Exploring the history, culture and sights of Georgia’s Capital City

Two Day Itinerary:

Day 1:

(i) Visit the amazing Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta

(ii) Spend time at the World of Coca Cola – just across from the Aquarium

(iii) Go to see the Atlanta Cyclorama and understand the history of Atlanta during the time of the confederacy

Day 2:

(i) See the house that Martin Luther King Jr grew up in and visit his burial site at the Martin Luther King Jr National Historical Park

(ii) Visit the small, shabby apartment where Margaret Mitchell, aka Peggy Mitchell, lived when she wrote her famous book “Gone with the Wind”

(iii) Explore the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Learn more about the American Civil Rights movement and other human and civil rights injustices that have plagued the world, both historical and contemporary.

 

DAY 1:

1. The Georgia Aquarium

Location: Hours: Entrance Fees:
225 Baker Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30313
T: 404.581.4000
Monday – Friday: 10am – 9pm    Saturday: 9am – 9pm      Sunday: 9am – 9pm

Check website for holiday hours

Ticket prices vary on the time of day you enter. Check here for the ticket prices and advance booking.

One of the things we (well mostly our children) had wanted to see in Atlanta was the Georgia Aquarium. Of course Atlanta is someway from the sea but they have built one of the world’s largest aquariums right in the center of the city.

The aquarium was absolutely fantastic – right down to the excellent selection of food in the cafeteria. The design of the building and the exhibits were amazing with incredible attention to the design details.

We started with the touch tanks where we were able to reach down and touch sting rays, small reef sharks, sea stars, hermit crabs and shrimps. There was also a tank with a huge loggerhead turtle that playfully played with a diver who was cleaning the tank and was using a brush to amuse the turtle so it didn’t try and eat his oxygen pipe. The next exhibit was focused on colder climates and in here they had large Japanese spider crabs which seemed large enough, but apparently grow to the size of a small car (which would be scary). The primary colder climate exhibit was the beluga whale tank. It was fascinating to watch them playfully swimming around. We sat there for several minutes marveling at their grace as they glided effortlessly around their huge enclosure. Right next to the belugas was a giant octopus who was unusually active and had attached itself to the glass window of its tank – which apparently is rare. We then got to see some very cute sea otters, seals and penguins. It was difficult to imagine what could beat these displays but in the next area, entitled ‘Ocean Voyage’, there is a spectacular tank containing thousands of fish of different sizes including hammer head sharks and the world’s largest fish – the whale shark. They have three whale sharks in the Georgia aquarium, one of which is around 20 feet long, which seemed large, but these giants of the sea grow to be greater than 40 feet in length. Fortunately, the largest things they eat are plankton, otherwise we might be in trouble! The best bit of this display was the acrylic tunnel, where you can watch the fish swim right over your head and the large 450 square foot window on to this wonderful undersea world. Jack in particular was mesmerized by this area and we had trouble dragging him away. Lastly, we went into the display “The Tropical Diver”, which takes you into the realm of the tropics, with displays of colorful exotic fish, coral sea beds and the gently waving tentacles of sea anemones. It was so peaceful to watch the brightly colored fish gently maneuvering their way around this brightly lit exhibit.

All too soon it was time to leave!

2. World of Coca-Cola

Location: Hours: Entrance Fees:
225 Baker Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30313
T: 404.581.4000
 Mon – Fri: 10 am – 9 pm     Sat: 9 am – 9 pm                 Sun: 9 am – 9 pm

Check website for holiday hours

Ticket prices vary on the time of day you enter. Check here for the ticket prices and advance booking.

Just across from the Georgia Aquarium is the World of Coca Cola, a tribute to the Coca Cola Company. Atlanta is the home city of Coca Cola – this where it was invented and is still made here today (although there are many other plants around).

As we entered the World of Coca Cola we were treated to a lesson on the history of the Coca Cola company. The first stop was a small room full of memorabilia, followed by a short film. Once your initial indoctrination is complete you are let into the rest of the building where there are several more galleries – one demonstrating the brewing and bottling process, another showing the development of the Coca Cola brand. The final exhibit area is the tasting room, where there were 63 different Coke products on tap from around the world. You can more or less drink yourself silly on fizzy drink – which is of course what our children proceeded to do. The aftermath of which was the most horrendous sugar rush and two children who could not get to sleep until the early hours of the morning.

3. Atlanta Cyclorama

The Atlanta Cyclorama is a cylindrical painting that was at one time was the largest oil painting in the world, and if unrolled would measure 42 feet (13 m) high by 358 feet (109 m) long. You get into the cyclorama from the inside, entering through an entrance in the floor. After being seated, the central cylinder rotates slowly, affording a view of the entire painting.

