Born as a railroad town in the 19th century, Atlanta famously burnt down during the Civil War and was a fountainhead for the Civil Rights movement in the 50s and 60s as the home city of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Beginning with the Olympics in 1996, Downtown Atlanta has been regenerated with world-beating visitor attractions like the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola, while the intown cityscape is now threaded with greenery thanks to the Atlanta BeltLine.
This project has turned abandoned railroad tracks and empty lots into green corridors, and revitalised industrial architecture.
In this time, Atlanta has also become a production centre of Georgia’s flourishing film industry, as a shooting location for Marvel Movies and backdrop for hit TV shows like Atlanta, The Walking Dead and Stranger Things.
Tip: Get the Atlanta CityPass
Let’s explore the best things to do in Atlanta:
1. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park
Over 35 acres just east of Downtown Atlanta, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park is dotted with places tied to Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement in Atlanta.
By the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change you can pay your respects at the tomb of MLK and his wife Coretta Scott King, which sits at the centre of a reflecting pool, with an eternal flame burning close by.
The center itself presents King’s nonviolent message via audiovisual material, as well as through King’s preserved writings.
The Visitor Center at 449 Auburn Avenue hosts the interactive exhibition, “Courage to Lead”, which tracks the converging paths of MLK and the civil rights movement.
The International Civil Rights Hall of Fame honours key figures in the civil rights movement with footsteps preserved in granite and bronze.
2. Birth Home of Martin Luther King Jr.
At 501 Auburn Avenue in the Sweet Auburn historic district is the house where Martin Luther King Jr. was born and resided for the first 12 years of his life.
Dating back to 1895 and set a block away from the Kings’ Ebenezer Baptist Church, this house was occupied by King Sr. and Alberta Williams after they married in 1926. Free tours of this immaculately preserved property are given by National Park Service rangers, but you’ll need to get here early in the day, as groups are limited to 15 people and fill up on a first-come, first-served basis.
If you can’t get inside there are informative plaques along the street.
3. World of Coca-Cola
The world’s favourite fizzy drink was invented in Atlanta by one John Stith Pemberton in 1886, and the Coca-Cola Company is still headquartered in the city.
The World of Coca-Cola, an attraction celebrating the beverage, first opened in 1990 but moved to a striking new home north of the Centennial Olympic Park in 2007. You could call it a giant advertisement for Coca-Cola, but the drink is a global phenomenon, and the attraction has been put together with real panache so shouldn’t be passed on.
One exhibit allows you to concoct your own fizzy drink, while the “Bottle Works” displays the equipment and processes that are used in a full-sized Coca-Cola bottling plant.
“In Search of the Secret Formula” is a multi-sensory 4D movie experience, and for a bit of razzle-dazzle the “Vault of the Secret Formula” recalls the origins of Coca-Cola’s 130-year-old recipe, how competitors tried to steal it and how the company kept it under wraps.
This adventure might be thirsty work, so “Taste It” allows you to try more than 100 international and domestic beverages produced by the Coca-Cola Company.
Available tour: World of Coca-Cola Self-Guided Admission
4. Georgia Aquarium
The largest aquarium in the world from 2005 to 2012 is the only attraction outside of Asia to hold the world’s largest fish, the whale shark.
The 24,000 cubic metre tank for this species is so big that the remainder of the attraction was constructed around this habitat.
Try to catch one of the two whale shark talks each day for deeper insights on this species.
Another giant here is the beluga whale, which the aquarium keeps in an eight-metre-deep main habitat with three interconnected areas.
There are seven galleries and exhibits in all, housing more than 100,000 individual animals from 700 species.
You’ll get to see creatures as diverse as southern sea otters, California sea lions, green sea turtles, big-bellied seahorses, all sorts of rays and a kaleidoscope of tropical fish like discuses, garibaldis, king anglefish,surgeonfish, silver moonies and sailfin tangs.
Don’t miss the 4D theatre shows or the touchpools where you can find out what cownose rays feel like.
You can save time and get access to special exhibitions with Skip-the-Line Tickets.
5. High Museum of Art
At the Woodruff Arts Center is one of the leading art museums in the region, with a comprehensive collection traversing periods and places, from Italian Medieval painting to contemporary sculpture.
As soon as you arrive you’ll be confronted by Rodin’s The Shade on the Lawn.
This was a gift from the French government following an air disaster at Orly Airport in 1962 that claimed the lives of 106 Atlanta arts patrons visiting Paris on a trip sponsored by this museum.
There are outstanding works by Monet, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Chuck Close and Martin Johnson Heade, as well as one of the most complete surveys of American photography to be found anywhere.
And while the museum’s collection is robust, what makes the High Museum of Art unmissable is its superb temporary exhibitions.
Past shows have featured Monet’s Water Lilies, treasures from London’s V&A, Golden Age paintings from the Hague’s Mauritshuis, Paul Cézanne, Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Andy Warhol.
In summer 2019 you could contemplate European masterpieces by Manet, Picasso, Degas and Cézanne in the Phillips Collection.
6. Atlanta Botanical Garden
Towards the north side of Piedmont Park, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is brimming with themed gardens and attractions.
The first thing to see is the Fuqua Orchid Center, which houses the largest collection of orchids on permanent display in the United States.
Within, check out the Tropical Display House, rich with the scent of orchids from all ends of the earth, and the Tropical High Elevation House, growing orchids found at elevations of 1,800 to 3,000 metres.
The Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory is a treat too, supporting rain forest and desert habitats, as well as live animals like turtles, colourful birds and poison dart frogs.
Outside you can amble pristine formal gardens, like a rose garden, Japanese garden, while there’s a playfully educational Children’s Garden and two tracts of peaceful woodland.
