I’m really excited to interview Jonah McDonald, author of Secret Atlanta, about Atlanta, Georgia. Jonah’s tips for the best things to do in Atlanta are awesome because he literally walked over 2,000 miles to move here from Maine. He loves Atlanta because it’s a huge international metropolis that often feels like a small town. Jonah knows so much about Atlanta, that he has written two books about its obscure attractions and wonderful hikes in and around the city.
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Atlanta is the capital of Georgia and a major international airport hub. The city has major historical significance taking center stage in both the Civil War and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. It was host to the 1996 Olympics and the Centennial Olympic Park is still a major tourist draw today. Atlanta is home to more than 6 million people and is the 9th-largest metropolitan area in the nation.
The city was originally founded as the terminus for a major railroad and developed into a hub for multiple rail lines, which spurred its rapid growth. During the Civil War, the city was almost entirely burned to the ground during General Sherman’s famous March to the Sea. During the 1960s, it was a major center for Civil Rights.
Atlanta has a dual spirit. Its airport is one of the busiest in the world, yet visitors will find rolling hills and dense forest spread throughout. This unexpected lush landscape earned Atlanta the nickname of “the city in a forest.”
Jonah recommends visiting Atlanta in the Spring or Fall. His favorite is springtime because everything is in bloom and the mosquitoes haven’t emerged yet. It is the perfect setting for a picnic. During your visit, consider attending some of the festivals and events that make the city unique, such as Porches and Pies in Adair Park and the Atlanta Dogwood Festival. Or you can explore the city searching for Tiny Doors, an Atlanta-based art project that brings big wonder to tiny spaces.
We share a lot of resources and local suggestions in today’s podcast, but you should also check out Atlanta, the local convention and visitor’s bureau. They are a wealth of information and can help you plan an itinerary based on your time, budget, and interests. The Atlanta CityPASS saves you up to 40% on five of the most popular attractions in Atlanta, including the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola, and the College Football Hall of Fame.
If you’d like to learn how to travel for free using airline miles and hotel points, check out my free 7-day email course.
Getting around Atlanta
The local airport is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), which is about 10 miles from downtown.
Although many people rent cars when visiting Atlanta, Jonah recommends trying to be car-free during your visit. MARTA is the public transportation option with a train and bus network that covers the city. Uber and Lyft are also excellent ways to get around.
If you decide to rent a car for your visit, click here for the best offers from Avis, Budget, or Hertz.
For times when a car is needed only for a couple of hours, rent by the hour with Zipcar. Join now to get $25 loaded into your account.
Places we talked about on the podcast
Here is a map of all of the places we talked about on the podcast episode with Jonah McDonald about Atlanta, Georgia. You can zoom into the map and click on each dot to explore the city.
- Red dots = best places to eat in Atlanta, Georgia
- Green dots = best things to do in Atlanta, Georgia
- Yellow dots = best places to stay in Atlanta, Georgia
Who is Jonah McDonald?
Jonah McDonald currently works as a park naturalist for DeKalb County, Georgia. Several years ago, he hiked all 2,172 miles of the Appalachian Trail over the course of six months to move to Atlanta from Maine. His love of Atlanta and nature led him to write two books – Secret Atlanta: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure and Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests: Intown and Out.
He is also a professional storyteller that performs for audiences young and old. Jonah enchants audiences with trickster tales and folktales from around the world, as well as stories of adventure and of his childhood. He has performed at elementary and middle schools across the state of Georgia and leads storytelling workshops for youth and adults.
Here are a few of Jonah’s favorite links:
- Listen to Jonah tell his story “The Golden Ride” on Atlanta’s NPR Affiliate, WABE 90.1 FM
- Sample chapter of Secret Atlanta – The Birthplace of the Time Capsule?
- Sample chapter of Hiking Atlanta’s HIdden Forests – Constitution Lakes Park
You can connect with Jonah on his website for Secret Atlanta and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Big thanks to Reedy Press for introducing us! Jonah also has a dedicated website for his book Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests, which includes 60 hikes at more than 45 destinations within 30 miles of Atlanta.
Here’s a partial clip of Jonah telling “What’s the Name of That Tree?” with a group of young children at Callanwolde.
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Stay tuned for our next episode
Listen to the next episode when Steph Dyson of Worldly Adventurer shares the best things to do in Santiago, Chile. In this episode, Steph and I talk about the A Mil Performing Arts Festival, the Human Rights Museum which educates visitors about the horrors of the Pinochet dictatorship, and the Mercado Central, the city’s cavernous fish market that dates back to the late-1800s. We hope you’ll join us when We Travel There.
What’s your favorite part of Atlanta? Send us a Tweet, let us know in the comment section below, or continue the discussion in our Facebook group!
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To learn more about Atlanta and the surrounding cities, listen to our other episodes: