How to survive Thanksgiving weekend in Atlanta

A lot of people are traveling this year on Thanksgiving — 47 million according to data from AAA — and 42 million of those people will be driving on the roads.

Related: Crowds Filling Hartsfield-Jackson for Thanksgiving Travel

Anyone leaving the metro area by plane, train or car has a number of resources telling them how to make the most of their travel time and avoid a headache. But a holiday weekend can be crazy even if you are staying put, so here are a few tips to help metro area residents who will still be in town navigate the weekend madness.

First, stay off the streets Wednesday and Sunday. Between people driving to and from the airport and those driving to or returning from out-of-town destinations, the roads are going to be a mess on Wednesday and Sunday, the two busiest days for Thanksgiving weekend traffic.

September 3, 2015 Atlanta - Traffic backs up on I-85 southbound near 17th St. on Thursday, September 3, 2015. Epic levels of traffic were expected for the commute on Thursday due to Falcons and Georgia Tech football games, DragonCon attendees arriving into town, a visit by Vice President Joe Biden and workers getting an early start to the holiday weekend.   JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL

JONATHAN PHILLIPS / SPECIAL

These are not good days to venture far from home. Traffic is expected to start backing up as early as 11 a.m. Wednesday with major issues during rush hour. On Sunday, it will start at 10 a.m. and is expected to be gridlock city between 1-6 p.m.

You would think once all of those travelers have arrived at their destinations that you could safely cruise around metro Atlanta without fear. Mostly, that’s true, but there will be plenty of events that draw crowds you may want to avoid.

Read more: 7 Days of Things to do in Atlanta | Nov. 23 – 29

The Thanksgiving Day half-marathon, for example, will take over the area near Turner Field starting at 7:30 a.m. Adding to the Sunday travel madness, the Falcons are playing the Minnesota Vikings at 1:00 p.m. at the Georgia Dome. Be sure to check the areas you plan to visit before leaving home to find out the best travel times and make sure parking isn’t an issue.

Thanksgiving evening brings a unique set of issues with Black Friday shoppers. If you’re planning to take in a post-dinner movie, make sure you head to a theater that isn’t mall-based or you may find yourself caught in a crush of shoppers.

Even though shopping has now spread over the entire month of November and more people are shopping online, Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday shopping is still a big deal for many metro area residents.

Related: Holiday Shopping Hype Outgrows Black Friday

In past years, the Thanksgiving Day shopping crowds have swelled starting at 5 p.m. — when Toys “R” Us stores open and 6 p.m. when Target and Wal-Mart open. Those are the stores that draw the biggest crowds along with Kohl’s and Macy’s. Things usually start to slow down by 10 p.m. and don’t pick up again early in the morning on Black Friday.

So if you’re aiming to avoid huge crowds and have a peaceful outing in Atlanta, Saturday is probably your best day to make it happen.

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