Downtown Atlanta may have been founded way back in the early 1800’s but this city district, which covers around four square miles and includes nine neighborhoods, is as up to date and vivacious as if it were built yesterday.
There’s nothing tired or shabby about the streets of Downtown Atlanta, They’re alive and kicking with a young vibe generated by the terraced street cafes and bars and the area’s mega-exciting nightlife. The district has a modern approach to culture too which is apparent in its eclectic art galleries, innovative theaters, and public artworks.
Whatever was old has been rejuvenated in great style and has been given a new lease of life making Downtown Atlanta one of the most exciting places to visit in the States today. I was born and raised in Atlanta and lived here most of my life. The Downtown area always has been a favorite of mine. Here is my list of the best things to do in Downtown Atlanta.
1. Skyview Atlanta
Go for a whirl on the Skyview Atlanta Ferris wheel on Luckie Street to get the best panoramic views ever of Downtown Atlanta.
The wheel is twenty stories high, which is over two hundred feet, and there’s nothing nearby to obstruct the vistas. It’s incredible by day and impressive at night when the Downtown Atlanta skyline glitters with thousands of lights.
The Skyview Atlanta has forty-two air-conditioned gondolas one of which is a luxurious, leather-seated and glass-bottomed booth for those who want a VIP experience.
2. Fountain of Rings
The Fountain of Rings, in the Centennial Olympic Park on Park Avenue in Downtown Atlanta, is a fountain designed to replicate the Olympic rings and is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world.
The two hundred and fifty water jets of the fountain perform computer choreographed shows to music four times daily and spurt water up to thirty-five feet in the air.
The shows are fun and interactive during the day, so if the weather’s hot, it’s the ideal place to have a splash and cool down. The after-dark shows are accompanied with stunning illuminations which are simply hypnotic.
Suggested tour: Atlanta: Downtown, Midtown or Eastside Segway Tour
3. ATL Cruzers
Explore Downtown Atlanta on two wheels or by four, whichever mode of transport is more comfortable. They’re both great fun.
Take a Segway and follow a guide as they take you around the top sights of DT. The tours, covering around four miles of the city streets, last for one and a half hours with frequent narrated stops.
Sit back on your seat in an electric car and let someone else do the driving. The driver-guided, eco-vehicles hold up to five people and cover fifteen miles in ninety minutes.
I recommend booking online in advance: book here
4. Apex Museum
The Apex Museum on Downtown Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue is dedicated to the history of African-Americans in Atlanta and the state of Georgia.
The museum commemorates the timeline of African-Americans in the city from the first arrivals to the present day. There are extensive photographic exhibitions alongside informative bulletin boards, video presentations, artworks, and artifacts many of which are a fascinating insight into the times of the Civil Rights Movement.
Related: 55 Best Things to Do in Atlanta
5. State Farm Arena
The State Farm Arena is the go-to place in Downtown Atlanta to watch the Atlanta Hawks play a game of basketball or to see a live concert.
This mega-venue has a seating capacity of just under twenty thousand and a fifteen square acres of playing field. There are restaurants serving everything from soul food to Italian pasta, beer halls with amazing views of the pitch and private lounges with super plush décor.
6. ZuCot Gallery
Enter into the ZuCot Gallery on DT Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park Avenue and discover a different art experience.
The three-thousand five hundred square foot gallery is bold, colorful, eclectic and definitely contemporary both in the way works are exhibited, and in the art it presents.
The ZuCot Gallery hosts regular and innovative art tasting evenings as well as frequent talk sessions with contributing artists.
7. Ponce City Market
Housed in an old department store building, the Ponce City Market on Ponce De Leon Avenue in Downtown Atlanta is a real community hub. Don’t expect a conventional market; this one is way more diverse.
The Ponce City Market has fantastic shops, a produce market and a food hall with over thirty eateries serving everything from Sushi to hot dogs. It doesn’t end there either.
Grab the elevator and head up onto the roof. Apart from some of the best views of Downtown Atlanta, you’ll find an amusement park, cocktail bars, a beer garden, and a mini-golf course.
