Atlanta’s Top 20 Attractions
The Must-See Sites and Stops In Your New City
By Anna Bentley
Welcome to Atlanta! By now, you’ve probably realized that your newhometown has something for everyone: art lovers, history buffs, sports fanatics … even whale shark enthusiasts. While there are dozens of sights to take in and places to explore, we’ve narrowed down 20 of the city’s must-see picks.
History And Culture
Atlanta History Center
Everything you need to know about the history of Atlanta can be found here. Permanent exhibits detail the Civil War, Southern folk arts, Atlanta’s hosting of the 1996 Summer Olympics and more. The center also operates three historic houses, including the famed Swan House, which recently appeared in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. 404-814-4000, www.atlantahistorycenter.com.
There’s nothing like catching a show at the Fox. Whether it’s a concert, movie screening or Broadway play, everything looks more special under the Fabulous Fox’s twinkling night sky. The Fox hosts guided, behind-the-scenes tours two to three days per week that highlight 10 of the theatre’s special features, including Mighty Mo, the world’s largest working Moller organ. 404-881-2100, www.foxtheatre.org.
Margaret Mitchell House
Though Margaret Mitchell might have called it “the Dump,” the apartment where she wrote “Gone With the Wind” is now a popular literary attraction. Guided tours are offered daily, and the Margaret Mitchell House also offers special exhibits on the making of the Gone With the Wind movie, its 1939 premiere at the Fox Theatre, and Mitchell’s life and writings.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
This can’t-miss attraction showcases significant landmarks of the civil rights movement and the history of both Atlanta and the nation. It’s actually made up of five sites: the home on Auburn Avenue where Dr. King 31was born; Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he began preaching at age 19; the King Center, where Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King are buried; the Peace Plaza, home of the “I Have A Dream” World Peace Rose Garden; and the Visitor’s Center. 404-331-5190, www.nps.gov/malu.
Woodruff Arts Center
This Midtown Atlanta campus is the city’s foremost temple to the visual and performing arts. The High Museum of Art is the Southeast’s leading art museum, with more than 14,000 paintings, sculptures and artifacts in its permanent collection. TheTony Award-winning Alliance Theatre is known for launching Broadway shows and ambitious world premieres. And Symphony Hall is home to the Grammy Award-winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. 404-733-5000, www.woodruffartscenter.com.
Children’s Museum of Atlanta
This downtown destination stimulates the imagination and encourages a sense of discovery with interactive exhibits that let kids experience life on a farm, create works of art, engage in creative problem-solving, and more. 404-659-5437, www.childrensmuseumatlanta.org.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
There are a lot of cool things about the Fernbank Museum: the striking dinosaur skeletons in the grand lobby; the fossils embedded in the limestone floors; the twinkling constellations in the Star Gallery. A recently announced expansion of the museum will add a 75-acre forest with immersive trails, play areas and sensory stations. 404-929-6300, www.fernbankmuseum.org.
This popular spot was billed as the world’s largest aquarium when it opened in 2005, and it’s only grown since. The aquarium is the home of more than 100,000 animals, with hundreds of species including sharks, beluga whales, sea otters, dolphins, penguins, sea turtles and many more. The dolphins even star in their own musical show. In addition to its themed galleries, the aquarium offers visitors unique experiences like behind-the-scenes tours, penguin encounters and even diving with whale sharks. 404-581-4000, www.georgiaaquarium.org.
Six Flags Over Georgia
Families and thrill-seekers alike have been coming to this Austell theme park for nearly 50 years to ride roller coasters like the Georgia Cyclone, Great American Scream Machine and Mind Bender. In 2015, the theme park will add two rides: The Joker Chaos Coaster and Harley Quinn Spinsanity. 770-739-3400, www.sixflags.com/overgeorgia.
World of Coca-Cola
It’s only fitting that the World of Coca-Cola is located in Pemberton Park, a downtown plaza boasting some of the city’s top attractions: It’s named after John S. Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola. The World of Coca-Cola celebrates Pemberton’s invention with exhibits about the soft drink brand’s history, memorable advertising campaigns and global reach. There’s even a Taste It! room where you can sample Coca-Cola sodas from around the world, including Italy’s bitter Beverly and the rarest of Fantas. 404-676-5151, www.worldofcoca-cola.com.
Ever wanted to feed a giraffe? Meet an African elephant? How about spy on a giant panda cub? You’re in luck: Zoo Atlanta offers all of these experiences, plus wildlife shows, keeper training demonstrations and more than 200 species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals on display. Don’t miss the giant pandas, Lun Lun and Yang Yang, and their twins. The zoo also offers educational summer camps and NightCrawler overnight adventures for kids and families. 404-624-9453, www.zooatlanta.org.
Parks And Recreation
Atlanta Botanical Garden
Just off Piedmont Park, the Botanical Garden is devoted to developing and maintaining an impressive collection of plants for education, research, conservation and enjoyment. Must-see areas include the Fuqua Orchid Center (the nation’s largest collection of orchids under glass), the Kendeda Canopy Walk above the Storza Woods, and the elegant Rose Garden. 404-876-5859, www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org.
