If you travel in Delta Airlines or Southwest a lot it is most likely that you will have a layover in Atlanta. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport is one of the busiest airport in the country and I would dare to say even the world. The airport is conveniently located about seven miles from downtown Atlanta, which makes it very accessible for those on long layovers to explore Atlanta.
I always try to take advantage of a layover to get to see a new place. It makes the trip even more fun and less tiresome, as you will be distracted seeing new things instead of sitting down waiting for your next flight. The airport offers a shuttle from there to Centennial Olympic Park.
In this guide we’ll be sharing the main highlights of things to do in Atlanta during an 8 to 10 hour layover.
The regional train system, MARTA, connect various city points to the airport making it easy to go out and explore the city and get some some sightseeing done. We recommend taking the regional train in order to avoid the traffic from Atlanta. The train runs directly from the domestic terminal baggage claim to the city and costs $2.50 each way.
If you do not have a long layover and rather a short one, you can still enjoy some of Atlanta finest attractions such as the Woodruff Arts Center or the High Museum of Art, known for its architecture. Here you will find the artwork of Monet, Rodin, and Dorothea Lange. Another great option is the Atlanta Botanical Garden or the Margaret Mitchell House.
Keep in mind that you will need to have at least a layover of three hours nationally to leave the airport (Make sure you are an hour early to go through security), and at least 5 hours if you are traveling Internationally to make sure you leave enough time for Immigration and security.
If you need a place to store your luggage, check out Wrap-A-Bag by the baggage claim in the North and South Terminal areas. Check the site for times and prices.
What to do in Atlanta during a long layover near the airport
The Delta Flight Museum is located just outside the airport and it is housed in a historic hangar. It has several flight exhibits documenting America’s history in the air and the smaller airlines that have been acquired over the years. Other things you could do near the airport are visiting the Historic Christ Church & Carriage House, and the Historic Depot Museum.
What to do in Atlanta Travel Video
What to do in Atlanta during a long layover around the Centennial Olympic Park
The main attractions of the city are located around the park. I normally take the subway as it only takes 30 minutes and it is not expensive, $3 each way. If you do not have enough time or rather saving it to enjoy the attractions you can always get an Uber or even a Yellow taxi.
Visit the CNN Center
If you are into news, you must visit the CNN main headquarters and take the 50 minute guided tour that takes you through the building and provides a behind the scenes look of what you see on tv.
The CNN Center is the main headquarters and main newsroom and studios for several of CNN’s news channel. T
Ride the Skyview Ferris Wheel
The Skyview is a 20 story tall ferris wheel with a beautiful scenic view of downtown Atlanta, located at the end of the Centennial Olympic Park and at the heart of downtown Atlanta. From there you can get a beautiful panoramic view. The ride lasts 15 minutes and it goes around four times, so you can take different photos from different angles.
Enjoy a coke at the World of Coca Cola
If you are a fan of Coca Cola you must visit this beautiful museum that showcases the history of the company from its start to what it is today. My favorite thing in the museum is to try as many soda flavors from around the world. The museum can take you from 30 minutes to 3 hours, it depends how in depth you will like to get to. What I recommend doing is to go to a section of the museum and then head to the Free Coke section to enjoy and try the cokes from a continent, then go to the next section and keep doing the same.
Some of the things you can enjoy at the World of Coca Cola are: a 3D theater, the largest collection of coke memorabilia, a fully-functioning bottling line, a tasting experience of over 60 samples, and a pop culture gallery.
National Center for Civil Rights
You can not visit Atlanta and not learn about the Civil Rights Movement. The National Center for Civil Rights museum focuses on the Civil and Human rights movements and shows you with artifacts, photos and art pieces their achievement through the history of the United States and the world. To go through the museum and to experience this powerful places allow yourself at least 90 minutes.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
At the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site you can visit the home where the leader of the Civil Rights Movement was born, tour the church where he preached, and see his memorial site. Make sure to stop by the King Center as well.
Most people do not know that Martin Luther King’s birth house is open for guided tours. It is a free tour but you have to go to the visitor center to sign up for it. We recommend to go early in the morning. When we went we showed up at 11am and the only tour available was the last one at 4 pm, and we got the last 2 tickets, so head there first! You can also visit the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, were MLK was pastor, and the Historic Fire house, the first fire house that allowed black men serve as fireman in the city.
For those of you who love marine and saltwater animals, this is the perfect destination for you. The Georgia Aquarium houses more than a hundred thousand animals, with over 700 species. Its largest tank holds 6.3 million gallons of water, the largest indoor aquatic habitat in the world and the largest aquarium in the United States. It is also the only institution outside of Asia that has white sharks.
The aquarium takes between 2 to 4 hours to see, depending on how long you spend in each section. I recommend you to go to all the shows, especially the AT&T dolphin celebration. If you want to see the shows, show up at least 20 minutes in advance to make sure you have a seat. Otherwise, if they are at capacity the will not let you in.
Estimated time in each location:
- Visit the CNN Center: 50 minutes to an hour
- Ride the Skyview Ferris Wheel: 15 minutes to 30 minutes
- Enjoy a coke at the World of Coca Cola: 2 hours to 4 hours
- National Center for Civil Rights: 1 hour and a half to 3 hours.
- Georgia Aquarium: 3 hours to 5 hours.
Total Time required to visit all of the places above: 8 hours to 14 hours not counting the travel and walking time to each location. It all depends on how much time you actually want to spend in each attraction.