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If you’ve just touched down in Atlanta, you’ll notice the airport is a bit hectic. That’s because this Georgia capital city is home to the busiest passenger airport in the world.

It’s also the birthplace of the civil rights movement, Coca-Cola soft drinks and… Kanye West. Atlanta’s also known for its darn good fried chicken.

If you only have 24 hours to explore this large and (literally) hot city, we recommend making the most of it. Smear your face with sunscreen, lace up those walking shoes and let’s hit the streets; here’s how to spend 24 hours in Atlanta.

CHECK OUT OUR FULL RANGE OF ADVENTURES IN THE UNITED STATES HERE

What to eat and where to eat it

Neon sign saying Made with Soul in Atlanta.

True that. Photo by Piotr Pomaranski.

Before we cover anything, we need to talk about what foods to eat in Atlanta. This is where you’ll find some of that real Southern comfort food. You can’t come to Atlanta without digging into fried chicken and waffles. We know it sounds weird, but it’s legit — especially at Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint.

Then you’ll want to get your face messy by ordering hot wings from Bone Lick BBQ, right outside of downtown Atlanta. Warning: come here with an empty stomach and a few hours to spare.

RELATED: DEVOURING THE DEEP SOUTH: WHAT TO EAT WHILE ROAD-TRIPPING THROUGH SOUTHERN USA

Baked cheesy chili hot dog

Chili cheese dogs taste better than they look. Photo by Ildi Papp.

You must have heard the rumours by now, but there’re chilli cheese dogs and triple stacked cheeseburgers waiting for you at The Varsity. This. Is. America.

If you’re into America’s fast food scene, march yourself into a classic Chick-fil-A restaurant and order a fried chicken sandwich. This is America’s best fast food restaurant (by popular opinion). But seriously, ask any local and they’ll point you in the Chick-fil-A direction.

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What to do in Atlanta

Trees and plants along a path

A pretty perfect day in Piedmont Park. Photo by Jon Bilous.

Okay so we have food covered, now we can move onto some Atlanta-based activities.

It’s always important to get a sense of where you are. To get a good view of the city of Atlanta, go for a walk in Piedmont Park. A walk through this park will give you a nice view of the skyline, plus there’s usually something going on like a market or festival. Another great park to check out is Centennial Olympic Park. This is Georgia’s legacy of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

Centennial Olympic Park is smack in the centre of downtown Atlanta. It’s walking distance to the mesmerizing World of Coca Cola. This is a fun and interactive museum where you can learn about how the famous soft drink was created in Atlanta in 1886 (and you can sample over 100 bevvies!).

Beautiful old state building in Atlanta at dusk.

Georgia State Capitol Building. Photo by Sean Pavone.

Other cool places to check out in downtown Atlanta are CNN Studios, the College Football Hall of Fame, and the SkyView Atlanta Ferris Wheel. Phew, that’s a lot of ground to cover!

A great way to end an adventurous day is to head to Skyline Park to watch the sunset over this big Southern city. The park sits on top of Ponce City Market in the Old Fourth Ward Neighborhood. It has heaps of amusement park rides, games, mini golf, food and drinks. It’s a fun place to hang out and end your day in Atlanta. (FYI: this park serves beer and wine for you over 21-year-olds.)

RELATED: 6 REASONS TO DO A GROUP TOUR IN AMERICA (FROM AN AMERICAN GROUP TOUR SKEPTIC)

How to get around Atlanta

ATL sign at night.

A perfect photo stop in Atlanta. Photo by TuckerBlade.

Thankfully, Atlanta is pretty easy to get around. The city has a public transit system called MARTA that will take you from the airport to each of Atlanta’s neighbourhoods. You’ll just need to purchase a Breeze card at one of the stations and top it up so that you can get from A to B. A single trip fare is $2.50 USD.

There’s also the Atlanta Streetcar. It’s a 2.7-mile loop around downtown Atlanta. It’s only a dollar for a one-way ride and it’s easy to hop on and off. If the unforgiving Georgia heat is getting the best of you, this is a good option for a little air-conditioned ride around the city.

RELATED: BEYOND BOURBON STREET: 5 REASONS TO VISIT FRENCHMEN STREET IN NEW ORLEANS

Streetcar in downtown Atlanta

An inexpensive way to get around. Photo by Houston Ballard.

Of course, if you want to take the active route, Atlanta’s neighbourhoods are walkable and biker friendly. There’s an area called Atlanta BeltLine, which is basically a 22-mile loop around the outskirts of the city. It’s full of parks, public art installations, restaurants and skate parks. You can rent a bike at Bicycle Barn to cruise around the BeltLine.  

If you’re just stopping over in Atlanta, give yourself 24 hours to explore it. It’s full of great food, entertaining sporting events, and heaps of parks with weekly activities. The city is constantly buzzing and is ready for you to enjoy it. Hey, John Mayer got his big break in Atlanta — maybe you could too!

Interested in exploring Atlanta? A range of our United States adventures begin in the Georgia capital – check them out here

Feature photo by Sean Pavone via Shutterstock. 

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