When I planned to spend the weekend in Atlanta prior to running the Georgia Marathon, I had no idea how much I would really be able to see in that time. I managed to squeeze in quite a bit – an Inside CNN Studio Tour, the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, the Margaret Mitchell House, the Atlanta History Center and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. However, if I was to do it all over again, I probably would have done things just a little differently.
I do recommend getting the Atlanta CityPASS if most of the included attractions appeal to you: the CNN tour, Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Atlanta History Center/Margaret Mitchell House or Zoo Atlanta and the High Museum of Art or the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. The cost for an adult is just $74, while the cost of all five attractions would be just over $100. It also provides a discount on the alternative attractions (i.e., if you go to the Atlanta History Center for free, you can get a $3.00 discount off Zoo Atlanta admission). Thanks to Marta – Atlanta’s public transportation system – most attractions of interest are easily accessible from both downtown and Buckhead, so you can take your pick of where to stay. I stayed downtown and thought it was a little quiet and lacking in character. Next time, I would probably opt for Buckhead instead.
Here is what I would recommend if you have a weekend in Atlanta:
After breakfast near your hotel, hop on the Marta to the King Memorial stop, from where a short walk will take you to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. There, sign up right away for a tour of MLK Jr’s childhood home – something I missed on my trip because I arrived far too late in the day. While waiting for the tour, explore the rest of the site.
Next, get back on the Marta to head to the Atlanta History Center. You will get off at Buckhead and switch to the 110 bus, getting off at West Paces Ferry Road, just a few blocks from the Center. Start your visit by exploring the old Swan House and then checking out the Smith Farm. Grab lunch in the onsite café before heading inside to see exhibits on the Civil War, the Centennial Olympics, Southern Folk Art and more.
Finally, retrace your steps back to the Marta station and head to the Margaret Mitchell House (get off at the Midtown stop). Take a short tour (which start every 30 minutes) and then watch the documentary about the making of the Gone with the Wind film. By this time, you will probably be more than ready to head back to the hotel to relax and freshen up before dinner. If you are staying downtown, I highly recommend Alma Cocina for dinner.
You may be tempted to do the CNN tour, but I found it underwhelming. Instead, head for the Georgia Aquarium first thing in the morning. It was way too crowded when I visited mid-afternoon and I think I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more without all the crowds of school kids running around. After the aquarium, make your way over to the World of Coca-Cola, which is well worth a visit! Finally, after grabbing lunch at the food court at Peachtree Center, take your pick between Zoo Atlanta, the High Museum of Art or the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. I didn’t make it to any of the three, but I especially wish I would have had time to see the zoo.
In the evening, get out of downtown and head back to Buckhead for dinner. Or, if you are in the mood for pizza, hit up the Mellow Mushroom, which I am told is an Atlanta institution. For anyone who is gluten-free like me, it has a great thin crust gluten-free pizza.
While I easily packed in most of what I wanted to see into two days, you may need extra time in the future; coming later this year are both the National Civil Rights Museum and the College Football Hall of Fame. I don’t know about you, but both of these would be must-sees for me. I was also particularly charmed by the suburb of Decatur while running the marathon and would love to hang out there for an afternoon or evening as well.
Have you been to Atlanta? What would you add?
Disclaimer: The Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau provided me with a complimentary CityPASS, which included admission to the Atlanta History Center and the Margaret Mitchell House. Opinions are entirely my own.