The Atlanta BeltLine is a destination. With a head count of about 2 million a year, the Eastside Trail draws locals and tourists alike. They come for the award-winning restaurants. They come to take selfies in front of unique artwork. They come to see and be seen. Yet there isn’t really a guide to the Atlanta BeltLine. Where do you park? Where do you even start? Is it safe? Even metro Atlantans don’t always have these answers.
Here is a guide to the Atlanta BeltLine, from parking to restaurants, with some answers to commonly asked questions. Here is your Atlanta BeltLine 101.
What is the Atlanta BeltLine?
It’s an abandoned railroad corridor paved over into a walking/biking/jogging trail. When completed, it will circle Atlanta for 22 miles, connecting the city’s neighborhoods and parks, so that one day, you will be able to ride a bike from one end of the city to another. So that Atlantans don’t have to get in their car to go to dinner or grocery shopping. The project is the brainchild of Ryan Gravel, as outlined in his Georgia Tech master’s thesis in 1999, and later adopted by the city of Atlanta. A key component of the BeltLine from the outset has been a streetcar or light rail. However, transit is a dirty word in Atlanta, so it remains to be seen if this will come to fruition in the way that Ryan Gravel envisioned. We can only hope.
How long is the Atlanta BeltLine?
Eventually, the Atlanta BeltLine will form a 22-mile circle around Atlanta. When you add in connecting parks, it’s 33 miles. To date, though, only a few sections have been completed. See below for details.
How much of the Atlanta BeltLine is completed?
Several segments of the planned 22-mile trail have been completed, with other parts open to the public as interim trails. Interim can mean it’s paved but without lighting and other features, or it can simply be a dirt hiking trail.
On the eastside, the Atlanta BeltLine is paved from Piedmont Park to Memorial Drive, which is about 3.1 miles. Another section behind Ansley Mall is open to the public but not completed, and connects to the Northeast Trail in Buckhead.
On the westside, the trail stretches 2.4 miles from White Street to Westview Cemetery (according to the BeltLine map).
The trails in the east and west don’t yet connect. The Southside Trail, which will bridge both sides of the city, is under construction and open to the public as an interim trail. A portion of it is supposed to open this summer. For details, click here.
To learn more about the overall project, check out the Atlanta BeltLine website.
When will the Atlanta BeltLine be finished?
Good question. The Atlanta BeltLine says 2030. They recently convinced the Atlanta City Council to raise taxes to bring in $350 million for part of it, in order to meet this deadline.
How do I get to the Atlanta BeltLine?
It depends on what you want to see and do. See below.
Where to start on the Atlanta BeltLine
The Eastside Trail is best known because of its many restaurants, bars and abundance of street art. There are multiple access points. The most traveled section is arguably between Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market, both historic buildings turned into food halls. If you want a taste of the BeltLine scene, I recommend starting at Ponce City Market and heading South to Irwin Street. This is about 1.3 miles. It’s a leisurely but long walk/not-too-long bike or scooter ride, with lots of art on walls and under bridges, and plenty of restaurants to stop at if you get hungry or thirsty. Some highlights of this route are the North Avenue bridge with a photo-worthy view of the skyline, as well as a rotating gallery of street art under the John Lewis Freedom Pkwy. bridge next to the Skatepark (a great place for selfies). There are even more restaurants in Inman Park - just exit the BeltLine at the Rhino statue past the John Lewis Freedom Parkway bridge. Whatever you decide, definitely get a taste of food at either Ponce City Market or Krog Street Market, located to your diagonal left when you hit Irwin Street. For restaurant recommendations, read more. Or check out my previous blog on how to enjoy the Atlanta BeltLine.
On the other side of town, the Westside trail, which winds through some of Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods, is more residential and less traveled. It is very scenic and beautiful. A good starting point on the westside is the Lee + White development, where several Atlanta breweries are located. Or if you are not interested in food or beer, drive to Adair Park, park on the street and walk a block to the trail. Read my previous blog post about the Westside Trail.
Where do I park?
If you are heading to the Eastside Trail, there are several garages with paid parking. Although it costs you money, you have the assurance of knowing your car won’t be towed, and probably not broken into. Car break-ins are unfortunately frequent in Atlanta, though, so don’t leave anything in your car – jackets, backpacks and electronics are high targets.
