Our visit to Atlanta, Georgia, was my first time in the state as an adult. I haven’t spent much time in the Southern United States, but every time I visit, I’m reminded of how friendly everyone is and how incredible the food is. There’s so much to eat, see, and do in Atlanta, particularly for those with more refined palates, which is why I hope my Atlanta luxury travel guide helps you make the most of your visit to Georgia‘s capital.
How to Get to Atlanta
We flew into Atlanta directly to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). It was less than two hours to fly from the East Coast to Atlanta, Georgia, vs. a 15-hour drive. Of course, driving is also an option, particularly if you can hop onto I-75, which runs north-south across the United States. Unless you’re from nearby, I recommend flying into the city.
How to Get Around Atlanta
As we’d flown in, we rented a car upon arrival. We usually go through Hertz, but the airport has many rental options. I will warn you now that I have never visited a city with such expensive parking as Atlanta. We easily spent around $150 per day parking, even using the Spot Hero app. $50 was parking fees from our hotel, but the rest was charged everywhere we went. Restaurants, tourist attractions, malls, museums, shopping stores, and everything else charged us to park, usually over $12 per hour!
I’d never seen anything like that, and it was shocking because I’d never even considered that I might have to pay to park at the restaurant I was eating at, but that was the case everywhere we went. Spending so much to park is absurd when there aren’t many options outside of driving. After doing some digging, it seems that Atlanta’s exorbitant parking rates may be a way to keep lower-income people away from certain areas since they can’t afford to park there, which is what really disturbed me and rubbed me the wrong way. I’d gladly pay even more to park in these places if the money went to help those in need, but it seems to be the opposite, which is why it bothers me so much.
Still, ridesharing wouldn’t have been any cheaper. During our visit, rides to and from our destinations were just as much, if not more, than our parking fees, and there wasn’t always someone nearby to pick us up. We were advised against using public transportation, simply because there isn’t much of it and it’s not the most reliable or safe. If you don’t plan to drive much, ridesharing could be cheaper if you don’t intend to travel around the city much, but even with the exorbitant parking fees and cost of our rental car, we still paid less than we would have if we’d used ride-share services to get around.
This is another public service announcement that we need more affordable public transportation in the United States! Particularly in major cities like Atlanta, where it isn’t feasible to walk everywhere. If you’re visiting from abroad, remember that driving is the most common, comfortable, and convenient way to get around, unfortunately.
Best Time to Visit
We visited in late April, and the weather was perfect. It only rained one afternoon during the week we were there, and the temperature was consistently in the mid-70s. Everything was in bloom. The temperature was consistent and comfortable, and we could do anything indoors or out without being uncomfortable. This was the perfect time to visit!
Where to Stay
We stayed at St. Regis Atlanta during our time in the city. They have a reputation for excellence for a good reason, and we’ve never had a bad stay at a St. Regis. Their award-winning restaurant, Atlas, was one of the best meals we had in the city, and that’s saying something because everything we ate was delicious! Their pool deck was stunning, their spa had the best massages I’ve ever enjoyed, and the daily breakfast selection was outstanding. I can’t say enough good things about St. Regis Atlanta. It truly is the city’s most stunning hotel. Read the full review here.
Where to Eat
Atlanta is right up there with Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Detroit, Charleston, and Tulum, with some of the best food in the world. Everything we ate here was so delicious and so fresh. We didn’t have a single bad thing at any of the restaurants we visited. We tried lots of new foods and loved all of them. If you’re a foodie, move Atlanta to the top of your travel list because everything we tried here was phenomenal. Similarly, for gourmands, fine dining in Atlanta is on another level.
Atlas, inside St. Regis Atlanta, is an award-winning restaurant that has been honored by Forbes, Wine Spectator, Krug Champagne, and many others. We had a pescatarian tasting menu here, which was excellent, and though our meal took around three hours, it flew by in a blur of delightful flavors, textures, and fragrances. Read the full review here.
This brunch spot wasn’t far from the airport, but it was really tasty. If you want elevated southern fare, this is a great spot!
Canoe was a beautiful oasis just outside of downtown Atlanta. It was about fifteen minutes from St. Regis Atlanta and felt like we were in a private forest. Situated along the Chattahoochee River, this restaurant uses seasonal, farm-to-table fare, and the Australian chef that heads Canoe made the experience even more unique by bringing flavors from down under. Read the full review here.
Chai Yo Modern Thai
Chai Yo Modern Thai is woman-owned and absolutely phenomenal. We had some really unique, elevated Thai foods here, like lobster pad Thai and scallops roasted with Thai spices. Everything here was phenomenal, so head on over to my Fine Dining vertical for the full review.
Exotic Vegan Box
This was such a fresh, convenient place to snag some plant-based vegan cuisine. While it’s a pick-up box and not a restaurant, it was very convenient when we had a day packed with back-to-back activities.