One, Storza Woods, contains the Canopy Walk, a 180-metre-long walkway, through the tops of hickories, oaks and poplars at a height of 12 metres.
Recommended tour: Small Group Tour to Atlanta Botanical Gardens
7. National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Inaugurated in 2014, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights has quickly become one of Atlanta’s essential experiences.
The museum champions the struggles and achievements of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 60s, and shows how that period still resonates in contemporary events.
There are some spine-tingling exhibits relating the Jim Crow era at “Rolls Down Like Water”, like a recreated lunch counter sit-in with earphones simulating the taunts and threats that were directed at activists.
Another permanent exhibition displays some of Martin Luther King’s personal possessions, including a volume of letters purchased by the city for $32m in 2006. “Who Like Me “, in “Spark of Conviction: The Human Rights Movement” sparks empathy with contemporary human rights struggles around the world by showing how people are persecuted for traits that we take for granted or might embody ourselves.
Included in: Atlanta CityPass
8. Piedmont Park
Undulating hills and miles of paved trails in the shadow of Atlanta’s skyscrapers, Piedmont Park is an urban park any city would be proud of.
This former country residence was the scene of two major expositions in the late 19th century, and at the turn of the century was redesigned by the sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, the man who landscaped New York’s Central Park.
Piedmont Park is joined to the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail, and you can rent a bike to glide through the greenery.
There are expertly-planned playground for kids (Mayor’s Grove and Noguchi Playscape are fabulous), as well as facilities for every sport you can think of.
And if you visit on a summer weekend you’re likely to come across an arts or food event, like the Atlanta Jazz Festival in June and Music Midtown in September.
There’s a weekly Green Market on Saturday mornings, while late-May brings the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, and the largest pride festival in the Southeast hits Piedmont Park in October.
9. Centennial Olympic Park
The catalyst for Downtown Atlanta’s regeneration, the Centennial Olympic Park was laid out as a gathering place for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
This 21-acre park in the heart of Downtown was redesigned for everyday use at the end of the games, and is bordered by many of the city’s top attractions and venues.
It remains a place of celebration, hosting the Wednesday WindDown, a series of weekly summer concerts, and Atlanta’s Independence Day concert and fireworks display.
It’s impossible to overstate the amount of change that this area has witnessed in the last 30 years.
Before the park, the CNN Center and Georgia World Congress Center were surrounded by vacant lots and decaying industrial buildings.
Over time, Atlanta mainstays have arrived, like the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, SkyView Atlanta and the swish new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Near the park’s Visitor Center is the Fountain of Rings, an interactive computer-controlled fountain with 251 jets up to ten metres high shooting from the five Olympic Rings.
10. Atlanta History Center
There’s much to get through at this attraction established in 1926 in genteel Buckhead.
The Atlanta History Center is on a 33-acre campus, with six award-winning permanent exhibitions, historic houses and gardens, and plenty of interactive activities.
In 2019 the museum became the venue for the newly restored Atlanta Cyclorama, once the largest oil painting in the world.
Depicting the Battle of Atlanta (1864), this cylindrical work is 15 metres high and around 100 metres long.
You’ll view it by riding an elevator to a circular walkway five metres above the floor.
The Cyclorama shares the building with the restored “Texas” locomotive (1856), which famously gave chase to the “General”. The Atlanta History Center also holds one of the largest exhibitions on the Civil War in the United States, but also goes into the city’s African-American heritage, southern folk art and has a wing telling the story of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Related tour: Atlanta Historical Homes Tour
11. Ponce City Market
The titanic Sears, Roebuck & Co. building (1926) on the newly revitalised BeltLine in the Old Fourth Ward neighbourhood is one of the largest buildings in the Southeast United States.
After Sears moved out in 1987, the city of Atlanta took up residence before the site was sold off in 2011 to be turned into this amazing shopping, dining, entertainment and residential space.
The soul of Ponce City Market is in the Central Food Hall, which is along the same lines as Manhattan’s Chelsea Market for its globetrotting jumble of grab-and -go food stalls, sit-down restaurants and market vendors specialising in cheese, fresh bread, spices and fish.
You’ll need to keep coming back because the choice is almost overwhelming, tempting you with authentic Mexican, Indian and Szechuan street food, biltong, gelato, yakitori, mid-century-style cocktails, Latin small plates, single origin coffee, you name it.
A freight elevator also carries you up to the roof, which has an elevated beer garden, a cocktail bar, boardwalk-style games and an 18-hole mini golf course, all with panoramic views of Atlanta.
Suggested tour: Ponce City Market Food, History and Street Art Tour
12. The Fox Theatre
An incredible piece of architecture, The Fox Theatre is a converted movie palace staging touring Broadway shows, the Atlanta Ballet, movie screenings, important music artists, children’s entertainment and a great deal more.
Completed in 1929 during the golden era of movie palaces, this 4,665 capacity venue looks like a Moorish palace from the outside, from its patterned dome, minarets and horseshoe arches, right down to its use of ablaq, or fluctuating rows of light and dark stone.
Inside, the design alternates between Islamic and Egyptian.
The auditorium is astonishing, in the style of an Arabian patio under a night sky twinkling with crystal stars and even projected clouds wafting over.
Elvis, Ray Charles, James Brown, the Allman Brothers and Outkast have all played the Fox Theatre, while Prince made his last ever performance right here before he passed away in 2016. It’s almost worth booking tickets just to appreciate this monument, but there are also hour-long tours on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
13. Zoo Atlanta
One of only four zoos in the United States to keep giant pandas, Zoo Atlanta was a struggling enterprise in the 1980s but has bounced back in style.