That out of the way, Ponce City Market and Kroger offer paid garage parking at one end. At the other end, you can park in Studioplex. If you want free parking, there are limited spaces on Ralph McGill Boulevard, Willoughby Way and Edgewood Avenue. These are generally safe areas in the daytime.
Is the Atlanta BeltLine safe?
Generally speaking, yes! I have walked on the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, mostly alone, several times a week for the past 7 or 8 years, and never encountered a problem.
The Westside Trail is less populated, and in places, you might be the only one on the trail. I have never felt unsafe there, but would recommend being cautious, and going during the day or early evening when other people are around. I also suggest sticking to the section around the Lee + White development. If you’re not familiar with Atlanta, you may want to stick to the Eastside Trail.
The Eastside Trail attracts neighborhood residents, Atlanta suburbanites and tourists from around the world. Weekends are packed with locals and tourists alike. The BeltLine is also lively around dinner time, even after dark, so no worries there. The sheer traffic is a deterrent to crime, although doesn’t prevent it entirely. Lighting was recently installed on the Eastside Trail, something that was apparently overlooked in the original design. And police patrol by bike, although I rarely see them.
I would not recommend being on any part of the BeltLine - east, west, north or south - late at night when it is mostly deserted. Common sense, right?
What to do on the Atlanta BeltLine
Walk. Bike. Rent a scooter. Take pictures. Look at art. People watch. Have a drink on a patio. Eat at an award-winning restaurant.
Oh, you want specifics? Check out my previous article.
Atlanta BeltLine Bars & Restaurants
With two food halls (Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market) and 55+ restaurants, the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail is a food lovers’ dream. You can find pizza, tacos, burgers, tapas, ramen, sushi, Chinese, Vietnamese, Puerto Rican, Indian, Italian, Asian street food, ice cream, smoothie bowls…I could seriously keep going. I have written lots about restaurants on the Atlanta BeltLine. Check out my previous blog posts for some ideas.
When it comes to local brews, the Atlanta BeltLine is the place to go. Hop City is on both the east and west trails. New Realm Brewing has an expansive patio and astounding skyline views from its crows nest. Likewise, the Westside Trail should be called Brewery Row, as it hosts Monday Night Garage, Wild Heaven, Best End, Hop City and a short way down the trail, Lean Draft House. Learn more about these breweries in my previous blog post.
Experience the best of restaurants on the Atlanta BeltLine, without the guesswork, by coming on a BiteLines walking food tour. We paused during the pandemic, but expect to ramp up again in summer 2021.
Where is the best art on the Atlanta BeltLine?
The best art is under the bridges. Some of it is commissioned by Art on the Atlanta BeltLine, an official program that lines the BeltLine with murals, sculpture, photo banners and even performances. Other art is spontaneously created by street artists. In my opinion, some of the most appealing art is under the John Lewis Freedom Pkwy. bridge, next to the Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark. It is a rotating outdoor art gallery, with artwork seemingly disappearing and appearing overnight. Right now, you can see a portrait of the late Congressman John Lewis, an homage to the rapper DMX and a mural of Baby Yoda on the back of the wall. Learn more about art on the Atlanta BeltLine in my previous blog posts.
Above, a sampling of street art under the John Lewis Freedom Pkwy. bridge, including murals of rapper DMX, Congressman John Lewis and Baby Yoda
A historic mural worth seeing is on the fence across from New Realm Brewing. Called A Reflection of Change, it was painted by artists of color, and complements the Black Lives Matter mural that sprung up during racial tension in summer 2020. Learn more about this mural in my previous blog post.
To experience the best of restaurants and art on the Atlanta BeltLine, come on a BiteLines walking food tour. We paused our tours during the pandemic, but expect to ramp up again in summer 2021. In the meantime, subscribe to our blog for updates on Atlanta BeltLine art, restaurants, happenings and weirdness.
An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the founder & CEO of BiteLines, which offers walking food tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. The BiteLines blog features art, restaurants, happenings and weirdness on the Atlanta BeltLine. Share story ideas and pics at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow on Instagram @bitelinesatl.