The largest city in the state of Georgia and its shining capital, Atlanta is one of the top cultural highlights of the American South. As a destination for vacationing first-time visitors or families, Atlanta can be explored in one mild wintery weekend as the Downtown neighborhood checks off almost all of the major tourist boxes and family-friendly attractions.
Adventurous and long-term travelers will want to add a few days or more to their itinerary to get a feel for Atlanta’s many dynamic neighborhoods, arranged in small clusters throughout the city, each with its own unique and distinct atmosphere. Here are the best neighborhoods to explore on your visit to Atlanta this winter.
Best neighborhood for shopping
Buckhead is a popular neighborhood known for its pristine streets, convenient central location and a melting pot of talented and stylish young professionals. Peachtree Street and Roswell Road are the two main drags and are always bustling with 20- and 30-somethings grabbing happy hour at upbeat, chic bars or visiting an independent gallery.
The neighborhood is both trendy and walkable with some great shops, head to Buckhead Village District a mall with a distinct community feel.
North Buckhead is home to Lenox Mall, an air-conditioned oasis for high-summer travelers looking for a mall full of the household brands everyone knows and loves and Phipps Plaza, the Atlantan equivalent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, is perfect for higher-end label lovers. These shopping areas can be busy but, in classic Atlanta fashion, the area also maintains many lush yards full of greenery and trees making shopping a relaxing retreat rather than a hectic experience.
Buckhead’s hotel scene is also undeniably the best in the city, but it will cost you. The majority of the city’s five-star hotels can be found in this neighborhood, but smaller hotels with local charm and excellent service also abound. This neighborhood is the perfect combination of the hustle and bustle of any major city but with some added low-key Southern charm and dazzle.
Best neighborhood for nightlife
Located in East Atlanta, the Inman Park neighborhood offers the city’s characteristic tree-lined streets alongside gorgeous well-appointed Victorian homes. The architecture in this neighborhood is truly one of a kind, with idyllic fantasy homes built in complex colorful designs and including unique quirks like castle turrets, multiple porches, stained glass and intricately designed wrought-iron fences.
However, after hours, the area turns from a classical walkabout to a party-goer's dream and hosts some of the greatest nightlife that Atlanta has to offer.
Park the rental car because this neighborhood is easily walkable day and night and the Eastside Beltline Trail offers bike and walking trails for easy perusing. Charming wine bars, fun brunch cafes, multi-course dining restaurants and busy nightclubs playing the music industry’s best are plentiful.
The area is known for its “hip but not quite hipster” crowd of inhabitants of all ages, races and generations but its whimsical architecture always seems to add a youthful excitement to the night.
Best of all, Inman Park is conveniently sandwiched between many of East Atlanta’s most entertaining neighborhoods including easy access to Reynoldstown, Little Five Points, Poncey-Highland, Old Fourth Ward and Cabbagetown. Krog Street Tunnel, a famous location for rotating street art, connects Inman Park to two of its neighbors, Reynoldstown and Cabbagetown. This nightlife gem is not to be missed.
Best neighborhood for budget travelers
Just north of Atlanta’s city center is the ever-evolving neighborhood of Midtown. Located directly between Downtown Atlanta and Buckhead, Midtown is a welcome refuge for first-time visitors who want to be close to some of Atlanta’s greatest attractions without staying directly in the busy central zone.
Midtown is both residential and commercial, giving it a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere and is also where you can find the widest selection of affordable lodging in Atlanta.
Travelers looking to save will not be disappointed by the availability of budget-friendly entertainment options and tidy, comfortable places to stay and play. Piedmont Park is one to check out with its beautiful bucolic park full of greenery, fresh air and eclectic visitors of all kinds taking advantage of its many resources.
Bike, cycle and walking paths weave throughout the park and the low-key atmosphere lends itself to anything from meeting friends for a stroll and a picnic to enjoying a local jazz show or walking history tour. One can walk through the green expanses of the Atlanta Botanic Garden, have a gourmet snack at Ponce City Market, catch a show at Alliance Theater and enjoy a fun night out at Lava Lounge, all in one day.
The area is also known as Atlanta’s “Heart of the Arts” with top-notch art museums and galleries opening their doors for surprisingly affordable entrance fees. For travelers on a budget, Midtown wins big.
Best kept secret
For a calm respite from the hustle and bustle of the main metro areas of Atlanta, Norcross is the perfect secret hideaway. This diverse enclave, a short drive out of the city center, is chock full of relaxing and beautifully kept parks, charming libraries and a wide variety of local and international food options.
The neighborhood’s Thrasher Park often hosts lively art installations, concerts and events, a thriving farmers market and has plenty of fun playgrounds suitable for children of all ages.
Lodging is affordable and even the most centrally located hotels and B&Bs are not extravagantly priced. Norcross’ true claim to fame and, perhaps, one of the best-kept secrets of the area, is its 112-acre downtown area. Picture perfect like a scene from a classic movie, the quaint downtown is lined with row upon row of historic townhouses and brick buildings, old-fashioned street lamps and good old-fashioned down-home Southern mom-and-pop shops.
Lillian Webb Park is a stone’s throw from downtown and covers nearly 4 lush acres, including a charming gazebo and water activities for children in the summer months. Georgia’s stunning Blue Ridge Mountains are also not far from Norcross, so for travelers with a hiking excursion on the agenda, this is the perfect home base.
If you’re looking for the perfect petite vacation from your vacation, this is an ideal location to take a break before diving back into the busy Atlanta Metro Area.
Best neighborhood for sightseeing
Bright, busy, and exciting, Downtown Atlanta is the city’s top destination for sightseeing and home to its most world-famous attractions. From the top of amazing sights like the Skyview Atlanta, a soaring 20-story-high Ferris wheel, you can take in sweeping views of the entire city and its famous tree canopy. The majority of the neighborhood’s best offerings are all located within minutes of one another, so downtown’s real joy is its easy access to the glitz and glamour on display.
Centennial Park, where the 1996 Summer Olympic Games took place, is its own unique district of downtown and maintains one single priority: entertainment. The area is always rife with activity with locals and tourists rushing from sights like the 71,000 seat Mercedes Benz stadium to standout historical landmarks like the King Center and family-friendly gems like Georgia Aquarium.
Downtown is at the crux of everything Atlanta is known for, historic roots, style, delicious dining, athletics, arts and culture. Hundreds of dining options are readily available whether you are searching for a stadium hot dog, cocktails and appetizers, or a five-course meal.
Staying in this neighborhood is on the pricier end due to high property costs, but the five-star luxury experience it affords is “Southern Hospitality” to the extreme. For families, this area also boasts dozens of breezy and pleasant walking areas suitable for young children and stroller-friendly meandering.
Atlanta is on our 2022 Best of Travel list. For more stories from some of the world’s most exciting destinations click here.
Safety recommendations and restrictions during a pandemic can change rapidly. Lonely Planet recommends that travelers always check with local authorities for up-to-date guidance before traveling during Covid-19.