If there’s a marquee animal at this treasured attraction it’s the gorillas of the Ford African Rain Forest.
In 2019 there was a troop of 19 western lowland gorillas, while the Living Treehouse exhibit in the same area features a variety of lemurs, small primates and an aviary with African bird species.
Many family favourites like African elephants, lions, giraffes, zebras and black rhinos await at African Plains, while lurking in the Asian Forest are Sumatran tigers, komodo dragons, orangutans and the ever-popular giant pandas.
The World of Reptiles is fantastic too, holding more than 100 species of snakes, turtles, lizards, tortoises, toads and salamanders from across the globe.
There’s a programme of daily keeper talks, usually entailing a feeding session, at all of the main exhibits.
Book online: Zoo Atlanta Admission
14. Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Obligatory if you’re in Atlanta with kids, the Fernbank Museum of Natural History creates moments of wonder with its dinosaur skeletons, immersive encounters, hundreds of hands-on activities, fossils, life-sized whale replicas, five-storey 4K theatre and 65 acres of mature forest.
“A Walk Through Time in Georgia” is a handy introduction to the state’s natural history, through 15 galleries using geological and fossil records to show what the landscape would have looked like over millions of years.
Youngsters are sure to love the life-sizes bronze statues of dinosaurs outside at “Dinosaur Plaza”, and at “Giants of the Mesozoic” in the Great Hall you’ll be met by argentinosaurus, the largest dinosaur ever recorded, facing off against a 14.3-metre-long giganotosaurus.
Overhead are 21 pterodaustro and three anhanguera keeping their distance from the melee.
“Fernbank NatureQuest” is an immerse space with live animal exhibits and interactives to introduce smaller scientists to the wonder of nature, while “Reflections of Culture” is an ethnographic exhibition exploring traditional and modern clothing, jewellery and body art around the world.
15. Jimmy Carter Library & Museum
It’s hard not to admire Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States (1977-81) who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for the work of the Carter Center in promoting worldwide democracy and fighting disease and poverty.
The Carter Center is headquartered next to the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum, which opened in 1986 and chronicles his career, his single term as president and his work since then.
You’ll find out about Carter’s upbringing, his success as a peanut farmer and how he opposed racial segregation and became politicised by the Civil Rights movement.
There’s an exact replica of Oval Office, with added information provided by recordings of Carter’s voice.
All the gifts presented to Carter by dignitaries are on show, and there’s lots of memorabilia from the campaign trail and his time in office.
A fun exhibit shows off all the sweaters he wore for TV appearances and interviews.
Allow a while to wander the 30 acres of landscaped gardens in the grounds, and grab a bite or cold drink at the Copenhill Café.
16. College Football Hall of Fame
This institution honouring college football’s great players and coaches moved to Atlanta, home of the Peach Bowl, in 2014 after 17 years in South Bend, Indiana.
The building, conceived to resemble a football and containing a 45-yard indoor field, is at the heart of the action at Centennial Olympic Park, close to the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium.
Even if you only have a passing interest in College Football there’s a lot to hold your interest.
The actual hall of fame, with interactive biographies of each inductee, is on the top floor, and on the two levels below are all kinds of high-tech exhibits.
There’s a vast wall of helmets for every college outfit in the country, while a 360° augmented reality booth immerses you in some of college football’s defining moments.
There’s virtual face painting for kids, a big jumbotron broadcasting the action on the indoor field, and if you’re an armchair expert you can take a seat at ESPN’s roving College GameDay desk.
17. Ebenezer Baptist Church
Included in the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park is the church in Sweet Auburn where Martin Luther King Jr. was baptised and where he and his father were pastors.
The building, raised in 1922, is still a spiritual anchor in Sweet Auburn and was restored in the early-2000s.
During this work the sanctuary and fellowship hall were returned to their 1960-68 appearance.
Martin Luther King Sr. spent an astonishing 44 years as pastor here, from 1931 to 1975. Inside there’s an exhibition about the history of the building, as well as audio clips from MLK’s speeches and sermons, and a video of MLK’s sister Christine King Farris recalling her family and the building.
Included in: Martin Luther King Jr. History Walking Tour
18. The Michael C. Carlos Museum
There’s much to love about this museum on Emory University’s main campus, some five miles north-east of Downtown.
The Michael C. Carlos Museum holds the largest inventory of ancient art of any museum in the Southeast.
The collections cover Ancient Egypt, Nubia, Greece, Rome, American pre-Columbian art, the Near East and Africa.
On view are sarcophagi, mummies urns, reliefs and a wealth of statues and busts.
Among these is one of the finest pieces of ancient sculpture in America: A Hellenistic depiction of Terpsichore, the Greek muse of dance.
Also stunning is the collection of art on paper, from the Renaissance to the present.
The museum was founded in 1876, putting it among the oldest in Georgia, and in 1985 moved into its current home, which was given a spectacular expansion in the early-90s by the noted architect Michael Graves.
19. Sweet Auburn Curb Market
The Municipal Market in Sweet Auburn has been trading in this evocative, warehouse-like building since 1924. The market holds 30 local businesses, from produce vendors to amenities like a bookshop and bakery, to some of Atlanta’s most prized small eateries.
The name, Curb Market is used locally, and a holdover from segregation when black vendors weren’t allowed to trade inside and had to sell their wares on the kerb.
If you’re staying at self-catered accommodation, stop here for some first-class produce, be it fish, meat, bread, fruit or vegetables.
