There are a lot of different options for exploring Atlanta on foot. From playing in the city’s green spaces to strolling through food halls or taking a hike in the nearby mountains, there are many ways for the active-minded to enjoy the urban atmosphere that gives Atlanta its charm. In addition to all that Atlanta currently has to offer, the city is still working on becoming a more walkable city. The city has a couple of different initiatives, the Atlanta Beltline and the PATH system, that aim to create more pavement without traffic, which will make it easier to get around the city by foot. Regardless of how many city blocks you walk or how many mountains you climb, when you're in Atlanta you can always take comfort in knowing that there are a myriad of hip boutique hotels to stay for the night, rest your weary bones and unwind.
One with Nature
Taking in the beautiful views along Piedmont Park's paved 2.5-mile trail (photo Alexa Lampasona)
While Atlanta continues to expand its green spaces and walking/biking trails, there has always been one special spot within city limits that locals and visitors alike treasure: Piedmont Park. This green space, 185 acres of sprawling hills, has been Atlanta’s common grounds since 1904. There are different sections of the park, and each is known for specific activities. The Lower Meadow is perfect for pick-up soccer and Frisbee games, the Active Oval gravel track is prime for running and Oak Hill is a popular picnic spot. The outer paved path is 2.5 miles and crosses through all of the park’s sections. When you’re on the path, be sure to check out the lovely scenic view from the Lower Meadow that showcases a backdrop of the Midtown skyline.
In addition, the northern edge of Piedmont Park is shared with the Atlanta Botanical Garden, 30-acres of gardens and plant collections on display for the general public. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the garden, which has more than 15 exhibitions to showcase seasonal and rare plant species, including the Fuqua Conservatory’s Tropical Rotunda, the Desert Habitat and the tropical plant Orangerie. There is also an Orchid Center, a habitat that mirrors an Andes Mountain Cloud Forest, and a massive outdoor collection of colorful rose gardens and edible gardens.
Food Hall Stroll
Meander through Krog Street Market and choose a delicious lunch before you head back outside. (photo Daniel Lobo)
Atlanta Beltline is a 22-mile railroad corridor that eventually will be entirely paved, but for now only a few sections are completed: the West End Trail, Northside Spur Trail and the most popular section, the Eastside Trail, which connects Piedmont Park to the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. For an afternoon in the sunshine, join the flow of people—be ready for some crowds—moving between two of the newest food halls in town: Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market.
Ponce City Market is almost one mile from the Eastside Trail’s 10th Street and Monroe trailhead. This gives you just enough time to work up an appetite before exploring the range of food choices inside. For coffee, Spiller Park serves classic coffee creations and a few choice roasts. Couple this with a hearty two-inch thick slice of toast topped with avocado, eggs or homemade jam and you'll be happily satisfied.
Many of Atlanta’s iconic chefs have created more affordable outposts here as well. Anne Quatrano of Bacchanalia runs Dub’s Fish Camp, that features a raw bar and stellar fried creations like crab beignets and “today’s catch” crispy fish sandwiches. You can also get a great burger at Linton Hopkins' H & F Burger. Hopkins created the demand for his burger at Holeman & Finch Restaurant, where the burger used to be served after 10 p.m. only.
From Ponce City Market, wander down the Beltline with a full belly and enjoy the Art on the Beltline, a series of temporary art installations that include statues, graffiti and other interactive exhibits to spice up the Beltline’s appeal.
The two-mile Eastside Trail ends at Irwin Street and from there Krog Street Market is less than a block away. This food hall is brimming with options for snacks and meals. If you are craving BBQ, make sure you arrive early in the day—once Grand Champion BBQ runs out it closes down. Fred’s Meat and Bread serves up inventive sandwiches, like the Korean fried chicken sandwich, vegetarian mushroom cheesesteak and the Italian hoagie. Wash it all down with a cold one from Hop City Brewing, which features a selection of both local and popular national craft beers.
To The Mountain
The view of Atlanta's skyline from atop Stone Mountain (photo ravas51, flickr)
If you are looking for something more formidable than a lunchtime stroll, head out to Stone Mountain, one of Atlanta’s most popular landmarks. The quartz, man-made mountain has a circumference of five miles at the bottom and rises to an elevation of almost 1,700 feet. Hiking the one-mile summit trail to the top of the mountain is a rite of passage for visitors to the park. While the distance is short, elevation gain makes it a nice challenge, especially during the last 0.2 miles when it spikes from 1,400 to 1,600 feet. A reward at the summit is the panoramic view of metro Atlanta including the skyline and the distant Kennesaw Mountain.
Running or cycling around the base is also a challenging workout due to the hilly roads and trails that surround the mountain. For cyclists, take the PATH and ride a few loops on Robert E. Lee Boulevard. The route is a hilly five miles, with a few steep sections on the north side of the mountain. For trail runners, there’s the Cherokee Trail, a 5-mile off-road trail that wends through woodlands and crosses bridges. At one point, the trail crosses over the granite slopes of the summit walk-up trail.
Kick Back and Relax
The outside courtyard at the Artmore Hotel is the perfect spot for relaxing tired feet. (Courtesy of Artmore Hotel)
When your two feet start complaining and you are done with walking, hiking or biking for the day, it’s time to kick back and relax at one of Atlanta’s finest accommodations. Among the high-rise chain hotels that dot Atlanta’s downtown and Midtown landscape, there are a few hidden gem boutique hotels that offer a charming and unique experience for out-of-town visitors.
The Ellis Hotel is the only remaining independent boutique hotel in downtown Atlanta. Although the building is 101 years old, its historic elegance weaves modern, chic appeal in each of its 127 rooms. The Ellis Hotel caters to many types of visitors, offering a women's only floor, pet friendly floor, fresh air floor and a wellness room. Its central location is perfect for visitors without a car as MARTA and Atlanta Streetcar stop right outside the hotel doors.
The Artmore Hotel in Midtown stands out from the block-style architecture that surrounds it, adding a pop of gold color with its Spanish Mediterranean aesthetics. All the rooms are decorated with a blend of earth tones, and the open air courtyard features a fountain and fire pit. If your feet are still up for it, the hotel is within walking distance to Atlanta’s Art District, where you can check out the High Museum of Art, MODA and the Center for Puppetry Arts.
One of the city’s only bed and breakfasts is also located in Midtown, a few blocks from Piedmont Park. Stonehurst Place is a revitalized 19th century mansion that has been transformed into a bed and breakfast with six rooms and suites. Each of the cozy rooms and the common spaces are adorned with museum art and decorated with the expertise of an interior designer. The gardens, front parlor and sleeping patio make it feel like a retreat from the city. Stonehurst Place also touts itself as an eco-friendly hotel, featuring water conservation systems and solar panels.
Exploring Atlanta on foot is becoming easier and easier. So when you next visit the city, be sure to let your feet do the walking through the park, let them help you burn off that yummy meal or work them out as you haul yourself up an iconic city mountain.
Originally written by RootsRated for Atlanta CVB.