What’s New on the Westside Trail?
In November 2014, we broke ground on the Westside Trail and by next fall, we’ll be able to say it’s officially complete. Despite wild weather conditions, unexpected underground infrastructure, and a burst of other development projects demanding resources around the city, we’ve managed to keep the project on track.
With a large portion of the underground infrastructure and retaining walls complete in 2015, we readied the Westside Trail for an exciting, visible milestone in its construction – the pouring of concrete. This year, concrete has been poured on two major portions of the trail: from University Avenue to Allene Avenue and from north of Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive to Lena Street. The latter stretch includes re-constructing the portion of Lionel Hampton Trail that intersects with the trail near Washington Park.
Westside Trail paving at Lionel Hampton Trail near Washington Park.
Forging New Connections
Construction of the Westside Trail includes building connectivity to the trail from the adjacent neighborhoods, as well as improving the pedestrian infrastructure when possible. In 2015, the old rail bridge over Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive was removed to make way for a new and improved bridge. The new bridge will accommodate a pedestrian walkway and future transit on the Westside Trail. Construction of the bridge also allowed for improvements to the streetscape below, providing for wider sidewalks and higher traffic clearance under the bridge.
Additionally, the Westside Trail will be built with 14 access points, which will include connections such as ramps and stairs in some areas. Photographed below is an example of such a connection – these are the steps leading up to Lawton Street from the trail.
Construction of the stairs leading up to Lawton Street.
In November of 2016, several volunteer groups descended on the Westside Trail near the access point from Donnelly Avenue for the first of many cleanups around the future trail. The clean-ups will maintain the portions of the trail that are yet to be paved by clearing out trash and invasive species. This first clean-up was sponsored by Park Pride and the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership.
Over the next few months, you will see construction of many more elements of the trail, including the ramp at Lawton Street, installation of lighting poles, construction of the connection at Donnelly, and connections and improvements around Stafford Park. The trail is due for completion by fall 2017.
10 Can't-Miss Atlanta Music Festivals
Each year, the Atlanta area offers up world-class talent at music festivals that show off the city’s historic neighborhoods, iconic venues and not-very-far-away fields. From perennial favorites to newly launched events, these Atlanta music festivals are hot tickets this year.
SweetWater 420 Fest
SweetWater 420 Fest (April 21-23, 2017) features big-name bands taking the stage as part of this annual festival from Atlanta-owned SweetWater Brewing Company. In addition to enjoying music and art, festivalgoers can taste SweetWater beers and attend presentations from brewing experts. The festival also has a comedy tent featuring local talent and an EDM-centric Not-So-Silent Disco.
Shaky Beats Festival
The Shaky Beats Music Festival will be held May 5-7, 2017, in Centennial Olympic Park. Featuring more than 40 electronic, indie and hip-hop acts across three stages, food trucks and more, it's sure to be a party like no other.
Shaky Knees Music Festival
The Shaky Knees Music Festival will be May 12-14, 2017, in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park & International Plaza. The 2016 event featured The Kills, Jane's Addition, My Morning Jacket and Florence + The Machine.
Atlanta Jazz Festival
If you think getting into a music festival is out of your budget this year, check out the cost of the Atlanta Jazz Festival: $0. While the main part of the festival is Memorial Day weekend, every day in May will feature a free jazz event at jazz clubs, neighborhood parks and locally owned restaurants as part of 31 Days of Jazz. The Memorial Day weekend events all happen at Piedmont Park.
Candler Park Music & Food Festival
Southern sounds reign supreme at the Candler Park Music & Food Festival in June in the large park near Atlanta’s Little Five Points. Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Galactic, The Revivalists and more performed in 2016. Proceeds from the festival benefit Atlanta Contact Point, an organization that hosts free play days in Atlanta parks each year.
Tunes from the Tombs
Tunes from the Tombs is one of the most unique music festivals in Atlanta. Featuring local musicians, the June event will hosts numerous stages of entertainment in addition to food trucks and tours, all on the grounds of Historic Oakland Cemetery.
