To think Atlanta’s ambitious and remarkable BeltLine project blossomed out of a suggestion from a university student—it’s the stuff of movies. Ryan Gravel’s joint master’s thesis in Architecture and City Planning from Georgia Tech in 1999 was the original vision behind the BeltLine.
Nowadays, the trail is positively vibrating underfoot, with cyclists, walkers, runners, and rollerbladers traversing the path. Opening in phases before a planned completion in 2030, the BeltLine is repurposing 22 miles of railway corridors into modern streetcars around and through Atlanta, and providing 33 miles of pedestrian-friendly transit, plus acres upon acres of parks and greenspace. It’s one of the biggest transit transformations happening in America right now.
The network of parks and trails weave together 45 neighborhoods—the thread that binds this southern city.
Here are a few of the great neighborhoods along the Beltline:
This historic district was developed by rail and real estate magnate Edwin P. Ansley, beginning in 1905, and was the first Atlanta suburban neighborhood designed for automobile traffic, featuring wide, winding roads rather than the typical grid pattern of streetcar suburbs. Streets were developed like parkways with extensive landscaping.
Ansley Park is an affluent neighborhood just east of Midtown and west of Piedmont Park. Its houses are diverse in style and scale, representing a mix of eclectic and contemporary suburban architecture, from Colonial, Federal, Neo-Classical, Italian Renaissance, Queen Anne and Tudor styles to Prairie School and Craftsman.
Considered a hidden gem, Berkeley Park is in West Midtown, below the southern boundary of Buckhead. It was established in 1921 and was originally part of a very large farm before being developed in the 1920s by E. Rivers Realty company.
Civil War historians believe that Berkeley Park was located on several wartime trench lines, and, in the 1990s, several Confederate bullets and a silver button from a Confederate uniform were found on a property in the neighborhood.
The Berkeley Park flag features three geese, which are a common sight in the neighborhood as they fly from the City Water Reservoir. Berkeley Park residents say they’re a symbol of the unity of the neighborhood’s inhabitants.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution once called Buckhead a neighborhood “Where old money lives, new money parties.” Sometimes touted as the “Beverley Hills of the East,” this ultra-chic uptown district covers the northern fifth of Atlanta and is the city’s third-largest business district.
Its office towers, hotels, and condominiums form its core along Peachtree Road, around which are Buckhead’s residential areas of large single-family homes nestled among dense forests and gentle hills.
This playground for the rich and famous features world-class hotels and legendary shopping, including the upscale Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, and posh restaurants. There’s a huge selection of nightlife venues as the world-famous Peachtree Street and the Andrews Entertainment District come alive after dark.
One of Atlanta’s oldest and most important historic districts, Grant Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It includes Grant Park itself, which covers 131 acres and includes Zoo Atlanta. It also features the famous Oakland Cemetery, which was established in 1850 and was the final resting place of Margaret Mitchell, Bobby Jones, 25 former mayors of Atlanta, and many Civil War veterans.
Also within Grant Park: Fort Walker and the 1958 mansion of Lemuel P. Grant, for whom the neighborhood was named. The mansion is the second-oldest house still standing in Atlanta.
Founded in 1882, Grant Park still features Victorian architecture, with most of the buildings constructed between the late 1880s and the early 20th century. Large two-story mansions ring the park, while more modest Queen Anne homes were built on the surrounding streets.
Established in 1912, Inman Park was Atlanta’s first planned garden suburb, and it’s quickly evident. The pristine parks and the thick canopy of trees make up the fabric of this unique neighborhood.
It’s characterized by Victorian homes, but it also boasts a bustling dining and shopping district that’s dotted with community restaurants, coffee houses, bars, and yoga studios.
Inman Park is known for its eagerly-anticipated annual street festivals.
Old Fourth Ward
Fondly referred to as O4W (you’ll see this bumper sticker), the historic neighborhood is best known as the birthplace of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Originally settled in the early 1800s, it attracts tourists to such historic sites as the Ebenezer Baptist Church and Sweet Auburn Historic District, where visitors can tour restored shotgun houses and Victorian homes.
The Historic Fourth Ward Park, which spans 17 acres of green space and includes a lake, an outdoor theater, an athletic field, and a skate park, was established in 2011.
You’ll also some find some spectacular dining—some of Atlanta’s top restaurants call O4W home—and nightlife in Old Fourth Ward.