Available tour: Ponce City Market 2.5-Hour Weekend Food Tour
8. CNN Studio Tour
Take an insightful behind the scenes tour of the CNN news studios. The CNN Center located on Marietta Street in Downtown Atlanta is a multi-purpose building which houses not just several of the global news company’s broadcasting facilities but retail outlets and restaurants too.
Start the tour by riding the world’s longest free-standing elevator before being escorted around the facility by a guide. They’ll give you inside information on the company’s history then let you spy down into the newsroom during a live broadcast.
On a VIP tour experience, you get to go into a live newsroom and meet the presenters. Now that is something which is totally newsworthy.
Read also: 15 Best Day Trips from Atlanta (2023)
9. VIDA Ultra Lounge
For a sophisticated night out in a superb location, check out the Harlem Nights Ultra Lounge on Courtland Street in Downtown Atlanta.
This club, has over eleven thousand square feet of internal space occupied by an enormous dance floor, lounge areas and VIP seating booths. They present a small but tasty menu for anyone who wishes to dine before the DJ’s start spinning discs for the night. They offer all types of beverages and have a cocktail list as long as your arm.
The Harlem Nights Ultra Lounge is for over 21’s only and they appreciate it if you dress to thrill.
10. World Of Coca Cola
Find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the world’s most famous refreshment at the World of Coca-Cola. The museum on Baker Street in Downtown Atlanta is dedicated to the Coca-Cola company and the drink they’ve been producing for over a hundred years.
The museum covers over twenty acres and includes exhibits of a working bottling machine, presentations on the drinks unique formula, informative videos and a tasting station offering sixty variants of the drink for visitors to try.
Skip the line: World of Coca-Cola: Skip-the-Ticket-Line Entry
11. Agatha’s Mystery Dinner Theater
Have a different and very entertaining evening at Agatha’s “A Taste of Mystery” Dinner Theater. The theater, which has been presenting mystery and murder dinner shows for thirty years, is on Downtown Atlanta’s Peachtree Center Avenue.
Take a place at a table in the vintage-style dining room and dine on a five-course meal while watching the mystery comedy-drama unfold. Expect some slapstick, expect to laugh but above all expect to be well fed and very well entertained.
12. Relay Bike Share
Grab a cycle from the Relay Bike Share scheme at Centennial Olympic Park or any other pick up and drop off point in Downtown Atlanta and take a ride around the district.
Downtown Atlanta has super cycle paths running around some of the best parts of the district. Download the map app onto your mobile, plan a route and discover DT under your own pedal produced power. It’s a great way of exploring and you can stop off and start again whenever you feel like it.
13. Center For Civil & Human Rights
The Center for Civil and Human Rights is a museum at Pemberton Place in Downtown Atlanta. The museum is dedicated to the work achieved by the Civil Rights Movement, not just in the US but throughout the world.
The eye-opening exhibits at the museum include memorabilia pertinent to Martin Luther King, an interactive gallery about segregation and other historically important artifacts of the civil rights movement.
I particularly enjoyed an interesting exhibit on some of the world’s worst and most dangerous dictators.
Included in: Atlanta CityPASS®
14. Big Daddy’s Southern Cuisine
Don’t leave Downtown Atlanta without having a taste of the regional cuisine. Big Daddy’s Southern Cuisine restaurant on Martin Luther King Jr Drive will set you straight with a hearty, home-style meal which will have you struggling to get up from the table.
Fried chicken wings, slow-cooked pot roast or smothered beef liver with onions are all must tries and so is the catfish. Accompany any of them with a side of collard greens, yam soufflé, mashed potatoes or mac’n’cheese, and you’ll not want to eat again for another week.
Related food tour: Modern Southern Food Tour of Historic Inman Park
15. Old Fourth Ward Distillery
Tour the Old Fourth Ward Distillery on Edgewood Avenue in Downtown Atlanta to find out how they distill their beverages.
The distillery produces craft made gin and vodka from fresh ingredients on their premises using a one hundred and thirty-year-old technique. The tour ends, as all good distillery tours should, in the tasting room.
Don’t miss out on trying their Lawn Dart. It’s a true Downtown Atlanta twist on an Italian Limoncello and has the flavorsome kick of added ginger. It’ll make your visit to Downtown Atlanta even more worth it.