Below you’ll find a list of attractions I compiled several years ago to help friends and family decide what they want to do when they came to visit us. You’re also welcome to use it if you’re neither family nor friend.
- Weird Georgia
- Fodor’s Around Atlanta With Kids: 60 Great Things to Do Together
- 100 Things to Do in Atlanta Before You Die
- Quick Escapes Atlanta: 27 Weekend Getaways From The Gateway To The South
Zoo Atlanta is compact but full of great exhibits and animals. It’s a bit pricey at $23 per adult (Spring 2015), kids are $18 (2015) and babies 2 and under get in free. An annual family membership starts at $119 (2015). The zoo is crowded, even on cloudy winter days, so it’s a bit rough navigating a stroller around. There’s a playground and carousel for kids when you’re ready to take a break. We were most impressed by the gorillas and orangutans, which have regular feeding times posted so you can stop and watch. The panda exhibit is also pretty cool.
Info: (404) 624-5600 | Grant Park, 800 Cherokee Avenue S.E., Atlanta GA 30315
Another good (free) zoo (technically an animal rehabilitation center) in the area is Noah’s Ark in Locust Grove. It’s actually a home for abandoned children where the kids help take care of the animals. They open the animal habitat portion up to the public for several hours a day.
Centennial Olympic Park
We thought this one was going to be boring, but it was actually pretty cool. The tour lasts about 45 minutes. You need to get tickets in advance because lines can be long. They are $16 (2015) and you can plan on another few bucks for parking. Much of the tour is marketing, but you get to learn how the newscasters know their lines while looking straight into the camera, how the weather maps appear behind the meteorologist and you can get a bird’s eye view of the news room.
Be sure to stop by the gift shop after the tour to buy a videotape of your own mock newscast.
This is across the street from the Centennial Olympic Park.
Recorded info: (404) 827-2300 | Daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
The best part of this tour is the soda fountains at the end. Choose from dozens of sodas from around the world, including the awful Beverly drink I still can’t get entirely off my tongue. My favorites were Barq’s Rootbeer (U.S), Watermelon Fanta (China), and Raspberry Fanta (China). The tour is $16 (2015); slightly less for young’uns.
Like the CNN tour, there is a whole lot of marketing and self-promotion in this tour, which is to be expected, I guess. The history of the soft drink is very interesting, however, and it’s amazing (if not a little sad) to consider the impact it has had on culture in the United States and around the world. It’s also depressing to see how rich you’d be if you had one of the company’s original stock certificates.
The King Center
This place is a must-see. Watch a brief video summarizing the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Then visit several unique exhibits about the struggle for Civil Rights. The most memorable one for me was a walled area with several televisions displaying interviews filled with ignorant and racist comments. It’s almost unbelievable. The gardens are impressive. Don’t forget to tour the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church (pictured at right) across the street from the Center.
It’s pretty amazing. It’s also amazingly expensive — 2015 prices: Adult (ages 13-64): $31.95 + tax, Child (ages 3-12): $25.95 + tax, Senior (age 65+): $27.95 + tax
I really like how the place is organized: there are five main areas around a central food court area. Ocean Voyager takes you on a moving sidewalk through a glass tunnel where all sorts of fish, including 4 impressive whale sharks, swim overhead. The kids liked the divers who were wiping debris off the glass. Tropical Diver has all the colorful fish, including some Dori and Nemo look-alikes. Georgia Explorer has the touch pools (my big complaint here is that even adults had to bend down pretty far to reach anything. Parents were dangling their kids by their feet so they could reach the rays.) There’s also a slide down a plastic whale’s throat and a fun play area that the kids spent 30 minutes in. Coldwater Quest has 5 (4 this week) dreamy beluga whales who apparently prefer new age music. They were very cool, but the kids were getting tired by then. We practically ran through the River Scout area because the kids had run out of steam. It has pirrhanas, otters, and lots of creative aquarium windows above and around you as you walk through, including a slightly claustrophobic tunnel you can crawl through for an underwater feel. There’s also a 3-D movie we skipped and a behind-the-scenes tour we couldn’t afford. We did enjoy a large pretzel in the Oceans Ballroom where you can get a close (and uncrowded) view of the Ocean Voyager and Beluga whale tanks.
