I hopped on a plane to Atlanta for President's Day weekend and spent 3 glorious days in the South with my friend Rita. We ate at mouthwatering restaurants and toured famous Atlanta tourist sites. Although I had previously been to Atlanta before for a work trip, I immediately got into a car and drove to the suburb of Alpharetta for the week so I never really had an opportunity to explore the city. A few years back my sorority had a convention in Atlanta (which I missed) and all the girls came back with tons of good things to say about the city so I knew I had to visit some day. Luckily, direct flights from New York to Atlanta are cheap and frequent (thank you Delta) and I was easily able to find a flight that suited my schedule and my budget despite it being a holiday weekend. In my opinion, Atlanta is one of those underrated cities that people don't know too much about, other than that its home to the Coca-Cola headquarters. Many people asked me if I would even have enough to occupy my time, but I felt like it was the perfect weekend trip. I felt like 3 days in Atlanta was an ideal amount of time and that I accomplished everything I wanted to do. I do wish the weather could have been warmer for a hike to Stone Mountain, but that wasn't meant to be this time around. Darn you winter! Personally, I thought Atlanta was slightly similar to Austin, Texas (but less weird) so if you love Austin I would strongly recommend checking out Atlanta as well.
Side Note- I ate at too many wonderful places so my Atlanta food tour will be detailed on a separate post- otherwise this one would have be LONG.
CNN.com is one of my go to sites to stay updated on current events in the U.S and around the world so touring the CNN headquarters was one of the top things I wanted to do in Atlanta. I strongly recommend purchasing timed tour tickets in advance online (even a day in advance is enough) because they sell out quickly if you arrive day of and attempt to sign up for a tour. Or you would have to arrive pretty early in the morning and then come back later for your assigned tour, which can potentially be a waste of time if you're on a tight schedule. The tour starts at the top of the world's longest continuous escalator (close your eyes if you are scared of heights because it is HIGH) underneath a giant globe that apparently use to be part of an amusement park. The tour takes you behind the scene to how news is produced and edited as well as how its researched and fact checked. Unfortunately due to the sensitivity of news these days, all viewing is done behind glass windows at a distance and no pictures are allowed. Security was tight on the tour with security guards following our group everywhere and posted at every turn. To be honest, I was a little disappointed by the tour as the guide only offered basic information about CNN (that I could have researched on Wikipedia) and didn't tell any interesting stories about the headquarters or go into specifics. It was a very high level generic tour and the type of thing I would only do once. Also- I did not see Anderson Cooper! Apparently, he records in New York, although I've never seen him here either...
MLK Historical Site
I arrived early (around 9:30am) to the MLK Visitor Center to claim the highly sought after MLK Birth Home tour tickets. Beware- these go FAST. They were actually sold out for the day when I came back from my tour. While the tickets are free, they aren't available for booking in advance or online so that was the main reason why I wanted to arrive early. The Visitor Center opens at 9am, which is when tickets can be claimed, and the first tour of the day begins at 10am. The tour is about 1 hour and highly interesting. Our tour guide was so knowledgable about MLK and his childhood life and told many stories that were actually passed down through the King family. MLK lived in the house until age 12 and the tour painted him as a normal little boy who loved school (and excelled at it by graduating high school at age 15), had fun playing with his younger brother, and hated doing chores and playing the piano. I loved walking through the house and imagining a young MLK and his family doing everyday things in the different rooms.
Also part of the historical site, but ticket-free were the museum exhibits inside the Visitor Center, visiting the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where King and his father and grandfather were pastors, and also paying respects to MLK and his wife's burial tombs. I really enjoyed learning about MLK's life and his passion for nonviolent protest and his drive to make a difference in the world.
World of Coca-Cola
Definitely a must see one of a kind experience! I don't even like or drink soda, but I thought the World of Coca- Cola was amazing. Located in Pemberton Plaza, across from the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola isn't just for kids! I had a lot of fun walking around and soaking in the long history of our nation's most famous drink. Don't let the long line to enter faze you because it moves relatively quickly and the sheer amount of people doesn't detract from the experience. Inside, there is a section for photos with the adorable Coca-Cola polar bear (be prepared to wait for this), museum exhibits about Coca-Cola's history, a 4D movie ride, and an opportunity to see the vault where the famous secret Coca-Cola recipe is supposedly stored. I always knew that Coca-Cola was founded by John Pemberton, but had no idea the lengths he took to prevent his soda recipe from leaking to the public. He was the only one who initially knew the location of the recipe and was the only one who knew how to create it from scratch, which was one of the main reasons why he used the bottling and distribution method (a new method during his time) to get Coca-Cola out to the world. The museum portion has so much Coca-Cola paraphernalia that I was completely in awe.
The most popular area in the center is probably the tasting pavilion where visitors can taste soda from all around the world, including interesting drinks that I had never even heard of from Africa and Asia. I also really enjoyed the many different themed Coca-Cola bottles placed around the building- there was even a series designed by modern fashion designers such as Fendi and Moschino. Make sure to save time to shop in the gift store because its simply overwhelming.
I briefly toured Emory University as part of a admissions information session and found it to be a very modern and convenient campus. While I'll always believe my own alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, has the best campus ever (#longhornpride), I think Emory is a beautiful school.
Carter Presidential Center
Although I've always known that U.S Presidents have libraries/museums built in their honor after they leave office, I was never interested in exploring their museums since I feel like I'm alive while they were in office and thus aware of their accomplishments and failures. However, since President Carter's term was before I was even born and before my parents came to the U.S, I was curious to learn about how he shaped America during his four years in office and how he influenced the world after he left office. I found the Carter Center to be a wealth of information about President Carter and his family (especially his wife Rosalynn Carter), the policies he championed as President, and his international peacekeeping affairs he participated in after retiring from public office. Inside the Center, there is a replica of the Oval Office as it looked when Carter was President. Many of the artwork and gifts he had decorating his office are on display. I especially loved learning about his beautiful wife, Rosalynn, and how she championed mental illness and made huge efforts to lessen the stigma associated with it. She was a true partner for President Carter and I enjoyed reading about their love story and the life they built together. The Center itself is beautifully built with a gorgeous Japanese garden in the back and a fountain in the front. Visiting here actually made me wonder about the other presidential libraries and museums out there and I'm excited to see how the Obama museum will turn out (its going to be located in Chicago). Currently, the Carter Center is used to continue President Carter's work and beliefs.
Ponce City Market/ BeltLine
If you know me, you know that I love street food and night markets where a variety of food is available and I have the opportunity to try a little of everything. The Ponce City Market is basically a giant food hall with tons of food and boutique shopping. I loved wandering around the Market and and enjoying the variety. Bonus- the Market is connected to the Krog Street Market (similar) and Piedmont Park but a long walkway where people are able walk or bike. The Market and the BeltLine is something that reminds me of Austin and made me fall in love with Atlanta even more. The building which houses the Ponce City Market actually used to belong to the Sears, Roebuck & Company, and renovating it was one of Atlanta's largest development projects to date. I found out later that you can even live here! Their are several apartments located directly above the Market.
What are some of your favorite spots in Atlanta? If you haven't been before, what are some spots you want to visit?