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Layover in Atlanta

If you’re traveling through Atlanta or you’re in Atlanta for a day or so but stuck at the airport (or chose to stay by the airport), there are plenty of things to do. You do NOT have to sit in the airport eating Chick-fil-a or filling up on drinks at the Delta Sky Club (although both are perfectly acceptable options and I have been known to happily do this). 

There are LOTS of things to do in very close proximity to the Hartsfield Jackson International Airport (ATL). Indeed, entire cities were built just so they could be close to the airport. Lately, these towns have had a resurgence as more people have moved in to be closer to the city and the airport (regentrification is a big issue in Atlanta). 

If you find yourself “stuck” at the airport or staying over for a day, you should explore the area. A word of caution: if you are laying over for a few hours and you leave the airport, you need to account for the time to go back THROUGH security, which is notoriously long. If you have TSA Pre-Check it’s much faster. Better yet, sign up for CLEAR and, combined with TSA Pre, you will literally fly through security (get it?). I can usually get from the door of the airport to my gate in 15 minutes flat with these features which are well worth the money, in my opinion. 

Pro tip: Sign up for Global Entry – you get TSA Pre-Check with it, and you can also sail through customs. This process requires some advance planning. Global Entry lasts for five years, and many credit cards offer a rebate or allowance toward the fee. 

Delta Flight Museum

The Delta Flight Museum appeals to all sorts of aviator fans, from casual to, well, fanatics. The museum celebrates Atlanta’s hometown airline, and while it obviously is a bit commercial, it has a lot of sentimental appeal. It’s located at the airport, in Delta’s original 1940s-era hangars. The primary focus is showcasing Delta’s history and aircraft from the 1920s on. There are interactive exhibits, including a flight simulator, if you can handle it! Tickets are available online – but be sure to double check the availability as lots of people host events at the Museum so its hours can be unpredictable.

Once a month the museum hosts a surplus sale. It’s cash and carry (or credit card and carry) with proceeds supporting the museum. You can find some really interesting items there – I’ve seen everything from actual airplane seats to cutlery. I once purchased an airline bar cart! 

The Porsche Experience Center

Porsche located its North American headquarters to Atlanta and at the same time built a snazzy consumer experience center, complete with everything from driving simulators, high-speed track racing and on-site dining. There’s even a store so you can deck yourself out in Porsche gear.  And if you own a Porsche, there’s a dedicated track for you. Reservations are required for everything at the center!

If you want to stay close to the airport, stay at the nearby Kimpton Overland Hotel which overlooks the Porsche race track and has – my favorite – a rooftop bar to catch fantastic views of Atlanta, Porsche driving and planes coming and going from at the airport. It’s a one-of-a-kind hotel.

Hapeville is a town just next to the airport and is undergoing a renaissance. It has a cute downtown Main Street and the town has worked to install murals installations all around town. The also installed Free Art Boxes where anyone can give out and get art.

Perhaps the single most important landmark in Hapeville is the Dwarf House. This is the ORIGINAL and very first Chick-fil-a ever. Founded in 1946 as the Dwarf Grill, it was the birthplace of the original Chick-fil-a sandwich. This venue is more like a diner, and while you can get all the CFA classics, it also sells food from the original menu, including hamburgers, which for Chick-fil-a is very ironic. (Currently the restaurant is closed for remodeling.)   

College Park is also very close to the Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport and is on the MARTA line so it’s very convenient. It has Georgia’s second largest convention center and more than 5,000 hotel rooms so it’s a good choice if you need to stay over but don’t want to go all the way into Atlanta (and by all the way – it’s only another 20 or so minutes by MARTA). 

Atlanta’s WNBA team, the Dream, and Atlanta’s NBA G-League Team, the College Park Skyhawks, play at College Park’s Gateway Center. The town’s downtown has been revitalized and College Park is the fourth largest urban historic district in Georgia. Lately College Park has become a magnet for cool, new restaurants which dot the charming Main Street. 

Check out:

The Real Milk & Honey serves scrumptious all-day brunch. Specialties include Crown Royal peach cobbler French toast and Southern fried catfish with creamy grits. 

Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen & Bar celebrates and preserves the Gullah Geechee culture – descendants of Central and West African people who were enslaved and isolated on the sea barrier islands stretching from North Carolina to North Florida. Virgil was the late father and father-in-law of the owners and he raised his family in James Island near Charleston, S.C., an area which is rich in Gullah Geechee history and culture. The menu is inspired by family recipes and Virgil’s is known for its fantastic rice dishes. It’s also open late-night, with a DJ and a  dedicated menu, not to mention a hookah menu.

The Corner Grille serves a traditional American menu with Cajun influences. The restaurant, which is housed in an historic church, serves brunch, lunch and dinner. Favorites include beignets, shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, gumbo and steaks. 

Nouveau is a slick, urbane bar and restaurant, serving signature cocktails, brunch, and dinner. And there are some fun nights too, from Wine Down Wednesday to Friday Karaoke to Bottomless Mimosas at Sunday Brunch. 

Brake Pad is a long-time College Park restaurant – it’s been there nearly 20 years. It’s located in an old gas station and the setting and décor is just right for the menu of classic burgers, brisket nachos, French dips and other favorites. 

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