What began as a thesis became one of the City of Atlanta’s most beloved landmarks, spawning redevelopment and connecting in-town neighborhoods – truly living up to its slogan, “Where Atlanta Comes Together.”
Though relatively new on the Atlanta scene in its current form, the Atlanta BeltLine has actually been in production since 1902! Well, not really – that’s just when the Atlanta Belt Railway Company completed a project that circled the entire City of Atlanta, connecting all rail lines so that freight car transfers could occur on the outskirts rather than downtown. It wasn’t until 1999, when a bright-eyed Georgia Tech student wrote a master’s thesis centered around turning the rail corridors into a ring of trails and parks, that work began on the multi-use urban trail we know today. (If you want to learn more about the trial’s past, present and future, be sure to stop by the Atlanta BeltLine Center. Please note that the Center is currently closed to the public, but will likely reopen when the city moves to Phase two of the Mayor’s recovery plan.)
It’s easy to make a day of your Beltline exploration, thanks to ten different parks, dozens of restaurants, art installations and quite a few surprises located along the 22-mile trail. If it’s your first visit, consider signing up for one of the BeltLine Tours. Ride a bus or a bike to discover the hidden gems of the trail, or join the Arboretum Tour for a unique plant-based narrative of our Atlanta’s history. This walking tour focuses on native trees, grasses, wildflowers and greenspaces along the corridor. (Bicycle and bus tours are currently suspended due to the pandemic and will be offered once the City of Atlanta moves into Phase two. Please check with Trees Atlanta regarding the availability of arboretum tours.)
The BeltLine also provides a great opportunity for art lovers to get out of the museum and into the outdoors! Art on the BeltLine is the Southeast’s largest temporary public art project. Visit art.beltline.org for info on the current exhibition, as well as a map of all the art locations. The art changes frequently, providing the perfect motivation to return again and again!
As far as getting around in the BeltLine, anything goes, so long as it’s not motorized (with the exception of electric wheelchairs and scooters). Bikes can be rented via the Relay Bike Share program or at the Atlanta Bicycle Barn on the Eastside Trail. For the more daring, roll over to the Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark, the first public skate park in Atlanta. This Tony Hawk-approved skatepark – his foundation contributed $25,000 – offers something for riders of all skill levels.
There’s no shortage of eating options on the BeltLine; many establishments have walk-up patios, and most are pet-friendly. The camp-themed Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall has a killer outdoor area with shuffleboard. Or pretend you’re not landlocked at Beetlecat with an order of fresh oysters on one of two patios. We also love Lingering Shade Social Club and New Realm Brewing Company for before and after dinner drinks (why choose?). And super cool conglomerates like Krog Street Market, Lee + White, and Ponce City Market offer the very best of restaurant and retail options.
For those who fall absolutly head over heels in love with the BeltLine, check out the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership Shop for some cool swag that you can feel good about – 100 percent of the proceeds go to support Beltline projects.
In 2019, the PATH Foundation broke ground on a project connecting the Silver Comet Trail to the Beltline. Upon completion in 2022, the total combined interconnected trail distance will be the longest paved trail surface in the U.S., totaling about 300 miles.