Just about everybody has a bucket list. It may not be in writing, but it’s there, sloshing around in the gray matter as you idle on I-285 in rush-hour traffic or feed the kids Cheerios for the umpteenth time. Maybe it’s Paris or a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Maybe it’s skydiving or a trip to a beach resort that hugs the ocean and has a pool with a swim-up bar (wait, that’s mine).
We bet you even have a list of must-see spots in Atlanta. You know, those places you go only when visitors are in town? Why not knock some off your list — just for you? Here’s a guide to seeing Atlanta like a tourist — more than 35 million come here every year.
ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDEN
Lose yourself in this urban oasis and its 30 acres of outdoor gardens including the award-winning Children’s Garden, a Canopy Walk through — and above — Storza Woods and the innovative Edible Garden with its an outdoor demonstration kitchen. The Fuqua Conservatory is an organic biosphere and home to important collections of tropical palms and conifers; the Fuqua Orchid Center is home to the foremost collection of species orchids in the United States. The Garden holds a summer concert series, serves Cocktails in the Garden each Thursday and regularly exhibits artwork. Hours vary with the season. $18.95; $12.95 ages 3-12; age 2 and under free. Plus parking. 1345 Piedmont Ave. N.E. Details: atlantabotanicalgarden.org or 404.876.5859.
See Hank Aaron’s bat and ball from home run No. 715 and the 1995 World Series trophy. Learn about Babe Ruth’s days as a Boston Brave, Braves that served in the military and details on such greats as pitcher Warren Spahn, all-around good guy Dale Murphy and such contemporary players as Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and David Justice. More than 600 Braves artifacts and photographs trace the team’s history from its beginnings in Boston (1871-1952) to Milwaukee (1953-65) to Atlanta (1966-present). You’ll find it on the northwest side of Turner Field at Aisle 134. The museum is open year-round and is the starting point of hourlong guided tours of Turner Field that leave on the hour. You’ll see Sky Field, a luxury suite, the press box, broadcast booth, clubhouse), dugout and more. April-September: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 1-3 p.m. Sunday. October-March: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Tours not available when the Braves have home day games. $12; $7 ages 3-13 and members of the military; $5 museum only. Free parking in the Green Lot. 755 Hank Aaron Drive. Details: atlanta.braves.mlb.com or 404.614.2310.
ATLANTA HISTORY CENTER
Stroll through two acres of gardens, wildlife trails and woodland areas. The Buckhead complex includes the 1840s Tullie Smith Farm and the fully restored 1928 Swan House mansion. The museum offers exhibitions on the Civil War, African-American heritage and Southern folk art, with a wing dedicated to the 1996 Olympic Games.10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; and noon-5:30 p.m. Sunday. $16.50; $13 ages 13-18 and 6+; and $11 ages 4-12. You save $2 per ticket when you buy online. 130 West Paces Ferry Road N.W. Details, tickets: atlantahistorycenter.com or 404.814.4000.
Picture a live-work-play community with great architecture, parks, special events, a mix of housing, eateries … and shopping! From home furnishings to high fashion, bed sheets to basketball shoes, window shoppers and those in the mood to buy can browse more than 40 retailers. Free, except for what you buy! Parking is free for the first two hours and goes up to $14 for 24 hours. 171 17th St. Details: atlanticstation.com or 404.733.1221.
CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK
What had been a bleak, run-down section of downtown is now the best remaining legacy of the 1996 Summer Olympics. An estimated 3 million visitors stop by the 21-acre park each year. It features family fun and live music many days out of the week. Music at Noon presents local bands. Wednesday Wind Down features jazz during rush hour. Fourth Saturday Family Fun Day is free and features performers and children’s activities. The Fountain of Rings Show displays a dancing water show harmonized with pop music, lights and sound effects. The park is free, but admission is charged for many special events and concerts. 265 Park Ave. West N.W. Details: centennialpark.com or 404.222.7275.
