Exploring the best sights of Atlanta on a weekend trip.
The metropolis and one of the central business hubs of the US also has a number of historical and touristic sights. With a weekend to spare, I set off to explore a selection of the most interesting and popular attractions.
Based out of the Westin Buckhead Atlanta I used the convenient MARTA system to travel around the city. Every major attraction can be reached by this public transportation system and some leg work. With an Atlanta CityPASS, which can be purchased at any of the participating sights, I was able to see many of the major attractions with a decent discount.
Atlanta History Center
Near the center of Buckhead is the historic area where the Swan House and the Smith Family Farm is located along with the museum covering the Civil War, Bobby Jones, the Atlanta Olympics among other exhibitions. On the farm they had reenactments of live during that period.
Lenox Square Mall
Not really a huge tourist attraction, this mall is convenient place to get some shopping done if you are in the Buckhead area. As it was right across the street from the Westin, I ended up in the mall more than I care to admit.
Margaret Mitchell House
Downtown the ticket from the Atlanta History Center included this gem. Film and literary fans will know the name of the famous author who brought to life “Gone with the Wind”. A visit to the apartment of Mitchell is an intimate window into the life of the controversial writer. An attached small museum exhibits some of the items used on the set of the movie such as the original painting of Scarlet that was dented when Rhett threw a glass at it. The gift shop offers some neat collectables.
High Museum of Art
The popular museum of modern art holds important works from around the world. On my visit I saw some interesting sculptures that reflect the viewer such as Untitled, 2010 by Anish Kapoor. An exhibit by Alex Katz was also on display.
Outside families enjoyed the swings attached to a sculpture display and locals lounged around.
This large cemetery is home to the remains of thousands of Confederate soldiers from the Civil War as well as the tomb of Margaret Mitchell and the golf ball covered tomb of Bobby Jones. There is a visitor center where tourists can go on an organized tour or purchase a map for a self guided one.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial
The legend’s birthplace, church, and tomb is all located in the National Park run historical area. Visitors can go into the home of MLK on a free tour. A museum of the history of the movement traces the path to equality. Ebenezer Baptist Church where King preached at is also a historical site.
A long reflection pool holds the tomb of King and his wife, next to which an eternal flame burns in commemoration.
Inside CNN Studio Tour
The media giant is headquartered here in Atlanta and a tour of the facilities has become a popular attraction. On entering the building, the massive atrium with a large globe structure and a wall of flags from around the world signify the worldwide coverage of the outlet. With a ticket in hand, I joined the next available tour. After a security check with metal detectors, we went up the longest unsupported escalator in the world and started the tour. Our guide showed us a film and how a live broadcast is organized. We were introduced to the production of a news set and how modern high density screens are replacing the traditional blue and green screen effects.
The most interesting part of the tour was a window into the actual offices where CNN and HLN worked. People scattered across desks with multiple monitors worked in some chaotic symphony to create the broadcasts that millions see around the world everyday.
It was kind of fun to walk the hallways alongside newscasters that we just saw on live TV.
This large aquarium is mostly directed towards families and children, though the large tanks with belugas, whale sharks, and mantas are impressive and mesmerizing. There was a dolphin tank, which was a bit sad to see after all the bad publicity of how these for profit organizations procure and treat their animals.
The aquarium is organized by ecosphere, so there was the Cold Water Quest with beluga whales, Ocean Voyager with whale sharks, Tropical Diver with tropical reef life, Georgia Explorer with Georgia’s coastal animals, and River Scout with otters and albino alligators. A 4D movie for children was actually quite enjoyable to sit through.
One bizarre though unique offering was the BODIES Exhibit take on sea life, Sea Monsters Revealed: Aquatic Bodies, with a mummified mako shark, whale shark and even a penguin with its organs exposed on display.
World of Coca Cola
My least favorite of the attractions, the World of Coca Cola, was a paid exhibit where visitors are force fed coke advertising and branding. Though the brand is an American symbol and the company has done well, spanning the world with a huge market shares, the over-the-top self importance throughout the entire experience was overwhelming and even nauseating (especially after drinking several cups of the company’s offerings at the end of the tour).
The start of the tour is a feel-good video that is so cliche and cheesy that it immediately sets the tone for the rest of the exhibits. After the video, you have access to the lobby of the building where you can explore the different exhibits. The Vault of the Secret Formula is a tribute to the secret recipe of Coca Cola which has a copy of the recipe locked behind giant steel doors. You can take photo-ops with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear. Upstairs is a 4D film in which no one received 3D glasses to watch the 20 minute ad featuring a mad scientist and his sidekick’s quest to unlock the secret ingredient of coca cola, which turns out to be “you”. Yes, the drinkers of the product and their love for the product are what makes the product great… Woohoo.
If that’s not enough, you can watch real ads on loop in the Perfect Pauses Theater.
The only redeeming part of the tour was the Bottle Works where visitors can see real equipment, though they are only on display and not actually bolting coke and Taste it! the last room which had a selection of the company’s products from every continent which visitors could taste to their hearts’ content. Though after a couple of glasses, the sugary substances all tasted the same. It was fun to see Stoney Tangawizi which I enjoyed in Tanzania.
Atlanta certainly has maintained his southern charm in its fascinating historical sites and managed to attract plenty of tourists with its commercial sights. With a vibrant downtown and business district with plenty of restaurants and bar, Atlanta offers much more than meets the eye and definitely is worth exploring!