Whether you’re plant-based or gluten-free, this vegan, gluten-free hibachi place was so delicious and so unique! I’d never seen anything like this, so I knew we had to try it. There were so many inventive, exciting options in Atlanta I could live here an entire year and not try all of the good food!
This French – Vietnamese restaurant was bright, airy, and so flavorful. We ordered a green curry and roasted fish, and both were outstanding. We dined outside on the open-air balcony and loved every second of our meal. This family-owned chain has several locations across the nation in places like Chicago, Houston, and Delray Beach. Read the full review here.
We love sushi and Thai food; this restaurant was the best of both worlds. Its unique interior, creative dishes, and unique flavors make it a great sushi and noodle spot in Atlanta. Read the full review here.
What to Do In & Around Atlanta
We visited Atlanta Botanical Garden for free as part of our American Horticultural Society membership’s reciprocal admission program. For the cost of one membership, we can visit hundreds of gardens around the nation with a single membership. This was one of the most beautiful botanical gardens I’ve ever visited, which is saying something because I have an entire section of my website dedicated to my love of visiting gardens!
Buckhead Village Shopping
Buckhead Village District, located near St. Regis Atlanta, has lots of great shopping options like Alice & Olivia, Brunello Cucinelli, Christian Louboutin, Dior, Diptyque, Hermés, Jenni Kayne, Jimmy Choo, Moncler, Sarah Flint, & Theory. Additionally, there are lots of dining options and art installations here.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
This natural history museum was really fascinating, thanks to all of its unique displays. They had an awesome room full of seashells which I loved learning about, and a really great interactive exhibit all about color and the ways in which we perceive and interact with it. They had interesting sections about cultural costumes, outer space, and local natural history. This was included in our CityPASS tickets and ended up being one of my favorite things we did with the CityPASS tickets!
The Georgia Aquarium was a blend of contrasts about which I’m still not sure how I feel. We visited because it was included in our CityPASS. Though they have plenty of cool sustainability initiatives and a few of their animals are rescued from situations in which they’d otherwise die in the wild, like their albino alligators I photographed below, other contradictory aspects of the Georgia Aquarium made me wonder why they tried to posit themselves as sustainability champions when they clearly aren’t. For example, they purchased their whale sharks from fishermen in Asia and shipped them here via UPS. Buying endangered animals from unregulated sources is not an ethical, moral, or right thing to do, even if they do serve as learning tools at the aquarium.
I wouldn’t go back, and it was very crowded, but they did have very beautiful aquariums, it was clean, and all of their fish seemed very happy and healthy, although the numerous Beluga whales in a single tank together seemed to be in much too small a space. If you know of sustainable, ethical aquariums, please let me know in the comments below!
National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Included in the Atlanta CityPASS, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights highlights and educates visitors on the role Atlanta and its residents played in advancing civil and human rights during the American Civil Rights Movement and beyond. This was one of the best and most informative museums I’ve ever been to, and I learned so much here. Human rights are something I’m very passionate about, and this museum was very illuminating, particularly in an era where so many ignorant politicians are trying to bring us back to a time before everyone had (more or lesser) equal rights. I recommend spending a few hours here to really read and absorb the information. Keep an eye out for my upcoming feature in my Museums vertical.
One of the best ways to get to know a new city is to volunteer in and around it. Atlanta has dozens of excellent volunteer opportunities. We used Hands on ATL to find a project during our stay, but you can also help out at Atlanta Community Food Bank, Hope Atlanta, or check Volunteer Match. You can even donate to charities like Piedmont Park Conservancy to keep Atlanta a beautiful place for all. No matter where you go in the world, I always encourage you to volunteer your time or donate money or in-need items to those in the area to leave each place we visit better than we found it.
Zoo Atlanta is home to many rescued animals that could never survive in the wild. While it isn’t entirely comprised of rescue animals like the Detroit Zoo, it was still one of the cleanest, prettiest zoos I’ve ever visited, and all of the animals looked very healthy, happy, and well cared for. This is included in the Atlanta CityPASS.
We never once felt unsafe in Atlanta. That being said, we did stay in the nicer parts of town. It’s essential to be aware of current events in any place one travels, and Atlanta is no different. For instance, there are currently protests against what’s been dubbed “Cop City” in Atlanta, mainly after cops recently shot and killed a protestor. Everyone has a right to exercise their constitutional right to assemble peacefully, and it’s always important to be aware of when protests are planned so as not to block them or get delayed in traffic.
As with any major city, remain aware of your surroundings, don’t flash valuables, make copies of your travel documents before you depart to have spares should they become lost or stolen, and always let someone know where you are, where you’ll be going when you plan to return, and what to do if they don’t hear from you. I think Atlanta is a generally safe city, and the people here were very kind. We met some locals while handing out food to unhoused people, and they were some of the sweetest people.
Traveling puts it into perspective that we’re all just people no matter where we come from, where we live, what religion we practice, what language we speak, or anything else that might make us different from one another. Use your best judgment, be kind and respectful, and you’ll be fine.