Or just bring an appetite and try to choose from Venezuelan (Arepa Mia), Caribbean/African (Afrodish), burritos (Bell Street), Ethiopian cuisine (Metro Deli Soul Food), pho (O Mì Gà), artisan burgers (Grindhouse Killer) or hand-raised savoury pies (Panbury’s Double Crust).
Related tour: Atlanta’s Southern Food Tour
20. Mercedes-Benz Stadium
This angular high-tech wonder, completed in 2017 was almost a decade in the planning and cost $1.4bn to build.
The Mercedes-Benz Stadium is one of five NFL stadiums with a retractable roof, which closes like a multi-leaf lens shutter on a camera.
The main tenants are the always competitive Atlanta Falcons, who came close against the Patriots at the 2017 Super Bowl, and the soccer team Atlanta United FC.
The latter are the best-supported team by crowd size in the MLS and took the MLS Cup in 2018, despite only being formed four years earlier.
Holding 71,000 spectators and boasting the world’s largest video board at 5,793 square metres, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium demands a tour.
You can visit seven days a week to experience some of the astonishing signature features, like the lofty “skybridges” and the Window to the City, for an awesome perspective of Atlanta’s cityscape.
Where Peachtree Road crosses Piedmont Road in uptown Atlanta is a large and affluent neighbourhood hailed as the “Beverly Hills of the East” and spanning the northern fifth of the city.
To the west and north, Buckhead is all mansions in sweeping grounds going back to the 1920s.
Along the Peachtree Road corridor there’s an urban cityscape of high-rise hotels, office towers and apartment buildings.
On this street and Roswell Road in particular there’s no shortage of opulent restaurants, be they venerable upscale eateries or fresh chef-driven concepts.
Some of the Southeast’s most prestigious upscale malls, like Lenox Square, The Shops at Buckhead and Phipps Plaza, are all here.
There’s also a surplus of galleries, museums and performing arts venues like the Buckhead Theatre, with its unmistakeable Spanish baroque decor.
Related tour: 5-Hour Atlanta Sightseeing Bus Tour
22. Atlanta BeltLine
If you haven’t visited Atlanta for a few years you may be shocked by what greets you in the city’s in-town neighbourhoods.
Over the last ten years the Atlanta BeltLine has turned 22 miles of disused railroads into parks, trails and walkways.
This is one of the largest urban regeneration projects in the United States, creating 33 miles of multi-use trails and 1,300 acres of parks, all enriched with temporary public art in the shape of murals and sculptures, both sanctioned and unofficial.
And with this regeneration, many of the industrial buildings along the BeltLine have found new leases of life, like the Amsterdam Walk retail and entertainment complex in Virginia Highland, Ponce City Market in the Old Fourth Ward for mid-walk pit stop and the Ford Factory Lofts at the old Ford Assembly Plant in Poncey-Highland.
Go by Segway: Atlanta City Sightseeing Tour by Segway
23. Atlanta Electric Car City Tour
For some local perspective you could tick off all of Atlanta’s big sights and neighbourhoods on a 90-minute tour by electric car.
This is great news for anyone pushed for time or hoping to beat the crowds, and you may be pleased that you’re making the drive in the most eco-friendly way possible.
In this time you’ll cram in the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, The Fox Theatre, the Margaret Mitchell House, the CNN Center, Centennial Olympic Park, Midtown, Downtown and the 1996 Olympic Park, and that’s just a small summary.
All the while you’ll be given lots of absorbing factoids from your guide, as you squeeze a whole holiday’s worth of sightseeing into half the time it takes to watch an NFL game.
Book online: Atlanta Electric Car City Tour
24. Swan House
The pride of the Atlanta History Center is this sumptuous mansion built in 1928 for Edward and Emily Inman, heirs to a cotton brokerage fortune.
The west facade of Swan House is Italian Mannerist, while the east facade has the portico and pediment of an English Palladian stately home.
There are lots of Renaissance-inspired flourishes throughout, while the terraced Boxwood Gardens, adorned with stone obelisks, are in a formal Baroque style.
The house’s name comes from a recurring swan motif visible everywhere you look.
The property was restored at a cost of $5.4m in 2004, and your tour will lead you through magnificent rooms and spaces like the vestibule, entrance hall, library, Dining Room and Morning Room.
As you go you’ll bump into actors playing the part of Edward Inman, heir to the wealthiest man in Georgia, as well as his wife Emily, who was a prominent suffragette.
You’ll meet the building’s domestic staff and its architect, Philip Trammell Shutze, and its interior decorator, Ruby Ross Wood, who was a pioneer for women in this field.
Related tour: Atlanta Historical Homes Tour
25. Delta Flight Museum
Opened to the public in 2014, the Delta Flight Museum is at the airline’s world headquarters near the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The exhibitions are in two cavernous maintenance hangars from the 1940s and have lots of things to dazzle aviation fanatics.
In Hangar One is the Monroe Cafe, a full-sized replica of Delta’s first headquarters in Monroe, Louisiana during the 1930s.
Also here is Delta Ship 41, a one of Delta’s first Douglas DC-3s, flying for the airline from 1940 to 1958. The Spirit of Delta Boeing in Hangar 2 was purchased in 1982, becoming Delta’s first ever Boeing 767-200. The back of this plane has been turned into an exhibition space, while you can take a peek at the galley, cockpit and first class area.
Waiting outside is Delta Ship 6301, the first production 747-400, built in 1988 and retired in 2015. You can go inside to check out the cockpit, test the flat bed seats in first class and peer through glass panels that replace carpeting to show the aircraft’s precisely laid cables and piping.
26. SunTrust Park
Just as the Falcons got a slick new home at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Atlanta Braves departed Turner Field in 2017 for the majestic SunTrust Park.
