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.
Even if you don’t leave the airport, ATL has a lot more to do than you would expect. From its world-renowned restaurants to its excellent lounges and even a spa or two, you’ll have trouble getting bored here – trust me.
But sometimes it’s good to do something boring. My favorite boring activity on a short layover between long flights? Catching up on sleep. So if you’re in need of some z’s, worry not – the ATL has got great day room hotels super close to the airport and even accommodations inside the airport.
Atlanta isn’t the busiest airport in the world for no reason. Let’s see what makes it special – and how a layover in the ATL can actually turn out to be a good thing.
Check out these other awesome Ultimate Airport Layover Guides: ATL | AMS | ATH | CDG | LAS | LGA | LHR | SEA | SFO | and more!
What can I do inside the airport at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL)? Here are the top 5 things.
From world class lounges (that are continually being improved via multi-billion dollar projects) to sleep rooms to a Ludacris-owned restaurant, Atlanta International Airport has a ton of things to do without having to leave the airport.
- Walk through miles of corridors – all accessible
- Enjoy a world-class airport lounge
- Dine in one of the best airport restaurants of your life
- Take a nap in a MinuteSuite inside the airport
- Unwind and relax with a massage at an XpresSpa
1) Take a hike across the miles of terminals at ATL
My favorite activity at Atlanta Airport? Walking.
It’s actually 10,600 feet, or just shy of 2 miles from the airport concourse (T Gates) to the Atlanta Airport International Terminal (E and 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 ATL SkyTrain to wherever you need to be – they leave every 1-2 minutes from every terminal during the daytime and 8 minutes at night.
2) Relax in a roomy airport lounge
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.
For a wonderful SkyClub with an outdoor terrace that's often not-too-crowded, make sure to check out the Delta SkyClub in Terminal F!
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 Atlanta Airport international terminal (F), The Club at ATL, though often crowded, offers a decent lounge with access to showers. And it’s complimentary for PriorityPass members!
You can also purchase a day pass for $45.
Right now, PriorityPass is offering up to 25% off yearly memberships. In just two lounge visits, you are already ahead vs. paying for one-time access. Just one if you bring a guest!
3) Dine in a world-class restaurant
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!
4) Take a nap at a MinuteSuites (complimentary for PriorityPass members!)
Had a long flight or early start into Atlanta? You’re in luck.
The Minute Suites in Terminal B offers suites from $45. Better yet, if you are a member of Priority Pass, you can have suite for an hour for free! Each subsequent hour is at a discounted rate only $28 – well worth it for sleep.
5) Enjoy maximum rejuvenation with a massage at BeRelaxSpa
I’m not going to pretend like traveling isn’t stressful. Even as a pilot, I sometimes feel like I need to unwind after a day at the airport.
But I can’t think of a better way to undo hours of stress and completely erases the worries of traveling than by enjoying spa services.
At ATL, you can enjoy back massages, nail polish change and hand massages, and foot massages at the BeRelaxSpa in Concourse B – complimentary with PriorityPass.
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
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 are several wonderful, elegant rooftop bars featuring incredible views over the city.
2) Visit the Delta Flight Museum
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
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.
4) Take the Plane Train to the “Concourse” Area hotels for an awesome walking area next to the airport
One of my personal favorite things to do when the weather is nice and I have a longer layover at ATL is to take the free, super-convenient Plane Train to the Gateway Hotels station and walk around. It’s the first stop (before you get to the Rental Car Center) and takes less than 5 minutes to arrive from baggage claim.
The Georgia International Convention Center is located here and it’s a very woodsy area, perfect for walking in nature and getting some delicious fresh air on a layover.
5) Grab a nap at a Day Room
My favorite and most boring thing I love to do on layovers: catch up on sleep!
Luckily Atlanta International Airport has a couple great hotels offering day rooms in the vicinity. They all offer free airport shuttles, and some (such as the Hotel Indigo) are accessible by MARTA (Atlanta’s version of a subway).
1. The Atlanta Airport Marriott
The Atlanta Airport Marriott, with day rooms available as low as $69+tax. This is one of the best rated hotels around Atlanta Airport, and is super close to the Domestic Terminal.
2. The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Atlanta Airport
Want a free cookie before your nap? Head to the DoubleTree by Hilton Atlanta Airport and grab a dayroom for as low as $75+tax.
3. The Hotel Indigo Atlanta Airport
Looking for something different? The Hotel Indigo is more charming, artsy, and ’boutique’ than your typical chain. With Day Rooms as low as $73+tax, you’re getting an awesome bang for the buck.
Remember to return for your flight! Here’s how to find Atlanta Airport security wait times.
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 ATL TSA 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:
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