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A tour of the Atlanta BeltLine
Atlanta is known for its traffic, but the city is undergoing a massive revitalization effort to help make it a more pedestrian-friendly place. The Atlanta BeltLine is a sustainable project aimed at providing a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit by re-using 22-miles of historic railroad corridors circling downtown and connecting 45 neighbourhoods to each other. The core corridor that follows the original railroad segments will also link with many of Atlanta’s existing parks, creating 33-miles of multi-use trails that promote walking, jogging, biking and living along the BeltLine.
Among the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment and mobility projects currently underway in the United States, the Atlanta BeltLine was originally conceived in 1999 as an idea for a graduate thesis. There is still a long way to go before the entire network is complete, but already open sections of the railroad-corridor-turned-trail are spawning welcome development and becoming a preferred gathering spot for locals and visitors.
The Northside Trail is a favourite for families and dog walkers. Traveling through picturesque Tanyard Creek Park, it connects Ardmore Park, Collier Hills and the Collier Hills North neighbourhoods and is lined with playgrounds and open spaces. Some other open sections include the Southwest Connector Spur Trail that will connect to the BeltLine through the Westview neighbourhood in southwest Atlanta, and the West End Trail, stretching 2.4 miles and linking several Southwest Atlanta neighbourhoods. There’s also four miles of unpaved, interim hiking trails, and seven miles of paved trails.
One of the most trafficked stretches of the Atlanta BeltLine today is the bustling 2.25-mile Eastside Trail. Opened in 2012, it’s the first finished section of the BeltLine in the old rail corridor. This section – connecting the neighbourhoods of Virginia Highland, Poncey Highland, Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward – is lined with interesting stops. Begin your jaunt on 10th Street and Monroe Drive, near Piedmont Park, and head south. If you’re a lover of antiques and oddities, your first stop should be Paris on Ponce, a 46,000-square-foot building filled with eccentric décor. If sitting on a patio with a drink in hand is more your speed, grab a table at TWO Urban Licks. You could also try your hand at bocce ball on the outdoor court.
After a nice rest, continue your walk, passing one-of-a-kind art installations, and cross the bridge over Ralph McGill Boulevard to reach Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark. Here you can observe skaters of all ages attempt their tricks. Once you’ve seen enough spills, head to Parish’s downstairs café and pick up some gourmet wine, cheese and homemade pastries, or grab a seat on the eatery’s BeltLine-side picnic table. Some other must-visit refuelling stations include Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall, where the outdoor patio offers an ideal vantage point to view BeltLine traffic, and the menu highlights “Trail Snacks” and libations that range from cocktails to craft beers.
Another foodie favourite – and a great way to culminate your tour – is Krog Street Market. Once you hit the end of the Eastside Trail, take a left on Irwin Street and then a right on Krog to enter the 1920s-warehouse-turned-food-hall. Stocked with market stalls selling goods and prepared foods, it also features some wildly popular Southern-grown restaurants and retailers. After giving the market a spin, grab a local beer or glass of wine at Hop City Bar and delight in the truly authentic Atlanta day you just experienced…without a traffic jam in sight.
Written by Giannina Smith Bedford