This venue ends the Braves’ long stay in Downtown Atlanta, transplanting the outfit to Cobb County, about 20 minutes north of the Centennial Olympic Park.
The stadium is the centrepiece of a new $400m entertainment district called Battery Atlanta, with restaurants, apartment blocks and offices.
With a timeless design, SunTrust Park can hold just under 41,000 people and its compact size gives it a tight layout keeping all spectators close to the action.
The Braves are the longest continuously operating franchise in the MLB, and in 2018 they made the postseason and won a division title for the first time since 2013. If you’re up for a game, tickets start from as little as $11, while there are daily tours all year round, taking you to the dugouts and press box and premium areas like the Delta SKY360° Club.
27. Inman Park
Atlanta’s first planned suburb, Inman Park was plotted on healthy high ground in the 1800s and is sprinkled with charming Victorian architecture and lots of green space.
The neighbourhood went through a rough patch in the mid-20th century when people moved out to more distant suburbs and the exuberant homes became unfashionable.
Inman Park is now a desirable intown location fringed to the west by the new BeltLine Eastside Trail.
Stop by for tree-lined streets, those beautiful old houses and a burgeoning food and bar scene summed up by the Krog Street Market, which we’ll come to later.
The Inman Park Festival in April brings an artists’ market, live music, a street parade, children’s activities and the chance to tour some of the neighbourhood’s Victorian mansions.
28. Margaret Mitchell House
It was at this property on Peachtree Street in Midtown that Margaret Mitchell wrote most of Gone with the Wind.
The novel would win her the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and within two years had been turned into a classic film.
Mitchell and her husband John Robert Marsh stayed at Apartment 1 on the ground floor of this Tudor Revival building.
At that time she was recovering from an ankle injury that had ended her journalism career, and had become a full-time wife.
The Mitchell apartment looks exactly as it did when the couple lived here, while two exhibitions delve into Margaret’s knack for dreaming up memorable characters, and the eventful production of Gone with the Wind, the movie.
Available tour: Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone with the Wind’ Tour in Atlanta
29. Sweet Auburn
After visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, you owe it to yourself to take a look around King’s home neighbourhood and picture what it would have been like in the 1940s and 50s.
At that time in segregated Atlanta, Sweet Auburn was a wealthy area of private businesses, newspapers, churches, restaurants and nightclubs all owned by African Americans.
Then, the arterial Auburn Avenue was described by political and civic leader John Wesley Dobbs as the “richest Negro street in the world”. That description had become poignant by the 70s and 80s when the area fell victim to inner-city ills and the construction of a highway through the middle.
But in the late-2010s Sweet Auburn is in the middle of a revival, thanks in part to infrastructure projects like the Atlanta Streetcar, connecting the National Historic Site to Downtown.
It’s a neighbourhood of monumental street art, trendy bars and restaurants, and all the more compelling for its historic links to the civil rights movement.
30. Stone Mountain Park
The most visited tourist attraction in the State of Georgia is set around an awe-inspiring natural landmark.
The bulging Stone Mountain is a monadnock, a mighty quartz monzonite dome, five miles in circumference and caused by an upwelling of magma 300-350 million years ago.
The human history of the encompassing Stone Mountain Park is mired in controversy.
It opened in 1965 on the 100th anniversary of President Lincoln’s assassination and the north face bears a 1.57-acre bas-relief (the largest in the world) of three Confederate figures, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.
Moving on quickly, Stone Mountain is a staggering natural wonder that can be scaled from the west side by a walking trail or from the north by the Summit Skyride aerial tram.
Around the dome is the 3.8 mile Stone Mountain Scenic Railroad taking in wonderful vistas and drawn by vintage diesel locomotives.
On summer evenings there’s MountainVision, a state-of-the-art digital graphic display projected onto the mountain and accompanied by fireworks.
31. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
Cool, clear and mostly slow-moving, the Chattahoochee River snakes for 48 miles through the namesake National Recreation Area to the north of Atlanta.
There are lots of little pockets of land, or units, on the banks that warrant a visit.
Take Cochran Shoals, which has a three-mile fitness trail for walking, jogging and biking, and is ideal for spotting birds like northern cardinals, Carolina wrens, Carolina chickadees and red-eyed vireos.
In the 19th century, paper and textile mills sprouted on the river banks, and there are haunting ruins at Sope Creek, Rottenwood Creek and Vickery Creek.
Ivy Mill at Vickery Creek produced fabric for the Confederate soldiers before it was razed by the Union army in 1964. For a great family activity on a summer’s day you can rent tubes at Powers Island and spend a couple of hours floating down the Metro Hooch run to Paces Mill.
32. Jackson Street Bridge
Since long before the Walking Dead, people have been coming to this bridge over the John Lewis Freedom Parkway for possibly the best perspective of Downtown Atlanta’s skyline.
To get here you can leave the car at the MLK Memorial park and make the short walk.
The view is surely the most iconic image from The Walking Dead, seen on posters for season 1 and appearing in the first episode when Rick Grimes rides a horse up the empty Parkway into Atlanta.
To honour its status as a landmark the sidewalk is going to be widened in the next couple of years, and will have a small, linear park on the west side so you can sit and soak up those views.
Included in: Best of Atlanta Movie Tour
33. Center for Puppetry Arts
When this museum for puppetry opened in Midtown in 1978 Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog were here to cut the ribbon.
The Center for Puppetry Arts is the largest museum of its kind in the United States, with 350 puppets from cultures all over the world, accompanied by lots of background info and interactives.
There’s a whole permanent collection for Jim Henson, starring icons like Kermit, Miss Piggy, Rowlf the Dog and the Swedish Chef.
