Best Attractions in AtlantaIn a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members,” and you'll find this acronym noted on some of these fun things to do in Atlanta.
Begin your visit to downtown Atlanta with a tour of The Georgia Capitol, where you'll learn about the architecture of the building and see lawmakers at work. Be sure to check out the Georgia Capitol Museum, chock-full of rocks, artifacts and other natural history exhibits.
Have a Coke and 100 More Drinks
If pop history is more your style, head to the World of Coca-Cola, a AAA GEM attraction, to find out the background behind one of the planet's most famous fizzy drinks. You still won't know the secret ingredients, but you can witness advertising at its best and sample more than 100 beverages from around the world.
Nearly next door is the Georgia Aquarium, a AAA GEM attraction, where you can peek in on 50,000 marine animals and about 100,000 fish, including gigantic whale sharks that were transported to the aquarium aboard a UPS aircraft. This activity is a must when you travel to Atlanta.
Also behind glass are busy news anchors and reporters at One CNN Center. The CNN Studio Tours takes you behind the scenes to see the inner workings of one of the biggest cable TV networks. When you get hungry or need a break, nearby restaurants offer several places to eat.
Things to Do in Midtown
Midtown Atlanta is home to many of the city's cultural attractions. A must-see is the High Museum of Art, a AAA GEM attraction. The stark, modern building houses paintings, sculpture, photographs and decorative arts by acclaimed artists. The museum also plays host to notable traveling exhibitions. Nearby, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, adjacent to Piedmont Park, is a tribute to nature. The lush, 30-acre garden encompasses old growth forest, a shade garden, a conservatory, greenhouses and a vine arbor, as well as acres of immaculate formal plantings interspersed with art and fountains.
Literary art is celebrated at the Margaret Mitchell House (catty-corner to Piedmont Park), where the author wrote most of the award-winning novel that epitomized the Old South. Burned twice since, the building has been faithfully restored.
Southeast of downtown, explore a few parks: Grant Park is home to Fort Walker and Zoo Atlanta, a AAA GEM attraction. With the focus on the well-being of its residents at this animal park, a maze of pathways keeps humans in check while gorillas and giraffes run free in nature-inspired exhibit areas. Pandas, kangaroos, zebras and tortoises also reside at the zoo.
Cemetery and King's Roots
North of Grant Park is the Historic Oakland Cemetery. Besides being the city's third-largest green space, the grounds contain Gothic Revival and neoclassic tombs and statuary. Of the nearly 70,000 graves, about 6,900 are Confederate soldiers, and other headstones mark the final resting places for Margaret Mitchell and golfer Bobby Jones.
History was made in Atlanta's Sweet Auburn neighborhood, just north of Oakland Cemetery. This African-American community is where Civil Rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived and preached. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, a AAA GEM attraction, encompasses the two-story Victorian home where he was born, and the modest Ebenezer Baptist Church, in which he took to the pulpit with his father to preach about love, equality and peace. Steps away is The King Center , home to Dr. King's tomb and exhibits about his life and work. A visit here really brings home the enormous influence King had on race relations.
Plantations and Parks
North of downtown are two AAA GEM attractions that offer a glimpse into Southern antebellum history. Exhibits at the Atlanta History Center focus on the Civil War, folk art and Atlanta's early days, and outbuildings include historic properties restored to their original splendor. In Roswell, find the Archibald Smith Plantation Home, an 1845 estate with 12 outbuildings on its 300 acres. Owned by one of the town's founders, the plantation house contains original family furnishings and valuable antiques.
Visible east of the city, Stone Mountain Park, a AAA GEM attraction, is definitely worth a day trip. The expansive, shaded park surrounds Stone Mountain, on which are etched larger-than-life images of Jefferson Davis, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee on horseback. Ascend to the top of the rock peak via the Summit Skyride and take in panoramic views of the park and surrounding area. While you're there, check out Historic Square for a glimpse into a 19th-century working plantation.
A warning: No child will want to pass up a day at Six Flags Over Georgia, another AAA GEM attraction. The theme park, west of the city in Austell, has more than 100 thrill rides and about 10 stomach-churning roller coasters. Those planning a family vacation or group travel will find the theme park to be one of the most fun places to go and a must on the trip.
See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
The sales tax in the Atlanta metro area is 8.9 percent. Total tax on hotel stays is 16.9 percent plus a $5 per night fee.
Time and Temperature
Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center, (404) 265-4000; Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital, (678) 843-7001; Emory University Hospital, (404) 712-2000; Grady Memorial Hospital, (404) 616-1000; Northside Hospital, (404) 851-8000; Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, (404) 605-5000.
233 Peachtree St. N.E. Suite 1400 Atlanta, GA 30303. Phone:(404)521-6600 or (800)285-2682
Atlanta is served by
Hertz, with offices downtown and at the airport, offers discounts to AAA members; phone (404) 530-2925 or (800) 654-3080. For listings of other agencies check the telephone directory.
Amtrak train service is provided out of Southern Railway's Peachtree Station, known locally as Brookwood Station, at 1688 Peachtree St. N.W.; phone (800) 872-7245. Atlanta is a major stop on Amtrak's route known as “The Crescent,” which connects New York City with New Orleans.
Greyhound Lines Inc., 232 Forsyth St. S.W., is the major bus line serving Atlanta; phone (404) 584-1728 for recorded information or (800) 231-2222. There is a location at the airport at 6000 N. Terminal Dr.
Cab companies include Checker Cab, (404) 351-1111; and Yellow, (404) 305-9075. Taxis are metered. Base fare for Checker Cab and Yellow is $2.50, $2 for each additional mile and $2 for each additional passenger. A fuel surcharge may apply.
Atlanta's public transportation consists of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority's (MARTA) bus, rail and subway systems. See Public Transportation for details.