We’ve been several times and can last about 3 hours with 3 young kids. The place gets so crowded by about 12:30 that we’re glad to be done.
The New American Shakespeare Tavern
We saw Twelfth Night during the 2003 season. It was one of the best performances of Shakespeare I’ve seen! Feste in particular was hilarious and did a great job of making the dialogue interesting to even the Shakespeare-phobe. Also went to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in December 2003, which was excellent.
Tickets were about $20 each ($10 for students and preview nights) and dinner (British pub food) was $7 – $10 a plate. Be sure to get the apple crisp and ice cream at intermission ($5).
499 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 | (404) 874-5299
High Museum of Art
It’s been a few years since we last visited the High Museum of Art. We were there for a Norman Rockwell exhibit. The place has changed quite a bit since then with three new buildings designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano. We’ll need to visit at some point during the next three years since they’re hosting works of art from the Louvre (see www.louvreatlanta.org)
Favorite Places to Eat
Best BBQ (by far) – Fat Matt’s Rib Shack – 1811 Piedmont Ave. NE
Also winner of best lemonade and best sauce to take home.
Best fancy BBQ – Fox Bros. BBQ – 1238 Dekalb Ave NE
Try one of their deep-fried ribs. It might change your life.
Best suburb BBQ – Wallace BBQ – 3035 Veterans Memorial Highway, Austell
So good. They close once a year (July?) to clean the grills and friers and it takes a couple of weeks for the fries to get delicious again.
Best breakfast – Waffle House – all over the place
The All-Star Special breakfast is 945 calories and worth every bite.
Best fast food – Willy’s Mexicana Grill – Hapeville, Atlanta airport, etc.
Don’t miss the queso and chips. Every time I pass through the ATL airport I buy some to take home as carry-on for my wife.
The Georgia Renaissance Festival
- I find Southerners faking British accents pleasantly amusing.
- My favorite parts of Shakespeare’s plays are the scatalogical humor and sexual innuendo.
- I’m comfortable around people dressed up as medieval peasants trying to carry on a serious conversation with me interspersed with “thee”, “thou”, and “Welcome, good gentles”.
- I think sword swallowing, juggling, mud wrestling, jousting, dueling, birds of prey, and overpriced sodas and legs of turkey are pretty cool.
If you can answer “true” to at least 2 of the statements above, The Georgia Renaissance Festival is for you. I like to make fun of it in case you don’t think I’m cool for liking it, but it’s really pretty fun. We went in 2004 for our second time in 5 years. Admission was $15 for adults (kids 5 & under free), food runs about $2.50 for a soda, $4.50 for a turkey leg. It usually runs from the Joustingend of April to the beginning of June on weekends and Memorial Day. The Zucchini Brothers (juggling) are good and so is the Birds of Prey presentation. And it’s a great place for people-watching. It’s amazing how many visitors come in costume (or at least in modern goth outfits they somehow associate with Renaissance England.). And I like observing people who are really into swords.
Fairburn, Georgia (30 minutes south of Atlanta)
A bunch of shopping and eating and people-watching. I like to take visitors here once but it’s not the kind of place you go back to again and again
Your Dekalb Farmers’ Market
Plan on spending an entire afternoon here. The place is huge and has a great selection of fresh produce (much of it exotic), international food, herbs and spices, and all manner of meat and fish. My kids spent 30 minutes just watching people select live blue crabs with tongs. I was delighted to find crème fraîche (French version of sour cream — excellent for making a sauce with pasta and bacon (lardons fumés) and Petit Ecolier (chocolate and graham) crackers there, but I still can’t find the Chocolate Cruesli cereal I long for. We bought two shrink-wrapped packages of pain au chocolat pastries. They didn’t really taste all that French, but they were still very good. They also have a cafeteria with a gigantic salad bar, but I was too full from pains au chocolat.
