Situated in central Atlanta, on the edge of downtown, the Georgia Dome has enjoyed a venerable existence as a sports venue. Not only has it been the home of the Falcons for more than 20 seasons, it has hosted the Super Bowl, the Final Four, the Peach Bowl (which became the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and then back to the Peach Bowl), the SEC championship game, Olympic basketball and more.
Alas, like its fellow Atlanta venue Turner Field, the Georgia Dome is scheduled to go the way of the wrecking ball sometime in 2017 as its replacement, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, rises just next door. In terms of amenities and aesthetics, the old building simply can’t compete, but it does have a few things going for it that make a visit in its final days worth considering.
- The Approach
Arguably the most attractive area of Atlanta for visitors to frequent is the area around Centennial Olympic Park, a district that includes the CNN Center, Philips Arena, Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, College Football Hall of Fame and more. The Georgia Dome is on the western edge of this district, adjacent to the Georgia World Congress Center (Atlanta’s massive convention center) and separated from Philips Arena by a plaza.
This also means that the Georgia Dome is easily accessible via public transit. MARTA, the city’s modest but fairly reliable subway system, has two stops nearby — the Dome-GWCC-Philips Arena-CNN station (its very name shows what’s nearby) or the Vine City station, on the Dome’s west side.
If you’re visiting Atlanta, you’re likely staying in a downtown hotel, and many if not most of them are within reasonable walking distance of the dome — just find Andrew Young International Boulevard and follow it west. If you’d rather not walk, that’s what MARTA is for.
Drivers can access the stadium via Interstate 20 and Northside Drive. Parking is ample near the stadium thanks to multiple structures and lots around the GWCC, but the inventory has been diminished a bit because of construction of the new stadium. Another parking option is downtown, where there are many, many private lots offering cheaper rates than the $35 and up you typically see around the stadium.
Fans headed to the Georgia Dome can pay for guaranteed parking spots ahead of time through a service called Parking Panda. Their website enables users to compare parking options based on price and location and reserve the perfect one for them. They’ll email you the parking pass and you can drive to the stadium without having to worry about where you’re going to park. Game- day parking within reasonable walking distance start at just $5. Check out all of their options below:
- The Build-Up
Around the Dome, there’s plenty to do, but nearly all of it is east of the venue. To the west of Northside Drive is the Vine City neighborhood, home of Clark Atlanta University but otherwise not much else that’s appealing to the visitor.
To the east, though, you’ll find all sorts of activities that you’ll likely want to look into as a visitor to Atlanta, whether there’s a game going on at the Dome or not — most of those things are mentioned above, but a lot of them require an admission fee and are few-hours-long activities as opposed to something you’d want to do before a game. But many good pregame restaurants and bars are also in this area, from the cheap and quick (Waffle House) to the familiar (Hard Rock Cafe, Hooters) to the swanky (McCormick and Schmick’s), and just about everything in between.
If you’d rather stay around the vicinity of the Dome but you aren’t tailgating, check out the Falcons Landing, which sets up between the stadium and Philips Arena. It’s free to visit and includes food and beverage stands, mascot and cheerleader appearances and more.
- The Ambiance
Once inside, the Dome is just that, a dome — which is to say there really isn’t anything spectacular about it other than its sheer size. When it opened in 1992, it was the largest cable-supported domed stadium in the world. Naturally, its size made it capable of hosting many big events, but its lack of a retractable roof and general lack of pizzazz made it expendable, so to speak.
The size means the higher-up seats are really high, and that’s especially true when you’re watching something other than football. It also means, though, that concourses are wide and spacious. Look out for the Georgia High School Association’s tribute display, in which the helmets of every high school football program in the state is displayed.
As befitting a large venue, the concessions options are many and varied. A few familiar names will be available, such as Taco Mac and Papa John’s, and a few Southern staples can be purchased as well — pulled pork (look for it served on top of a hot dog!) and sweet tea, for example. Enjoy them while you can, or at least until the new stadium unveils its sure-to-impress list of offerings.