Things to do in Atlanta if you’re only here once

by Rachel Lipszyc

December 27, 2021

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It doesn’t get more Atlanta than these attractions! If you’re new to Atlanta these are the must see spots in the city that will have everyone in the family raving.

1) World of Coca-Cola 

As its name suggests, World of Coca-Cola is a museum dedicated entirely to Coke. Visits to the two-level facility begin with exhibits on the drink’s historical milestones, its role in pop culture and the bottling process. The older generations in your group will likely enjoy the museum’s attention to the company’s past, but the kids will probably be most excited for the Taste It! area, where more than 100 varieties of Coke from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America are available for unlimited sampling. You can also purchase various Coke memorabilia at the on-site gift shop. 

2) Georgia Aquarium 

Considered one of the world’s largest aquariums, the Georgia Aquarium boasts more than 100,000 animals from 700 species represented in seven different galleries. Housing everything from freshwater animals in its Southern Company River Scout gallery to a 6.3-million-gallon whale shark tank in its Ocean Voyager gallery, it’s safe to say the aquarium runs the gamut in terms of its marine life.

3) Stone Mountain Park 

Spread across 3,200 acres, Stone Mountain Park boasts a variety of family-friendly attractions. But for many, the real star here is the Confederate Memorial Carving. The largest high relief sculpture in the world, this carving depicts three Confederate heroes of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. For a little perspective, the entire carved surface measures 3 acres, which is larger than a football field and Mount Rushmore. If the carving alone isn’t enough of an incentive to drive 20 miles northeast of the city, then consider the park’s other attractions.

Additional facilities include a wildlife preserve, a cable car ride, two golf courses, several restaurants and an antebellum plantation that is open to tour. You could easily spend all day exploring the grounds’ hiking trails, picnic areas and recreational attractions. You should especially stay until the evening in the summer, when the Lasershow Spectacular blazes the mountain’s carving and the night sky with images representing the South.

4) Fernbank Museum of Natural History 

Explore the prehistoric and present-day natural worlds at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Visitors can immerse themselves in exhibits featuring dinosaur fossils, wildlife native to Georgia, cultural garments and more. Travelers can also enjoy a 3D movie at the park’s theater or some light fare at the Fernbank Café. Plus, the museum boasts three outdoor experiences, accessible from the terrace. WildWoods features two scenic viewing platforms and two playground areas for children 13 and younger. The Nature Gallery exhibit, located within WildWoods, gives information about the sweetgum tree and has rotating exhibits. Finally, Fernbank Forest features more than 2 miles of paved paths that allow visitors to explore a 65-acre forest. When walking along the paths, keep your eyes peeled for animals, as hundreds of species call the area home.

5) Atlanta History Center 

Spread across 33 acres in Atlanta’s trendy Buckhead neighborhood, the Atlanta History Center seeks to explore Georgia’s past through comprehensive exhibitions, historic homes and miles of gardens and trails. The center’s primary facility is the Atlanta History Museum, which showcases exhibits that span the region’s history, from Native American culture to life in the antebellum South.

Near the museum is the Swan House, a restored estate originally built in 1928. Living up to its name, every room allegedly features at least one swan (motif). Outside the house, the Swan Woods Trail is lined with beautiful plants native to Georgia. Nearby, you can also see how the other half lived at the Smith Family Farm, a plantation house from the mid-1800s. Meanwhile, bookworms won’t want to miss a tour of the Margaret Mitchell House, where the author penned her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Gone With the Wind.”

Many travelers say that this property’s attractions more than justify its entrance fee. Just be sure to allot enough time for the center’s buildings: Several visitors note that there’s plenty to see here, so plan on spending at least three hours on-site.

6) Fox Theater 

The Fox Theatre is more than a performance venue – it’s one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. And luckily, you don’t need to have tickets to a show to take in its ornate interior. You’ll get a tutorial on the building’s iconic architectural details and more during a tour. Tours, which take place on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, guide visitors through more than 10 locations within the building, from the orchestra pit to the ornately decorated men’s bathroom. Plus, you’ll see Mighty Mo’, the largest working Moller theater organ in the world.

