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Atlanta Airport: The Ultimate 4-6 Hour ATL Layover Guide (by a Pilot)

Looking at one of those layovers at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) that seems too short to do anything substantial, but long enough to get bored at the airport? As a commuting airline pilot, I’ve felt your pain many, many times – especially in Atlanta.

Fortunately, Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is one of the most accessible out there. You can get from ATL Airport to downtown Atlanta in just 25 minutes for just $5 roundtrip, opening up a world of opportunity.

And if you don’t feel like going far, the airport itself is known for its world-renowned restaurants and excellent lounges. Trust me, you’ll have trouble getting bored here.

Laying over in New York? Check out the Ultimate 7 Hour JFK Airport Layover.

What can I do inside the airport at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL)?

Take a hike

Atlanta International Airport actually offers interesting sights on the 2-mile hike from one end to another. It’s a great, healthy activity for a longer layover! [Photo CC BY-SA4.0: AndreCarrotflower]

My favorite activity at Atlanta Airport? Walking.

It’s actually 10,600 feet, or just shy of 2 miles from the first Domestic Terminal (T Gates) to the International Terminal (F Gates). You can take the SkyTrain, obviously, but what fun is that?

Along the way, there are a ton of exhibits to keep you fascinated. There’s the lightshow between the A and B, a Zimbabwe exhibit of history between T and A, an animal exhibit at C, or my favorite – the history of Atlanta Airport, between B and C. When you get tired, just take the SkyTrain to wherever you need to be – they leave every 1-2 minutes from every terminal.

Relax at a Lounge

The Delta Sky Club (this one is in Terminal B in Atlanta) offers a relaxed place with free booze, food, and wine to make any Atlanta layover enjoyable. [Photo Credit: Delta News Hub (CC BY-SA2.0)]

If you’re flying on Delta Air Lines and have a Delta SkyClub membership, there is at least one Delta SkyClub in every terminal. You can become a member with the AMEX Platinum and Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Cards.

Those flying United with Star Alliance Gold status can access the one United Club in Terminal T. Likewise, there’s an American Admirals Club in Terminal T – and this one offers a day pass to nonmembers flying AA/oneworld, for $59.

At the international terminal (F), The Club at ATL, though often crowded, offers a decent lounge with access to showers. Price? $45.

Dine at a world-class restaurant

A layover in Atlanta could mean eating at a Ludacris-owned restaurant. [From the Chicken+Beer website.]

There are over 300 restaurants, shops and service in Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. That means a LOT of choice!

One particular favorite is Chicken + Beer, a restaurant owned by Christopher Bridges, better known as Ludacris! Another great locality is One Flew South, an extremely popular restaurant serving Southern/Eclectic food in Terminal E.

You can easily find tap houses such as Terrapin, Sam Adams, Sweetwater, Gordon Biersch, and a lot more.

I personally find myself often venturing off to Terminal D to get some Chipotle. But the choice is seemingly endless. Bon Appetit!

Take a nap

Minute Suites are a great retreat when you need to sleep in peace. | What to do on a layover in Atlanta. [From minutesuites.com]

Had a long flight or early start into Atlanta? You’re in luck.

Terminals E and F have quite comfortable sofas and chairs available for a quick, free snooze.

And better yet, there is a Minute Suites in Terminal B offering suites from $45. If you are a member of Priority Pass, you can have suite for an hour for free! Each subsequent hour is only $28 – well worth it if you’re reeling for sleep.

What can I do outside the airport during a layover at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL)?

For those itching to leave the airport during your layover, don’t worry. There’s a ton to do. Here are my favorites:

1) Ride on MARTA (Train) to Midtown Atlanta for $5 Roundtrip

Enjoy sprawling green spaces with epic views of Atlanta and make your long layover enjoyable. [Photo CC BY-SA3.0: David.Cole]

Getting public transportation from ATL to downtown Atlanta is shockingly easy. In fact, the MARTA (local metro train) station is located right in baggage claim! You can buy 2 one-way tickets for $2.50 each, plus $2 for a MARTA card.

