One Day in Atlanta: The Best Things To Do

If you’re looking for a fun and exciting city to explore, look no further than Atlanta! Here is our guide on how to spend one day in Atlanta. There is so much to see and do in this vibrant Southern city.

Whether you’re a history buff or into sports or pop culture, Atlanta has something for everyone. In one day, you can explore the city’s main attractions, its rich history and culture. Or take in the natural beauty of the area.

Plan your ideal one-day Atlanta itinerary with this FREE printable travel planner.

view of the downtown Atlanta, Georgia, skyline with cars on the freeway
There are a ton of amazing things to do with one day in Atlanta.

This post includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. See disclaimer. 

Atlanta was founded in 1837 as a railroad terminus. It quickly grew into a major commercial and transportation center, and by the early 20th century had become one of the South’s most important cities.

Atlanta played a key role in both the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, and today is home to a diverse population and vibrant culture. It became the capital of Georgia in 1877.

PRO TIP: If you have flexible travel dates you need to check out Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). You get amazing flight deals sent straight to your inbox with instructions on how to book directly with the airlines. Check out Going here. Going is my favorite way to find great travel deals. 

There are so many things to see and do in Atlanta in one day, it can be hard to know where to start! Atlanta is a city with something for everyone, so be sure to explore all that it has to offer.

Don’t forget to pack a day bag for yourself. Check out my day trip essentials packing list so you don’t forget anything you need.

Things to see during one day in Atlanta

Here are some of the most popular things to do in Atlanta. If it’s your first visit, these tourist attractions and ideas are a great place to start.

TIP: Keep track of all of your important travel details with a digital travel planner like this.

Georgia Aquarium 

Without a doubt, if you’re trying to see Atlanta in a day, that day must include a visit to the Georgia Aquarium. It’s one of the best places to visit in the city.

Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the United States, and it showcases hundreds (thousands?) of amazing sea creatures. If you’re traveling with children they’ll love seeing the amazing whale shark, beluga whales, and more. They even have some great interactive exhibits.

Ocean Voyager (designed to house the whale sharks) holds more than 6 million gallons of water and is one of the largest single aquatic exhibits in the world.

If you want to save money on entrance to multiple Atlanta attractions, be sure to check out the Atlanta CityPASS. You can save a lot of money on top Atlanta attractions including the Georgia Aquarium.

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park

You definitely should make plans to visit Martin Luther King, Jr National Historic Park on your one-day trip to Atlanta. The park consists of several buildings including Dr. King’s birth home (which is open for ranger-led tours) as well as Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The park also includes the BEHOLD monument, the Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” World Peace Rose Garden, First Station No. 6, and the King Center, which includes the final resting place of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

And, of course, you won’t want to miss stopping at the Visitor Center. It will help you get oriented to the park and you can ask any questions you might have about how to join a tour or which sites are open during your visit. 

If you like guided walking tours, you should check out this Martin Luther King Historic District Walking Tour. It includes entrance to several important sites and you can cancel for free up to 24 hours ahead.

World of Coca-Cola

An absolute Atlanta must-do, the World of Coca-Cola is a museum in Atlanta dedicated to the history and advertising of Coca-Cola. The museum is located in downtown’s Centennial Olympic Park District.

The main attraction for many visitors will be tasting samples that are available in different flavors. If it’s there, make sure to try the soda called Beverly. Better yet, get everyone traveling with you to try it first!

World of Coca-Cola is just steps from the Georgia Aquarium and very near Centennial Olympic Park.

If you’re planning to visit World of Coca-Cola (among other sites) in Atlanta, you might want to check out the Atlanta CityPASS. It includes entry to World of Coca-Cola, Georgia Aquarium, and  Zoo Atlanta plus your choice of TWO MORE attractions.

Zoo Atlanta

Alerting all Panda lovers! A visit to Zoo Atlanta is a must for your Atlanta day trip itinerary. They have pandas. I personally don’t need any more info than that.

Of course, Zoo Atlanta has more than just pandas. In fact, it’s a really great zoo, one of the best I’ve ever visited. 5 stars. Highly recommend.

Zoo Atlanta also keeps up a pretty full schedule of presentations and feedings so that guests can learn more about the animals.

Zoo Atlanta admission is included in the Atlanta CityPASS along with the World of Coca-Cola and Georgia Aquarium. Check it out here.

Centennial Olympic Park

Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia
Don’t leave Centennial Olympic Park off your Atlanta one-day itinerary.

Centennial Olympic Park is an amazing 22-acre green space in the middle of downtown Atlanta that was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics. The park is home to several attractions including the famous Fountain of Rings. Centennial Olympic Park is open to the public seven days a week.

High Museum of Art

Art lovers will want to pay a visit to the High Museum of Art. The High is one of the most significant museums of art in the U.S. and houses an impressive permanent collection of more than 18,000 pieces.

The High often features special exhibitions in collaboration with major museums, such as their noted Louvre Atlanta collaboration with the Louvre in Paris.

Margaret Mitchell House

Visit the home of Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell. Part of Atlanta History Center Midtown, Margaret Mitchell House offers guests the opportunity to learn more about the author of one of the most influential works of Southern American literature and how her only book shaped popular views (right or wrong) of the South, the Civil War, and slavery.

If you’re interested in reading more Southern lit, check out my list of great books about the South.