Other stars you may recognise are Crow and Tom Servo from the cult comedy Mystery Science Theater 3000. The Center for Puppetry Arts is much more than a static gallery, with an in-house production company putting on a series performances in a range of styles, appropriate for different age groups.
Part of the fun is a “create a puppet” workshop that lets you make and control a puppet that you can take home with you.
34. Georgia State Capitol
A bold reference point for the city, the Georgia State Capitol (1889) echoes the Neoclassical lines of the United States Capitol in Washington but has a gleaming 23-karat gold dome almost 23 metres in diameter.
This is the main office building for Georgia’s government, housing the General Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives), as well as offices for the governor, lieutenant governor and secretary of state.
You can go in from 08:00 – 17:00 on weekdays for self-guided tours.
Up on the third floor are public view galleries over the legislative chambers and a museum, which opened the year the Capitol was completed.
On show are portraits of all governors elected since 1850, apart from Rufus Bullock who was chased out of the state in 1871 without completing his term.
You can also browse collections of fossils, rocks and minerals, Native American artefacts and displays relating to Georgia’s peanut, peach and cotton trades.
35. SkyView Atlanta
Just off the south end of Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta has its own giant Ferris wheel, 60 metres tall and a relaxing way to see Downtown’s towers.
SkyView Atlanta has enclosed, air-conditioned cabins and you get four slow-motion revolutions.
The ideal time to ride the wheel is after dark, preferably around 21:00 when you can watch Centennial Olympic Park’s Fountain of Rings show from above.
If you’d like to upgrade there’s a VIP gondola with a glass floor and Ferrari-style leather seats, as well as a “Date Night” package involving a VIP lounge and horse-drawn carriage ride.
36. Oakland Cemetery
In 48 acres near Sweet Auburn and Downtown Atlanta, Oakland Cemetery was first landscaped in 1850 and grew steadily to its current size over the next 20 years.
Bearing in mind that Atlanta was almost destroyed in 1864, the original six acres make up one of the oldest parcels of land in the whole city.
There are more than 70,000 burials at Oakland Cemetery, and that number is growing , even though the last of the plots was sold off in 1884. Among the most eminent are Atlanta’s first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell, and founder of Augusta, Bobby Jones.
Visit for the regal sculpture and architecture, but also the delightful landscaping, with daffodils in spring, tropical flowers in summer and the reddish tones of autumn.
You can get a map from the Visitor Center for a self-guided walk, or sign up for a guided tour.
Oakland Cemetery also hosts a programme of events, like Sunday in the Park, a Victorian-style street festival in September.
37. Sweetwater Creek State Park
A place of real beauty with a violent past, Saltwater Creek State Park is more than 2,500 acres of rugged bluffs and hardwood forest, named for the creek that runs through it.
In the first decades of the 19th century the resident Cherokee people were removed, and a five-storey textile mill and accompanying mill town took shape.
Known as the New Manchester Manufacturing Company, this mill was burnt down by the Union army in 1864, and its women and children were sent north to become refugees.
Walking trails twist off into the forest, and one tracks the stream back to the ruins of the mill and then up the cliffs for sweeping views of the creek’s rapids.
The environmentally friendly Visitor Center has details about the area’s history and nature, and can equip you with trail maps and snacks for your walk.
In summer you can navigate the creek by kayak, canoe or paddleboard, while the 215-acre George Sparks Reservoir is a prime spot for fishing, picnicking or just feeding the ducks.
38. Krog Street Market
By the BeltLine Trail in Inman Park, the Krog Street Market is at what was once the Atlanta Stove Works, a pan factory that opened in 1889. This was abandoned in 1988 and a 1920s warehouse here has found a new vocation as a vibrant West Coast-style market with specialty shops, produce stalls and great dining options at the food court.
There’s something for every palate, whether you’re in the mood for bao buns (Suzy Siu’s), hot southern fried chicken (Richard’s), artisan pizza (Varuni), Chinese dumplings (Gu’s), Vietnamese streetfood (Pho Nam), tapas (Bar Mercado) or an award-winning barbecue experience (Grand Champion BBQ). People come a long way for a scoop or three of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, in flavours like Salty Caramel, Coffee with Cream & Sugar, Pistachio & Honey and Whiskey & Pecans.
39. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO)
The city’s symphony orchestra performed at the opening and closing ceremonies at the Olympics in 1996, and have a permanent 1,762-seater home at the Atlanta Symphony Hall, in the Woodruff Arts Center.
So while most of the concerts take place here, the orchestra has summer dates at the immense Ameris Park Amphitheatre some 20 miles north of Atlanta.
There are also two free outdoor performances each summer at Piedmont Park, normally in mid-June.
If you’re in Atlanta with your family, the movie nights are child-friendly performances of famous film scores.
When we wrote this list in May 2019 the film in question was Jaws.
The ASO also performs for the Alliance Theatre’s annual production of A Christmas Carol in December.
40. CNN Studio Tour
The CNN Center beside the Centennial Olympic Park is the headquarters for the Cable News Network, a news channel with a truly international reach.
You can go in for a 50-minute tour of this mammoth facility, for privileged glimpses of the newsroom, control room and possibly famous TV personalities and political figures.
At the beginning of the tour you’ll ride what is the longest freestanding escalator in the world, 60 metres long and eight storeys high.
On your way through the CNN Center you’ll discover how teleprompters and weather maps work, and experience the incredible scale of Studio 7, the largest news studio on the planet.
If you’ve lived through an election night in the United States you’ll have seen John King’s “Magic Wall” touch-screen display, and on the tour you’ll see just how this piece of technical wizardry works.