It might seem like an odd pick, but Oakland Cemetery, a Southern example of the garden cemeteries popular in the mid to late 1800s, is one of the city’s most peaceful green spaces. More than 1,400 trees dot its 48 acres, and heirloom daffodils, garden mums, irises and evergreens can be enjoyed throughout the year. Take a self-guided stroll or opt for one of the cemetery’s popular guided tours, highlighting its most famous residents. 404-688-2107, www.oaklandcemetery.com.
Every city has its hallowed ground, and Piedmont Park is Atlanta’s. This sprawling, 189-acre oasis in the Midtown neighborhood is one of the city’s most popular gathering spaces, and is the site of numerous festivals, concerts and other special events. Piedmont Park also features tennis courts, softball and soccer fields, volleyball courts and an aquatic center. The city’s premier greenspace, it’s a top spot for joggers, swimmers, sunbathers, and anyone in need of fresh air. 404-875-7275, www.piedmontpark.org.
Stone Mountain Park
Located just east of the city, this is the perfect spot to spend the day hiking—and the night enjoying a laser show on an 825-foot stone mountainside. Stone Mountain is known for its Civil War memorial carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, and also offers fishing, golf, plenty of hiking and numerous festivals throughout the year. 800-401-2407, www.stonemountainpark.com.
Spots For Sports Nuts
College Football Hall of Fame
The College Football Hall of Fame moved from its original home in South Bend, Indiana, to downtown Atlanta last year. New for the museum is the Fan Experience, which adds tons of interactive multimedia features—plus a giant Helmet Wall, with helmets from more than 700 college football teams. 404-880-4800, www.cfbhall.com.
From the months of April through October, Turner Field is the home of the Atlanta Braves, the city’s Major League Baseball team. In 2014, the Braves announced a move to a new stadium currently being built in Cobb County, but until 2017, Turner Field is the only place to go for big-league catches, hammered home runs and the best hot dogs in town. 404-522-7630, www.atlantabraves.com.
One of downtown Atlanta’s newest attractions, the 20-story SkyView Ferris wheel gives visitors spectacular skyline views, day and night. Fifteen-minute trips let you take four rotations on the wheel’s climate-controlled gondolas; VIP gondolas boast leather seats and a glass floor. And it’s located just off Centennial Park, making it a great way to start or finish a day of downtown exploration. 678-949-9023, www.skyviewatlanta.com.
Sun Dial Restaurant
Located atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel in downtown Atlanta, this popular spot for marriage proposals takes “a table with a view” to an entirely new level. The Sun Dial is a three-story rotating restaurant, offering diners spectacular panoramic views of Atlanta’s skyline. The upscale restaurant features contemporary American cuisine, a cocktail lounge, an observatory view level and live jazz. 404-589-7506, www.sundialrestaurant.com.
The Center For Civil And Human Rights
Atlanta’s Newest Must-See Cultural Destination
The Center for Civil and Human Rights is an engaging cultural attraction in downtown Atlanta that connects the American civil rights movement to global human rights movements of today. The New York Times called the Center the “main event” in downtown Atlanta’s renaissance, due in part to its singular architectural design by world-renowned architect Phil Freelon.
The Center fulfills its mission “to empower people to take the protection of every human’s rights personally” through its award-winning exhibitions. The interactive, surround-sound lunch counter exhibition allows visitors to place their palms on the counter to experience the threats the heroic sit-in protestors braved in Greensboro, North Carolina. The “Who Like Me” responsive mirrors allow visitors to stand face-to-face with an everyday individual from around the world to hear their personal accounts of injustice and discrimination.
The Center serves as the exclusive public venue for the Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection, displaying the personal papers and artifacts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Center also features the original work of world-renowned photographer Platon, whose striking photographic mural honors activists from the U.S., Egypt and Burma. In the lobby, visitors are welcomed by designer Paula Scher’s vibrant mural, a collage of global protests through the years united by the central illustration of a single upraised hand for hope and freedom.
Conveniently located next to the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium at Pemberton Place, the Center for Civil and Human Rights is the new must-see destination in Atlanta for all generations.
For more details, hours, and ticket information, call 678-999-8990 or visit www.civilandhumanrights.org.
5 More Places Worth Exploring
Located next to Zoo Atlanta, the Cyclorama features a rotating, 360-degree depiction of the Battle of Atlanta, an important Civil War skirmish. 404-658-7625, www.atlantacyclorama.org.
Take a tour of the 24-hour news giant’s Atlanta studios, including the set of “Morning Express With Robin Meade.” 404-827-2300, www.cnn.com/tour.
Gone With the Wind Museum
A fascinating shrine to the classic novel and film, with movie memorabilia, some of Margaret Mitchell’s personal volumes of the book, and much more.
Interactive Neighborhood For Kids
Located in Gainesville, Ga., this unique attraction encourages hands-on learning as kids discover what it’s like to shop for groceries, go to the bank, and more. 770-536-1900, www.inkfun.org.
Legoland Discovery Center
This 35,000-square-foot interactive playground features 15 attractions, including a 4D cinema, a LEGO factory tour, a Master Builder Academy and much more. 404-848-9252, www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com/atlanta.