Your Dekalb Farmers’ Market – 3000 E Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur, GA
I’ve heard there are places like Lenox Square, The Town Center at Cobb, and the Mall of Georgia, but I can only handle a few minutes of this sort of thing, so you’re on your own.
I’m not a big fan of baseball, but I would still recommend a Braves game at Turner Field. I don’t even remember who they played, but I did notice the Braves lost. We bought nosebleed seats in section 100-something for $5. They charged us an extra $2 each to mail the tickets to us, but they never did. Fortunately, there was no line at Will Call. Parking is from $5 to $10 in the area (some people just rent out their driveways for a few bucks, but we went for a lot with a security guard) and you should get there early if you want to avoid a long walk.
There are a bunch of things to do at the stadium besides watch baseball. Drinks and food are horrendously overpriced and I had to ask two or three times to get my Coke topped off, but it’s fun to just walk around and see the batting cages, baseball museum, gift shops, video games, Cartoon Channel restaurant, etc.
It’s worth going just to see the Philips Arena. We went to a season-opener versus the Milwaukee Bucks. Again, we had nosebleed seats, but the view was still good. There were fireworks inside the arena and a radio-controlled blimp cruising around. You know, if you’re into that kind of thing. . .
Gone With The Wind sites
Road to Tara Museum, Jonesboro
Margaret Mitchell House and Museum, Atlanta
A tribute in granite to three Confederate leaders in the Civil War: President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and Lt. General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. There’s also a museum, a skylift to the top of the mountain, an evening laser show, a train, a petting zoo, and some other things they’ve added since I was there last.
Six Flags Over Georgia
Info: (770) 948-9290 | 7561 Six Flags Road SW at I-20 West, 12 miles west of Atlanta
Civil War Sites
(not done with this part yet)
Wild Animal Safari – we haven’t done this yet, but some friends enjoyed it. You drive through the park with your own automobile while animals paw at your doors to get food. They said a giraffe reached its head through the passenger window to grab the food in the driver’s lap.
Callaway Gardens – we attended during one of their free days (it’s normally a bit pricey) and enjoyed the “beach” and the butterfly pavilion.
Warm Springs – home to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Little White House and some quaint shops.
About an hour south of Atlanta
Newnan, Georgia, was a hospital zone with six field hospitals during the Civil War so there are some nice, old buildings and homes in the area that weren’t razed along with the rest of Atlanta. Dine at Golden’s on the Square (cafeteria style), the Redneck Gourmet, or Sprayberry’s BBQ (I don’t much like it but it’s a famous place that’s been around a while so someone must). Pick up a Lewis Grizzard book at Scott’s Book Store. Visit the Male Academy Museum and take a driving tour through historic neighborhoods of Victorian and Antebellum homes (see some of my photos). Visit nearby Dunaway Gardens. (We went on a free day and liked it – not sure if I’d pay the high entrance fee.)
45 minutes south of Atlanta, Coweta County
Hollonville Opry House
Despite falling under the average age of the audience by about 55 years, we had a great time here. There’s a show most Saturday nights (6:30pm) with four bands playing bluegrass, gospel, and country music. We were both surprised at how talented the line-up was. In the audience there’s a 94-year-old woman who makes it most Saturday nights — she sits up front and rings a cowbell when she likes the music and hollers or gets up to dance when it’s really good. The emcee tells corny jokes between bands (“a skeleton walked into a bar and ordered a beer and a mop”), there are fresh baked goods for sale, and it’s an all-around good time. Admission is free, donations are encouraged. Try to catch Mark Hall & Filmore House Band.
South of Atlanta, Pike County