tofu or tempeh for egg or chicken. Cheese can also be substituted with cashew cheese. They even have a sloppy veggie joe and meatless loaf.
R. Thomas specializes in serving fresh squeezed juices and breakfast, which is served all day. Their French toast is my absolute favorite item on the menu, and you must try it during your weekend in Atlanta!
Place 2 – Explore an Atlanta Museum or Garden
For our second stop in Midtown (and first attraction after finishing breakfast at R. Thomas), we’ll be exploring either a garden or one of Atlanta’s most popular and highest-rated museums. There are several museums to choose from, and the best option for you is dependent on your personal tastes. So rather than limit your options by choosing for you, I’ve decided to outline the best of these attractions below and let you decide which one you’d most like to visit during your weekend in Atlanta. I’ve personally been to all of the options listed below, and they are all excellent choices!
Option 1 – The Atlanta Botanical Garden
Escape the lair of a giant dragon during your weekend in Atlanta!
The Atlanta Botanical Garden is truly one of the most beautiful places in Atlanta. There’s over 30 acres of gardens, presented in over 40 smaller themed sections, both indoor and outdoor. You can walk through an indoor rainforest and tropical rotunda. You can see rare and exotic plants. There’s an edible garden, a Japanese garden, a carnivorous garden, a skyline garden, and even a children’s garden. What the Atlanta Botanical Garden is most famous for, however, is its elaborate topiaries and botanical sculptures. The 25-foot Earth Goddess sculpture contains 18,000 annuals and is one of the most photographed structures in the entire garden. It’s definitely one of the most unique things you can see during your weekend in Atlanta. The Atlanta Botanical Garden sits adjacent to Piedmont Park, so it’s easy to combine your trip to the gardens with a walk in the neighboring park during your Atlanta day in Midtown.
Option 2 – The High Museum of Art
Visit Atlanta’s most popular art museum during your weekend in Atlanta!
The High Museum of Art is probably the most famous museum in Atlanta. Their permanent collection houses over 18,000 works of art, organized into seven distinct types of galleries–Photography, African Art, European Art, American Art, Modern / Contemporary Art, Folk Art, and Decorative Arts and Design. This is a great option to choose for any art enthusiast! If you’re not really into art, however, it might be best to skip this option and choose one of the other options below for your Atlanta weekend trip.
Option 3 – Center for Puppetry Arts
Relive favorite films from the 80s during your weekend in Atlanta!
If you’re a fan of 1986’s Labyrinth movie, you’ll be happy to know that the Center for Puppetry Arts houses the world’s largest collection of Jim Henson artifacts, including puppets from Fraggle Rock, The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, and Labyrinth! This is the option to choose and place to go to relive your childhood. The Jim Henson Labyrinth Movie Exhibit at the Center for Puppetry Arts is honestly one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited in Atlanta (and I’ve lived here most of my life.)
In addition to its museum containing puppetry from all around the world, the Center for Puppetry Arts is also dedicated to performance and education. Kids, as well as adults, can even take a Create-A-Puppet Workshop course where they’ll get to make and take home a special keepsake in conjunction with watching a show.
Place 3 – Piedmont Park
Get lost in a forest during your weekend in Atlanta!
Atlanta has the nickname, “City in a Forest,” and places like Piedmont Park make it easy to see why. With over 200 acres of scenic woodlands standing in juxtaposition with towering skyscrapers right in the bustling heart of Atlanta, it’s easy to feel like you’ve escaped into a different world when you first step foot into its scenic grounds. You can spend your weekend in Atlanta relaxing by the park’s pretty lake, strolling over its scenic bridges, and exploring its forested trails. Piedmont Park also regularly hosts food, music, and art festivals, so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to participate in something extra special during your getaway trip to Atlanta.
Place 4 – Lunch at Park Tavern
Visit this pet-friendly restaurant in Piedmont Park for the absolute best views of the city during your Atlanta weekend trip!
Park Tavern is located directly on the grounds of Piedmont Park, so when you get hungry for lunch, you don’t even need to leave to go grab something to eat. Sit on the restaurant’s outdoor dining patio, and soak in the views of the Atlanta skyline peeking out from behind the grassy meadow of the park. It’s hard to find a more photogenic spot than this one, so be sure to take plenty of photos. Have some tacos (they serve both chicken and plant-based options), or try the Greek Chicken Sandwich, which is served on French bread with feta and pepperoncini aioli. They also have a selection of seafood, wings, and burgers, including a plant-based burger option for our vegan friends.
This restaurant is also dog-friendly, so if you’re bringing your furry friend with you to Atlanta for the weekend, he can go ahead and join you on the patio while you eat!
