It didn’t take me long to spot it. The large red letters loomed large over Centennial Olympic Park and left no doubt which way I needed to head to find my first stop in Atlanta: CNN Tower. My mission? To catch a glimpse of Anderson Cooper, what else?
With my Atlanta CityPASS in hand (thanks to the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau), I made my way inside to the ticket booth and got my ticket for a 10:30 a.m. tour. As I did, the guy behind the ticket desk commented on my US Open Finals t-shirt (which I had forgotten I was wearing) and started chatting with me about how he used to go to the Open every year over Labor Day weekend. I loved the friendliness of Atlanta already!
I had 20 minutes to kill before my tour and set off through the food court in search of something for breakfast. Not finding many gluten free options, I opted for a chocolate Frosty at Wendy’s. Unfortunately, the Frosty machine was not yet totally going. Fortunately, the girl behind the counter offered me a free sample size that was not fully frozen but still tasted pretty darn good.
I got in line by 10:25 and was soon joined by about 20 others to listen to the welcome from our tour guide. After going through security, we headed up an eight-story escalator that is supposed to be the largest free-standing escalator in the world. At the top, we had a chance to sit behind a fake CNN desk with a fake script to have our picture taken that we could later buy for some ridiculous price (sorry for sounding a bit blah on that idea, but after running into this at multiple attractions lately, I’m kind of over it). Then, we headed into a small theater with a variety of screens running. We soon learned those were the different screens that producers see in the control room and we had a chance to listen in live to the control room – something that was a bit awkward as the producer we were listening to didn’t seem to be talking about anything having to do with the telecast!
Anyway, our guide soon led us through a variety of stops where we, for the most part, were allowed to take pictures. We stopped at a sample studio set up and one hilarious member of the group got to sit behind the desk and try to read the teleprompter. We got a glimpse of how the green weather screen works, allowing meteorologists to stand in front of their weather maps and point all over the place, seemingly knowing what they are pointing at. We looked down on the newsroom for CNN and the newsroom for their sister network, HLN (which I admit I am not familiar with at all).
And then we stopped by the actual studio where a real live broadcast was in progress. Kind of. They were on commercial break while we were there so all we saw was the anchor reading some notes to herself waiting to go live again. I was devastated to learn that Anderson Cooper not only was not in the building, he was not even in the state – he tapes his show in New York! I quickly went to Twitter to voice my disappointment.
Oh boo @andersoncooper films out of New York but at least got to see a live broadcast.
— Katie Aune (@katieaune) March 21, 2014
What happened next almost made it all worthwhile:
@katieaune sorry to have missed you!
— Anderson Cooper (@andersoncooper) March 21, 2014
I really don’t even remember what we saw next. I was on too much of a high that Anderson Cooper tweeted me back. But I probably have to say that the tour overall was a bit of a letdown. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but our guide didn’t provide a whole of information and mostly seemed to be waiting for us to ask a ton of questions. The information she did share wasn’t really anything too novel. There was a timeline of CNN’s biggest moments on the wall entering the building that was far more interesting. Since it was included in my CityPASS, it was worth it, but I’m not sure I would recommend paying separately for it.
Looking on the bright side, my visit to Atlanta really had nowhere to go but up, right? (spoiler: it did get a lot better!)
And I did at least get a tweet from Anderson Cooper out of it.