The painting depicts the Battle of Atlanta, which was a major battle in the Atlanta Campaign, that took place during the American Civil War on July 22, 1864, just southeast of Atlanta. The battle was a significant turning point during the campaign and led to the confederate armies surrendering control of Atlanta on September 2, 1864.

The exhibit was closed to the public in 2015 for restoration and so it could be relocated to a new location in Atlanta. The painting moved in February 2017 from its Grant Park home to the new custom-built 23,000-square-foot Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker Cyclorama Building at the Atlanta History Center. The newly refurbished cyclorama is due to open on the 22nd February 2019.

Day 2:

(i) Martin Luther King Jr National Historical Park

Location: Hours: Fees:
450 Auburn Avenue, NE
Atlanta, GA 30312
Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily NO ADMISSION FEE – $0.00

Today, we planned to visit the Dr Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic site close to downtown Atlanta. Rather than being a single building this historic site is built around a street; Auburn Street, in Atlanta. This street is home to the birth place of Dr King, his burial site and the Ebeneezer Baptist Church where he and his father were both pastors.

There is a large visitor center close to the street that shows films covering the life and times of Dr King and has some fascinating exhibits detailing different periods of his life, with excerpts from some of his speeches. Myself and Karen were deeply moved by much of this, and we felt very solemn as we toured the visitor center. During the film of Dr King’s life we were fighting back the tears! Particularly moving was the speech he gave in Memphis on the eve of his assassination on 4th April 1968 – in which he talked about his death and what he wished to be remembered for.

The cart used at Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral

Vintage fire engine at the visitor center

After leaving the visitor center we crossed Auburn Street to look at the Ebeneezer Baptist Church, which is a very plain building but nonetheless its association with the King family gives it a strangely spiritual aura. We took a couple of photos and then moved a few yards down the street to where there is a wonderful, water based memorial (which is open to the public), that is the final resting place of Martin Luther King Jr. and his spouse Coretta Scott King. Coretta King had planned most of the memorial site prior to MLK’s death …. she felt his involvement in the Movement would inevitably lead to his untimely death – what a sad prospect for any wife to face!

We spent some time there contemplating the huge impact this family had on society, even beyond their involvement in the Civil Right Movement. The courage of the King’s and their total belief in non-violent protest is inspirational and the more we learned about the man the higher our regard for him became.

Ebeneezer Baptist Church
The final resting place of Martin Luther King Jr and his wife Loretta Scott King

Finally, we had a guided tour of the simple four bedroom King house, just a few yards from where he is buried. This is where Dr King was born and raised. The house is still owned by the King family but they allow it be operated and maintained by the National Park Service. It is, as you might expect, a functional yet comfortable family home. The stories retold by the Ranger during the tour helped build upon the legend of Dr King, providing insight to the character of the man himself.

We left feeling sad at the untimely death of a great man, but at the same time we felt that from our time here and in Alabama we had gotten a sense that, as is often the case, a senseless death can often create martyrdom and a legend that amplifies the cause for which they are fighting.

(ii) Margaret Mitchell House

Location: Hours: Admission:
979 Crescent Avenue NE
Atlanta, GA 30309404.249.7015
Monday – Saturday
10:00 AM – 5:30 PMSunday
Noon – 5:30 PM
Adult: $13.00
Senior (65+): $10.00
Student (13+): $10.00
Youth (Age 4-12): $5.50
Children 3 & Under: Free

The Mitchell House is a historical house where the author Margaret Mitchell penned her now famous book “Gone With the Wind”.

Margaret Mitchell, Peggy Marsh to her friends, dubbed her apartment, “The Dump.” Surprisingly, it is in this shabby little apartment on the bottom floor that this petite, yet mighty woman wrote a big ‘ol book that sold faster than a duck on a June bug!

For this work she won a Pulitzer Prize and gained fame, fortune, and fans, too. Quite the character, she had opinions about how the film portrayed her book and she didn’t much like the attention, but she still responded to every single fan letter.

When you visit, you can learn about Peggy before, during, and after the book, about the movie, and about the film’s premiere in Atlanta – where the African American actors weren’t allowed.

(iii) The Center for Civil and Human Rights

 

Location: Hours: Admission:
100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd,
Atlanta, GA 30313
Mon – Sat: 10 am to 5 pm
Sun: 12 PM to 5 PM
Adults: $19.99

Youth: $15.99

Students: $17.99

Seniors: $17.99

The Center for Civil and Human Rights is a museum dedicated to the achievements of both the civil rights movement in the United States and the broader worldwide human rights movement. The Center hosts a number of exhibitions, both permanent and temporary, that not only tell the history of the civil rights movement in the United States, but how that period is related to more contemporary human rights struggles around the world.

 

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