Want to explore Atlanta from a new perspective? Just take a walk on the Atlanta Beltline – the 33-mile network of urban trails that offer pedestrian-friendly pathways to see the sights while strolling, skating, jogging, or biking. Considered the most “comprehensive transportation and economic development effort ever undertaken by the City of Atlanta,” the BeltLine utilizes an old railroad corridor that encircles the city, and links with side trails to parks, shopping, dining and public transportation. The BeltLine will eventually provide access to 45 downtown neighborhoods, encouraging a sense of community and connectivity. It is fresh way to experience all Atlanta has to offer.
On a recent Sunday afternoon, Dan and I decided to check out the BeltLine’s popular Eastside Trail, the first trail completed along the old rail line, extending south from Piedmont Park to the Historic Fourth Ward. The pathway is wide, cement pavement that easily accommodates large crowds of walkers, joggers, skaters, families with baby strollers, and cyclists. Hundreds of people were out enjoying the trail and stopping off at various locations to lunch, shop, listen to live music or contemplate the artwork along the path.
We found street-side parking near Piedmont Park and picked up the BeltLine trail at 10th Street and Monroe Drive. Since it was a stifling hot day, we stopped to cool off at Ponce City Market (housed in the old Sears & Roebuck building), conveniently located along the trail. Here you will find an expansive food court with an eclectic mix of restaurants for every taste. We got burgers at H&F Burger and sat in the cool, open-air food court. You can also be side-tracked by a number of trendy boutique shops, but we were determined to get back on the trail. (Tip: here is a good place to find a bathroom before continuing on your walk!)
As we continued to walk south, we enjoyed stunning views of Atlanta’s skyline, as well as imaginative sculptures and artwork painted on many of the old buildings we passed. One of the most impressive artistic displays we noticed along the trail was an installation by David Landis called “33 Oaks.” The exhibit is a grouping of leaf sculptures, made out of stainless steel that represents the 33 species of native oak trees in Georgia and highlights the work of Trees Atlanta’s native trees arboretum being planted along the BeltLine.
Farther along the trail, we passed by the popular Historic Fourth Ward Skate Park, jumping (literally) with young people showing off their skateboarding skills. The massive park includes a lush greenspace, used throughout the year for special events, athletic fields and playground for kids. All in all, we walked two miles from Piedmont Park to Irwin Street before we turned around and headed back to our car, for a total of four miles of urban walking.
Those who want to experience the BeltLine from the comfort of an air-conditioned bus can reserve space for a three-hour BeltLine Bus Tour, departing at 9:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Cyclists will enjoy the three-hour guided biking tours along several BeltLine Trails.
Nature lovers will want to sign up for a guided 1 ½ hour walking tour of the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum. Docents with Trees Atlanta identify native trees and other plants along the Eastside Trail, as well as share interesting tidbits about the communities you are walking through. Volunteers and staff with Trees Atlanta have planted hundreds of trees along the BeltLine and will continue to expand the arboretum over the next 20 years! If you want to learn more about what Trees Atlanta is doing to expand Atlanta’s urban forest, you can attend “Plantlanta” on Saturday, Oct. 15, and help plant trees in one of 12 City Council districts.
Atlanta BeltLine Highlights
PONCE CITY MARKET
Grab a bite and rest stop at Ponce City Market, conveniently located along the trail
Enjoy the Atlanta skyline, imaginative sculptures and murals
A grouping of stainless steel leaf sculptures representing the 33 species of native oak trees in Ga.
FOURTH WARD SKATE PARK
Skateboard paradise, lush greenspace, athletic fields, and playground
A three-hour tour by bus departs at 9:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Cyclists can also enjoy guided tours along several trails
Tree Atlanta docents lead 1.5 hour guided walks along the Eastside Trail, identifying native trees and other plants. For more information, visit beltline.org