CNN STUDIO TOUR
Journey into the heart of CNN Worldwide and get an up-close look at global news in the making. This is a 55-minute guided walking tour with behind-the-scenes views. Tours depart every 10 minutes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. $15; $14 senior citizens and ages 13-18; $12 ages 4-12. Also available: The Inside CNN VIP Tour, featuring expanded access to the network’s working studios. 9:30 a.m., 11:10 a.m., 1:10 p.m. and 3:10 p.m. Age 12 and older only. $35. Reservations strongly recommended. And finally: “Morning Express With Robin Meade” Tour. 8:30 a.m. Thursdays. Reservations required. This tour is subject to availability — and breaking news. $49. Tickets, details for all: cnn.tour.com.tour or 404.827.2300.
Take a trip through time. You’ll sit at the center of a sweeping panorama of the Battle of Atlanta, fought July 22, 1864, during the Civil War. You can also see artifacts of the war displayed in the Civil War Museum and a steam locomotive known as the Texas, from the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862. 9:15 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. $10; $8 senior citizens and ages 4-12; under 4 free. 800 Cherokee Ave. S.E. (in Grant Park, next to Zoo Atlanta). Tickets, details: atlantacyclorama.org or 404.658.7625.
FERNBANK MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
Go for “Martinis & IMAX” on a Friday night or see some of the world’s largest dinosaur skeletons. This is where you can explore the development of life on Earth through the landscapes of present-day Georgia, connect with cultures from around the globe and engage in hands-on exhibitions. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. “Martinis and IMAX” 6:30-11 p.m. Friday. $17.50; $16.50 students and age 62-plus with ID; $15.50 ages 3-12. IMAX tickets are $13; $12 students and seniors; and $11 age 3-12. Museum memberships available. 767 Clifton Road N.E. Details: fernbankmuseum.org or 404.929.6300.
Designed in the late 1920s, this historic landmark began life as the Yaarab Temple Shrine Mosque. Today it presents shows by Broadway in Atlanta and Theater of the Stars as well as a summer movie series.The Atlanta Preservation Center conducts tours promptly at 10 a.m. Monday and Thursday; and 10 and 11 a.m. Saturday. Tours can be canceled due to production and performance schedules. It’s strongly recommended that you contact the Preservation Center to verify tour availability. $10 adults; $5 students and senior citizens. Cash only. Details: preservation.com or 404.688.3353.
One of the world’s biggest aquariums has more than 8 million gallons of water. Sea life is divided into 60 exhibits where you can watch whales being fed or walk beneath the arched tank of multiple species (including a hammerhead shark and sawfish). While most exhibits are encased in glass (for obvious reasons), others are more hands-on, letting you pet sea creatures or participate in interactive sessions. One of the aquarium’s major goals is to be the leading facility for aquatic animal conservation and research. Open 365 days a year but hours of operation vary. $26; $19.50 children. 255 Baker St. NW. Details: georgiaaquarium.org or 404.581.4000.
HIGH MUSEUM OF ART
One of the leading art museums in the Southeast is just as beautiful on the outside as it is on the inside. The building was designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Meier (who also designed the Getty in Los Angeles). Inside you’ll find folk artists Nellie Mae Rowe, Thornton Dial and Bill Traylor; 19th- and 20th-century artists Joseph Stella, Mary Cassatt and Georgia O’Keeffe; photography by Harry Callahan, Walker Evans and Edward Weston; French impressionism by Monet and Pissarro and Toulouse-Lautrec; and such contemporary masters as Ellsworth Kelly and David Adamo. And that’s just the permanent collection, not the special exhibits. See what we mean? The High, part of the Woodruff Arts Center, also has a tantalizing gift shop. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thursday (half-price after 4 p.m.); and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Every third Friday, except in December, the High is open until 10 p.m. for “Friday Jazz.” $18; $15 age 65 and older and students; and $11 ages 6-17. Under 5 free. The first Saturday of every month is free for Fulton County residents. Details: high.org or 404.733.4444.
