WHY WAIT UNTIL YOUR PARENTS come to town to tour Atlanta’s prettiest garden? Why save the beluga whales for your nephew? The city’s best attractions are happening all around us as we sit in traffic, daydream or wonder why we’re at work while the sun is shining. Sure, tourists might be heading the wrong way on a one-way street, but at least they’re seeing the best of Atlanta. Shouldn’t you?
Want to go paddle-boating beneath a granite mountain carved with Confederate figures? We’ve got that.
Want to catch a movie beneath the real stars, the Fox Theatre’s ceiling stars or perhaps while you’re swimming? Check, check and check. Here’s our list of suggestions (in alphabetical order). Ready, set, go!
ATLANTA BOTANICAL GARDEN
A paradise in the concrete center of the city. You’ll see 30 acres of gardens, including the tropical greenhouse of the Fuqua Conservatory, a leisurely Canopy Walk through Storza Woods and an interactive Edible Garden. Something special is always going on – an exhibit, the summer concert series or themed cocktails each Thursday (May-September). Through Oct. 3, see the Garden transformed by fiber optic art in Bruce Munro: Light. Plus the Café at Linton’s with chef Linton Hopkins is open.
$12.95-$18.95; under 2 free. Parking is $2 per hour, $15 day max. Multi-visit parking passes available. Closed Mondays. 1345 Piedmont Ave. N.E. Details HERE or at 404.876.5859.
ATLANTA BRAVES MUSEUM & HALL OF FAME
The museum at Turner Field contains more than 600 Braves artifacts and photographs, tracing the team’s moves from Boston to Milwaukee to Atlanta in 1966. After checking out the memorabilia, join the hour-long guided tour through the press box, Coca-Cola Sky Field, a luxury suite, clubhouse, dugout and more.
April-September: 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 1-2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tours not available when the Braves have afternoon home games. The museum opens 2.5 hours before each game and closes during the seventh-inning stretch. Guided tours: $9-$17; $2 museum only on game days, $5 on non-game days. 755 Hank Aaron Drive. Details HERE or at 404.614.2311.
ATLANTA HISTORY CENTER
Tucked into one of Atlanta’s oldest neighborhoods, this 33-acre museum features award-winning exhibitions, interactive experiences and historic houses, including the 1928 Swan House mansion, which was featured in the Hunger Games film series. Your visit can also include a stroll through two acres of gardens, trails and woodland areas. The Center also has a literary lecture series that showcases famous authors.
10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-5:30 p.m. Sunday. $11-16.50. Buy online and save $2 per ticket. 130 West Paces Ferry Road N.W. Details: HERE or at 404.814.4000.
A former railway corridor turned walking-jogging-bicycling-chatting path, the BeltLine has become the ITP go-to for exercise and socializing. With more track being added every day, the plan is 22 miles of pedestrian-friendly rail transit with 33 miles of multi-use trails ultimately connecting 45 intown neighborhoods. As the BeltLine gets crowded, especially on the weekends, restaurants are opening their back doors. This Atlanta walking path is becoming a foodie mecca.
Free. Learn more about tours HERE.
CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK
The 1996 Summer Olympics’ best addition to the city. This 21-acre park is perfect for a stroll and lunch outdoors at Googie Burger. Getting too warm? You’re not a true Atlantan until you’ve been soaked in the Fountain of Rings, which has a nighttime show featuring pop music and light effects. The park features live music and family fun many days of the week, with larger parties, 5Ks and concerts on some weekends.
Free, but many special events charge admission. 265 Park Ave. West N.W. Details HERE or at 404.222.7275.
CNN STUDIO TOUR
Get an up-close look at global news as it happens, see CNN’s next generation studio and take a souvenir photo at one of the news desks, all in a 55-minute guided walking tour. Tours depart every 10 minutes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Also available: The Inside CNN VIP Tour, featuring expanded access and smaller tour groups. And finally: “Morning Express With Robin Meade” Tour. 8:30 a.m. Thursdays. Reservations required. Tour subject to availability and breaking news.
Basic tour $15; $14 ages 65+ and students 13-18 or with college ID; $12 ages 4-12. CNN VIP Tour: 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. Robin Meade tour: $49. Details HERE or at 404.827.2300.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME
This 94,000-sq. ft. addition to downtown opened last fall with something for fans and non-fans alike. Every college team in the nation is represented, along with bands, mascots, cheerleaders and lots of interactive things to do. Your admission gives you “credentials” that will personalize every exhibit in the hall for your favorite team, creating a nifty addition that blows away all notions of a normal museum. Open every day.
