Last Wednesday morning, I set off on a three-day trip to see two more states: Alabama and Georgia. After doing some research for places in the Peach State to check out, I quickly decided on Atlanta. The combination of attractions and an urban environment made this a great first city to see in Georgia. I spent days one and three in ATL, exploring the city’s major sights!
Upon landing at the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and getting my rental car, I started heading for downtown. One of the things I like about Atlanta is that many of the attractions are concentrated within a one-mile radius of each other, eliminating the need to drive(and pay multiple parking fees)!
Arriving in the downtown area, I chose to park at the CNN Parking Deck, right in front of the CNN studios. Parking cost me $10, and one can stay there all way until closing time, which is midnight. On the top floor, I caught a good glimpse of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons.
My first stop was to Centennial Olympic Park, which commemorates Atlanta as being the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympics.
The park had people of all ages enjoying its features. One of the most well-known areas here is the Fountain of Rings, which uses water jets with the Olympic rings as its design. Many children and their parents were seen here, getting some relief from the heat.
Beyond the Fountain of Rings, there were also many other statues and areas in this 21-acre green space.
One of the things that I found to be unique here were the different “quilts”, or areas with different themes, all relating to the ’96 games. The Quilt of Origins had a sculpture of three athletes, which depicts the progression from the original Greek competitors to today’s Olympians.
197 countries competed in the Atlanta Games, and the Quilt of Nations honors all of them. There was a very nicely done ceiling tile display of the various nation’s flags.
Covering the sidewalks of the whole park were bricks with names on them. These names belonged to private donors that helped to make this park a reality before the games begun. In total, they raised roughly $17.5 million dollars!
After lunch was the CNN Center, home of..you guessed it, the TV news station CNN.
The lobby was open to the general public, and contained a food court, gift shop, and even a post office! Employees and visitors alike were seen grabbing lunch here, and it was like a little mall in the headquarters of one of the most well-known news networks in the world.
There’s much more to be seen behind closed doors though, so of course, I had to get a tour. I had purchased a VIP ticket, which cost $33. After going thru a security check, we started off in a small mock studio, where we had a chance to get our photo taken as an anchor!
After the photo ops were done, our guide talked about the different pieces of equipment we would see along the way, such as teleprompters, cinematic cameras, and green screens. Her explanations of how everything worked were pretty detailed, and gave people like myself a good insight as to how everything worked to give the viewer a seamless experience.
Before moving on, our guide explained that this room would be the only place along the tour route where photography was allowed.
Behind those doors was where the magic happened. We went to two different studios, one of which actually had a live broadcast going on! It was no other than HLN’s afternoon news show, where we saw the anchor talking live to the world. We had to be super silent, and it was a one-of-a-kind experience that I won’t forget anytime soon. The news-gathering center was also one of our stops. This huge room had probably close to 100 employees in it, gathering news and monitoring social media trends around-the-clock. Folks here harvest content, collaborate with affiliate stations, and verify information prior to it being broadcasted. Once the story is ready, someone has to be behind the curtain putting the pieces together, though. That’s where the control room came in. In groups of 4, we stepped into this relatively small space, which sorta had that 911 center feel to it. Different producers sat in there, and the atmosphere was relatively tense as they called out different numbers. Those numbers stood for different frames that were to be put on the live broadcast. It was a tightly run ship for sure.
Upon the completion of our tour, I have to say although there is a standard behind-the-scenes option available for about half the price, I highly recommend the VIP option. Our group came across a standard tour, and they skipped out on entering the studios, which was something I’ve always found to be cool.
Next up, it was off to the Georgia State Capitol. About a 20 minute walk away from CNN and the Olympic Park district, this was one place I surely wanted to see. Why? When I was looking at other blogger’s posts about ATL, not one of them mentioned the Capitol as a destination they went to. That struck me as rather odd, since here in Texas the Capitol is a must see when in Austin. I had to find out for myself what this building had(or didn’t have) to offer.
