ATL v NYC. How to show off Atlanta, Georgia for the win.
Genuine WOWs in the capital city of the South’s Empire State.
By Hope S. Philbrick
A reader recently reached out with a challenge: “I’m soon hosting very New Yorkers and I want to one-up them during their visit to Atlanta. Can you guide me to some unique entertainment, fine dining and innovation they can experience that is better than NYC?”
Of course Atlanta, Georgia can WOW any visitor, even a die-hard New Yorker.
If you have only a few days to impress guests and want to keep close to the city, here are our top picks of ways to show off Atlanta, Ga., plus brags you can work into conversations:
Take a spin atop Westin Peachtree Plaza. Ride the elevator 73 stories up for unbeatable 360-degree views in the site of the 1981 movie Sharkey’s Machine, starring Burt Reynolds—the experience is arguably most impressive at sunset, on a clear day. You can eat dinner at Sun Dial Restaurant Bar & View, but you might leave your dining options open and opt instead for drinks and appetizers or dessert on the bar level where you can listen to jazz. (I once did this with a friend from Minnesota and the jazz ensemble started to play “Georgia On My Mind,” which really was perfect! Also, take that New York, our state song is Ray Charles-cool!) At 723 feet, The Westin Peachtree Plaza was Atlanta’s tallest building until 1987, when it was surpassed by One Atlantic Center. Today, The Westin Peachtree Plaza is the fifth tallest building in Atlanta, surpassed in height by the Bank of America building (1023 feet), Sun Trust Plaza (871 feet), One Atlantic Center (820 feet), and 121 Peachtree Tower (770 feet). HOWEVER it remains the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere. That’s right, NYC!
You can also take a spin atop the Hyatt Regency Atlanta in the bar/restaurant Polaris, which is housed inside the hotel’s iconic blue dome. That’s right: Atlanta has two revolving restaurants. New York City has only one.
Georgia is now the No. 1 filming location in the world. You can see some filming spots on an Atlanta Movie Tour. Several tour themes are available, many have a zombie theme inspired by “The Walking Dead” (which has filmed some scenes in Atlanta; most filming is done in nearby Senoia, however, an ideal daytrip destination for fans of the show. Fans of “The Vampire Diaries” would prefer a daytrip to Covington).
Speaking of nearby daytrip options… If you and your friends love adventure, don’t miss Historic Banning Mills. I can’t say enough great things about it. It’s THE BEST zip-line course ever—the tallest, longest, fastest in the Northern Hemisphere! There’s even a climbing wall certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s tallest free-standing one of its kind.
If you prefer a calmer outing that offers the chance to show off Georgia’s southern ecology, consider kayaking at Sweetwater Creek State Park, the Georgia State Park closest to the Atlanta metro area. Or you might stroll around the Atlanta Beltway or around the Atlanta Botanical Garden.
If touring attractions in the heart of the city sounds appealing, get a CityPASS—it will help your guests make the most of their travel budget and thus prove you’re considerate and thoughtful, which should impress anyone! Among the CityPASS stops is CNN (the first TV channel to offer 24-hour news coverage!), Coca-Cola (the No. 1 most popular beverage brand in the world!), and Georgia Aquarium (the most popular aquarium in the USA and 2nd in the world!).
Centennial Olympic Park was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics. It’s picturesque, cool and free. The summer Olympics have never been held in New York.
To show off how Atlanta is truly diverse (and knows good tastes), there’s nothing like DeKalb Farmers Market. You might also head to Buford Highway (DeKalb County) and Koreatown (in Duluth, Gwinnett County).
Enjoy a boat adventure on Lake Lanier. Many types of boats are available for rent, but for the most unique experience rent a houseboat and camp overnight on the water.
Consider your audience to line up the best possible WOWs—after all, Atlanta can look different depending on the angle you choose—but there’s much to love about the Atlanta History Center, now home to the impressive singular Cyclorama. Also, The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum and Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. Atlanta holds an important place in American history and these sites help prove it.
Restaurant options abound. To help narrow it down, consider…
- For cocktails plus late-night ambiance, The Sound Table
- For fine dining, Miller Union—Chef Steven Satterfield won the 2017 James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast!
- For farm-to-table at an affordable price, 5 Seasons Brewing
- For cheap eats, Taqueria del Sol
- For fried chicken, shrimp & grits and other Southern favorites, Saltwood Charcuterie & Bar
- For variety, Ponce City Market, a who-who of Atlanta restaurateurs; it’s a good choice if you’re not quite sure what sort of cuisine you’re in the mood for, or want to try lots of different things
Facts about Georgia…
- Georgia is bigger than New York: Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi River!
- Georgia has 159 counties, more than any other state east of the Mississippi.
- Georgia was the 13th of the 13 original colonies.
- Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport in the world!
- Georgia is home to the oldest state park in the U.S.A.!
- Georgia is home to 65 threatened and endangered plant and animal species.
- Georgia is home to the invention of the Cherokee written alphabet!
- Amicalola Falls in Dawsonville is the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River!
- The Okefenokee in south Georgia is the largest swamp in North America!
- Stone Mountain is one of the largest single masses of exposed granite in the world.
- Atlanta is one of two cities in the world to have housed two Nobel Peace Prize winners.
- Atlanta has the second-most shopping center space in the U.S.A.
- The Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in restaurant!, serves more Coca-Cola by volume than anywhere else in the world!
- In the past 5 years, Atlanta chefs garnered 57 semifinalist nominations for James Beard Awards.
- USA TODAY named Atlanta to its 2017 list of cities with the Best Beer Scenes.
- Atlanta boasts more than 50 visual art galleries plus more than 30 playhouses and theatres.
- Atlanta’s metro area has more than 1,700 cultural non-profit organizations, generating more than half a billion dollars in economic activity.
- Midtown Atlanta features the largest concentration of arts facilities and organizations in the Southeast, with 25 different arts and cultural venues, more than 30 permanent performing arts groups, and 22 various entertainment facilities.
- Atlanta’s residing symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, has won 17 Grammys, more than any other U.S. symphony!
- Atlanta has four Smithsonian affiliates: High Museum of Art, Georgia Aquarium, Museum of Design Atlanta and David J. Sencer CDC Museum.
- Feature films including The Blind Side, Flight, Identity Thief, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Mockingjay – Part 1, Sully, The Divergent Series, Hidden Figures, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Baby Driver and Spider-Man: Homecoming were all shot in Atlanta.
-Photos courtesy Georgia Department of Economic Development Marketing & Communications Division
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.