$17.99-$19.99. Parking behind Hall of Fame, enter off Baker Street. 250 Marietta St. N.W. Details HERE or at 404.880.4800.
FERNBANK MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
Come face to face (or face to claw) with a T-Rex skeleton. Stroll through time as you learn about the natural history of Georgia. Fernbank has something for the whole family and for date night, including many special events and permanent exhibitions.
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday- Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. $16-$18; under 2 free. Memberships available. 767 Clifton Road N.E. Details HERE or at 404.929.6300.
This Yaarab Shrine Temple “mosque”-turned-movie palace is now the Broadway center of Atlanta. Grand Islamic- and Egyptian-style architecture make the building a must-see. Go on a 60-minute guided tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at the theater and its organ, Mighty Mo, one of the largest working Moller theater organs in the world. Don’t forget the summer movie series preceded by cartoons and a sing-along. A word to the wise: Get your tickets in advance.
$15-$18; age 10 and under free. Details, tickets HERE or at 855.285.8499.
Six permanent galleries are divided into 60 exhibits, with everything from belugas to spider crabs, and jellyfish to sea turtles. You may even be able to pet live stingrays in the interactive displays. Open 365 days a year; hours of operation vary. Free for Georgia residents on their birthdays.
$35.95 adults; $31.95 age 65+; $29.95 ages 3-12. Includes admission to six permanent galleries, “AT&T Dolphin Tales” show and animated “Deepo’s Undersea 3D Wondershow.” Prepaid parking $9. 255 Baker St. N.W. Details HERE or at 404.581.4000.
HIGH MUSEUM OF ART
Atlanta’s art oasis is a cool, white spiral in the midst of manic Midtown. Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Meier (architects for the Getty in Los Angeles), the gorgeous building houses artwork from Impressionist paintings to modern furniture, folk art face jugs to sweeping sculptures. Work by Georgia O’Keeffe, Mary Cassatt, Nellie Mae Rowe, Monet and many more are on permanent display. This summer also features an exhibit of whimsy by children’s book author and illustrator Mo Willems. The Museum Gift Shop is one of the coolest places in town to shop.
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday (half-price after 4 p.m.); 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Open every third Friday until 10 p.m. for “Friday Jazz.” $12-$19.50; under 5 free. Military discounts. First Saturday of month free for Fulton County residents. Details HERE or at 404.733.4444.
IMAGINE IT! THE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
This bright and colorful oasis gives kids the power to play with interactive exhibits and group activities from painting to crafts. Four permanent exhibits focus on healthy eating, being active, creativity and problem-solving. A traveling exhibit changes three times a year. There’s also something new and fun to find here.
10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, closed Wednesdays; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $12.75 plus tax for age 1 and up. Under 1 free. 275 Centennial Olympic Park Drive. Details HERE or at 404.659.5437.
JIMMY CARTER LIBRARY & MUSEUM
Step into the world of our 39th president (1977-81). Venture into an exact replica of the Oval Office and explore a permanent exhibit of Jimmy Carter’s life and political career. Make sure to check out the gorgeous grounds, which are full of trees and have two lakes.
9 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-4:45 p.m. Sunday. $6-$8; under 16 free. 441 Freedom Parkway N.E. Details HERE or at 404.865.7131.
LAKE LANIER & ISLANDS
Metro Atlanta’s main swimming hole encompasses 38,000 acres of water and 540 miles of shoreline, making it a hugely popular weekend destination. The lake is flanked by numerous public parks for camping, picnicking and hiking; Lake Lanier Islands Resort kicks up the fun with a water-themed park, golf courses and rental boats. Swim over for a “dive-in movie,” where you can watch a family film from a wave pool or the beach.
LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER
A world of color, creativity and fun for ages 3-10, including numerous attractions, two rides and a 4-D cinema. A typical visit takes two or three hours, but you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. One caveat: Adults must be accompanied by a child to enter (although adult night takes place once a month).
10 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. $20; under 2 free. Buying online saves money and gives you priority entrance. In Phipps Plaza. Details HERE or 404.848.9252.
MLK JR. NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
Tour the birth home of one of the city’s most influential figures, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968). The museum tracks his story and national impact; his tomb sits on a brick island in the center of a blue reflecting pool. Parking and most tours free. Day-of reservations required for birth home tours. Hours vary by season.
Open 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. Details HERE or at 404.331.5190.
The Museum of Design Atlanta – MODA for short – shows how design impacts our everyday lives in more than 5,000 square feet worth of galleries. Look for rotating exhibitions that dig into architecture, electronic media, fashion, furniture, graphic design, industrial design and interior design. Previous exhibits have looked at Ebony magazine, gaming, paper clips and bubble wrap, and skateboard art, to name a few. “Design for Healthy Living” runs through Aug. 9.
