Founded in 1837, Atlanta is the capital and largest city of Georgia. As one of the biggest airport hubs in the US, it is also a popular destination for a city break. This urban jewel of the New South offers plenty of things to see and do, including major sporting events, world-class museums, a sizzling food scene, luxurious mega-malls and Civil War lore galore. If all you know about Atlanta is from Gone with the Wind, you’re in for a treat. This phoenix-like city has risen from the ashes of two great fires into a modern, cosmopolitan hotspot that hasn’t forgotten its historic heritage. Here are 11 reasons to visit Atlanta, Georgia.
1. Visit the Georgia Aquarium
Home to tens of thousands of sea creatures held in some 10 million gallons of water, the Georgia Aquarium is one of the largest in the world. Its famous exhibits include whale sharks and the Ocean Voyager tunnel, which allows you to walk right through a breathtaking underwater world. Visitors should also check out the dolphin aquarium, the latest addition to the complex. All ages can enjoy a day at this world class institution, which is also dedicated to marine research and conservation.
2. Explore the World of Coca Cola
Home to one of the world’s most famous global brands, Atlanta sports a museum showcasing the history of Coca Cola. Perhaps you’ve heard of the fizzy beverage? The World of Coca Cola features an extensive display of memorabilia and vintage advertising, an exhibition detailing the manufacturing process and a product-tasting center. One of Atlanta’s favorite attractions, the museum welcomes more than a million annual visitors.
3. Peruse the Fernbank Museum of Natural History
A world-class venue for lovers of natural history, the Fernbank Museum has an extensive range of both permanent and temporary exhibitions showcasing the history of the natural world. Among its exhibits is a 37-meter long life-size recreation of the largest dinosaur ever discovered, the Argentinosaurus. The venue also has a 22-meter IMAX theater which brings the prehistoric world to cinematic life.
4. Enjoy the Atlanta Ballet
Atlanta is home to the oldest ballet company in the US, founded in 1929. Employing 20 professional ballerinas, the Atlanta Ballet holds most of its events in the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center and the Fox Theater. The latter is a major attraction in itself, since it is one of the grandest historical landmarks in the city.
5. Watch the Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves are a Major League Baseball team that plays its home games in the famous Turner Field. The regular season takes place from April to September. Turner Field is also home to the Ivan Allen Jr. Baseball Museum and the Hall of Fame, both of which are open around the year. Visitors can also enjoy dinner at the Braves Chop House at the ballpark.
6. See the Centennial Olympic Park
Centennial Olympic Park covers 21 acres, and is the largest public park in downtown Atlanta. It was built during the city-wide regeneration project in 1996 in preparation for the Summer Olympics of that year. It hosts numerous annual events, including an Independence Day fireworks display and concert. Be sure to visit the Fountain of Rings with its projected light shows synchronized to music.
7. Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day
Being home to a large population of Irish descendants, Atlanta celebrates one of the biggest St. Patrick’s Day festivals in the US. The celebrations feature a parade that starts on Peachtree Street in Midtown at noon before moving towards Downtown. The parade features a mix of floats, bands, dancers, bagpipers and more, making it the ultimate family-friendly event if you are in town on March 17.
8. Walk around Grant Park
Founded in 1895, the charming Grant Park is the oldest city park in Atlanta. A delightful place to wander around and unwind for an afternoon, the park is situated in the city’s oldest historic district. Other major attractions in the area include Zoo Atlanta and the Atlanta Cyclorama, which details the Battle of Atlanta during the American Civil War.
9. Go Shopping
As one of the largest retail centers in the US, Atlanta is an excellent city for those seeking to shop ’til you drop. The city’s many neighborhoods offer a mix of thrift stores, boutiques, galleries, antique stores, outlet malls and world-class shopping centers. The major shopping districts include Downtown, Buckhead, Midtown and Little Five Points, a mecca for hipsters. Head to Atlantic Station for some pedestrian-friendly retail therapy.
10. Tour the CNN Center
Atlanta is home to the CNN Center, headquarters of one of the world’s largest cable and satellite news channels. The studios are open to the public for guided tours. The building, which is entirely owned and operated by CNN and its parent company, is home to a hotel, a large food court, several novelty stores and an atrium featuring huge screens broadcasting streams from all over the world.
11. Center for Civil and Human Rights
As the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr., Atlanta was at the heart of the American Civil Rights Movement. This centrally located museum not only educates visitors on the issues of that turbulent era, but it connects its struggles to the ongoing Global Human Rights Movement of today. It’s an inspiring and empowering venue that is one of the top reasons to visit Atlanta.