Book online: CNN Atlanta Studio Tour
41. Little Five Points
A walkable neighbourhood east of Downtown, Little Five Points is weird, fun, diverse and bohemian.
The business association has kept this place free of big chains, and instead you’re met by thriving independent live music venues, restaurants and shops.
Check out the massive Criminal Records music shop and the Sevananda Natural Foods Market, one of the largest consumer owned cooperatives in the Southeast and Junkman’s Daughter, a kind of superstore catering to every alternative fashion you can think of.
The Vortex, around since 1992 and with a doorway on Moreland Avenue framed by an addled human skull, does what are officially some of the best burgers in the United States.
There’s lots of street art to appreciate too, like the long mural on the 7 Stages Building, undamaged more than 20 years since it was painted.
42. Chastain Park
The largest urban park in Atlanta is in Buckhead, covering 268 acres and loaded with facilities for sport and entertainment.
There’s an open-air pool, a golf course, playgrounds, jogging trails, a horse park and tennis courts.
But what pulls in the crowds is the cherished 6,900-seater State Bank Amphitheatre, which stages a diverse programme of concerts and comedy shows from May to October, by some of the biggest acts touring America.
A star-studded list of artists have performed here since it opened in 1944, like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Diana Ross.
The 2019 season was no-less prestigious and included Mary J. Blige and Nas, Common with the ASO, Lionel Richie, Adam Sandler and Weird Al Yankovic.
43. State Farm Arena
Right next door to CNN Center is the equally vast State Farm Arena (formerly Philips Arena), inaugurated in 1999 and the home court for NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream.
The Hawks moved to Atlanta in 1968 but go back another 22 years to the short-lived Buffalo Bisons.
Under coaches Larry Drew and then Mike Budenholzer the Hawks put together a remarkable run, qualifying for the playoffs ten consecutive times from 2008 to 2017. On the flipside, they’re enduring the second-longest championship drought in the NBA, going back to 1958 when the franchise was in St. Louis.
The arena came through a $192m renovation in 2017-18, introducing a spectacular central LED video board and upgraded concessions with refill-your-own soda stations and essentials like $3 hotdogs and $4 pizza slices, along with fancy new premium offerings like the Atlanta favourite, B’s Cracklin’ Barbecue.
One of the crazier additions is Killer Mike’s Swag Shop barbershop, which overlooks the court.
The State Farm Arena is also among America’s busiest concert arena, welcoming Jennifer Lopez, Ariana Grande, Queen, The Black Keys and The Jonas Brothers in 2019 alone.
44. Six Flags Over Georgia
The largest amusement park in the Southeast is infused with characters and themes from Warner Bros. properties like DC Comics and Looney Tunes.
Six Flags Over Georgia has more than 40 rides, some of which are destination attractions like the $20m Goliath “hypercoaster”, the Mind Bender steel rollercoaster, Batman: The Ride, which was the world’s first inverted rollercoaster when it opened in 1992, and Acrophobia, a 60-metre drop tower.
In 2014 the park added Hurricane Harbor, a seven-acre water park with a wave pool, multi-slide complex, thrilling bowl slide attraction (Tsunami Surge) and a children’s area.
Families with littler children will find all they need at Bugs Bunny Boomtown, which has lots of Looney Tunes-themed fun, like Yosemite Sam’s Wacky Wagons.
Come Halloween Six Flags Over Georgia is crawling with zombies and gives its rides creepy makeovers for Fright Fest, while there’s lots of seasonal cheer for Holiday in the Park when Six Flags is aglow with more than a million Christmas lights.
45. The Shops at Buckhead
If you’re in the mood to splurge you can’t go wrong at this outdoor mall in Buckhead, a sort of plush urban village across eight blocks, rolled out from autumn 2014 and with towering trees for a natural canopy.
The Shops at Buckhead now counts more than 50 designer retailers, cafes and restaurants on nine acres, bounded to the west by Peachtree Road.
For a quick rundown of the mall’s luxury emporia there’s La Perla, Hermès, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Christian Louboutin, Dior and Tom Ford.
When it comes to dining you can pick from upscale Italian (Taverna), contemporary French (Le Bilboquet), noodles (Qing Mu), sushi (Doraku), steak (American Cut), gastropub-style southern cooking at The Southern Gentleman and burgers at the now ubiquitous Shake Shack.
46. Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)
Dating back to 1989 as an institution, the Museum of Design Atlanta moved to its stylish Midtown home in 2011. This is the only museum in the Southeast dedicated solely to design, hosting exhibitions on industrial and product design, architecture, graphics, furniture, interiors, fashion and more besides.
Creatively presented exhibitions in the last few years have gone into wearable technology, design and sustainable food, the design and typography of Louise Fili, The Art and Craft of Activism and the role of playgrounds in urban design.
MODA is a dynamic attraction, with a lively schedule of talks, guided exhibition tours, performance and workshops, like 3D Printing for Adults and an Intro to Skateboard Graphics.
47. Historic Fourth Ward Park
A sign of how the BeltLine has transformed Atlanta’s open spaces, the Historic Fourth Ward Park is 17 acres of water and greenery where there used to be a wasteland to the south of the Ponce City Market.
This was once the site of the Ponce de Leon amusement park, which closed in the 1920s.
In 2011-12 the cracked asphalt and rubbish-strewn fields became a green corridor, with contemporary landscaping, lush lawns, a two-acre ornamental lake, a summer splashpad, an outdoor theatre and a first-rate children’s playground.
The Historic Fourth Ward Park uses native plants to keep maintenance to a minimum and generates a lot of its own electricity with solar panels.
