These are the places you need to see at least once.
Georgia's vibrant capital city manages to mix visitor-friendly attractions with significant historic landmarks and — of course — a strong dose of southern charm. Atlanta has no shortage of restaurants plating Deep South fare, or cultural diversions. But this city also offers ample outdoor activities (come here in autumn when the Appalachian foothills are in kaleidoscopic color). From green spaces to studio spaces, these are a few Atlanta points of interest you can’t miss the next time you’re in town.
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
Just outside the capital you’ll find an unspoiled patch of deep country wilderness. Winding 48 miles from Lake Lanier all the way down to Atlanta, the Chattahoochee makes the perfect day trip for canoers and kayakers. It’s wide, well-mapped, and blissfully undeveloped. You might even encounter a few waterfalls.
Ponce City Market
What started out as a distribution warehouse in the 1920s for Sears, Roebuck & Co., has now evolved into one of the most diverse (and delicious) indoor food halls in the south. Stock up on cocktail utensils at 18.21 Bitters, sample South African beef jerky at Biltong Bar, or share tapas plates of charred Spanish octopus and arancini balls at Brezza Cucina.
A take on New York’s High Line, the Beltline carves a leafy, 22-mile loop around Atlanta, with sections framed by colorful public murals. Whether on foot or bike, different access points can be found up and down the line, including a brand new plaza just outside Ponce City Market. Take the Eastside Trail — which bisects Piedmont Park, Historic Fourth Ward Park, and the Freedom Park trail — home to a popular Tony Hawk-approved skatepark.
If New York’s Central Park had a younger cousin, this would be it. Grassy, peaceful, with different intersecting paths and even its own wetlands, Piedmont is a true people’s park. (In fact, sections of it were designed by the sons of Frederick Law Olmstead, the man responsible for Central Park.) Backing up to the skyline of downtown Atlanta, it’s an ideal spot for afternoon picnicking, outdoor concerts, or a simple stroll.
CNN Studio Tour
Here’s your chance to go behind-the-scenes at the world’s first 24-hour news network. CNN, which has its headquarters in downtown Atlanta, offers 50-minute studio tours every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., where you’ll get the chance to pose for a picture behind a news anchor desk, and see real producers and script writers as they put together the day’s headlines. And if all those prompt screens start to make you hungry, fear not: there's a food court downstairs.
This magnificent aquarium, opened in 2005, may not be the world’s biggest, but it’s certainly one of the most exciting. Of the 60 different habitats, many give the sense that you’re actually deep under the ocean’s surface, exploring strange new species for the first time. In the Ocean Voyager, for example, you can stand in an underwater acrylic tunnel while sting rays, whale sharks, and other fish swim around your head.
Martin Luther King Jr. Historical Site
Head east of downtown to reach this National Park Services-administered site, which pays homage to the man who dared to dream, and includes the actual house where he grew up. One of Atlanta’s most illuminating historic landmarks, you’ll have the chance to step inside the fully restored Ebenezer Baptist Church and visit the nearby King Center, which a Georgia-marble crypt serves as the final resting place for the civil rights leader and his wife.
World of Coca Cola
If you’re a Coke fan, you’re not going to want to miss this interactive museum, which was built in 2007 (though the brand has been around since 1892). Ever wondered who came up with the original recipe? Or what Coke tastes like in South Africa? Or wanted to see how an actual bottling line works? This could very well be the most educational sugar high of your life.