When considering Atlanta attractions, visitors often find that there’s a perfect blend of past and present, of history both gone and in the making. Yet while this combination can be entrancing, it can also be overwhelming.
The Top Must-See Atlanta Attractions
To make things easier, here are the top 10 Atlanta tourist attractions you should consider when you visit.
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One of locals’ favorite spots in the city, Piedmont Park is a green respite from modern life. If you catch Atlanta on a sunny day, head here to walk or bike along scenic paths, play sports, and lay on the grass. In the warmer months, you can also have a picnic, bask in the sun, and plunge into the pool.
With architecture inspired by the Middle East and the characteristic opulence of the grand theaters of the 1920s, Fox Theatre is one of Atlanta’s most beloved landmarks. The architecture and intricate gilded decorations are enough to get people to pay just to tour around the place, but most visitors come to enjoy one of the numerous movies, concerts, and shows the theatre offers.
In its lifetime, Fox Theatre has seen performances by the likes of Elvis Presley and Madonna. It also premiered the now-famous Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse cartoon, and hosted the world premiere of the Phantom of the Opera touring production.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
One of the most symbolic Atlanta points of interest, this group of landmarks commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Landmarks include places that were important to Dr. King’s life, such as his childhood home and the church where he preached.
There are also several sites dedicated to the fight for human rights. Visit the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, and the touching “I Have a Dream” International World Peace Rose Garden.
Holding the title of largest aquarium in the world, the Georgia Aquarium is a must-see Atlanta attraction. It houses more than 100,000 animals in its six galleries, which include different ecosystems. The most popular place in the aquarium is the magnificent Ocean Voyager exhibit. Here, visitors walk through an acrylic tunnel, as they see sharks, whales, and other species swimming around and above. Other highlights include shows and a shark tank diving.
Atlanta History Center
If you enjoy museums and history, the highly interactive Atlanta History Center will thrill you. The enormous property includes various houses where visitors can see what life was like for different social classes in several time periods. Go along with the costumed actors to see the harsh realities of plantation life in the 19th century, as well as the luxury enjoyed by the southern upper class in the 1920s.
History buffs will also love the numerous galleries, the Margaret Mitchell House, and the Civil War artifact collection, which is amongst the biggest in the country.
This quartz monzonite boasts the largest bas-relief in the entire world, and, as such, is well-worth a visit. Its history is shrouded in controversy due to an attempt to make it the “Mount Rushmore of the South” by carving the figures of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis —three key figures for the Confederacy— on it. The figures are still there, despite heavy criticism, but visitors also come to the mountain to enjoy its beautiful surroundings. The view from the top is astonishing, and the mountain includes a wildlife preserve, a beach, restaurants, and even two golf courses.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
This natural history museum is highly immersive, quite impressive, and packs lots of fun. Visitors can now enjoy the recently opened seven acres of trails for interactive exhibits and hands-on activities. Families can also enjoy the IMAX theatre, which presents a series of educational movies covering various topics. However, the crowning jewel of the museum is its dinosaur collection, which includes the first fully assembled Argentinosaurus, the largest dinosaur discovered to date.
Step into the world of broadcasting at the CNN world headquarters. Anyone can enter the network’s building and enjoy shopping and eating, but those who want to get a behind-the-scenes look can join a 50-minute studio tour. These tours take visitors on an in-depth journey that allows a detailed insight into each step of the broadcasting process. If you’re lucky, you might even get a chance to sit in on a live broadcast.
Originally built as a six-acre garden cemetery, Oakland Cemetery now hides the history of Atlanta in its soil. Civil war soldiers, mayors, and even Georgia icons like Bobby Jones and Margaret Mitchell are buried here. The mausoleums and sculptures are surrounded by winding paths, ancient oaks, and magnolias.
The cemetery is divided between class and race, a reflection of the painful history of racism and segregation in the city. But the cemetery also reflects progress, most notably with Maynard Jackson, the first African-American Mayor of Atlanta, being buried in the historically white part of the cemetery. Here, history still lives and breathes through the memorials of the dead.
High Museum of Art
Originally designed by Richard Meier, this museum is the leading art museum in the entire Southeast. With collections ranging from Renaissance to Contemporary art, this is one of the most intellectually stimulating Atlanta attractions.
The highlight of the museum is its 19th and 20th century American art collection, though it also counts with an impressive number of works by 19th century French masters, a sub-Saharan African art collection, and photography exhibitions. The museum is praised for its busy event calendar, which includes an annual film series with foreign and independent art.
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- A Visitor’s Guide to Atlanta Neighborhoods
- The 10 Best Cheap Eats in Atlanta
- 10 Best Restaurants in Atlanta
- 10 Great Spots to Try Southern Food in Atlanta
- What to Wear in Atlanta
- What to Pack for Atlanta
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– Original reporting by Mariana Zapata
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