Only In Atlanta
Every major city has a story. A confluence of people, places and events that shape its narrative. So, what’s Atlanta’s story, you might ask? It’s a tale forged in fire about a city consistently reinventing itself, and like the mythical phoenix that arose from the ashes, so does ATL. Stronger. Resolute. Home to boundless exploration — and inspiration. Discover what makes the city so unique with these places to visit that are found only in Atlanta.
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Chris Watkins is an Atlanta-based content creator with a deep love and connection to the Atlanta dining and nightlife scene. In his past life he was the Atlanta editor for Thrillist with bylines in the pages of Jezebel Magazine, Men’s Book Atlanta, and Where Atlanta Magazine. He currently operates Watkins Branding, a digital marketing and social media agency with focus on the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Places to Visit that are Only in Atlanta
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Atlanta’s native son, Martin Luther King Jr., left an indelible legacy that stands to this day. The care Coretta Scott King put into preserving the civil rights icon’s history at The King Center, continues at Ebenezer Baptist Church, his birth home and the historic site. The work done here imprints powerful emotional connections and cements Atlanta as the heartbeat of the Civil Rights movement.
Did you know? Atlanta is one of only two cities in the world to lay claim to two Nobel Peace Prize winners – Martin Luther King Jr., and President Jimmy Carter. See the medals on display and learn about the legacies of both men at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park and Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.
THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS
As home to the American Civil Rights Movement and leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, plus countless others who spent their lives championing justice, it was only right to establish a beacon that connects their harrowing efforts to the human rights challenges of today. Opened in 2014, The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a museum and cultural experience like no other. Equal parts modern education and historical record, feel the emotional journey as immersive exhibitions like the “Lunch Counter Sit-In” put you in the position of non-violent protestors in the 1960s.
ATLANTA HISTORY CENTER
If you want to know Atlanta’s story, you go to the source. What started as the Atlanta Historical Society in 1926, a collective of researchers and historians dedicated to preserving Atlanta’s legacy as a titan of the South, later became Atlanta History Center. The museum stands as a testament to all things ATL chronicling our moment in the spotlight as home to the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, a 132-year-old Cyclorama painting capturing the Civil War, and a unique collection of 50 items capturing the essence of what makes us the Capital of the South.
Did you know? Atlanta History Center is home to the Swan House, which was showcased in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” as President Snow’s mansion.
Most wouldn’t consider Atlanta a premier destination for underwater exploration. Still, Georgia Aquarium’s state-of-the-art facility containing more than 10 million gallons of water is an excellent place to start. So, what will you find at the nation’s largest aquarium? Endless wonder. And thousands of deep-sea wildlife species, including whale sharks, beluga whales, manta rays, penguins, sea lions and more. One visit and you’ll quickly see what makes the Georgia Aquarium one of the best places to visit in Atlanta.
WORLD OF COCA-COLA
The world’s favorite soft drink started right here in Atlanta. And, while you’ll find the South’s most pivotal elixir across the globe, there’s only one place that you can visit to understand what makes the brand tick. That’s World of Coca-Cola at Pemberton Place. Part museum dedicated to its history and part Willy Wonka-style tasting facility where you can sip your way through worldwide flavor, you’ll soon understand why this beverage brand commands a cult following. And no, Pepsi is not ok.
ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDEN
ATL’s moniker as “The City in the Forest” speaks to our modern metropolitan areas set within the lush canopy of forests and sprawling parks. Atlanta Botanical Garden takes it one step further boasting notable exhibitions spanning 30 acres of gardens with unique and awe-inspiring flora and fauna. Add larger-than-life topiaries like the Earth Goddess, Dale Chihuly’s masterful glass sculptures, and attendance-breaking seasonal exhibits like Garden Lights, Holiday Nights and Imaginary Worlds — and you’ve got an essential city experience you’ll want to take the time to stop and smell the roses.
It’s a jungle out there, and Zoo Atlanta is front and center, offering an intimate view into the world of the animal kingdom. Most cities have zoos, but ours is something special. From its storied past as a traveling circus that broke down in the Atlanta suburb in 1889 and never left to the modern acclaim of “panda fever,” Zoo Atlanta will continue bringing awe-inspiring animals to those wild at heart.