IMAGINE IT! THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF ATLANTA
Imagine a place in the heart of downtown where children are the No. 1 priority. Where children and grown-ups can learn and play together. Where the wonder of a 4-year-old is the most powerful image. Where a child who has never held a paintbrush learns the joy of playing with color. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $12.75 plus tax for ages 2 and older. Under 2 free. 275 Centennial Olympic Park Drive. Details, tickets: childrensmuseumatlanta.org or 404.659.5347.
JIMMY CARTER PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY & MUSEUM
Experience a day in the life of our 39th president (1977-81), step inside the Oval Office, and take a virtual trip with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter to fight disease and promote democracy around the world. The landscaped grounds here include plenty of shade and two lakes. 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday; and noon-4:30 p.m. Sunday. $8; $6 age 60 and older, military and students with ID. Under 16 free. 441 Freedom Parkway N.E. Details, tickets: jimmycarterlibrary.gov or 404.865.7100.
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
A young boy grows up in a time of segregation. A dreamer is moved by destiny into leadership of the modern civil rights movement. This was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968). Come hear his story, visit his birth home and see where he played as a child. Walk in his footsteps, and hear his voice in the church where he moved hearts and minds. Marvel at how he was an instrument for social change and reflect at his gravesite. Tickets, admission free. Day-of reservations required for birth home tours. Hours vary by season. Through Sept. 3: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Birth home tours: 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. every half-hour. 450 Auburn Ave. N.E. Details: HERE or 404.331.5190.
STONE MOUNTAIN PARK & THE LASERSHOW
Georgia’s most-visited attraction is home to the world’s largest piece of exposed granite rock and the long-running laser light show. That big hunk of granite contains a carving of Confederate heroes Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Its 3,200-plus acres of nature include family attractions, recreation, special events, lodging and camping. A new Geyser Towers lets you can play in the spray or stay high and dry. Sky Hike lets you travel through the treetops, while Summit Skyride lets you soar to the top of the mountain — if you don’t care for the challenge of the walk. A one-day parking pass is $10. Enjoying nature is free; attractions range in price from $5.50 to $14. Adventure passes include many of the paid attractions — and all of the free ones — for $28 plus tax (age 12 and older) or $22 plus tax (ages 3-11). 1000 Robert E. Lee Drive, Stone Mountain. Details: stonemountainpark.com or 770.498.5690.
WORLD OF COCA-COLA
Explore the World on your own or take a guided tour, complete with a 3-D movie experience in moving seats and exhibits that detail the brand’s 400 other products. If you work up a thirst, relax. You can taste more than 60 Coke varieties from around the world, see commissioned works of art and hug the 7-foot-tall Coca-Cola polar bear. Open at 9 or 10 a.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. $16; $14 age 65 and older; and $12 ages 3-12. Under 2 free. 121 Baker St. N.W. in Pemberton Place, next to the Georgia Aquarium. Details: worldofcoca-cola.com or 404.676.5151.
Not just for kids! Animal lovers of all ages can check out the exotic birds, reptiles, amphibians, red and giant pandas, giraffes, kangaroos, lemurs and rhinos. Visit the petting zoo for a hands-on experience. Plant life is in bloom in the Georgia Backyard Wildlife Habitat, which specializes in tall ironweed, Virginia bluebells, American silverbells, red buckeyes and other horticultural delights native to Georgia and the Southeast. 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. $20.99 age 12 and older; $15 ages 3-11. Under 2 free. 800 Cherokee Ave. S.E. in Grant Park (near the Cyclorama). Details: zooatlanta.org or 404.624.5600.
SEE IT ALL
For ticket discounts, consider the Atlanta CityPass ($69 adults; $49 ages 3-12), which covers admission to five of the city’s top attractions: the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Inside CNN Studio Tour; the High Museum of Art (or Fernbank Museum of Natural History) and Zoo Atlanta (or the Atlanta History Center). Details: citypass.com or 888.330.5008.