Five Places to Avoid (If You Can) in Atlanta


In the past ten years or so, Atlanta has grown at an astonishing pace. It seems like everywhere you look a new eatery, drinking establishment or refreshed green space has popped up overnight. These are the places you should head to straight away. We also have no problem with traditional touristy things like grabbing some BBQ and touring the CNN Center. However, you can do without the following all too familiar sites. If you can't avoid them altogether, at least you can be prepared for the worst.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
Yes, it does seem wrong to tell you one of the worst places you can go in Atlanta is the place where you are probably standing right now. But we cannot lie. This airport is not for the faint of heart. Hartsfield is one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world. This is great for locals as we can go anywhere we want without changing too many planes and there are plenty of fun and unique restaurants and shops -- especially in the shiny new International Terminal. But there's a price to pay for convenience and tasty snacks. A favorite pastime among locals is competing to see who had the most arduous trip from their home to their gate and from the gate to their home. Economy parking lots fill quickly. TSA wait times are legend with updates reported during drive time newscasts. Trains to the terminals are often crowded and the terminals themselves are long and endless miles of walkway with signs overhead taunting "Baggage Claim/Ground Transportation" like a cruel mirage in the desert. If you're not flying Delta, pray your gate isn't in some far flung part of the terminal that's practically on the Georgia-Florida border. And don't even get us started about baggage claim -- a test of patience and endurance that will make you wish you did book that extra day in town. We don't want to suggest you go into training to prepare, but then again it couldn't hurt.

Underground Atlanta
By now you have probably read about all the really interesting and creative spaces that Atlanta developers have turned into wonderful food courts with stalls manned by great local chefs and carefully curated shops to amuse and delight you, like Ponce City Market or the Krog Street Market. Both of these places are fun and interesting and you'll definitely get a flavor for the city and its people. Underground Atlanta is another story. It is the shopping development that time and taste forgot. Unlike the new markets, it's a sad collection of chain restaurants and less than remarkable shops. The Underground really isn't a destination for out of town visitors, and it's certainly not a destination for the locals either. In fact, we can't remember the last time we ventured over there and we couldn't find any friends or colleagues who had been by lately, either. City leaders have often talked about renovating the Underground for some high end shopping (designer shops) or neighborhood shopping (supermarket, banks, drug stores and dry cleaners) or even a casino. If any of these things ever comes to pass, Underground Atlanta might be worth a look, but as it is now, it's definitely a miss.

Atlanta Traffic. Anywhere. Everywhere.
It's ironic that for a transportation hub, Atlanta is not an easy city to navigate. Traffic is everywhere and rush hour is pretty much every hour. Interstate 75/85, also known as The Connector, runs right through the heart of the city and is bumper to bumper from sun-up to sundown. The Perimeter or I-285 is a huge four lane highway that separates the city and its intown suburbs from the outlying cities and towns. Depending on the time of day, traffic here resembles the Indianapolis 500 or the world's biggest outdoor parking lot - but with 18 wheel tractor trailers and all manner of cars, trucks and buses.Atlanta also takes its HOV lanes seriously here and if you are driving solo, expect to be pulled over and given an invitation to Atlanta Traffic Court (another one of the worst places to visit in Atlanta.) So how should you get around? We recommend MARTA, Atlanta's subway system should take you almost anywhere you want to go, but for door to door delivery we recommend Uber Atlanta, which is quick, convenient and most of the time reasonably priced.

Buckhead Bar Scene
When we first came to Atlanta from Points North, whenever we politely inquired about having a bit of fun in the Big City, were routinely directed to a part of Atlanta known as Buckhead, a which was then, as now, often touted as a hip hot spot for young urban professionals of all stripes to shop, drink, and dine. Yeah, well ... not so much. What you'll most likely find when you head up there is a lot of traffic, a little parking, a lot of restaurants that are either very good but very expensive or very bad but very expensive and a lot of bars that will appeal to you only if you are a certain kind of person interested in certain kinds of things such as: burgers, beer, big screens, and bros. Atlanta has far more interesting places to have a drink, enjoy an inspired meal and soak up the character of this diverse and exciting city. Why not check out the unique bar scene in Decatur where award-winning mixologists create amazing drinks for a hip and friendly crowd of locals and aficionados.

Georgia Aquarium
We know what you're saying: who doesn't love an aquarium? We admit we love fish and we love aquariums and we especially love the Georgia Aquarium and the glow in the dark jellyfish in particular. If it's raining or unseasonably cold, the Aquarium is also a great idea as it is if you have a budding or professional marine biologist in your group. But here's the thing: it's an aquarium that's smack dab in the center of a land-locked city. It's fun, but as far as really seeing the city and getting to know it's people, you might as well be in Anystate, USA. There's just no local flavor. If you and your companions are looking for a little bit of nature, why not grab the dog (or borrow a friend's dog) and head out for a walk on the Atlanta Beltline. It's pretty, it's natural and you can bring a lunch or stop for a meal at any of the great local eateries and take-away shops along the route.

Frances Katz is a travel writer and journalist from Boston by way of New York currently enjoying some Southern hospitality in Atlanta. Her work has appeared in a variety of national and online publications including The New York Times, The Boston Herald and the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She is a recent convert to pimento cheese grits and the Southeast Conference. You can read some of her travel essays at Catapult and y'all are welcome to grab some sweet tea and a biscuit and hang out with her on Twitter.