7) Atlanta Botanical Garden 

The Atlanta Botanical Garden should be every plant lover’s first stop in the city. It covers a magnificent and beautiful 30 acres in the northwest corner of Midtown’s Piedmont Park. There’s lots to see here, including the Lou Glenn Children’s Garden, the Edible Garden, the Tropical Rotunda and one of the few remaining mature hardwood forests in Atlanta. Plus, you can’t miss a pass through the Fuqua Orchid Center, which features a variety of unique high-elevation orchids never grown before in the Southeast. You’ll also find a wonderful and colorful collection of poison dart frogs within the glass walls of the Fuqua Conservatory.

8) College Football Hall of Fame 

Located just south of the Georgia Aquarium and across the street from Centennial Olympic Park, the College Football Hall of Fame offers more than 50 interactive exhibits dedicated to its namesake sport. Inside the 95,000-square-foot facility, visitors can look for their team’s helmet on the three-story Helmet Wall, admire Heisman and National Championship trophies, sit at the interactive ESPN College GameDay Desk, kick a field goal at the 45-yard football field and more. Located just south of the Georgia Aquarium and across the street from Centennial Olympic Park, the College Football Hall of Fame offers more than 50 interactive exhibits dedicated to its namesake sport. Inside the 95,000-square-foot facility, visitors can look for their team’s helmet on the three-story Helmet Wall, admire Heisman and National Championship trophies, sit at the interactive ESPN College GameDay Desk, kick a field goal at the 45-yard football field and more.

9) High Museum of Art 

The High Museum of Art’s aesthetics begin with the physical structure itself. The Richard Meier-designed building is covered in white porcelain that is mirrored on its interior, which also features winding walking paths and an interesting light system at the top. The most noteworthy part of the collection is the 19th- and 20th-century American art, including pieces by Thomas Sully, Norman Rockwell and Frederic Church. The museum also houses an impressive collection of Italian works from the 1300s to the 1900s and masks, figurative sculptures, ceramics and more from sub-Saharan Africa. This art museum occupies three buildings filled with galleries, a highly recommended restaurant and a gift shop.

10) Mercedes-Benz Stadium 

At the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, soccer fans can watch Atlanta United while football fans can catch the Falcons. Featuring a massive circular video display, three separate concourses for food like burgers, salads, pizza, beer and tacos, and a roof that opens and shuts, it’s no wonder this stadium was picked to host the 2019 Super Bowl. If you can’t catch a game, don’t pass on the stadium: guided tours of the facility, which could include stops at the locker rooms, the Skybridges and the field, are available year-round, and the stadium sometimes hosts other events like concerts.

11) Truist Park 

Since Truist Park’s opening in 2017, thousands of tomahawk-wielding fans have ventured to the stadium to cheer on their favorite Major League Baseball team, the Atlanta Braves. The baseball stadium can seat up to 41,000 people and each spot provides a sweeping view of the field. But you don’t need to watch a game to explore the park: daily tours run year-round to share the Braves’ long history. During the tour, you’ll see Monument Garden’s historic displays, the dugout and the press box, and visit the Braves Clubhouse Store, among other stops. After your tour, head over to the Atlanta Battery, adjacent to the park, for dining, shopping or a manicure.

12) SkyView Atlanta 

Families and photography enthusiasts alike will love visiting SkyView Atlanta. This large Ferris wheel just east of Centennial Olympic Park stands nearly 20 stories tall and features 42 air-conditioned gondolas. While passengers ride the attraction, they’ll enjoy stunning views of the downtown skyline.  or get a discount when you buy your tickets via Groupon

13) Zoo Atlanta 

What sets Atlanta’s zoo apart from other wildlife exhibits is its panda population: Zoo Atlanta is one of only four zoos in the U.S. housing giant pandas. The rare bears are a favorite among recent visitors, but the zoo also boasts more than 200 other species. While here, you’ll spot lions, giraffes, zebras and plenty of reptiles. Apart from the animals, the zoo offers a train ride, a carousel, a ropes course and a rock climbing wall, among other attractions. Keep in mind: The cost of these activities is not included with admission.