Atlanta has a new vision, and old time charm

June 21,2016

Once you get there and get yourself situated, you should check out Centennial Olympic Park, a 21-acre public park in downtown Atlanta owned by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, but built by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) as an infrastructural improvement for the '96 Olympics. It should be your primary location when visiting many of the more popular tourist destinations. Literally, millions pack the park throughout the year. And remember, if you happen to go in the summer, you can check out the park during Wednesday WindDown, a popular music series; or the annual Independence Day concert and fireworks display.

I'm not sure what the typical Atlantan would pick as the city's best attraction, but from all the tourist whom I had a chance to talk to there [and online], they almost unanimously picked the Georgia Aquarium is the best. It's well worth the visit and happens to stay open later than the city's other tourist marvels. Thousands of animals, representing several thousand species, are all housed in the 10 million US gallons (38,000 m3) of marine and salt water. It is known as the largest aquarium in the western hemisphere. From its opening in 2005 to 2012 it was the largest in the world, until Singapore's Marine Life Park was opened.

Once you leave the aquarium, you can walk over to the Phil Freelon-designed National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The $68 million building has a variety of exhibits; from Tony award­–winning playwright George C. Wolf highlighting the American Civil Rights movement, to an interactive component where visitors can pull up to stools at a mock lunch counter for a seat. Visitors sit as peaceful protestors of the 60s while their seats rattle from fictional kicks and headphones they hear screams of racially charged derogatory comments.

On a slightly lighter note, make sure to visit the College Football Hall of Fame, but don't go in there expecting to see busts or plaques of your favorite players in the Hall of Fame gallery. Inside, the gallery has 10 flat-screen digital displays where the college football novice can view statistics on your favorite players. The facility is really a high-tech marvel. Even your ticket is high-tech. Upon entry, you'll be able to select your favorite college football team and each exhibit you view will give you interesting information of the players and games that were deemed most important to that team.

Going to the World of Coca-Cola should definitely be on your list. The museum highlights the amazing history of The Coca-Cola Company. You do everything from checking out its unique advertising history of the product to being part of a 4-D experience. You even get to check out the tasting room where you can sample Coca-Cola products from around the world. The company is headquartered in Atlanta.

The CNN Center, is another spot you should check out. It's downtown Atlanta facility serves as the world headquarters of CNN. The main newsrooms and studios for several of CNN's news channels (like HLN, CNN, CNN en Espanol, CNN International) are located in the building. The CNN Center also houses a major hotel, the The Omni, and a large atrium food court. An interesting fact: the atrium escalator that you'll use to go up to the top floor where the tour begins has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest freestanding (supported only at the ends) escalator in the world.

As you can see, there are tons to do in Atlanta and I haven't even talked about other downtown Atlanta attractions, like the Georgia Dome, High Museum of Art, Pemberton Place, The Fox Theatre, Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind"-era parlor, and the Philips Arena. Or even heading over to NW Atlanta and checking out Buckhead Atlanta development. It's six blocks of high-end restaurants and retail along Peachtree Road. Actors, athletes, and well-to-do Atlantans call the area home.

Seeing many of these attractions can really do a number on your feet, so some recommend hopping on the city's streetcar as it loops along along its 2.7 miles of track. These climate controlled cars will take you out of the Olympic Park area to the historic Sweet Auburn Curb Market and the King Historic District, where you can see Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth home and the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. The one-way trip, which is free for kids and $1 for adults, gives you another option to getting around. There's also the ol' tried-and-true MARTA train lines to help you get around too. It costs $2.50 to take it, no matter the distance.