It may be a landlocked city, but with the recent opening of
the Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta is now awash
in more than 100,000 fish swimming in 8 million gallons of
water. The aquarium—the world's largest—has
state-of-the-art galleries, with themes such as Cold Water
Quest and Ocean Voyager, housed in a building that
resembles a ship. Despite the presence of five rare beluga
whales, two other giants have become fan favorites: Ralph
and Norton, the only whale sharks in this hemisphere. They
were flown from Taiwan to their new home, where visitors
can watch them from inside an acrylic tunnel that cuts
through their vast habitat. Though these 18-foot-long
sharks might seem dangerous, don't worry—they eat
only plankton. Georgia Aquarium, 404/581-4444; www.georgiaaquarium.org; tickets $22.75 for
adults, $17 for children 3–12.
Embassy Suites (267 Marietta St. NW; 404/223-2300; www.embassysuites.com;
doubles from $199) Tops in convenience, in terms of its downtown location, next door to the
just-opened Georgia Aquarium in Centennial Park. For all of 2006, the hotel is offering an
Aquarium Family VIP package that comes with four tickets to the big fish tank for $140 a night.
Four Seasons Atlanta (75 14th St. NW; 404/881-9898; www.fourseasons.com/atlanta;
doubles from $395) Land of cushy comforts: cookies and milk at bedtime, child-sized robes,
and a toy chest at the front desk. There's also a teen concierge on duty year-round to advise
discriminating squirts on how they might spend their days. The hotel is only five minutes
by car from Centennial Park, plus there's shrimp and grits on the kids' menu.
The Glenn Hotel (110 Marietta St. NW; 404/521-2250; www.theglennhotel.com;
doubles from $346) Atlanta goes boutique-y-The Glenn opened in January, and its sister hotel,
The Twelve (see below), debuted in February. The CNN Center, where you can take a behind-the-scenes
tour (see below), is across the street. But the big draw here is B.E.D., the hotel's restaurant,
where fully made beds serve as the tables and chairs. On the menu: fruit-and-cottage-cheese
"banana splits" for breakfast; ham and turkey on a pretzel bun for lunch. Don't worry, everyone
leaves crumbs on the sheets.
The Twelve (361 17th St. NW; 404/961-1212; www.twelvehotels.com;
doubles from $155) The cornerstone of the new Atlantic Station Mall, located in a refinished
steel mill. All rooms are one- or two-bedroom suites, and have two flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi,
and a web-only-enabled computer on which you can check e-mail and order room service at the
Westin Peachtree Plaza (210 Peachtree St. NW; 404/659-1400; www.starwoodhotels.com;
doubles from $385) A landmark hotel with a cool pool on its ninth floor: the glass-paneled
roof opens up during warm weather. After a dip, dine 73 stories up at the revolving rooftop
restaurant, where you can peer out at the major Atlanta sights, like the Georgia Dome (home
to the Falcons) and Stone Mountain Park.
The Atlanta History Center (130 West Paces Ferry Rd. NW; 404/814-4000; www.atlhist.org)
It's not all Confederate money and Civil War rifles behind glass at this Buckhead museum-there
are 33 acres of outdoor grounds to explore, too. You'll find a blacksmith pounding horseshoes,
a 19th-century Georgian kitchen garden, and several antebellum mansions. In July 2006, the
Centennial Olympic Games Museum opens in a new wing at the History Center. It will house Olympic
torches and medals from the last century, film and photographs from the 1996 Olympics, and
a virtual reality station where you can kayak your way to your own gold medal.
Center for Puppetry Arts (1404 Spring St. NW; 404/873-3391; www.puppet.org)
The largest puppet museum in North America, showcasing familiar faces from the Muppet Show
and The Lion King. Elaborate performances are staged six days a week.
CNN Studio Tours (One CNN Center; 404/827-2300; www.cnn.com/studiotour)
Calling all aspiring Christiane Amanpours: get a real glimpse of the CNN studios and newsrooms.
As part of the tour, you can try using a teleprompter, act out the part of a weatherman in
front of a chroma key map, and if you're lucky, watch Kyra Phillips and Chuck Roberts do their
High Museum (1280 Peachtree St. NE; 404/733-4444; www.high.org)
The huge Renzo Piano expansion in 2005 elevated this local institution to a world-class contemporary
art museum. But not a stuffy one. There are free drop-in art classes for families every Sunday
from 1 to 4 pm, and free workshops for parents and toddlers on Tuesdays and Thursdays from
11 am to 3 pm.
Margaret Mitchell House and Museum (990 Peachtree St. NE; 404/249-7015;
www.gwtw.org) Margaret Mitchell and husband
lived in this modest apartment building while she was writing Gone with the Wind.
Today, their quarters are recreated with furnishings from the 1920's. Next door is the Gone
with the Wind Museum, filled with memorabilia from the movie: Scarlett's bengaline honeymoon
gown, the front door to Tara, and movie posters from around the world.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Birth Home (501 Auburn Ave. NE; 404/331-5190; www.nps.gov/malu)
Much of the original 1930's furniture and housewares remain in this Victorian, where King
was born and lived until the age of 12. It's in Sweet Auburn, the historic center of black
Atlanta, just two blocks west of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin, his father, and his
grandfather all preached. Since the site is a national park, kids can earn Junior Ranger badges
by completing the activity book and agreeing to live by Dr. King's Six Principles of Nonviolence.
Tree Climbers International (290 Arizona Ave. NE; 404/377-3150; www.treeclimbing.com)
It's your chance to swing-safely-90-feet above the ground, suspended from the limbs of a 100-year-old
white oak tree. During the two-hour-long introductory course, instructors teach their harness-assisted
method for climbing your way to the top-with a helmet, ropes, and carabiners. If you get serious,
you can sign on for a full weekend in the trees.
World of Coca-Cola (55 Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. SW; www.woccatlanta.com;
404/676-5151) The company's giant salute to itself features classic TV commercials, a working
Coke fountain (complete with soda jerk), and an exhibit of cola-inspired folk art. Best of
all, visitors get to sample Coke products from exotic locales, such as Lychee Mello, a lychee-nut
flavored soda from Thailand. A bigger fizz: The museum's new quarters, in Centennial Park
next to the Georgia Aquarium, opens in 2007.