Georgia State Capitol Building

capitol building with gold dome in Atlanta, Georgia

In addition to being the largest city in Georgia, Atlanta is also the state capital. The state capitol building is open to the public during the week. It’s a pretty impressive building, so stop by if you can. 

I wouldn’t necessarily make a special point of going there if it’s out of your way, but if you’re in the area and it’s open, I recommend it. 

Tour Truist Park

Baseball lovers will be happy to know that Truist Park, home of the 2021 world champion Atlanta Braves operates guided tours year-round. If you’ve never taken a guided tour of a Major League Baseball park, I highly recommend it. It’s a lot of fun to get a peak behind the scenes of a major sports complex.

Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Visiting the Fernbank Museum in Atlanta is a must-see experience for anyone interested in science and nature. The museum features a range of permanent and special indoor and outdoor exhibits that explore the natural world and human history to the present day.

Visitors can explore the exhibits showing the diverse ecosystems of Georgia and the rest of the world, marvel at life-sized replica dinosaur skeletons, and learn about various cultures. In addition to the exhibits, the museum also hosts special events and community and educational programs for all ages.

Atlanta Botanical Garden

The Atlanta Botanical Garden covers over 30 acres and features an extensive collection of plants, including rare and endangered species from around the world. They recently announced a major expansion at the Atlanta BeltLine.

A highlight of the garden is the Fuqua Orchid Center, where visitors can marvel at the beauty and diversity of hundreds of orchid species. The garden also features several themed gardens, such as the Japanese Garden and the Edible Garden. 

The Atlanta Botanical Garden hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including special exhibits and seasonal displays, making it a must-visit destination for locals and tourists alike.

SkyView Atlanta

The SkyView Atlanta Ferris wheel is a popular attraction in the heart of downtown Atlanta.

Standing at nearly 20 stories tall, the observation wheel offers breathtaking views of the city skyline, including landmarks like Centennial Olympic Park (just across the street) and the Georgia Aquarium. The experience includes climate-controlled gondolas, a must in the Georgia summer heat!

Where to stay in Atlanta

Atlanta offers a wide range of hotel options to suit every kind of traveler. If you’re looking for a hotel that scores high on cleanliness, friendly staff, and location convenience, you might consider the following top-rated options.

When you stay at The Candler Hotel Atlanta, you’ll be just a short walk from Centennial Olympic Park and SkyView Atlanta. It’s also not far from the College Football Hall of Fame. Enjoy exploring this fun city from 4-star accommodations.

Hampton Inn & Suites Atlanta-Midtown is just over a 5-minute walk from the famous High Museum of Art. 

If you’re looking for something outside the center of Atlanta, try the highly rated Omni Hotel at the Battery. It’s located at Truist Park, and it’s just over 20 miles from the airport.

Atlanta Georgia skyline

What to do if you have more time in the Atlanta area

Atlanta’s surrounding area offers many exciting day trip options, providing an opportunity to explore nearby destinations without staying away for too long.

From outdoor adventures to vibrant cities in neighboring states, small-town gems, and historical sites of significance, there’s no shortage of interesting places and activities to discover within a reasonable drive from Atlanta.

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain is close by at just about a 30-minute drive away.

While Stone Mountain Park charges for parking and some attractions, there are still plenty of free natural recreation areas available to explore once inside. Take a stroll through the beautiful natural areas or discover one of the many hiking and nature trails.

The 363-acre lake offers the chance to enjoy kayaking or fishing (swimming is not permitted). Kids will enjoy the playground, as well as exploring the Grist Mill, Covered Bridge, and Quarry Exhibit.

For a more challenging adventure, hike to the top of Stone Mountain to take in breathtaking views of downtown Atlanta and the surrounding areas.

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area makes for an excellent day trip, offering visitors the chance to explore 48 miles of picturesque river.

Whether you’re into fishing, kayaking, or canoeing, the river provides plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure. Additionally, the area boasts several multi-use trails that are perfect for biking enthusiasts.

Lake Lanier

Large blue lake in Georgia

For those seeking a refreshing outdoor getaway, spending a day at Lake Lanier is an ideal choice. Located just 50 miles from Atlanta, it’s a convenient day trip that offers plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in nature.

With a sprawling 38,000-acre lake and over 690 miles of shoreline, Lake Lanier is the largest lake in Georgia and boasts over 45 parks along its shores. Visitors can participate in a variety of activities, including fishing, boating, kayaking, swimming, camping, and even golf.

Pine Mountain

Pine Mountain is a great day trip destination from Atlanta. You can visit Callaway Gardens, the 2500-acre botanical garden with many attractions such as a butterfly conservatory, golf courses, and zip lines. Or pay a visit to FDR State Park (and its Pine Mountain Trail) and Wild Animal Safari.

If you have even more time to spare away from Atlanta, Callaway Resort is a popular weekend getaway from Atlanta

For the complete list, see my article all about the top day trips from Atlanta.

The bottom line

These are just a few of the ways to spend one day in Atlanta. Atlanta is full of great history and has so many things to explore and enjoy.

The best way to spend a day in Atlanta is just by being curious. If you’ve ever wanted to visit this vibrant city, then now is the perfect. 

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our list of essential travel planning resources.  

More articles to help you plan your visit to Georgia

Pin this post! 

one day in Atlanta. The very best ways to see Atlanta in a day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *