Tonight’s Super Bowl LI faceoff between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons reminded me of a post I wanted to do on my trip to Atlanta right before the New Year. Ironically, the timing of this quick vacation was during a college football bowl game, being held in Atlanta. Yet our focus was not about the game, but more so about quickly seeing as much of this Georgian city in four days.
Joining me on this trip were relatives in age from toddler and teen to young and older adult. So we saw places that seemed to cater to everyone’s liking. Here is what we saw and did.
Margaret Mitchell House & Museum
You may or may not recognize this woman’s name, but you must know her famous novel turned blockbuster movie, “Gone with the Wind.” At first, I thought this building was her childhood home, but it’s actually the place where Mitchell and her second husband John Marsh lived after getting married. Once an apartment building, Mitchell and Marsh lived on the ground floor, and it’s where Mitchell wrote almost all of her fictional story about the Civil War. Take a guided tour, which goes into Mitchell’s life and connection to writing, particularly through her work as a reporter for a local paper.
The Georgia Aquarium is said to be one of the best aquariums out there and was for a while the largest in the world. A ton of fresh and salt water creatures are kept here, by what makes it super cool is that it houses a number of whale sharks in its Ocean Voyager habitat area. There are about six sections, including ones for animals who live in chilly climates (yes, find penguins here) and an impressive tropic fish tank. In one part of the Georgia Aquarium, enter a glass-encased walkway with occupants like manta rays and smaller sharks whiz by or chill out. It’s across the way from Centennial Olympic Park, a 21-acre green space in downtown Atlanta that is the legacy of the city’s hosting of the 1996 Summer Olympics.
The World of Coca Cola
Straight across from The Georgia Aquarium, this tourist attraction is obviously all about Coca Cola. And you get your taste for this iconic beverage as soon as you get inside. Upon entry, staff hand out free cans of different types of Coca Cola to visitors. A “Vault of the Secret Formula” apparently holds the well-guarded recipe and tells about its creation. We didn’t see it but instead spent much of our time at “Taste It!” The second level floor holds soda machines containing beverages owned by the Coca-Cola Company that are sold around the world. Divided by continent, you can try soft drinks that are popular in Asia (go for India’s Thums Up), Africa (Madagascar’s got a citrusy one) and South, North, and Latin America.
Center for Puppetry Arts
If you’re a Muppets fan, get to this museum. It’s actually a nonprofit organization that educates about puppet theater via a museum and education center. Jim Henson was here for the ribbon cutting ceremony in 1978, and many of his character creations are permanently stored in a section called “The Jim Henson Collection.” While you might geek out in this area, spend time in another section called “The Global Collection” that focuses on puppetry traditions across the world.
Jimmy Carter Library and Museum
If you’ve never to a U.S. presidential museum, you have the chance to see one in Atlanta. There’s a lot of good archival information on our 39th President, starting from his boyhood in rural Georgia, to his naval career, to his entry into politics as a Georgia state senator and governor. And of, there is much about his presidency, including a recreation of the White House’s Oval Office during the term of his administration. Nowadays, Jimmy Carter and his Rosalynn focus on humanitarian led efforts across the world, and the museum shows videos relating the couple’s work. We found that the easiest way to get here was via Uber or Lyft, unless you have your own car.
One reason to visit this zoo: it’s one of only four in the U.S. that currently houses giant pandas. There are many other strong points too. As Atlanta’s oldest attraction, this zoo contains around 1,300 animals (more than 200 species) from around the world in various naturalistic habitats. Birds, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals from every corner of the globe roost here, with setups including the Flamingo Plaza, Scaly Slimy Spectacular, and The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Giant Panda Conservation Center.
If you have time, I suggest heading to Decatur, a next-door city with a trending scene of restaurants, coffee shops, and other eateries. We stopped at Butter and Cream for homemade ice cream flavors like Honeycomb Forest, and then we shared a specialty poutine dish at Leons Full Service. Back in Atlanta, visit the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which includes the leader’s birth home and final resting place.
These are my final tips. Take advantage of MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) for getting around. It’s easy to follow and can take you to and from the airport. We stayed at Hyatt Regency Atlanta, based in the downtown area. It’s perfectly situated, with a lower level food court and direct access to MARTA. Also, consider getting Atlanta CityPASS, as this ticket booklet includes some of the attractions I’ve listed.