Imagine Music Festival
Electronic musicians, DJs and bands perform alongside cirque-style acts during the September Imagine Music Festival, featuring dance music at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
As one of the state’s largest music fests, Music Midtown draws fans to Atlanta every September. The long list of acts in the weekend lineup covers many musical genres and features some of the industry’s biggest names. The fest, held outdoors in Piedmont Park, has seen acts by the likes of Ludacris, Jane’s Addiction, Pearl Jam, Artic Monkeys, Red Hot Chili Peppers and T.I.
A3C Festival & Conference
Hip hop takes the stage during the annual A3C Festival & Conference in October. Located at venues in the heart of the Old Fourth Ward and East Atlanta Village, the festival features more than 500 performances over five days and concludes with the Best Block Party Ever, an event that is free to attend. Many of the events are located near the new Atlanta Streetcar route, providing easy access from MARTA rail stations and bus service as well as the downtown hotel district.
Wire and Wood Songwriters Festival
Nationally recognized singer-songwriters gather in October for Alpharetta's Wire and Wood Songwriters Festival. Fans get a behind-the-scenes look at the stories that inspired country, rock, blues, Americana and bluegrass songs. Featuring veteran songsmiths and local up-and-coming talent, the festival converts the streets of downtown Alpharetta into concert stages.
10 Things You Should NEVER Do In Atlanta
Whether you’re heading to Atlanta for work or pleasure, we’ve got you covered with ten things not to do in the capital of the New South. This list will help you avoid some all-too-common mistakes and reveal when not to visit, where not to stay, and little-known or new places you shouldn’t miss out on. Follow this expert advice on what to stay away from in Atlanta, and you’ll leave having won your vacation.
DON’T STAY IN DOWNTOWN
Sure, staying in Downtown has its benefits, putting you close to the main tourist sights, but mom-and-pop bed-and-breakfasts, like the Social Goat Bed and Breakfast in Grant Park, offer a more local point of view. This one even comes with resident friendly goats, chickens, turkeys, and house cats and is also walking distance to Zoo Atlanta and a short drive to historic Oakland Cemetery, where Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone with the Wind) is buried. Another unique choice is the Emory Conference Center Hotel on 26 acres of forest preserve with hiking trails. Apartment rentals are yet another option, with websites like Airbnb.com catering to those who need a little more room or who want to live like a local.
DON’T GET IN YOUR CAR
Atlanta’s I-75 and I-85, the major arteries through the city, come with aggressive drivers and major slowdowns during rush hour. Avoid morning and evening commuting times and plan instead to spend a leisurely morning wandering near your hotel. MARTA, the city’s aboveground subway, is the best way to get to and from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, with stops in Downtown and Midtown. The new Atlanta Streetcar links Midtown’s top draws with Sweet Auburn, making a visit to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the King Historic District a breeze. The best part: the streetcar is free for all of 2015.
DON’T LEAVE THE KIDS AT HOME
Though it’s a hub for business travelers, Atlanta is also an amazing place to bring the kids. Starting in Downtown, there’s the Georgia Aquarium, the world’s largest aquarium, with touch tanks, shows, and a giant viewing window where you’re surrounded by water and sea life including whale sharks and stingrays. On a warm day, Centennial Olympic Park‘s fountains are perfect for cooling off—bring a bathing suit and a towel because your kids will get soaked. Nearby is hands-on museum Imagine It! The Children’s Museum of Atlanta. There’s also Zoo Atlanta, which currently has cute baby gorillas (don’t miss the gorilla feeding times), and the outstanding Center for Puppetry Arts, which will close its permanent exhibits at the end of May 2015 and reopen in the fall with a large expansion to house its Jim Henson Collection (its show will continue throughout this period). Don’t miss the shows and build-a-puppet workshops, which are phenomenal.
DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF TO BBQ AND SOUTHERN FOOD
To be clear, yes, you should eat barbeque and Southern food (Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q and Mary Mac’s Tea Room are two classics) during your stay. But, if you consider yourself a foodie and are into authentic international food without the frills of ambiance or refined service, Atlanta’s got you covered. Head to strip mall central Buford Highway for a culinary trip around the world. Buford Highway Farmer’s Market is a good starting point—if your digs include a kitchen, you can buy everything you need to make an international meal here, from dragon fruit to imported olive oil. They also offer cooking classes. For everyone else, this is the place for hard-to-find snacks and the fun of perusing an airplane-hangar-sized supermarket. Along Buford Highway, there are other great stops from Mexico to Vietnam—try the tacos at Taco Veloz, pupusas at Rincon Latino, or banh mi at Lee’s Bakery
DON’T LIMIT YOURSELF TO THE BIG-TICKET SIGHTS
Downtown Atlanta has the four major sights on most visitor’s to-do lists: the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca Cola, the CNN Center, and the new National Center for Civil and Human Rights, all clustered within easy walking distance of one another. If you plan to take in all four sights, get the Atlanta CityPASS, which will save money and time spent in lines. There are also plenty of high-rise hotels in this neighborhood, making it possible to stay here and never leave. That would be a mistake, however, equivalent of coming to New York City and never leaving Times Square. The real Atlanta is in the in-town neighborhoods where locals gather. Check out the dining in Westside, the thrift-store finds in Little Five Points, and the nightlife in the Old Fourth Ward.
DON’T LEAVE TOO LITTLE TIME TO NAVIGATE HARTSFIELD-JACKSON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) is one of the world’s busiest passenger airports. With an aboveground air train that takes you from the car rental area to the terminals, a subway within the actual airport, and miles of moving walkways, it can take a significant amount of time just to get to your gate. This is Delta’s hub, but more than fifteen other airlines also fly into ATL. Better to be safe than sorry, so plan to arrive two hours before domestic flights (more for international).
DON’T VISIT IN AUGUST
With temperatures in the 80s and high humidity, Atlanta can be downright oppressive in the summer, making touring around amount to a mad dash from air-conditioned car to air-conditioned sight. Spring, however, comes early to the city, with temperatures in the mid-70s in early April. Blooming trees and shrubs are abundant (as is the pollen that accompanies them)—dogwoods and azaleas are especially noteworthy. Fall, too, is a lovely time of year and arrives later than in New England. Winters are by and large mild, but everything shuts down for the once-a-year snow flurries.
DON’T SKIP THE PARKS AND BELTLINE
If Piedmont Park is Atlanta’s green lung, then the new BeltLine paths have opened up arteries to oxygenate locals and visitors alike. One of our favorite BeltLine trails is the Eastside Trail beginning at Piedmont Park and ending in Inman Park. It passes through Krog Street Market, a great stop for lunch, and Ponce City Market, a multiuse space from the creators of New York’s Chelsea Market. Be sure to stop at King of Pops for a gourmet popsicle along the way. Within Piedmont Park, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is another must-see and includes a cool suspension bridge walkway.
DON’T MISS FESTIVALS AND EVENTS
Atlanta throws a good party and frequently ups the ante with visual art for sale at festivals such as the springtime Atlanta Dogwood Festival and Decatur Arts Festival. Live music is the reason to head to the Sweetwater 420 Fest (named after the hometown brewery), celebrated on Earth Day, and the Atlanta Jazz Festival, which goes on for the entire month of May. The largest indie book festival, the AJC Decatur Book Festival, fills the streets of Downtown Decatur with bibliophiles on Labor Day. Check out local alternative paper, Creative Loafing for information on what’s happening when you visit.
DON’T LEAVE WITHOUT PAYING YOUR RESPECTS
Atlanta is a civil rights city and the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As such, it’s host to two must-see civil rights sights, the King Center and the new National Center for Civil and Human Rights, a beautifully designed, highly interactive museum—we challenge anyone not to be moved by the immersive lunch counter exhibit. You can tour Dr. King’s birth home, as well as Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he preached. Don’t leave without visiting King’s tomb, the inscription reading “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I’m free at last.” The Sweet Auburn Curb Market, which was a segregated market where African-Americans were forced to sell their wares from stalls lining the curb, makes an excellent and historic lunch stop.