Erected in 1889 at a cost of just under $1 million, the building was constructed using many products native to Georgia, including wood and iron ore. This building is the third Capitol in Atlanta for the state’s legislators in history! They first met at the Fulton County Courthouse, and then shortly at the Kimball Opera House before the money was appropriated for the construction of a dedicated building for the state. Speaking of money, the architects and construction crew were so efficient, they actually returned $118 and some change back to the treasury! Something you surely don’t hear about anymore.
Scattered across the outside lawn were various monuments and statues, depicting important figures in the Peach State’s history.
Upon walking in, I passed thru the standard metal detector check and then asked the receptionist where I was free to roam. Her answer? Pretty much everywhere. All the offices were open, including the Governor’s and Lt. Governor’s. They didn’t let me go into their actual workspaces, but the reception area outside was open to the public.
The architecture thru the whole building was grand, and went along well with the charm of the American South. Although it was about an hour away from closing time, there were virtually no other visitors as I strolled thru the hallways and corridors. Kinda odd, because the building is very well constructed, not to mention kept at a comfortable temperature!
One of the places to check out while here are the Senate and House chambers. The House floor was closed for the day, but I got to see the Senate. It was much smaller than what the Texas Senate uses, but then again Georgia is a much smaller state.
Upstairs, on the fourth floor, was the Georgia Capitol Museum. A great place for learning about what makes up the state, there were plenty of display cases that documented everything from Georgia minerals to wildlife.
Looking thru all the exhibits took me around thirty minutes, although you could easily spend an hour or so if you wanted to thoroughly read thru everything. I would have totally gone in-depth, but I had to get moving along. Bottom line: if you are looking for a place where you can learn about the state at no cost, swing by the Capitol! Even if looking at display case after display case isn’t your idea of fun, seeing the architecture that makes up this building and visiting the legislative chambers make this a worthy stop.
Leaving the Capitol, it was about five o’clock, time to head to the Georgia Aquarium. The aquarium is located just behind the Centennial Olympic Park, so it was about another twenty-minute walk back. This aquarium isn’t just any ole’ aquatic museum- it’s the world’s second largest!
Why did I leave this place for last? Because although regular admission runs about $35, if you come after 4PM, the price drops down to $26.95 per adult. When planning your schedule, be sure and check to see if this special online discount is still running. With a well-planned itinerary, it would be easy to knock out other activities and leave the aquarium as the last stop.
Once past security and ticketing, I arrived at the main lobby. Right away, I knew that this was about to be an awesome few hours spent here.
Seven exhibit areas made up the aquarium, each showing a different sector of marine life.
There was plenty to see, and lots of moments that simply made me go “wow!”. My favorite exhibit would have to be the Ocean Voyager, where you can see whale sharks and huge schools of fish!
The Tropical Diver exhibit had me gazing at the many jellyfish slowing moving around, and witnessing the beauty of coral reefs.
Another exhibit that I thoroughly enjoyed was Pier 225, which featured a whole penguin habitat. There were climb-thru tunnels that allowed people of all ages to go underground into a small observation dome to take some selfies, or just watch these magnificent creatures.
With plenty of interactive activities throughout the aquarium, this place is an excellent family-friendly stop.
The Aquarium also has several different shows, along with a behind-the-scenes tour available for an extra charge. I didn’t opt for it since there wasn’t extra time, but it might be something worth looking into to get a better understanding of how all this stuff is run. There was also a VR ride that looked pretty cool.
All in all, the Georgia Aquarium would have to be the best of its kind I’ve seen to date here in the states! With reasonable ticket prices, lots to see, and many rare species, this was a spot that I enjoyed thoroughly.
Day one was a success! Between feeling the positive spirit at the Centennial Olympic Park, watching live news being made, visiting the capitol building of Georgia, and seeing whale sharks swim, it was a day well spent in ATL.
When I came back to Atlanta on day three of this trip, I had only a half-day to use, since I was flying back home in the evening. I checked out two places, the first being the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park.