You’ll ride for 22 minutes (and 11 stops) until you reach Midtown. The MARTA station is perfectly situated in the heart of Midtown Atlanta.

And though downtown Atlanta may not be your cup of tea, you’d be surprised by how wonderful Midtown Atlanta is. My personal favorite area is Piedmont Park, a vast, expansive, and gorgeous park filled with trees, lakes, and surrounded by fantastic restaurants. It could be described as the Central Park of Atlanta.

Some of my favorite restaurants in the area include:

  • Bun Mi Vietnamese Grill, for wonderful Banh Mi and Boba Tea
  • Marrakech Express, for the best Mediterranean food in Georgia
  • MetroFresh, for excellent healthy food that’s available in a hurry

Ponce City Market, a massive old railroad station turned shopping and food center, offers so much to see and do. From wine tasting to art lessons to fantastic coffee, you’ll have to watch your clock and make sure not to miss your flight!

The Beltline, an ex-railway turned pedestrian path, runs between Piedmont Park and the Ponce City Market, lined with cute restaurants and amazing microbreweries. You can rent a CityBike and go bar hopping or simply enjoy the wonderful tree-lined scenery.

And for those looking to explore an upscale part of town, you can take MARTA all the way to Buckhead. There’s a wonderful, elegant rooftop bar there called The Regent Cocktail Club, which features incredible views over the city.

2) Visit the Delta Flight Museum

The 747 by itself makes visiting the Delta Flight Museum on a layover worth it! [Photo Credit: Delta News Hub (CC BY-SA2.0)]

Those with even the slightest interest in aviation would be hard-pressed to miss this one. From standing on the wings of a Boeing 747-400 jumbojet to standing under the wings of a Douglas DC-6 to flying a Boeing 737 Full Flight Simulator, you’ll constantly be in awe.

To get there, you’ll have to take a rideshare for approximately $10-15 each way. A one-day pass costs $15 and hours are Thursday-Sunday from 10AM-4PM.

If you’re looking to save some money, you can take a free hotel shuttle to the Hilton Atlanta Airport and walk about 15 minutes to the flight museum.

3) Learn to drive fast at the Porsche Driving Experience

Talk about a fun layover! This is super high on my list of things to do in Atlanta. [From the Porsche.com website]

Anyone looking to have some fun with an extremely unique, adrenaline-pumping experience on their layover in Atlanta: Porsche has you covered.

Literally right next to the airport is the Porsche Driving Experience Center of Atlanta, where you can drive anything from a GT3 to a Taycan to a Macan. They offer a ton of different amazing experiences to bolster your love for driving, Porsches, and hopefully improve your skills!

Experiences start at about $400. Keep in mind that these are extremely popular and tend to sell out weeks ahead of time.

Remember to return for your flight!

I know you might be enjoying your layover, but don’t enjoy it so much that you miss your flight!

Plan in some extra time when returning to the airport as Atlanta gets busy. You can find live wait times here.

If you don’t want to wait (at all) for security, ATL does offer the new CLEAR system to get you through security, and I’ve never seen a line there – at any airport.

CLEAR has a 6 month free trial and is totally included with some credit cards; check with your bank. It’s totally worth it – and I say that as an airline pilot!

Layovers at Atlanta International Airport Don’t Have to be Boring

As you can see, Atlanta is actually quite the desirable place to have a longer layover. There’s so much to do inside and outside of the airport, and definitely something for everybody.

Hopefully this guide makes you dread your upcoming layover just a bit less. If you liked reading this, consider these similar articles:

The Ultimate 6-9 Hour Las Vegas Layover Guide – by an Airline Pilot
Seattle, Washington: 10 BEST Things On a Short Layover
San Francisco: The Ultimate Overnight Layover Guide & Top 5 Activities

And of course, subscribe to receive a free guide to travel restrictions!

Disclaimer: As an affiliate with CLEAR, I may receive a small commission if you click on their link above – which is the only way I can keep this site running. I stand by my word that it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

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