College Visit Guide: Atlanta

See numerous schools and take in some local culture during a long weekend college visit to Atlanta.


Atlanta, land of the free and home of the Braves. The city is historically famous for its civil rights policies and has more recently gained note for hosting the Summer Olympics in 1996, being one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States and supporting four professional sports teams on an ongoing basis. Atlanta also houses the world’s busiest airport and a sprawling, often-congested interstate system that has earned Atlanta the nickname “Los Angeles of the South.” However, along with the mind-numbing numbers of headlights come an impressive number of mind-enhancing centers of learning.

Atlanta is home to more than 30 institutions of higher education, including the Atlanta University Center, a consortium of some of the most prestigious historically black colleges and universities in the nation. Among these are the all-male Morehouse College, alma mater of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the all-female Spelman College—which are considered the top two historically black institutions in the United States.

Additionally, universities such as Georgia State, the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and the private Emory University contribute to Atlanta’s status as an educational hotspot. Such an impressive and concentrated résumé of schools means one can visit a multitude of schools in one weekend and still have time to see the other sights in the city, thanks to that sprawling interstate system.

When to Come and Where to Stay

You should be able to visit all of the aforementioned schools in a three-day weekend, and probably one or two more while you’re at it. Atlanta often boasts pleasant temperatures even in the dead of winter, although the city gets cold and snow as well. Spring and fall are probably the best seasons to visit, as you’ll avoid the hot, humid weather summer brings and any inclement weather the winter may cook up.

Like most large cities, Atlanta has a wealth of lodging options, including the Western Hemisphere’s tallest hotel, the Westin Peachtree Plaza. The 73-floor behemoth is close to several popular attractions and offers a panoramic view of the city from the revolving bar and restaurant on the top floor. For a historic, upscale hotel experience, stay at the 307-room Georgian Terrace Hotel in Midtown. Built in 1911 and on the National Register of Historic Places, this red-brick high-rise lodged Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh while they were in town celebrating the premier of “Gone with the Wind.” A more budget-conscious option is the Crowne Plaza one mile from the airport—still within easy driving distance of all the schools and sights and über-convenient for those flying into town.

Here’s the Plan

Here is a sample itinerary for your college visit weekend in Atlanta, stopping at the major schools mentioned earlier, with some attraction options thrown in as well.

Day One

Start at Georgia State University, located in the heart of downtown Atlanta (about five blocks away from the Westin.) Once you’ve explored the campus (which, although once fragmented, is undergoing a massive centralization push), pop over to Underground Atlanta, a retail and entertainment district, now underground, built on the original streets of Atlanta and using what were once the lower levels of historic buildings.

Next, drive northeast 6.5 miles (US-278 to SR-42) to Emory University, located in the tree-lined suburb of Druid Hills. Walk around the beautiful campus and admire its unique architecture, then relax on the grassy quadrangle. Also check out the Michael C. Carlos Museum on campus, with a permanent collection of some 18,000 objects ranging from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century.

Day Two

Start your second day at the Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, consistently ranked as one of the Top 10 public universities in the country. Tech is located on 400 acres in Midtown, which is just north of Downtown. The campus has lots of greenery, especially in comparison to urban Georgia State. Most of the important buildings are in Central Campus, also home to the Old Campus (or Historic District) and the amenity-laden student union. No visit to Georgia Tech is complete without a meal at the Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in. (When they ask you “What’ll you have,” try a chili dog and a Frosted Orange…magical.)

From Tech, hop on I-75 and head southwest to Morehouse College, only six miles away. Or, if it’s your daughter that is school-shopping, Spelman College is a stone’s throw from Morehouse. Check out the historic buildings on these campuses, and don’t miss the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. in front of King Chapel at Morehouse.

Day Three

If you’ve got a third day to spend in Atlanta, visit one of its other prestigious schools, like Oglethorpe University, named after Georgia’s founder, James Oglethorpe. Oglethorpe is about 10 miles north of Downtown on I-85. Spend your last minutes in the city visiting Downtown’s Centennial Park, created for the ‘96 Olympics, or the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium, both located across the street.

Destinations: Atlanta

Themes: College Visits, Family Travel

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