‘’Welcome to Atlanta. Man, all you need is some money.’’ (Paper Boi, 2018)
Rejoice! The US has just dropped its travel ban, and is once again welcoming visitors across its borders from just a few lucky countries. Fortunately for intrepid British travellers, the UK is on the list of places now welcome to visit once again, and as such, we’re casting our covetous gazes to 2022 and planning a trip across the pond.
Sure, New York is appealing in its relentlessness, and the taco truck culture in Los Angeles just has to be devoured. Perhaps it’s even true that you’ll never receive a warmer welcome than that of Greenville, South Carolina. But the place to be in 2022 is without doubt Atlanta, the cultural capital of Georgia and right now, one of the coolest cities on the planet.
In fact, the ATL is the only city in the whole of North America that features on Lonely Planet’s Best Destinations for 2022 List, ranking at number 4. As if we needed an excuse to visit…
If you’re heeding this advice, too, and are planning to be based in the city centre, then here are 6 of the best things to do in Downtown Atlanta.
RIDE THE SKYVIEW ATLANTA & SEE THE CITY FROM A NEW PERSPECTIVE
We had to start up here, taking in Atlanta’s famous skyline from 20 stories high. Found in the city’s Centennial Park, if you’re keen to appraise Downtown Atlanta early on in your holiday, to get your bearings and enjoy panoramic views of the city’s most popular attractions, then it’s essential you ride the city’s famous Ferris wheel, SkyView.
Open daily from midday to late evening, the Ferris wheel is close to many of the best places to stay in Atlanta, as the SkyView is slap bang in the middle of the Hotel District. The Ellis Hotel, on Peachtree Street, is a gorgeous boutique hotel that’s just a short stroll from both the SkyView and several other attractions on our list.
EXPLORE ATLANTA’S AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY AT THE APEX MUSEUM
At the Apex Museum (African American Panoramic Experience) it’s Black History Month every month. Founded in 1978 by Dr Dan Moore, the mission of the museum is simple; to present history accurately from an African American perspective, rather than the white-tinted spectacles through which history, both American and global, is all too often viewed.
The museum is part of the US Civil Rights Trail, and Atlanta plays a hugely significant role in the movement; Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was born and grew up in the city, for starters. As such, it’s only natural to combine this incredible, important museum with a visit to Dr Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, which is 10 minutes away by foot.
WATCH ATLANTA UNITED FC AT THE MERCEDES BENZ STADIUM
Before you even set eyes on any sport (NFL and MLS are both hosted here), the Mercedes Benz Stadium is an awesome feat of architecture to behold. Redesigned in 2016 at a cost of $1.6 billion, the stadium features a state-of-the-art retractable roof formed of eight translucent, triangular panels. It also boasts a one-of-a-kind ‘halo’ video board which surrounds the entire top of the dome, making the stadium feel like one of the most futuristic and striking structures in the world; the near 80’000 in regular attendance here seem to agree.
You could, of course, take in a game of American Football here, courtesy of the Atlanta Falcons, but with Atlanta United FC currently one of the most exciting football (‘soccer’) teams in North America, it would be rude not to enjoy the unique experience of watching footy in the States at least once.
Right now, the team are riding high, in fifth place in the MLS’ Easter Conference. Look out for star player Josef Martinez, who has 101 goals in just 129 games for the club.
DRINK IT ALL IN AT THE WORLD OF COCA COLA
As if having Dr Martin Luther King and Kanye West born here wasn’t enough, Atlanta also lays claim to being the birthplace of Coca Cola. Yep, on 29th January 1892, the Coca Cola Company was founded in the city, originally intended as a temperance drink, then a patent medicine, and infamously containing coca leaves, before it finally became the refreshing fizzy drink we know today.
That’s enough of a history lesson about the stuff, though; we don’t want to ruin your visit to the World of Coca Cola, located in Pemberton Place, Downtown Atlanta. Inside, you can learn about the history of Coca Cola’s famous ‘secret formula’, in the museum’s specially designed, mysterious Vault, though we’ll warn you now; no recipes are revealed! Or rather, if those secrets were to be revealed, they’d have to kill us…
The World of Coca Cola is a particularly enjoyable place to visit during Christmas, when the ‘Holidays are Comin’ iconography goes into overdrive; tickets start at $14.
CELEBRATE THE GLOBAL CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AT THE CENTER FOR CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS
From a multinational beverage corporation to something that truly matters. Just a two minute walk from the World of Coca Cola is the Center for Civil and Human Rights, which tells the story of the brave people who changed history, both in the USA and globally.
In the museum, you’ll find the largest collection of papers and writings by Dr Martin Luther King Jr., as well as art installations, galleries and exhibitions dedicated to the heroic efforts of civil rights activists across the world.
The Center also hosts regular talks and discussions on a range of human rights issues; right now, to kick off Trans Awareness Week, the Center is in conversation with the LGBT Institute and Athlete Ally, hosting seminars on how we can better support and show solidarity with the trans community.
In the same neighbourhood as the Center, on Auburn Avenue, you can visit the house where Dr Martin Luther King Jr. grew up. Now turned into the Martin Luther King National Historic Site, it’s just a five minute taxi ride away from the Center, and just a minute’s walk from the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park we mentioned earlier.
CELEBRATE ATLANTA’S INCREDIBLE MUSIC SCENE AT THE STATE FARM ARENA
Consider the hottest properties in contemporary music right now and then look at a rundown of musicians born in Atlanta; the list appears almost identical. Kanye West was born here. Young Thug, 21 Savage and 2 Chainz, too. Migos, Future, Playboi Carti and Rae Sremmurd are proud Atlantans. Lil Yachty, Lil Baby and Lil Nas X call Atlanta home.
Some of hip-hop’s true legends are from the city, too; Andre 3000 and Big Boi of Outkast, Killer Mike, Gucci Mane, Lisa ‘left eye’ Lopes, Usher, Ciara and Ludacris all hail from or have deep ties with Atlanta. And of course, Donald Glover (whose stage name is Childish Gambino) based his critically acclaimed TV series Atlanta in and on the city.
The list goes on but if we continue to, we’ll be here all day…
Anyway, and although there are concerts happening all over Atlanta on every night of the week, at the State Farm Arena, you’ll find some of the biggest names from the city playing huge homecoming shows. In December alone, Lil Baby and Playboi Carti are both headlining the arena.
But it’s not only Atlantans you’ll be able to watch here. Next year, the State Farm hosts Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa and Justin Bieber, to name just a few. Yep, the city of Atlanta has some serious musical pedigree.
If you’re planning to hire a car in the city, then check out our 6 essential tips for driving in the USA.