Civil Rights + College Football + Coca-Cola

By Jenny Peters

There’s always something happening in Atlanta, Georgia’s biggest city and cultural hub. It’s where America’s civil rights movement took hold (and continues today with its diverse populace), a center of thriving entertainment arts, and a culinary experience is always right out the front door.

A surprisingly lush, natural city, Atlanta is known for its spectacular greenery, especially the trees that make its nickname “the city in the forest” ring true. You’ll discover massive oak trees, magnolias, dogwoods, and pines everywhere you wander, including in the Atlanta Botanical Garden, with 30 acres of spectacular foliage to experience. Don’t miss the Chihuly sculptures there.

Atlanta has many cutting-edge modern attractions, but the history of this city founded by European settlers as a central railroad terminus is a community where seminal American history has happened. To explore the places that recall the city’s varied history, we used the Atlanta CityPASS, which gives a 44 percent discount for entry to five key attractions that immerse visitors in history.

The World of Coca-Cola is a museum that explores the complete story of the most popular soft drink in the world, where life began in 1886 in a local pharmacy. That museum is located adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park in the heart of downtown, the same area that also offers the College Football Hall of Fame, where the game is celebrated, actual trophies like the Heisman can be viewed, and top players are celebrated. The massive Georgia Aquarium and the incredibly compelling and emotionally wrenching National Center for Civil and Human Rights are also in this park area.

The center explores the American civil rights movement and the global struggle for freedom for all in a striking mix of hands-on experiences, video and audio displays, and more. All those places are included in the CityPASS and the Zoo Atlanta.

Following in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s footsteps throughout Atlanta is an emotional-filled experience. The city was his birthplace, where he grew up in the Old Fourth Ward, went to Morehouse College, and eventually became not only the pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church but the most important voice of the ‘50s and ‘60s Black civil rights movement. Today, King and his wife, Coretta, are interred in a large memorial at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park.

Two excellent tours help visitors understand King’s history and legacy and how Atlanta eventually evolved into today’s multicultural city. The in-depth Unexpected Atlanta: Martin Luther King Jr. Walking Tour, a 2.5-hour meander along the same streets he walked, is led by an informative guide and includes his boyhood home, the old and new versions of Ebenezer Church, his grave, and much more. Combine that with an ATL-Cruzers Electric Car Tour, a fun 90-minute guided ride through King’s Atlanta and beyond, encompassing Inman Park, Midtown, and other vibrant neighborhoods, and between the two, you’ll feel almost like a local.

Slide further into the local scene by joining the crowds who love the Beltline, the ongoing project repurposing the old railroad lines to connect 45 neighborhoods with a 22-mile loop of trails, parks, restaurants, shops, affordable housing, and more. Start with a craft pizza and a locally brewed beer at local favorite Nina & Rafi, then wander the Eastside Trail to see the numerous murals that brighten this part of the Beltline. Or rent bicycles (even E-bikes) from a Relay Bike Share Station and ride more of the trails.

Don’t miss the Ponce Market along the Eastside Trail in the Old Fourth Ward, a repurposed Sears catalog warehouse that’s now a bustling hotspot filled with restaurants, food booths, and shops, as well as residential apartments. For a fun way to explore the landmark space, take a Food Tours Atlanta Walking Tour of the market to sample the best it offers, or wander until one of the succulent scents draws you in.

Don’t leave Atlanta without having an elegant Southern-influenced dinner at South City Kitchen in Buckhead (their fried green tomatoes are the stuff of legend). We also loved Twisted Soul Cookhouse and Pours, Deborah VanTrece’s Midtown eatery that melds a sophisticated layer onto classic soul food dishes. One bite of the herb-crusted pork loin, and we’re sure you’ll be a fan, too.

These Atlanta ideas will keep you busy for a long weekend; add in hitting the nightclubs, music venues, sports events, art galleries, and shopping spots. You can easily spend a week discovering all the things that make this famous Southern city tick.

For more information on Atlanta, visit; for CityPASS, visit

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