Really a whole district comprised of buildings significant to MLK’s life, there are many sights worth seeing here. Starting with the Visitor’s Center, this is where a tour of MLK’s birth house can be arranged. Tickets go fast! Since I came a bit later in the morning, there weren’t any slots available until the afternoon – which made it a no-go for me. However, there was also an exhibit there talking about MLK’s assassination, which I found to be very interesting. Having visited the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the place where Dr. King was shot, it was cool to see artifacts like his funeral carriage.
Down the street from the Visitor’s Center was MLK and his wife’s final resting place. Plenty of people were here to experience this peaceful environment.
There was the Eternal Flame burning in front of his tomb, which symbolized the continuance of Dr. King’s ideas.
I then went and saw the historic Fire Station #6, where MLK used to play around as a child. Station #6 was also the first racially integrated fire station in Atlanta. The walls were filled with educational materials, and there was even an antique fire truck! One can plan on spending around 15 or so minutes in here, as although its small, there are many things to look at.
Behind the fire station, down the street, was MLK’s birth house. Although I didn’t get to go in, I joined other people who were taking photos outside and seeing how this little house produced someone that changed the world.
The neighborhood itself is historic, and many houses were being restored and revamped. If you have extra time in your schedule, taking a brief walk down the block allows for a good glimpse of the many old homes of the MLK time period.
My last stop here at the park was to the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where MLK served as co-pastor underneath his father. Founded in 1886, it is still in operation today. Lots of people were here, checking out the church grounds for themselves.
The sanctuary had been restored to the 1960s time period, the era in which MLK was serving here. Sitting in the pew, I could just imagine the uplifting spirit and wisdom Dr. King brought to all the churchgoers. After hearing about this place a few times in the past, it was nice to experience it in person.
Wrapping up my visit here, I can say without a doubt this is a destination worth checking out. Parking is free, and there are no admission fees for any of the buildings. It is about a mile and a half from the downtown stuff, but coming here to experience history firsthand is something pretty cool.
The last place I visited in Atlanta was the Delta Flight Museum, located on the grounds of the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. As an aviation geek, this was a personal must-see.
Owned and operated by Delta Air Lines, this museum has been open since 1995. Delta running it makes sense – Atlanta is home to their headquarters and largest hub! The museum is divided up into two sections, starting from the propeller aircraft days.
The other side talks about the jet age, and the more modern aspect of Delta. What better way to do that than with a Boeing 767 sitting there as part of the exhibit?
This isn’t just any ole’ 767 – this is none other than “The Spirit of Delta”, which was purchased entirely by Delta employees as a token of appreciation to the company. “Project 767” as it was called raised $30 million dollars to present Delta with its first 767 in their fleet. The airplane flew until 2006, when it was brought home to the museum for all to enjoy.
The whole plane was open for exploration, and it was pretty cool hearing about the story of this bird via the onboard TV.
All around the hangar were other Delta artifacts, ranging from old check-in systems to flight attendant uniforms.
If you are up for it, there is even a full-motion Boeing 737-200 simulator you can book time in(at an additional cost), allowing you to get an idea of what its like to fly a transport category airplane! This simulator is the same kind used by airline pilots worldwide for both initial and recurrent training.
Across the parking lot from the museum was one last exhibit – the 747 Experience.
Delta put an old Boeing 747-400 as a showpiece, allowing visitors to experience everything from seeing the cockpit to walking on the wing!
All the business class seats were still intact, both on the upper and lower deck. Walking through, it was easy to experience the magic that was the 747.
In conclusion, this was one nicely done flight museum! Plenty of airplanes to look at, lots of artifacts, and overall very inspiring.
From there, it was off to return my rental car and head back to the Big D. For my first trip to Atlanta, I had a great time! With everything there is to see and do here, chances are that you’ll quickly find something that fits your interests. After all, they don’t call it the “Empire City of the South” for nothing!