Place 5 – Buford Highway
Experience true culture in Atlanta during your Atlanta weekend trip!
After Lunch, we’ll leave Midtown and head down Buford Highway for shopping and activities until eventually stopping for dinner in Doraville.
Buford Highway is more than just a street. It’s an entire community of Atlanta and a popular place to experience the best culture of the city. In many ways, it represents the very heart of Atlanta, for our city is truly known for being a big melting pot of diversity and cultures from all around the globe. In fact, Buford Highway has even been nicknamed the “International Corridor” for this very reason. You could honestly spend an entire weekend in Atlanta exploring everything there is to see.
The four-lane highway begins just north of Midtown and runs through Brookhaven, Chamblee, and Doraville before continuing on to Duluth and Buford. Over 1,000 stores owned by local ethnic groups line the corridor, representing nearly two-dozen cultures from around the world. Among these, you’ll especially see markets, shops, strip malls, and restaurants representing Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Mexico, China, India, and Central America.
On Buford Highway, you can shop for custard-filled breads at a local Korean bakery, visit a Latin American street market, buy the latest Korean beauty and skincare products from a local Korean grocery store, visit a matcha-themed cafe where all the drinks and treats are green in color, shop the Buford Highway Farmer’s Market, or even experience karaoke or noraebang the Japanese or Korean way in an intimate setting for just you and your friends.
Some of my favorite places located directly on Buford Highway:
Plaza Fiesta – an indoor mall designed to look like a Latin American street market, featuring over 280 retail and specialty stores in addition to a dozen restaurants, a fitness center, healthcare services, and the largest indoor playground in Georgia. Monthly Latin American cultural holidays, festivals, and events–such as Día de los Muertos and Día de los Reyes Magos–are also hosted at this plaza.
White Windmill Bakery – Korean bakery specializing in breads and buns stuffed with tasty red bean, buttercream, custard, and other delicious fillings
Matcha Cafe Maiko – Japanese matcha teas, lattes, cakes, cookies, ice cream, and other treats, all made with organic, ceremonial grade matcha from Kyoto, Japan
Place 6 – Dinner in Doraville
We’ll be stopping for dinner in a shopping plaza located just a few blocks off from Buford Highway. We’ve listed our favorite options below, but there are also other restaurants located in this plaza that you might like. The following are my absolute favorites though, so I highly recommend stopping at one of these during your Atlanta weekend trip!
Option 1 – Shoya Izakaya Japanese Restaurant
This is by far my favorite Japanese restaurant in Atlanta! Their food is delicious and authentic, and the interior of the restaurant is absolutely stunning! If you love Japanese food (or are at least open to trying it), then you 100% need to eat here during your weekend in Atlanta! (I’m not even exaggerating when I say that my boyfriend and I eat here almost once a week–it’s just so good!)
Option 2 – Kura Revolving Sushi Restaurant
This is a really unique conveyor belt sushi experience! Individual plates of sushi make their way around the restaurant on a rotating belt, and if you see something you like, you just take it! Your table also has a digital menu where you can browse other food selections and conveniently place orders for items that aren’t readily available on the conveyor belt. You can order bowls of ramen, udon, yakisoba, takoyaki, gyoza, tempura, mochi ice cream, and other tasty treats. When the chef is done preparing your order in the back, he sends it out to your table on the conveyor belt, and your dish flawlessly stops exactly in front of your table every single time. It’s so much fun to watch!
Option 3 – Miss Gogi Korean BBQ Restaurant
If you’re a meat eater and you haven’t tried Korean barbecue yet, you’re definitely missing out! All-You-Can-Eat marinated cuts of beef, pork belly, and chicken are brought to your table and cooked right in front of you. There are over a dozen different types of marinades to choose from, and you can order as many of each as you like. Your meal automatically comes with rice, soup, and banchan, which are small Korean side dishes. Korean BBQ is basically a food staple in my home, and I can’t recommend it enough for your Atlanta weekend trip!
Weekend in Atlanta Day 2 – Downtown
Our second day in Atlanta will center around the bustling Downtown district, where many of the city’s most iconic and culturally significant attractions are located. Downtown is home to the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca Cola, Centennial Olympic Park, the CNN Center, the historic Underground Atlanta, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Georgia State University, the College Football Hall of Fame, major sporting venues, stadiums, convention centers, and the tallest building in Atlanta–the 1,023 foot tall Bank of America Plaza building.
You’ll also find important sites like the Historic Oakland Cemetery less than a mile away from Downtown. Although its technically a part of the Old Fourth Ward district, we’ll be including it in your day spent Downtown since these attractions are so close together.
Place 1 – Conservation and Culture in Atlanta
We’ve detailed 3 of our favorite options for where to start Place 1 of your Downtown Atlanta day below.