Noon-6 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday; noon- 8 p.m. Thursday; and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday. $5-$10; under 5 free. Every second Sunday is “pay-as-you-wish.” 1315 Peachtree St. N.E., across from the High Museum. Details HERE or 404.979.6455.
NATIONAL CENTER FOR CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS
This 43,000-sq. ft. mecca of human struggle and triumph – past and present — is near the end of its first year. Some of what you’ll see: black-and-white TV footage of 1960s events, such as demonstrators in Birmingham being hit by water hoses; an actual sit-in lunch counter; an interactive wall of images of Freedom Riders; a wide curving screen showing images from the 1963 March on Washington, with the music of Mahalia Jackson, Odetta and Joan Baez; stained-glass images of the four young girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham; footage of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s body being returned to Atlanta; and paintings by Georgia artist Benny Andrews. This one’s a keeper.
Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. $10-$15. Park in the World of Coca-Cola or Georgia Aquarium garages. In Pemberton Place at 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. Details HERE or at 678.999.8990.
A shining example of the “rural garden” cemetery movement of the 19th century. This rambling 6-acre green space serves as a historic cemetery and public park. Atlantans once took Sunday carriage rides through Oakland; visitors now meander on foot through lush gardens and memorial monuments in distinct architecture styles. Visit the graves of such famed figures as the Inman family, Hoke Smith, Maynard Jackson and Margaret Mitchell.
Check the website for specific tour details. Open dawn till dusk year-round. Details HERE.
These 189 acres in Midtown, with rolling hills, grassy meadows and Lake Clara Meer, are among the most popular spots in the city for dates, strolls, jogging, games of Frisbee, picnicking and sun-worshiping. Once a late-1800s racing ground for horse enthusiasts, the park is now one of the most photographed bits of the city, with panoramic skyscraper views over the tree line. The park has a swimming pool, wetlands, basketball courts, an athletic oval and popular summer concerts and festivals.
Off 10th Street and Monroe Avenue, beside the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Details HERE.
This resort community, 75 miles south of Atlanta, is a golfer’s paradise, with five courses designed by the likes of Bob Cupp, Rees Jones, Tom Fazio and Jack Nicklaus, and the renowned Reynolds Golf Academy. You can also splash in the water.
Details HERE or at 888.298.3119.
This SkyView Ferris Wheel in downtown Atlanta features 42 climate-controlled gondolas and panoramic views from 20 stories above Centennial Olympic Park. If you’re feeling really special, grab a VIP gondola (leather seats, a glass floor and longer flight times). Each gondola holds two to six people. Flights last nine to 15 minutes. Open every day of the year except for maintenance and incredibly bad weather. Check its Facebook page to make sure.
Noon-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; noon-11 p.m. Friday; and 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday. $8.50-13.50 plus tax; under 3 free; $50 VIP per person. Note: Every gondola must include an adult. Details HERE or on Facebook.
STONE MOUNTAIN PARK
One giant chunk of granite has become Georgia’s most-visited attraction. Stone Mountain is an exciting blend of new and old, featuring the world’s largest bas-relief carving of Confederate figures Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, and theme parks with family-friendly activities. Hike the mile-long trail up the mountain and catch the Skyride down for an aerial view. Explore 3,200-plus acres of nature, which include walking paths, camping, paddle boats and hiking. Revisit the past by making candles or window-shopping in the themed re-created village or by a visiting a historic grist mill.
Parking passes are $15 daily, $40 annual. Ticket options are many. Your best bet is to check the website (buying online saves $5 per ticket). 1000 Robert E. Lee Drive, Stone Mountain. Details HERE or at 770.498.5690.
WORLD OF COCA-COLA
Travel through pop history solo or on a guided tour, complete with a 3-D movie experience in moving seats and exhibits that detail the brand’s 400 products. Sip soft drinks from around the world in the tasting room, with more than 60 varieties. Open at 9 or 10 a.m. daily.
$14-$16; under 2 free. 121 Baker St. N.W. in Pemberton Place, next to the Georgia Aquarium. Details HERE or at 404.676.5151.
These 40 acres in the Grant Park neighborhood are home to creatures great and small. Snap photos of kangaroos, primates, red and giant pandas, elephants and rhinos. Step into the reptile house or meet the animals face-to-face at the petting zoo.
9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $21.99-$26.99; under 2 free. Military discounts. 800 Cherokee Ave. S.E. Details HERE or at 404.624.5600.
SLIDE SHOW PHOTO: “Forest of Light” by Bruce Munro at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Photo by Jason Getz