Atlanta is one of the oldest cities in the US, and yet one of the most up-and-coming. Once a hub of old-world propriety and the Old South, it has become the vanguard of the New South combining southern traditions with sleek modernism. A trip to Atlanta continues to offer the manners and cuisine made famous in films like Gone With the Wind. However, it is also home to three skylines, a burgeoning music industry, and a flourishing downtown. Here is a look at some of the top sites to see in “Hotlanta.”
Best Organized Tours
- Atlanta City Electric Car Guided, 90-Minute Sightseeing Tour · 173 reviews
- Atlanta Walking Dead Tour with Guide, Part 1: Big Zombie Tour · 129 reviews
- Atlanta CityPASS, including Atlanta's Top Tourist Attractions · 101 reviews
- Atlanta Segway Tour: Midtown Sightseeing · 48 reviews
Located in the city’s arts district in Midtown, the High Museum of Art is one of the leading art museums in the South and one of the most visited tourist attractions in Atlanta. The Museum was founded in 1905 as the Atlanta Art Association. In 1926, the High family, for whom the museum is named, donated their family home on Peachtree Street to house the collection. In 1983, a new building designed by Richard Meier opened to house the High Museum of Art. Visitors can see a variety of works from 19th and 20th century American, European, African and African-American artists, as well as decorative arts, photography, and modern and contemporary art.
This park in the Northeastern Atlanta near Midtown began life as an out-of-the-city gentleman’s farm owned by a doctor named Benjamin Walker. It went through a series of owners, ultimately ending up the property of the Piedmont Exposition Company. The park has had several architects of importance working on different parts, most notably Olmstead of Central Park fame, who created many pathways still in use today. It also includes a large basketball complex, and was home of Atlanta’s first team in the early twentieth century. A large fishing lake, playscape, and large lawn that is host to many concerts are just a few of the other offerings here.
This historic site includes several buildings, including the boyhood home of this civil rights leader, as well as the church where his father, and later King himself first came to preach. The firehouse that was once a main community center in the sixties, a civil rights walk of fame, and the “I Have a Dream” international world peace rose garden are also a part of this historic park. Opposite the visitor center, a large mural depicts scenes in Dr. Martin Luther King’s life. The site hosts several large events, particularly during Martin Luther King day and Black History Month.
Created for the 1996 Summer Olympics that was hosted in this city, Olympic Park continues to be a tourist draw every year. Located downtown between the Aquarium and the CNN center, the park has several fun features. An interactive fountain of Olympic rings is synchronized with lights, water jets and music. This is surrounded by a collection of the flags of all of the host nations of the previous Olympics. A large, air-conditioned Ferris wheel and large lawn that hosts a summer outdoor concert series are just some of the other features of this historic location of athletic excellence.
This garden sits adjacent to Piedmont Park, and has a number of different sections, each highlighting a different region, plant, or animal type. These include a Japanese garden, a rose garden, woodland areas and a children’s garden. One of the main highlights of the botanical garden is the indoor Fuqua Conservatory which hosts a range of tropical, desert and subtropical plants and animals. The nation’s largest orchid collection, tropical birds, turtles and poison dart frogs. For those who are not afraid of heights, the woodland park has a large canopy walk that allows guests to explore the treetops. The botanical garden often hosts art exhibits and other charity events. The most notable of these was a display of the glass work of Dale Chihuly in 2004, and brought half a million guests to the gardens.
This park in Metro Atlanta boasts a huge monolith called Stone Mountain. The bas-relief on the mountain’s north face is the biggest in the world. It features a sculpture called the Confederate Memorial Carving of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. The top rises 825 feet (251 meters) above the surrounding area and provides a beautiful view of Atlanta. The nearby museum Confederate Hall has information about the mountain’s geology. There is also the Antebellum Plantation and Farmyard, which is an open air museum complete with farm animals that visitors can pet and 19 historic buildings meant to depict a pre-Civil War plantation.
Originally planned as a Moorish architecture Shrine temple, the Fox Theatre ultimately developed as a lavish movie theater. It later became a performing arts theater, and continues to host the Atlanta Ballet, traveling Broadway events, and some music concerts. The theatre is a draw even for those who aren’t going to see a show, as the combined Egyptian and Islamic architecture creates a spectacle that is worth taking a tour. The theater inside is fashioned like an Arabian courtyard, complete with a twinkling crystal starry sky. There is also a large ballroom designed after the temple of Ramses II, and the mezzanine for the women’s’ restroom has King Tut’s throne and little sphinxes on the makeup tables.
The world’s best-known news franchise deserves a headquarter just as spectacular, and in this case, the CNN center definitely delivers. The center connects to a large food court atrium, which is shared by Centennial Olympic Park, Phillips Arena, the Georgia Dome, and the Georgia Conference Center. There are studio tours available, which include demonstrations of the technology used and visits to viewing galleries overlooking the newsrooms and newsreaders of CNN. There is a large, attached hotel where guests can stay, especially those hoping to get a sneak peek at their favorite newscaster or special guest to the studios.
For anyone who has ever wondered what Coca-Cola tastes like in every nation of the world, this is the place to go. One of the top attractions in Atlanta, a new museum was revamped and relocated in 2007 to house a larger collection of company paraphernalia. Sixty years of jingles, ads dating back to the 1800’s, and a 4-D movie experience are just a few of the things to experience here. One of the biggest draws here is the updated tasting room that not only allows guests to discover the preferred formula versions from different parts of the world, as well as rare local drinks via their customized freestyle machine.
Georgia Aquarium has the honor of being the largest in the Western Hemisphere, and before it was beaten by the aquarium in Singapore, it was the largest in the world. A number of especially notable species can be found here, including beluga whales and manta rays. This aquarium is the only location outside of Asia where a whale shark, the world’s largest fish, can be found. It is divided into five ecoregions, including tropical reefs, open ocean, arctic waters, freshwater rivers and large marine mammals. As part of a conservation project, the aquarium has been working on a captive beluga whale breeding program, though a successful calving has not yet been achieved.