The first tip on how to enjoy Atlanta’s Beltline: Go on a cold, rainy day. The first day of spring is not the opportune time for you to explore, because everyone else has the same idea. It seems like the entire city is out on the Beltline: strollers, throngs of friends stretching six-wide, dogs on leashes, kids on tricycles…
The Beltline is beautiful in warm weather, but if you don’t like crowds, you may want to find a better time to go, depending on your workout. Here’s RootsRated’s guide to Atlanta’s favorite path.
In October 2012, the first paved section of the Atlanta Beltline was completed, transforming a section of the 100-year-old forgotten rail corridor into the Eastside Trail. A main artery to the community, the trail links Piedmont Park with the Freedom Park Trail, and Historic Old Fourth Ward, while passing through other popular neighborhoods including the Highlands, Midtown and Inman Park.
There’s long been an argument about the Eastside Trail and its confluence of people on a nice day. The cyclists say it’s impossible to weave through pedestrians. The pedestrians say, well, it is a 2-mile sidewalk.
When to Go?
That depends on how you’ll be enjoying the Beltline. The 2-mile paved path offers art and sculptures to look at, plenty of entry points, and restaurants that are easy to access, so it’s a popular place to be, whether squeezing in a workout or spending an entire afternoon.
Cyclists, rollerbladers, skaters: Early morning and later in the evening are often when the fewest people are on the Beltline, so you’ll be able to get up to speed quickly and won’t have to worry about navigating crowds. Many cyclists integrate the trail into their routes to get from one neighborhood to another, and bike commuters will find the Eastside trail the safest way to avoid traffic. If you are on the Beltline during crowded hours, it’s common courtesy to maintain a slow speed. There are no lamps along the trail, so be sure to bring a light if you are riding at dark. (However, the Beltline is fundraising for lights along this section, hopefully to come by late 2016.)
Skaters should stop to explore the Old Fourth Ward Historic Skatepark. Pro skateboarder Tony Hawk’s foundation donated money towards the construction of the skatepark, and what resulted is a world-class facility. The skatepark features a three bowls and a half-pipe.
Runners: Mornings are the least crowded time for getting in strides, although it is easy to navigate the Beltline during most any times, except middays on Saturdays and Sundays. With the Beltline’s positioning in Atlanta, you can see beautiful views of the skyline and the art along the Beltline is a nice distraction from your workout.
Walkers/Dogs: The Eastside Trail is your stomping ground, so you’ll find it suitable to roam any time you’d like. Remember if you have dogs, be sure to pick up any waste. Curious about Art on the Beltline? Find out more about the city’s largest temporary public art exhibition by reading the plaques located near each display, or visit art.beltline.org.
Active Events on the Beltline
Whether a visitor to Atlanta or a local, the events along the Beltline's Eastside Trail allow you to learn more about the most popular sidewalk in the city.
- Dive into the horticulture along the Eastside Trail with a guided Arboretum Walking Tour, sponsored by TREES Atlanta, which resume again in the spring.
- Bike along the Eastside Trail on a leisurely 13-mile Bike Tour as a guide shares more about the history, project planning and development of the entire Atlanta Beltline.
- Take a fitness class with the backdrop of the Beltline. REI sponsors several programs ranging from trail yoga and aerobics to sunrise and sunset hikes. See the range of free fitness classes.
- Get your next PR at a range of 5K or 10K races, all part of the Run, Walk, Go! Race Series. Races start in the spring and go throughout the year. Join a free group run every Thursday at 7 p.m.
Progressive Restaurant Hopping
Atlanta is full of culture, incredible food, and killer cocktails. Enjoy the trio with a weekend progressive bar hop along the Eastside Trail’s restaurants. Between Ponce de Leon Avenue and Irwin Street is the place to plan out your route. We’ve offered a few suggestions for you to get started. ( Note: Alcoholic drinks are not permitted on the Beltline, so finish before you leave each destination.)
Ponce City Market: Newly opened in late 2015, this live/work/play community turned the old Sears building into a shopping and dining destination. With more than 12 restaurants in the Food Hall that are open, and counting, options range from fried chicken to fish and chips, to South African and Korean cuisine, to juice bars, coffee lounges and ice cream shops. Ponce City Market features a bike valet, which you can access from the Eastside Trail entrance.
King of Pops: Any Atlanta native knows about the flavorful, inventive frozen popsicles from King of Pops. The mouth-watering treats feature seasonal favorites like fresh peach and caramel apple, plus year-round addictions that include chocolate sea salt, banana puddin’ and Arnold Palmer. This pop-up window is located just off the Beltline in Inman Park, at Bernina Street and Elizabeth Street. Hours are 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily, unless noted on their website.
Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall: Ladybird’s patio and screened-in porch overlook the Beltline, making this a perfect perch for people-watching. The restaurant touts itself as serving “campfire cuisine,” which for lunch means you’ll find plenty of great sandwiches (like a turkey club or pressed ham) and sides like potato salad, cole slaw, and mac ’n’ cheese. For dinner share spatchcock chicken or backyard barbecue with friends, and weekend brunch includes hearty breakfast skillets and egg tacos. The libations are the way to go here, where classic cocktails like Bloody Marys or Old Fashions get their own unique twist. Weekends during brunch hours are often very crowded, so weeknights are better.
Krog Street Market: A smaller food hall than Ponce City Market, Krog Street Market is the ideal place to grab and go with a variety of counter-service options from barbecue to Paleo, Mediterranean to Szechuan. Enjoy your food at one of the many communal tables in the hall. Good news—you can carry your drink around Krog Street Market because it is open-container friendly.
The Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail Essentials:
- Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- North Entrance: 10th Street & Monroe Drive
- South Entrance: Irwin Street, just West of Krog Street
- Keep right while traveling North or South, following the flow of traffic.