How July Fourth, AJC Peachtree Road Race give Atlanta an economic boost

The world’s largest 10K race leads Independence Day events that are drawing holiday travelers — and commerce — to Atlanta
July 4, 2022 Atlanta - Aerial view shows runners cross the starting line of the 53rd Atlanta Journal Constitution Peachtree Road Race near Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Hyosub Shin /



July 4, 2022 Atlanta - Aerial view shows runners cross the starting line of the 53rd Atlanta Journal Constitution Peachtree Road Race near Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Hyosub Shin /

Like fireworks and Independence Day barbecues, the Fourth of July in Atlanta is inseparable from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race.

Both the world’s largest 10K race and the holiday it celebrates are integral annual events in the city, ushering tens of thousands of travelers — and their wallets — into Atlanta.

This year will be no different, and city leaders and hospitality groups said Independence Day events and travel represent an annual economic spark each July that’s a summertime highlight for restaurants, bars, hotels and shops.

“It’s one of our cornerstones,” Lindsey Jones, marketing director at Lenox Square Mall and Phipps Plaza, said of the Peachtree Road Race.

A record number of people nationally and in Georgia are expected to travel for the Fourth of July holiday, according to auto club AAA. For visitors to Atlanta, the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau’s website lists Fourth of July fireworks and the Peachtree Road Race as things to do in Atlanta on the holiday, saying the event draws “150,000 spectators cheering on the 60,000 participants in the country’s largest road race.”

For Independence Day this year, Atlanta is one of the five most popular domestic destinations for flights, hotels and rental cars, according to Priceline data. Nearly 4 million passengers are expected to pass through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport during the Fourth of July travel period, including both connecting passengers and those traveling to or from Atlanta.

Travelers lined up at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Friday, June 28, 2024, which is expected to be a peak day of the Fourth of July travel period. Credit: John Spink /

Credit: John Spink

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Credit: John Spink

The race, which is sponsored by the AJC and operated by the Atlanta Track Club, is described as “a mix between a dance party and a run” by Jones. Her employer, Simon Property Group, owns and operates both Phipps and Lenox, which has been the race’s starting line since the 1970s. She said the Lenox team begins planning the race with the Atlanta Track Club every February and starts physically setting up two days before the first starting wave.

“July Fourth is much busier for us compared to Labor Day and Memorial Day,” Jones said, naming other midyear holiday weekends, “just because of the amount of people in town for the event.”

She added that Lenox will be abuzz with racers, their families and mall staffers who are ready to hand out thousands of bottles of water, safety pins, hair ties and splotches of sunscreen.

7/4/18 - Atlanta - Non elite runners at the starting line. The 49th running of the AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta took off on Peachtree Street near Lenox Mall.  BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

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That energy from Lenox Square ripples throughout the hotels in its orbit, many of which expect to see increased occupancy Wednesday before the race. Brian Wander, the general manager of the JW Marriott Atlanta Buckhead, said it makes sense for racers to spend the night near the starting line to be prepared for the event.

“A lot of experienced runners know that the most convenient thing to do is to stay with us and park with us, so they don’t have to worry about parking in the morning,” he said, adding that MARTA will be crowded with thousands of participants flocking to Buckhead. His hotel’s patrons who stay Wednesday night will also receive a $50 credit to its on-site restaurant Preserve to carb-load before the big day.

Other hotels offer their own race-themed packages or participate in the festivities. The Walford Astoria Atlanta Buckhead’s spa is offering multiple themed packages for runners who need a pre-race pick-me-up or are looking to decompress after the race. In addition to a Stars and Stripes celebration on Independence Day, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Atlanta Buckhead will have complementary water and fruit for racers staying at the property.

“Most guests traveling in for the race are staying with the property for one evening (the night of July 3),” Patrick Lee, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “In addition to race participants, a lot of their families and friends are with them. Many of the guests traveling in for the race are from around the state of Georgia.”

The Atlanta Track Club said 91% of this year’s participants are from Georgia, and all 50 states will have representation. In addition, 24 countries will have participants, with the furthest entrant this year traveling from Perth, Australia.

Runners take off at the start of the 54th running of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta on Tuesday, July 4, 2023.

Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez

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Credit: Miguel Martinez

The race ends in Piedmont Park, flooding Midtown’s greenspace and nearby restaurants with thousands of celebratory, albeit tired, runners. Doug Widener, CEO of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, said it’s one of the busiest times of the year for his park and its surrounding businesses.

He said the race “brings our community together in a spirit of festivity, significantly impacting Atlanta’s economy and injecting substantial tourism dollars into local businesses.”

Shaun Doty, co-owner of Bantam + Biddy, an eatery at Ansley Mall, said he encourages runners to come in and dine after the race.

“We’ve been open 12 years. We’ve always had a good, big response,” Doty said. “We get a little pop in the morning because there’s going to be people that drop off runners.”

At the race, “There’s a matrix of connectivity between individuals and businesses” that support the event, he said. “It’s not a business networking event at, you know, a Marriott. It’s a community-spirited event.”

Stephen Schrock, co-owner of CraveWell Café with smoothie locations in West Midtown and Sandy Springs, is offering a $5 discount to Peachtree Road Race runners with race numbers for purchases of $15 or more.

“We generally try to promote healthy lifestyle and healthy habits in the community, and there’s no healthier lifestyle example in Atlanta than the road race,” Schrock said.

He said business is usually brisk earlier in the day on the Fourth of July, when “people are still trying to be healthy before they go out and have their barbecue and everything,” Schrock said. “They’ll go out and exercise and run, get a healthy smoothie and then they’ll go out and have their barbecue and beer.”

Lenox is closed during the early morning hours July 4 to accommodate the race, but Jones said the mall’s restaurants, staff and stores quickly transition to attracting holiday shoppers. The race isn’t forgotten though, with some restaurants offering perks to participants who return to Buckhead, such as the Lenox Square Shake Shack, which will treat racers who make a purchase to a free burger.

“By 10 a.m., it’s like nothing ever happened,” she said. “We have lots of deals and offers throughout the whole center for people to come back and shop.”