The headline attraction is the 1,400-square-metre skate park, with a design approved by Tony Hawk, who funded the project to the tune of $25,000.
48. Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse
Travelling along Peachtree Street in Midtown you’ll come across a building with a timber-framed facade and leaded windows.
Run by the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, this is the Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse where you can come for hearty pub grub followed by a Shakespeare play (or other period classic) in an intimate and rusting setting where the actors move among the audience.
The plays are produced with the playwright’s intent in mind, so Romeo and Juliet will be set in 16th-century Verona, and Othello will take place in Venice and Cyprus.
The tavern goes back to 1990, and in June 2019 the production of Henry VIII saw this venue complete the Shakespearean canon for the second time.
49. Children’s Museum of Atlanta
A must for the youngest family members is this highly-rated museum on the north-corner of Centennial Olympic Park.
The Children’s Museum of Atlanta was revamped in 2015 and harnesses the power of play for education in six smartly designed zones.
Tools for Solution for example is all about practical problem-solving, using a giant machine that transports balls along tracks with a muddle of cranes and corkscrews.
Fundamentally Food takes kids back to the farm to show where produce comes from, while Let Your Creativity Flow unleashes children’s artistic talents with a paint wall, art studio and stage for performances.
The museum’s staff are trained actor-educators called Imaginators, to make the experience as rewarding as possible, and are here for shows, music and movement workshops and storytime.
50. Atlantic Station
Planned in the 1990s and developed into the mid-2000s, Atlantic Station is a whole neighbourhood on what used to be the Atlantic Steel mill.
That factory, set on the north-western fringe of Midtown was founded in 1901 and had been torn down by 1998. There are little hints of what came before, like a surviving smokestack sitting in the middle of Foundry Park.
Atlantic Station was designed with pedestrians in mind, and its grid of streets features more than 50 shops, like Gap, Banana Republic, H&M, Dillard’s, Victoria’s Secret and Ikea.
Strolling around Atlantic Station you’ll happen upon lots of enticing eateries, mostly for casual dining (think stone-fired pizza, gourmet burgers and fried chicken). You can catch a movie at the branch of Regal Cinemas, watch the latest Cirque du Soleil production or take an inside look at the human body at Bodies: The Exhibition.
November to February there’s a skating rink at Atlantic Station, while a line-up of festivals keeps the area full of life in summer.
51. Lenox Square
In keeping with its upscale surroundings, Lenox Square is a luxury mall in Buckhead, and has been around in various guises since 1959. The anchors are Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus, and many of the stores at Lenox Square are the only branches within hundreds of miles.
That goes for Diesel, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Ted Baker, J. Crew, Topshop, Tesla Motors, Zara, Prada and Fendi.
The largest Pottery Barn anywhere can be found at Lenox Square, while the branch of Forever 21 is among the largest in the Southeastern United States.
The area around Lenox Square has been developed at breakneck speed in the last couple of decades, becoming ultra-desirable and featuring more than 70 restaurants within a mile radius.
On the other side of Peachtree Road is another plush mall at Phipps Plaza, for brands like Gucci, Versace and Tiffany & Co.
52. Walking Dead Big Zombie Tour Part One
Starting at the Atlanta Movie Tours Gift Shop on Nelson Street SW is this three-hour adventure around all of the main Walking Dead shooting locations in Atlanta and Fulton County.
The tour is on an air-conditioned coach equipped with TV screens, and is led by an extra from the show.
Standout stops will be the hospital where Rick Grimes awakes to discover a zombie apocalypse, and the Goat Farm Arts Center, where the Vatos gang were based in Episode Four of Season One.
As you jump from location to location you can take part in a Walking Dead trivia game, while the tour includes spots from another modern zombie classic, Zombieland.
The final stop is that now iconic view from the Jackson Street Bridge.
This experience is available on Viator.
53. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
On Peachtree Street in Midtown is the immense Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the sixth district of the 12 Federal Reserve Banks of the United States, covering most of the Southeast United States.
You can go in to visit Atlanta Fed’s Monetary Museum, which has lots of engaging multimedia displays on the history of money and banking in the United States, but also goes into detail on the role of the Federal Reserve on the U.S. economy.
It’s fascinating to find out how and why the Fed conducts monetary policy, and how its decisions affect the lives of ordinary people.
You’ll get a look at the bank’s automated vault and cash processing areas, and may get to see the bank’s boardroom, depending on the schedule.
54. Porsche Experience Center Atlanta
Next to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Porsche has built a 1.6-mile circuit designed to demonstrate the high performance of its legendary sports cars.
In the company of an expert coach you can select from a range of 90-minute driving experiences.
You can take the wheel in a 911 Turbo, G3, 911 Carrera GTS, Panamera Turbo, 718 Cayman GTS or 718 Boxster.
Or you could combine two, on experiences like Mid vs Rear Engine when you’ll get to contrast the ride in a state-of-the-art rear-engine 911 with a Cayman or Boxster.
There’s also an offroad track, putting a Cayenne 4×4 to the test on a rugged watery trail.
55. Netherworld Haunted House
This spooky walk-through attraction is open only in October, but if you do find yourself in Atlanta at this time of year, you have to make the drive east to Stone Mountain to be scared out of your wits.
Launched in 1997 and rated America’s No. 1 Haunted House by Hauntworld in 2017, Netherworld has developed its own storyline independent of movies and folklore.
The costumes, make-up, acting performances, atmosphere and special effects are to such a high standard that Netherworld’s crew have been involved with the Walking Dead.
In October 2018 there was also a monster-filled area with carnival games and food options, while you can visit year-round to try to solve the three creepy escape rooms.