ATLANTA, May 23, 2012 — For too many people, Atlanta is merely a connection point on a flight, rather than a destination.
Not surprising, considering Atlanta’s very existence is linked to transportation.
The city’s location was selected not because of a river or a major body of water, but because it was at the end of a major rail line (hence the city’s original name: Terminus).
From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement to the 1996 Summer Olympics, the “Gate City” has always found itself at the forefront of global events.
Despite its size and geographic footprint, it is possible to take in the city’s must-see attractions in a few short days.
World of Coca-Cola: Pharmacist John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola in 1886. The original World of Coca-Cola opened in Atlanta in 1991, but was upgraded in its current location near Centennial Olympic Park in May 2007.
The 35,000-square-foot exhibition features the largest collection of Coke memorabilia, a 4-D theater and a bottling operation that produces eight ounce commemorative bottles for guests. The real highlight is the tasting room where visitors can sample varietals from other regions, including a crowd favorite (or notorious) Beverly – if only for the looks on the faces of those gulping this bitter aperitif from Italy.
The Georgia Aquarium: The world’s largest aquarium is home to tens of thousands of marine animals. Originally built at a cost of more than $290 million, more than 10 million visitors have passed through the aquarium since it opened in November 2005.
Highlights include great hammerhead sharks, four beluga whales and four whale sharks, which call a 6.3 million gallon tank home. In 2011, the aquarium opened a launched a daily “Dolphin Tales” show.
Inside CNN Atlanta Studio Tour: Ted Turner co-founded CNN in 1980 and helped transform the way people consume news. The outspoken Turner, who at one time owned the Atlanta Braves, still finds ways to make headlines even though he’s been out of the news business for years.
For those interested in how modern newsrooms operate, a visit to CNN’s worldwide headquarters in downtown Atlanta is a must. The 55-minute Inside CNN Atlanta Studio Tour gives a behind the scenes look at what goes in to the making of a newscast watched by 2 billion people globally.
Sweet Auburn Historic District/Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site: In the 1950s and 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. changed the world. Perhaps best remembered for his 1963 “I Have a Dream Speech,” King was born in Atlanta in 1929 and served as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church from 1960 until he was assassinated in 1968.
Today, as part of the 35-acre Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, visitors can see King’s boyhood home, Ebenezer Baptist Church and the grave sites of King and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
Atlanta Botanical Garden: The 30-acre garden is home to a number of exhibits, including an edible garden, a rose garden and rare orchid display. In 2010, the Atlanta Botanical Garden opened the Canopy Walk, a 600-foot-long walkway that towers 40 feet above the ground and gives visitors a chance to view a woodland garden from above.
Grant Park: Dating to 1882, Grant Park is the oldest city park in Atlanta and is home to Zoo Atlanta and The Cyclorama. The latter features a painted depiction of the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864, and a rotating theater to give visitors the opportunity to see the entire 42-foot-tall painting.
On the edge of Grant Park, Fort Walker was built in 1863 by Confederate forces to aid in the defense of Atlanta. Named for Gen. William H.T. Walker who was killed during the Battle of Atlanta, the surviving redoubt is one of the only remaining earthworks inside the city of Atlanta.
The park is named for Capt. Lemuel P. Grant, a civil engineer who oversaw the construction of Fort Walker and later donated the land for this park.
The Varsity: As much an experience as an eatery, The Varsity has been an Atlanta institution since it opened its doors in 1928.
Originally named The Yellow Jacket because of its close proximity to Georgia Tech, it’s hard to go wrong when ordering, but onion rings and an FO (frosted orange) are necessities.
Tip: Consider a CityPass
One cost-effective way to take in the city’s highlights is to purchase an Atlanta CityPass, which covers admission to five popular attractions, including the New World of Coca-Cola, The Georgia Aquarium and Inside CNN Atlanta Studio Tour. At $69 for adults and $49 for children aged 3-12, CityPass represents a savings of about 50 percent.
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