Since the Atlanta BeltLine opened its first two-mile stretch of greenway, the Eastside Trail, in 2012, the popular—and still-expanding—byway has become a must-visit destination. Crowds have flocked to bigger projects that have developed alongside the path, such as Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market, as well as to the dozens of new restaurants, breweries, and more that have spread like wildfire around the completed parts of the urban loop. In a single day, visitors can sample an impressive array of local beers, hop between multiple rooftop bars, peruse goods from regional farmers, and play a round of carnival games—all while biking or walking a picturesque route from place to place. Making the trek for the first time, however, can feel a little overwhelming. So we asked seven locals with their own stop-worthy businesses along the BeltLine for their favorite spots, as well as their tips for newbies tackling the trail.
What to Do
“The coolest thing on the BeltLine is the Ponce City Farmers Market, every Tuesday from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. It’s a great way for Atlantans and newcomers alike to find farm-fresh goods made in Georgia. You can shop for peaches from Pearson Farms, sip our kombucha, [hear] live music, [see] chef demos, and more. The market takes place at the covered ‘shed’ parallel to the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, just outside of Ponce City Market. My favorite patio on the Eastside is Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall. They’ve done a wonderful job at creating an approachable outdoor space with campy vibes. Grab a cocktail from the mobile camper bar, and sit in Adirondack chairs right off the BeltLine.”
—Melanie Wade, co-founder and owner, Golda Kombucha and Cultured South Taproom
“I love what Varuni Napoli at Krog Street Market is doing with simple ingredients to make a flavorful pizza. I like the crust, which isn’t too heavy, and how it’s cooked in a wood-burning oven. My wife and I will take the kids—they’re five and seven—but if we want to get away, it’s great for a date night as well.”—Kelvin Slater, co-founder, Slater Hospitality (The Roof at Ponce, 9 Mile Station, and more)
“On the Eastside Trail, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Ponce City Market, as it’s home to our first Honeysuckle Gelato brick-and-mortar location. But other than a scoop or two, I love everything at Botiwalla. I eat lunch there more than any other place in town. Whatever you order for your main dish—it’s all good—make sure you get some smashed potatoes or SPDP [puris stuffed with potatoes, onions, and chickpea noodles] to go with your meal.”—Wes Jones, founder, Honeysuckle Gelato
“Hop City’s selection of beers—especially from local brewers—can’t be beat. But what I especially love is their wine selection, and how down-to-earth, yet super knowledgeable, their staff is when I need help picking out bottles.”—Elaine Read, co-founder, Xocolatl
“Pick a brewery! There are many on the BeltLine—Orpheus, Monday Night, Best End, and Wild Heaven. If you forced me to pick a favorite, it would probably be New Realm Brewing—the view from the top floor is spectacular. Plus, the beer: [Brewmaster, COO, and cofounder] Mitch Steele literally wrote the book on IPA. That said, I love each of these choices—try them all in one sloppy belt-crawl.”—Kraig Torres, Hop City
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“I don’t eat a lot of pizza, but Nina & Rafi’s is worth it. I specifically like the Tony Pepperoni. It has Detroit-style crust with an absurd amount of pepperoni on it. Unless you have a lot of people, get the small one—it’s got all the cheese.”
—Kevin Gillespie, chef and owner, Red Beard Restaurants (including Gunshow, Revival, and the newly opened Cold Beer)
Know Before You Go
Walking from place to place is the BeltLine’s big draw, but those making a day trip have to get there first. “My secret tip for BeltLine first-timers: Valet park at Krog Street Market,” Torres says. For $5, visitors can drop their car off hassle-free and take to the Eastside trail.
Plan for the Long Haul (or Don’t)
“I think many people underestimate the length of the BeltLine,” Gillespie says. “It’s not absurdly long, but it’s a pretty decent walk. From Cold Beer to Ponce City Market, it’s forty minutes one-way—and there are no public bathrooms in between.” Be sure to make a plan before taking off for the day, and remember—Atlanta gets hot. “Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen,” Wade adds.
Walk Like a Local
The popularity of the Eastside Trail can lead to crowded byways, so stay aware of your surroundings—especially if you’re moving slowly or with a large group. “Pair off in twos, and let faster traffic easily pass you,” Ochs advises. “Stay off your phone,” Torres adds, both for safety—walkers need to keep an eye out for bikers and other BeltLiners—but also so you can keep an eye out for murals and other local art. “Look for tiny doors, massive animals, and sculptures of all shapes and sizes.”
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Ditch the Crowds
The recently completed Westside Trail, which links historic southwest Atlanta neighborhoods, boasts a little more space and plenty to do. “It’s a well-kept secret—for now,” Wade says. “There are tons of attractions without all the congestion.” After a fifteen-minute walk from the West End MARTA station, visitors can enjoy community gardens, miles of trails, and a burgeoning craft beverage district. “The Lee + White development is the perfect place to eat and drink local, “ says Jones, citing beer outposts like Monday Night Garage, Wild Heaven Beer, Hop City, and Best End Brewing, alongside American Spirit Works, a whiskey distillery, and Cultured South, the city’s first kombucha taproom. “Don’t let the number of places serving up alcoholic beverages stop you from bringing the kids,” he says. “Every spot is family friendly.”