Hike, bike, and (duh) eat your way through the capital of the South—the latest fit destination earning all kinds of healthy hype
Listen up y'all: Hot 'Lanta is coming in, well, hot, to the healthy travel scene. The capital of the South is more than just debutante balls, sweet tea, and Georgia peaches—it's a hotbed for year-round fitness finds and creative takes on healthy dining. Plus, this Thanksgiving Day, the city will host an early morning half-marathon, meaning that extra helping of mashed potatoes is totally okay!
And although the ninth largest metropolitan area in the country is infamous for its traffic, it also has a seriously impressive trail system and lots of urban active space to walk (or run) it out. (Time to cue up Your Hit-the-Pavement Urban Running Playlist.) Another crucial piece of info about Atlanta: It's the mecca of airport travel. Not only does the city host the international hub for Delta Airlines, but its Hartsfield-Jackson Airport averages 2,500 departures and arrivals daily, making it the busiest passenger airport in the world since 1998. (When you're stuck there on a layover, 3 Ways Airports Are Making It Healthier to Travel.)
Whether you're making the trip down for the Turkey Day race or are flying this holiday season, chances are you'll find yourself in this big ol' southern city. When you do, here's the health-conscious way to do the A.
If you're willing to go all in and spend a little extra, you can't beat the Mandarin Oriental, located in Buckhead and just a short walk away from Lenox Shopping Center, chock-full of high-end retail storefronts and tasty restaurants. The luxury hotel has a pool (pictured above, left) that's accessible year-round thanks to an indoor-outdoor flex space. It even hosts yoga classes every Saturday.
The Artmore Hotel (pictured above, right) presents a more boutique-y option closer to midtown. Given its upscale location, the mid-range price tag is a big-time plus! Ask about the cozy rooms that face the back patio for a tranquil morning view. A daily outdoor happy hour that includes a special grilled cheese menu makes this spot the perfect place to kick off a night out.
Stay In Shape
The fitness game in Atlanta is strong. Get your cardio fix at Piedmont Park (pictured above). Atlanta's common grounds since 1904, the park has more than five miles of paved terrain. In the center, you'll find the Active Oval, a half-mile loop with beautiful views of the Midtown skyline to distract you from your burning quads. (While you're out there, try to Shave a Minute Off Your Mile.) If recreational sports are more your thing, the park has tennis and basketball courts as well as soccer and softball fields.
To take your workout to the streets, hit up the Atlanta BeltLine. Technically it's above the streets, but the 2.25-mile paved trail links up the corner of Piedmont Park with the Midtown neighborhood so you can cover some serious ground. The best part? You can take free fitness classes every day at different points of the trail—we're talking aerobics, boot camp, and REI-led trail yoga, and that's just to start. Register for classes here!
Fuel Your Trip
No trip to the South would be complete without a lot of food. Yes, Atlanta is the birthplace of Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A, but thanks to a rapidly growing food scene, healthier options now abound.
Around breakfast-time, we recommend heading over to True Food Kitchen (pictured above, left). Located in the swanky Buckhead neighborhood, this restaurant focuses on nutrient-dense food and bases all its dishes off of the anti-inflammatory diet (translation: foods high in antioxidants, monosaturated fats, and omega-3s). Pair the tofu scramble wrap with the carrot lemonade or the cranberry and olive oil muffin with the kale-aid for a majorly wholesome start to your day. (Here, 5 Power Breakfasts to Start Your Day Off Right.)
To get your graze on, check out Krog Street Market in Inman Park—easily accessible via the BeltLine, might we add—for up to 24 different stands for food, specialty goods, and produce vendors. If a sit-down, middle-of-the-day meal is more your speed, downtown pizza joint Antico gets the job done. Thin, wood-fired crusts and fresh ingredients mean you can indulge in a few daytime slices without guilt.
Finally, land-locked Atlantans (and visitors too) find a delicious seafood and oyster bar in The Optimist, named one of Bon Appétit's best new restaurants in 2013. Dishes like lobster rolls and hickory-roasted fish transport you to your favorite coastal haunts. Even better, the restaurant buys from local purveyors that practice sustainability.
In recent years, Atlanta has come storming into the craft beer world. Naturally, that means no trip to the city is complete without a visit to at least one brewery. Sweetwater Brewery gets us with their motto—"don't float the mainstream"—and their cheeky beer names (Hop Hash or Happy Ending, anyone?). The doors are open every Wednesday-Sunday and ten dollars gets you a tour, a pint glass, and a sampling of on-tap blends, plus the opportunity to jam out to live music on their back patio. At certain times throughout the year, they host "Yoga on Tap" (pictured above) and "Flybarre + Brew," giving you a butt-kicking workout followed by some celebratory brews. (Cheers! New Study Shows Health Benefits of Beer.)
To really get the feel for this city, buy tickets to a Braves game at Turner Field. The original baseball stadium quickly became an iconic part of the Atlanta cityscape, but will be replaced by a new structure for the 2017 season. Catch a game at the nostalgic venue while you still can!
There is plenty to do within the world of I-285 (referred to as "the perimeter" by locals), but we also recommend driving a bit outside of the city for some great day-trips. Our favorite: About 35 minutes outside of city center, you'll find a 3,000-acre National Battlefield Park with 20 miles of trails weaving through forest and grassy meadows. Summit Kennesaw Mountain via a path that can be anywhere from 1 to 11 miles long depending on your starting point for stunning panoramic views of the city below.