Tips for an Affordable Vacation in the Capital of Georgia
A trip to Atlanta can be inexpensive if you pick free or low-priced attractions and activities, budget hotels and dining spots, and use a pass and public transportation.
Atlanta, Ga., is easy on the budget as a vacation destination for a couple, family, or single traveler or for business travelers looking to tack on a few days of fun on a business trip. Downtown Atlanta has affordable attractions within walking distance of hotels, including several in the budget category. For explorations farther afield, use the city’s inexpensive MARTA bus and rail system.
Free Fun at Year-Round Atlanta Attractions
- Georgia State Capitol: Construction of the building began in 1884 in the neoclassical style with a gilded dome. Guided tours are given weekdays; reserve at (404) 463-4536. Tours feature an overview of the capitol’s history and the lawmaking process and include the public galleries of the House of Representatives and Senate. A self-guided tour of the Georgia Capitol Museum and Hall of Valor collection of historic flags does not require a reservation.
- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site: The National Park Service gives tours of the home were Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929 in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. Nearby are Ebenezer Baptist Church where King, his father and grandfather preached, Peace Plaza with the International World Peace Rose Garden, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, where King is buried.
- Federal Reserve Bank and Monetary Museum: Guided tours for groups of 10 to 30 by appointment ((404) 498-8777, self-guided tours weekdays without an appointment of the Visitors Center and Monetary Museum. Learn the history of money through exhibits, view a $100,000 gold certificate and other big bills, lift a bar of gold, take the Bankers’ Challenge interactive game and peek inside an automated cash vault.
- Oakland Cemetery: Oaks and magnolias shade the resting place of Atlanta’s settlers and notable citizens, including author Margaret Mitchell, golfer Bobby Jones and Mayor Maynard Jackson. The historic cemetery covers 48 acres and has 70,000 graves. The Lion of Atlanta memorial is a copy of a statue in Lucerne, Switzerland, and honors 3,000 Confederate soldiers buried here. Free admission; fee for guided tour.
- Atlanta Marriott Marquis Atrium: While this downtown hotel is not in the budget category, anyone can walk inside and gawk at the atrium for free or have a coffee or cocktail. The view inside the 50-story hotel is a stunner.
- Turner First Thursdays Artswalk: Self-guided tours of more than half a dozen downtown galleries on the first Thursday of the month from 5 to 8 p.m. Maps available at Museum of Design Atlanta.
- Governor’s Mansion: Tours offered Tuesdays through Thursdays. Built in 1967 in the Greek Revival Style, the 24,000-square-foot home in northeast Atlanta contains 30 rooms. Furnishings are from the Federal Period. The porches feature 30 Doric columns made from California redwoods.
Free Atlanta Activities for Warm Weather
- Centennial Olympic Park: This 21-acre park, a legacy of the Summer Olympics of 1996, hosts free events from spring into fall including Wednesday Wind Down evening musical performances, Music at Noon on Tuesday and Thursdays, and Fourth Saturday Family Fun Days with a variety of themes, such as street performers, arts and crafts.
- SunTrust Lunch on Broad: Live entertainment Fridays May through September from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tables are placed on Broad Street for visitors picking up lunch at affordable cafes in the area.
Atlanta Attractions and Activities for $10 or Less
- Atlanta Cyclorama: The world’s largest diorama painting revolves around viewers in Grant Park. The scene depicts the Battle of Atlanta in 1864.
- Neighborhood walking tours: Atlanta Preservation Center guides take visitors through neighborhoods such as the Sweet Auburn/Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District, downtown, Midtown and Inman Park, the city’s first planned community. Reserve at (404) 688-3350.
- Fernbank Science Center: One of the nation’s largest planetariums with observatory and nature trails.
- Jimmy Carter Library and Museum: Photographs and historic memorabilia from the Carter presidency, including a replica of the Oval Office.
- Underground Atlanta’s History Tour: Friday through Sunday guided tours take participants around the historic buildings and sites that define the original Atlanta. Reserve at (404) 523-2311 ext. 7025.
Buy an Atlanta CityPass and Save on Attractions
Atlanta CityPass includes your choice of six of eight attractions at one price, representing a 50 percent savings off the combined admission fees. Passes are valid for nine days from the first day of use.
Buy CityPass online or at any of the attractions: Georgia Aquarium (expedited entry), World of Coca-Cola (next available timed general admission entry), Zoo Atlanta, Inside CNN Atlanta studio tour, either the Fernbank Museum of Natural History or Atlanta Botanical Garden, and either the High Museum of Art or Atlanta History Center.
Where to Stay and Where to Eat Cheap in Atlanta
Several budget and low-priced lodging chains have properties in downtown Atlanta, including Days Inn, Red Roof, Baymont Inn and Suites, Super 8, Motel 6, Quality and Wyndam Garden.
For inexpensive dining options, check out the food court inside Peachtree Center or The Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in restaurant in business since 1928, and a local treasure. Max Lager’s, Georgia’s oldest brewery restaurant, specializes in wood-fired entrees and has entree salads and pastas.