Option 1 – The Georgia Aquarium
Visit the largest aquarium in the USA during your weekend in Atlanta!
The Georgia Aquarium spans 13 acres and contains over 11 million gallons of water, making it the largest aquarium in the United States and the third largest aquarium in the world! It houses thousands of animals belonging to hundreds of species. The most popular (and impressive) of all is the Whale Shark habitat–a 6.3 million U.S. gallon tank that was built to showcase the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. In addition to the whale sharks, it’s also home to Georgia Aquarium’s manta rays and thousands of fish. This particular tank is the largest indoor aquatic habitat in the world, and its iconic underwater acrylic tunnel, which allows the whale sharks to swim overtop your head, is one of the most photographed locations in the entire aquarium. Other beloved animals featured at Georgia Aquarium include beluga whales, sea lions, and dolphins.
Note: The Georgia Aquarium is dedicated to conservation, working closely with local universities to help save endangered species through research and education programs. They’ve pledged to not take any whales or dolphins that have been caught in the wild, and many of the animals making the aquarium their home are actually rescues that have been acquired and relocated from inadequate environments.
Option 2 – Oakland Cemetery
Visit Atlanta’s oldest park during your weekend in Atlanta!
Originally founded in 1850, historic Oakland Cemetery is Atlanta’s oldest public park and the final resting place of more than 70,000. Among its most famous residents are Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell, country music star Kenny Rogers, and Atlanta’s first African American mayor Maynard Jackson, as well as many other notable soldiers, generals, mayors, and political figures who lived and died in Georgia in the late 1800s.
Oakland Cemetery hosts many events throughout the year on its 48-acre grounds, including its annual Tunes from the Tombs music festival, award-winning art exhibits, and its Capturing the Spirit Halloween Tours.
Option 3 – Birth Home of Martin Luther King, Jr
Walk in the footsteps of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr during your weekend in Atlanta!
The two-story, Queen Anne style birth house of Martin Luther King, Jr is a part of the Martin Luther King, Jr National Historical Park and dates back to 1895, when it was first built on Auburn Avenue. During your visit to the park, a park ranger will lead you on a free, 30 minute tour of the home, which is where Dr. King lived the first 12 years of his life. The entirety of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park actually encompasses 35 acres and includes a visitor center, gardens, exhibits, the church where Dr. King worshipped, and the place of his burial in addition to his birth home. There is no charge to visit any of the locations in the park, but the tour of the birth home is limited to small groups, so make sure you stop by the visitor center in advance to sign up.
Place 2 – Lunch at the Varsity
For our second stop of the day, we’ll be heading to a city icon for lunch! It’s customary in Atlanta to recommend the Varsity to any new first timers visiting the city. It’s a right of passage. It’s tradition. It’s one of those places that you just have to visit (and then likely will never visit again). It’s fast food. Expect greasy hamburgers, sloppy hot dogs, and what the Varsity is most famous for–its Frosted Orange–a vanilla shake combined with orange soda that tastes just like the Creamsicles you used to eat as a kid. But this isn’t quite your typical (or normal-sized) fast food joint. The Varsity is a giant, multi-block establishment that can seat up to 800, and there’s so many rooms you can almost get lost inside. You’ll be greeted by counter staff loudly yelling out “What’ll ya have? What’ll ya have?” the moment you walk through the door. No weekend trip to Atlanta is complete without stopping by the Varsity if you haven’t been yet. You must go. At least once.
Place 3 – Art on the Atlanta Beltline
Take selfies with the best art murals in Atlanta during your weekend trip!
Art on the Atlanta Beltline is an ongoing project that aims to make art accessible to everyone by making it public and forefront in the heart of the city. The Beltline corridor consists of a 22-mile stretch of multi-use trails and linear greenspace that artists from around the world have been invited to decorate with murals, sculpture, and other forms of design. Many of these works have deeper meaning designed to inspire community, change, strength, and growth, as well as to celebrate Atlanta, its history, and its people. In total, roughly 12 miles of the 22-mile corridor now contain Beltline murals or other forms of art, and they make the perfect Instagram spot for you to take a few memorable photos during your weekend in Atlanta. One of the best places to access the Atlanta Beltline while downtown is from popular entrances to the Eastside Trail located near the Krog Street Market and Krog Street Tunnel.