Discover Atlanta’s Historic Places and Faces
The beauty and intrigue of historic Atlanta sites and landmarks reminds visitors of the city’s past amid a thriving urban setting. From historic African-American colleges and universities to the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. and The King Center, Atlanta’s past is at every corner. Enjoy guided tours and shopping along six blocks of Underground Atlanta or catch a show at the historic Fox Theatre. Other historic places in Atlanta include restaurants, shopping districts, parks, museums and antebellum homes, all of which make a walk through Atlanta’s history an unforgettable experience.
Atlanta History Center
Party with the past
Atlanta Movie Tours
Recreate Hollywood moments in ATLwood
Explore the city from open-air smart cars
Get a first look at Atlanta from the comfort of an open-air smart car (or even a Segway) as your ATL-Cruzers tour guide shows you the ins and outs of Atlanta and its neighborhoods. Choose your favorite stops along the way to help plan the rest of your visit!
Centennial Olympic Park
Splash into the Fountain of Rings
Pay homage to Atlanta's Olympic legacy as you splash through the Fountain of Rings or play tag in the green fields of Centennial Olympic Park, located near the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, CNN Center, Center for Civil and Human Rights and College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience.
Center for Civil and Human Rights
Be Inspired by Heroes Past and Present
Connect the American civil rights movement to current human rights issues through moving, experiential exhibits at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Interact with history to understand your role in the dream and the future.
CNN Studio Tours
Watch the news unfold
News junkies and aspiring anchors unite! Take the Inside CNN Studio Tour to see exactly how this globally recognized brand makes news, beginning to end. Keep your eyes peeled and you might even see Robin Meade!
College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience
Score a touchdown with Atlanta's newest attraction
Every team is the home team at the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience, where interactive installments keep you in the game. Sprint down memory lane with decades of memorabilia and learn about Hall of Fame inductees.
Delta Flight Museum
Soar Through Sky-High Exhibits
Experience aviation history at the Delta Flight Museum, where future pilots and frequent flyers alike can enjoy interactive exhibits, state-of-the-art simulator technology, and last-of-their-kind aircraft from eras past. Take a guided tour, or cruise the 68,000-square-foot premises at Delta's Atlanta Headquarters with friends, family, or your copilot of choice.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Journey into the Jurassic
Getting up close and personal with the dinosaurs at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History is a lot less scary than the bared-teeth versions in film. Take a peek back in time with the Giants of the Mesozoic – even one that measures more than 120 feet long!
Walk the red carpet
At Atlanta’s fabulous Fox Theatre, every night is a red carpet event. Musicals, dance and nationally renowned acts wait at the end of your red carpet walk, and if there’s no show scheduled, have no fear – you can always tour this Atlanta icon!
3 Days in Atlanta
Day 1: Around Centennial Olympic Park
The eyes of the world were trained on Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympics, and it remains a downtown hub. Start the day with the most famous Atlanta native of all at The World of Coca-Cola. Hopefully refreshed after sampling the soda giant’s products, your next stop is the nearby home of another global icon. Your tour of CNN Center starts with the world’s largest free-standing escalator and takes you in front of the cameras and behind the scenes. Afterwards, head through the dancing fountains of Centennial Olympic Park to arrive at Georgia Aquarium, the world’s largest. "Journey with Gentle Giants," an opportunity to swim with whale sharks, doesn’t come cheap, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Day 2: Around Piedmont ParkMany people still associate Atlanta with Gone with the Wind, written in, and about, Atlanta. The broad verandas of the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum, where the author wrote that famous novel, exude Southern charm, while inside you’ll find exhibits detailing her life and work. The High Museum of Art, meanwhile, symbolizes the New South. American art forms the core of the permanent collection housed in this award-winning Richard Meier-designed building expanded in the new millennium by Renzo Piano. Then make your way to Piedmont Park, the “Central Park of Atlanta” and home of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, where you can take a canopy walk through the treetops of an urban forest.
Day 3: Around Grant Park
The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site Visitors Center is the focus for a cluster of sites associated with the great civil rights leader, including his house, church, tomb and the King Center for Non-Violent Social Change. Next, head south to Grant Park where the famous Atlanta Cyclorama goes even further back in the history of the South, with an enormous painting depicting the Battle of Atlanta. Finally, say hello to the giant pandas at the excellent Zoo Atlanta.