Make sure you park in a designated parking area if you are inside the perimeter. If it isn't marked, then assume it isn't designated, as the towing companies & booters are always out in force. Once they have your car immobilized, you don't have much leverage. Around Midtown, Atlantic Station, Virginia-Highlands, Buckhead, Grant Park & pretty much anywhere inside I-285, watch out for the tow trucks & booters, can't say it enough. Don't let the meter run out, it's amazing how fast they are.
My neighbor's car was towed from in front of her own house, a towing "mistake" that still cost her $425 which was never reimbursed. Try arguing with the companies, see how far it gets you. I sometimes wonder if the police get kickbacks to look the other way, the companies are so blatant & aggressive in their activities. Pay the $5 bucks for a parking lot if you aren't sure of side streets. It's not worth the hassle. Some places have the Mafia, we have A-Tow.
Beware - Car booting occurs in Atlanta. You may not even see warning signs. Car tires are being booted in private parking lots and there is nothing you can do but pay the $75.00. The owners of the parking lots/garages will NOT help you out. Sometimes the parking attendants are in cahoots with these guys. You can argue until blue in the face. Calling the police usually does not help. They say it is a civil matter. A friend of mine went into a store to have a large printing order filled. The store said it would take around 30 minutes, so she crossed the street to grab a sandwich. When she got back around 20 minutes later, her car was booted. The guy in the store said the booters pay a look out to tell them someone has parked in the parking lot and crossed the street. It was probably him. Lots of this happening at restaurants and clubs in the City. Booting firms are yet another element of criminal activity in Atlanta.
When staying at a convention hotel, I do not get to have a car unless I rent one on my own nickel.
But I was walking through the hotel parking lot and saw this sign - I though it was funny and took a picture.
YOUR OWN RISK
In/The TREES ARE NOT
I was in Atlanta on business June 28th through July 10th. On the evening of June 28th my group went to the Steak & Ale Resturant on Peachtree St. and parked in the lot that had an entrance on Ellis St. All three vehicles were paid for as witnessed by 4 people including myself. When we returned to the lot after dinner these same vehicles were booted for non-payment. We argued with the attendant who ran the immobilization company that we had paid our parking fee. At which time he produced a camcorder as "evidence" and showed me a picture of the inside of the self-pay box (no date or time stamp on the video) and claimed that this was his proof. He also showed me pictures of our three license plates (no date or time stamp on the video) as further proof of our "offence". It ended up costing me $150 to get these three vehicles un-booted. I didn't want to press the issue at 11pm with two large black men in the middle of Atlanta. Nor did I want to involve the police since I had just come out of a resturant where we had all had a bit to drink.
Four days later a member of my group took a vehicle back to the Bed and Breakfast where we were staying. He mistakenly parked in a private "pay as you park" lot next too a convenience store on Ponce de Leon. After going in to buy a pack of cigarettes he returned to find a boot on his vehicle for being parked in the lot illegally for less than five minutes... Another $50!
Take my advice, be very careful where you park in Atlanta, video tape yourself putting money in the pay as you park boxes (with date and time stamps). Report these scams to the authorities whenever possible. Central Parking manages most of these lots.
With the exception of a few select areas, Atlanta is a car city. The suburban sprawl created by a large influx of new residents combined with a lack of sidewalks and drivers who are seemingly unaware of the term "pedestrian" make this an a city where walking is not the preferred means of transportation. The hotel valet will offer to hail you a cab if you're planning to go somewhere just down the street. That should tell you something.
Despite the fact that walking is seldom an option, having a car while visiting Atlanta is not necessarily a good thing. Streets are very confusing and drivers drive under the influence of perpetual confusion. At least that's how it looked to me. Plus, once you get to where you're going, you have to find parking, which is often difficult and quite expensive.
In an effort to alleviate the growing traffic problems, the city has a mass transit system known as MARTA. I'll tell you more about it once I learn how to use it. But I'd suggest familiarizing yourself with the system and using it as an alternative. Cabs are another option. See the tip below for some thoughts on that subject.