Hotlanta – capitol of the peach state, land of Coca-Cola and home of the Braves. But I’ll let you in on a local secret – despite sweltering summer temps and hair raising humidity, we natives don’t really call it that. No, to us it’s just Atlanta. Or the ATL. Or A-town. Depends on who I’m speaking to and how much rap I’ve listened to that day. As a native ATLien, I know my way around town and I love playing tour guide. When exploring a city, I tend to opt for spots that are unique and representative of the history and culture of the area itself. This means that I tend to skip things that I can see or do anywhere. An acquaintance recently passed through my beloved city; I was saddened to hear that he wasn’t wowed by Atlanta. “But you missed the best spots! I wish I’d been able to show you around!” I said to him. I’m beckoning him to return for a do-over. If I’d toured him about, I would have taken him to these places:
Atlanta History Center – The Atlanta History Center is the perfect spot to get schooled in Atlanta’s rich history before delving further into to our fine city. Featuring exhibitions on The Civil War, Atlanta’s expansion from farm to city, Southern Folk Art, the Centennial Olympic games, and more. The historic gardens host several historic structures including an antebellum farmhouse, Swan House, a log cabin depicting North Georgia settler life, and more. For all of you Hunger Games fans, the Atlanta History Center’s Swan House serves as Governor Snow’s mansion in the films. All that history can make you hungry – I suggest hitting the Swan Coach House for afternoon tea or a nibble. Reservations are recommended.
Margaret Mitchell House – Also owned by the Atlanta History Center is the home of famous author Margaret Mitchell from 1925-1932 while she was writing the novel Gone With The Wind. The house includes the Gone With The Wind movie museum, the reconstructed apartment #1 in which Mitchell lived, rotating exhibitions, and The Literary Center. This is ticketed separately from AHC and is located offsite near the Midtown MARTA station. If you can’t get enough of Antebellum Atlanta, take a 30 minute jaunt on down to Jonesboro and tour theStately Oaks Plantation.
Fox Theater – Built in the 1920s as the Yaarab Temple Shrine Mosque, with an intricate Arabian-themed design, The Fox is a beloved ATL landmark. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the interior of the theater has undergone extensive restoration to preserve its original elegance. Performances include operas, ballet, concerts, movies (with Mighty Mo’ organ singalongs), and more. In addition to the theater, there are two exquisite ballrooms, the Egyptian Ballroom and the Grand Salon. Even the Fox’s furniture has been painstakingly restored to compliment the 1920s appearance. Take in a show at the largest movie palace in the Southeast or take a guided tour to witness this architectural jewel. The summer movie series features classic movies on the big screen complete with preshow Mighty Mo’ organ sing along.
World of Coke – Atlanta is synonymous with Coca-Cola. Always Coca- Cola! Don’t say Pepsi ’round these parts – you’ll get the stink eye from die hard Coke patrons. This fun for all ages museum features an in-depth history of the creation and development of Coke, interactive experiences like the Virtual Taste Maker, which invites you to create taste and flavor combinations the same way early pharmacists and inventors did, and more. Experience Coke’s 4D theater, view iconic Coca-Cola pop art, and meet Coke’s Polar Bear (snap a photo with your new furry friend). My favorite part is the Tasting Room featuring 100+ international and domestic beverages made by The Coca Cola Company. Try the Beverly, it’s the most memorable to me.
CNN Center – Tour CNN Worldwide for an up-close look at global news in the making! The Inside CNN Studio Tour is a 55-minute guided walking tour with exclusive, behind-the-scenes views of Atlanta’s CNN studios. Visitors can take a stab at reporting and witness news and broadcasting in action from the world headquarters of CNN, The Worldwide Leader in News.
Oakland Cemetery – NOLA has St. Louis Cemetery, Atlanta has Oakland – This sprawling 88 acre burial site boasts magnificent mausoleums, headstones, figures, and a huge helping of history. Oakland is the final resting place for such notable figures as Margaret Mitchell (author of Gone With The Wind), Bobby Jones (famous golfer), casualties of the Civil War, and more notable Atlanta figures than you can shake a stick at. Surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city, this green space is a lovely retreat for a stroll. It’s magical at sunset and makes for fantastic photo ops with the city skyline serving as backdrop to the ornate grave sites. Special tours and events occur throughout the year – my favorite runs in the fall and features tours given by actors playing residents of the cemetery who give guests tidbits of Atlanta history while guests sip libations as they stroll the Victorian gardens after dusk. Hop on over to one of the rooftop bars across the street pre or post stroll for a cocktail and spectacular city views. I suggest Six Feet Under (see what they did there?) or Republic Social House.
King Center – Located on historic Auburn Avenue these historic two blocks include the birthplace of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr and Ebenezer Baptist Church where MLK and his father were ministers. Immediately adjoining these two blocks is the Freedom Hall Complex which includes MLK Jr.’s grave. The King Center is also in this area.
Stay tuned for upcoming Atlanta posts from your favorite Georgia peach featuring my food/beverage favorites, neighborhoods I dig, more see and do recommendations featuring lesser known spots of interest, and more.
*All of these attractions are easily accessible by MARTA (Atlanta’s public transit system). Atlanta traffic will make you madder than a wet hen – taking MARTA can save you time, money, and the pain/cost of parking. The people watching on MARTA is an experience in itself. If you plan on hitting more than one of these attractions, I suggest buying an Atlanta City Pass.
Also, if you ever find yourself on the south side of Atlanta, check out these Happenin’ Hot Spots in the quaint city of Hapeville located right by Hartsfield Jackson airport.
About the Author: Jeannine is a born and bred southern gal hailing from Atlanta, GA. She fell in love with world exploration and cultural immersion during a trip to Barcelona, Spain in 2001 where she participated in a Spanish language immersion program. She’s been on the go ever since. Whether it’s a weekend trip or a month abroad- she is always up for adventure. Her trips are usually taken at the last minute, often solo, with little to no advance planning and that’s how she likes it. She’s a seasoned pro at tripping on the fly, working out the details and kinks as she goes. She makes the most out of each trip by connecting with travelers and locals, diving into the culture that surrounds her, and living in the moment. Jeannine is well versed in travel and enjoys sharing her travel tips and experiences with others so that they too can make the most of each trip. When she’s not scrambling to pack for adventure, she enjoys watching foreign films, hiking, baking, bartending, and volunteering in her community. Check out Jeannine’s blog, Jeannine on the Go, and follow her on Twitter.