Dinner in Little 5 Points
We’ll head to this Atlanta district to have dinner at the 4th place on the itinerary. Little 5 Points is located 3 miles east of downtown Atlanta and is the city’s most funky and eclectic neighborhood. It’s known for its collection of quirky and extravagantly decorated indie shops that sell things like vintage clothing and vinyl records. Here you’ll also find Atlanta’s last-surviving video rental store–Videodrome– which specializes in serving the local community with cult classics and international cinema picks (and especially Japanese and Korean titles). The restaurants in Little 5 Points are just as unusual, and it’s here where you’ll find some of the most unique eateries in town. For our next stop on our Atlanta weekend itinerary, we’ll be dining at the only place where you can eat inside a giant, neon-lit skull–the Vortex in Little 5 Points.
Place 4 – The Vortex
Eat inside a neon skull during your weekend in Atlanta!
The Vortex is known for having the best burgers in Atlanta. My personal favorite is the Whiskey Pimento Cheeseburger, but there’s so many options to choose from, and many of them are so unique that you won’t find anything else like them anywhere outside of Atlanta. The Fat Elvis, for example, is slathered with peanut butter before being topped with bacon and fried plantains. There’s also the Pickle Rick, which is topped with fried pickles, bacon, whiskey pimento cheese, and house-made Szechuan sauce.
What the Vortex is most famous for, however, is their selection of Coronary Bypass Burgers. The smallest of these–the 3,707 calorie Single Coronary Bypass–uses 2 bacon grilled cheese sandwiches as the top and bottom buns for the burger. In between you’ll find an 8-ounce flame-grilled sirloin patty that’s topped with a fried egg, mayonnaise, and even more cheese and bacon (there’s10 slices of American cheese and 9 strips of bacon in total on this burger). And that’s just the smallest of all the selections. The bravest among you can try the 9,606 calorie Quadruple Coronary Bypass whose combined ingredients total 8 slices of Texas toast, four 4-ounce griddled sirloin patties, two 8-ounce flame-grilled sirloin patties, 4 fried eggs, 28 slices of American cheese, 27 strips of bacon, relish, grilled onions, and mayonnaise.
Note: The Vortex does not allow children inside its establishment, so if you’ll be spending your weekend in Atlanta with kids by your side, it’s best you skip this location and choose one of the alternative dinner restaurants that we recommend near the bottom of this article. This is also not a good restaurant for vegans, but we’ve got some popular alternatives detailed for you further below as well.
Weekend in Atlanta Day 3 – Stone Mountain
Visit Georgia’s #1 attraction during your weekend in Atlanta!
If you’ll be spending a long weekend in Atlanta or have time for a full third day of activities, I highly recommend you take the time to explore Stone Mountain. It’s technically located just outside of Atlanta (or just under 20 miles northeast of Downtown), but us locals claim it as our own and consider it to be a part of our city. Stone Mountain is actually the state of Georgia’s #1 most-visited attraction, so it’s one you won’t want to pass up! The mountain itself is a unique dome monadnock, rising 825 feet above the surrounding land. Its base measures more than 5 miles in circumference. If you’re able to make the trek, I highly recommend the Walk-up Trail to reach the mountaintop and see iconic views of the Atlanta skyline visible along the horizon. If hiking isn’t for you, don’t worry! There’s a skylift that can take you to the top of the mountain so you won’t have to break a sweat. There’s also a nightly laser show that’s projected onto the side of the mountain and 3,200 acres total in the park to explore beyond that.
Other Attractions for a 3 Days in Atlanta Weekend Trip
There’s so many great places to visit for an Atlanta weekend trip, but it’s impossible to see them all when you only have a few short days. If you have another chance to return to the city (or if you want to swap out any of the itinerary items we detailed up above), these are some other places to visit in Atlanta that are really popular or unique:
- Centennial Olympic Park (Downtown)
- SkyView Atlanta (Downtown)
- CNN Center (Downtown)
- Underground Atlanta (Downtown)
- Ponce City Market (Old Fourth Ward)
- Skyline Park (Old Fourth Ward)
- Jackson Street Bridge (Old Fourth Ward)
- Battle and Brew Atlanta (Sandy Springs)
- Atlanta Film Sets & Movie Filming Locations (Various Locations)
- SluttyVegan ATL (West End and Edgewood)(Popular Vegan Restaurant Option)
Where to Stay During Your Weekend in Atlanta
The Atlanta Marriott Marquis is by far my favorite hotel in Atlanta. Its interior looks like something out of a sci-fi novel and makes you feel like you’ve boarded a spaceship. That’s likely why it’s been used as a filming location for so many different Hollywood movies and tv shows recently.
Most notably, the hotel’s atrium was featured as the TVA Headquarters in Marvel’s Loki TV Series.
The Marriott is also located within walking distance of the Peachtree Center MARTA Station (MARTA is Atlanta’s subway system), so it makes it really easy and convenient to hop around to locations and districts in Atlanta when you stay here. The beds are also comfy, and the pillows are super soft. I highly recommend this hotel.