ATLANTA, April 4, 2013 – The Final Four returns to Atlanta this weekend, and anyone coming to town to take in the action should also make time to explore the city.
More than a connection point for travelers and home to the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta is worth experiencing – even if only for a few short days. Here are few highlights for visitors who may be unfamiliar with the city:
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.
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.
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.
Relive the 1996 Olympics: It’s been 16 years since Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics, but the games’ lasting impact can be felt even today. The largest sports venue built for the games, Olympic Stadium, lives on as Turner Field and is home of Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves. The stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies as well as track and field events during the games.
Within walking distance of Turner Field is perhaps the most apparent Olympic symbol that remains in town: the Olympic torch. Originally located in Olympic Stadium, the torch was moved after the conclusion of the games to its current location at the intersection of Fulton Street and Capitol Avenue.
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 gravesites 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, a painted depiction of the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864. 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 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.
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