THE EARTH GODDESS in the "Imaginary Worlds" exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Photo: Joey Ivansco
THE EARTH GODDESS in the “Imaginary Worlds” exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Photo: Joey Ivansco

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.

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 (in alphabetical order) to seeing Atlanta like a tourist — more than 35 million of them visit us every year. As always, things can change, so we recommend that you call ahead to avoid disappointment.


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 outdoor demonstration kitchen. Through October you can see larger-than-life plants in the exhibit Imaginary Worlds — 19 sculptures that are as tall as 25 feet and as wide as 20 feet. 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 each Thursday (May-September) and regularly exhibits artwork. $18.95; $12.95 ages 3-12; age 2 and under free. Plus parking ($2 per hour, $15 day max. Multi-visit parking passes available). Closed Mondays. 1345 Piedmont Ave. N.E. Details: 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 southpaw pitcher Warren Spahn, all-around good guy Dale Murphy and more contemporary players like Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, David Justice and Chipper Jones. More than 600 Braves artifacts and photographs trace the team’s history from 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 for 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. The museum opens 2.5 hours before each game and closes during the seventh-inning stretch. $12; $7 ages 3-13 and the military; $5 museum only. Free parking in the Green Lot. 755 Hank Aaron Drive. Details: 404.614.2311.


Stroll through two acres of gardens, wildlife trails and woodland areas. The 33-acre Buckhead complex includes the 1840s Tullie Smith Farm and the fully restored 1928 Swan House mansion. The new Veterans Park is both garden and gathering place, encouraging reflection and celebrating those who served and sacrificed their lives. A new pedestrian entrance off West Paces Ferry Road and Slaton Drive leads to the park, which features Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard seals embedded in the ground. A series of panels, equipped with QR codes, feature stories and oral histories from veterans that visitors can access with any smartphone. The history museum, one of the largest in the Southeast, 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. 404.814.4000.


Picture a live-work-play community with great architecture, parks, special events and movies, 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 purchase. Parking is free for the first two hours in Self Park and goes up to $14 for 24 hours. There’s also on-street metered parking (credit cards accepted), plus valet and front-row premium parking. 171 17th St. 404.733.1221.


Centennial_Olympic_Park_ArtWhat 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, and hosts national acts on a regular basis. 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 dancing water harmonized with pop music, lights and sound effects. Winter events include the decked-out Holiday in Lights display and Atlanta’s only outdoor ice-skating rink. Bring a picnic or eat at Googie Burger, a walk-up restaurant in the park. The park is free, but admission is charged for many special events and concerts. 265 Park Ave. West N.W. 404.222.7275.


Journey into the heart of CNN Worldwide and get an up-close look at global news in the making. A 55-minute guided walking tour takes you behind the scenes. Tours depart every 10 minutes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. $15; $14 senior citizens and ages 13-18; $13 for groups of 20 or more; $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. 404.827.2300.


Take a trip through time. You’ll sit at the center of a sweeping panorama of the Civil War’s Battle of Atlanta, fought July 22, 1864. 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. The Cyclorama, covering 15,030 square feet, is reportedly the world’s largest oil painting. It’s also, it seems, one of Atlanta’s least appreciated landmarks. 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). 404.658.7625.


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. 404.929.6300.


Designed in the late 1920s, this historic landmark began life as the Yaarab Temple Shrine Mosque. Today it presents shows by Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Atlanta and Theater of the Stars as well as a summer movie series and concerts by top national and international acts. Tours of the Fox highlight history and visit multiple locations throughout the property including a possible close-up look at Mighty Mo, one of the largest working Moller theater organs in the world. There are four 60-minute tours on Monday and Thursday, beginning at 10 a.m.; and two, at 10 and 11 a.m., Saturdays. Note: Tours can be canceled due to production and performance schedules. $15-$18 adults; Free for children 10 and younger. Details, tickets at


Georgia_Aquarium_9_by_Dracoart_Stock (1)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 a leading facility for aquatic animal conservation and research. Open 365 days a year but hours of operation vary. Free admission for Georgia residents on their birthdays, otherwise $26; $19.50 children. Pre-paid parking pass available for $9. 255 Baker St. N.W. 404.581.4000.


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, Howard Finster 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 impressionists Monet, 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.” $19.50; $16.50 age 65 and up and students; and $12 ages 6-17. Under 5 free. Discounts for active duty and retired military. The first Saturday of every month is free for Fulton County residents. 404.733.4444.


Imagine a place in the heart of downtown where children are encouraged to play. This is a busy wonderland where youngsters and grown-ups can enjoy activities together, from painting and crafts, to interactive exhibits and special programs. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $12.75 plus tax for ages 1 and older. Under 1 free. On the second Tuesday each month admission is free starting at 1 p.m. 275 Centennial Olympic Park Drive. 404.659.5437.


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. 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. 404.865.7100.


A venue for the 1996 Olympics (rowing, canoe and kayak events), Lake Sidney Lanier encompasses 38,000 acres of water with 540 miles of shoreline. More than several million visitors stop by each year, partially because of its easy proximity to Atlanta. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has developed and operates the numerous public parks around the lake for camping, hiking and day-use activities. The Lake Lanier Islands complex offers picnicking, camping, beaches, a water theme park, tennis courts, golf courses, rental boats and hotel accommodations. They even feature “dive-in movies” at the water park — family films that can be enjoyed from the wave pool or the beach. Details: or


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. Parking and most tours free. Day-of reservations required for birth home tours. Hours vary by season. Through Sept. 3: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Birth home tours: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. every half-hour. 450 Auburn Ave. N.E. 404.331.5190.


Got golf? Reynolds Plantation, on Lake Oconee, does, and lots of it. It has five courses designed by world-class professionals: Bob Cupp, Rees Jones, Tom Fazio and Jack Nicklaus, and the renowned Reynolds Golf Academy. It’s all just 75 miles, give or take, southeast of Atlanta, and it’s not all golf all the time (unless you want it to be). There’s natural beauty and plenty of room on the lake to Jet Ski, paddle board, canoe and swim. Rent a fishing boat or bring your own and fish for brim, sunfish, catfish and bass, or take a pontoon boat out on the water to relax with friends. Lake Oconee has 374 miles of shoreline. Rent a cottage by the water and watch the sun set from the back porch. Shop in historic Greensboro or book a spa vacation in a place where “Linger Longer” is the town motto. Details: or 1.888.298.3119.


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 a beach, family attractions, recreation, special events (festivals, concerts, pow wows), lodging and camping. A Geyser Towers attraction lets you 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 mile-long 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). Family value passes are available online only and start at $31.50. 1000 Robert E. Lee Drive, Stone Mountain. 770.498.5690.


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, including the Vault of the Secret Formula. 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. daily 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. 404.676.5151.


Not just for kids! Animal lovers of all ages can check out the exotic birds, reptiles, amphibians, primates, 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.-5:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. $21.99 age 12 and older; $17.99 for seniors (65 up) or college students; $16.99 ages 3-11. Under 2 free. Military discounts available. 800 Cherokee Ave. S.E. in Grant Park (near the Cyclorama). 404.624.5600.


For ticket discounts, consider the Atlanta CityPass ($74 adults; $54 ages 3-12), which covers admission to five 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: or 1.888.330.5008.

About Kathy Janich

Kathy Janich is a longtime arts journalist who has been seeing, working in or writing about the performing arts for most of her life. She's a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, Americans for the Arts and the National Arts Marketing Project. Full disclosure: She’s also an artistic associate at Synchronicity Theatre.

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