Did you know? Zoo Atlanta is one of only four zoos in the United States with giant pandas. And better yet, we have giant panda twins!
STONE MOUNTAIN PARK
Welcome to the rock! Always wanted to say that. As the world’s largest exposed mass of granite, Stone Mountain Park is consistently the most popular tourist attraction in Georgia. Across its 3,200 acres of pristine lakes, forests and trails, nature buffs consider it an essential addition to their Atlanta trek offering prime city views and a plethora of seasonal events like their annual Pumpkin Festival and Snow Mountain holiday festivities.
This final resting place is also home to Atlanta’s oldest public park. And, if those two things don’t go hand-in-hand for you, believe us, we get it. Historic Oakland Cemetery is a revered graveyard housing such famous residents to ATL’s story as Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell; former mayor Maynard Jackson; legendary golfer Bobby Jones; and more. But all cemeteries aren’t as spooky as you think, with Oakland being a prime example. You can easily see a family on a leisurely walk through the lush gardens or a couple sitting on a bench enjoying coffee on their first date.
It’s a commonly held belief that most people who live in Atlanta aren’t from Atlanta. There is some truth to the fact that we’re a city of transplants. And no other place in the city encapsulates that more than Buford Highway. The northeast Atlanta community is a melting pot of ethnic diversity, with its unique corridor serving as a pathway to explore global cuisine. There are even tours where you can experience a vibrant world of flavors from Korean and Chinese to Indian and Ethiopian.
Ok, your city may have an original fast-food joint, but does it also contain the world’s largest drive-in? Don’t answer that. We know it doesn’t because ATL’s The Varsity holds that title. Call it a tourist trap, but you can’t knock the Atlanta institution built on a stack of chili cheese dogs, frosted orange milkshakes and eager carhops shouting, “What’ll ya have … What’ll ya have?” For a one-of-a-kind experience, you can’t go wrong with a stop at this famous spot found only in Atlanta.
Did you know: President Barack Obama made a visit to The Varsity and ordered five chili dogs, four hot dogs and a hamburger.
We mentioned that Atlanta has a reputation for consistently reinventing itself. As a former railway corridor in days gone by and victim of urban sprawl, many often wondered what Atlanta would be like if its neighborhoods were easily walkable and connected. Enter Atlanta BeltLine. What started as a grad student’s urban redevelopment thesis soon became one of the most notable redevelopment projects in the United States. The 22-mile loop of trails and parks interspersed with housing, restaurants and art installations is the city’s crown jewel for sustainability.
HIGH MUSEUM OF ART
With a vast breadth of classical paintings, sculptures, statues and modern, experiential art activations, the only place the High Museum of Art could exist in the Southeast is Atlanta. Its home in Midtown amplifies the eclectic neighborhood’s reputation as the city’s “heart of the arts.” The High’s diverse approach to exhibits, both equally mesmerizing and thought-provoking, echoes Atlanta’s dichotomy in being a melting pot of brilliant people and ideas.
CENTER FOR PUPPETRY ARTS
Atlanta is home to the largest museum dedicated to puppetry. No, not the sock and paper bag puppets you grew up with — the good ones. Center for Puppetry Arts opens up this fascinating world of splendor to both kids and adults. From signature performances and educational seminars to workshops and displays of famed puppets like the Muppets, Sesame Street and more, let your imagination run wild at this Atlanta original.
TRAP MUSIC MUSEUM
Like Coca-Cola, trap music is one of the Atlanta exports that redefined the game as we know it. Spun out of a struggle to provide for their families in direct conflict with the law, these experiences provided the framework for a musical genre that showcased these stories through passion and pain and solidified ATL as one of the great musical meccas. Chronicling that journey is the Trap Music Museum. An interactive experience, art installation and cultural phenomenon putting visitors in the minds of the city’s hottest artists like T.I., Jeezy, Migos and more. If you want to see that the South has something to say, this speaks it loud and clear.
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