Known unofficially as the “Capital of the New South”, Atlanta is the official capital of The Peach State, Georgia. This city has been witness to a lot of major events in recent history, such as the American Civil War in which it was burned by General William Tecumseh Sherman in 1864 on his notorious March to the Sea. Yet it has risen from the ashes to become, slowly but surely, stronger than it ever has been. It also has played a big part in the Civil Rights Movement, mainly because it’s the birthplace of the prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. It was the host of the 1996 Olympic Games, its airport (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport) has been named as one of the world’s busiest airports for the past two decades, and is quickly being recognized as the fastest growing financial and commercial hub of the South.
In recent years, Atlanta has been dubbed the 9th largest metropolitan area in the nation which means it has that much more to offer visitors, from outdoor adventures due to its immense tree coverage, award-winning culture, a multitude of attractions and rich history. It’s family-friendly, yet has plenty to provide its business travellers, history lovers, and everyone in between.
Places to visit
Situated in the downtown district of Sweet Auburn, this site is as prominent and distinguished as its namesake. The park celebrates the life and accomplishments ofDr. King who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The site’s 23 acres encompass the house where he grew up, 501 Auburn Avenue, the famous Ebenezer Baptist Church where he was baptized, ordained and served with his father as co-pastor until 1968, and the final resting place of both Dr. King and his wife, Coretta. In 2004, the park added the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame which honours other respected and notable Civil Rights activists. The site also has a display of their actual footprints laid in bronze and granite.
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Containing a massive 10 million gallons of water which is home to 120,000 marine animals from various species, such as manta rays, bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions and whale sharks in 7 different exhibits, the Georgia Aquarium is fun for children and adults alike. Housing a 4D theatre, ‘behind the sea’ tours which give you an idea of what it takes to keep the Aquarium operating smoothly on a daily basis, a number of entertaining exhibits, animal shows and galleries, the Georgia Aquarium is the largest indoor aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. You can even book a sleepover in the Aquarium where you can watch the sea animals swimming overhead as you fall asleep.
Centennial Olympic Park
In 1996, Atlanta was home to the Olympic Games. Since then, the site of the Games has been transformed into a well-known public park which sits on 21 acres of greenery, pools, artwork and, what was once the most photographed landmark in all of Georgia, the Fountain of Rings. This Fountain is the park’s main attraction and features 252 water jets which are timed to dance along to various songs each day at 12:30, 3:30, 6 and 9 pm.
World of Coca-Cola
Only a few steps away from the Georgia Aquarium and Centennial Olympic Park is the World of Coca-Cola interactive museum where you can learn about the history of the iconic drink (Coca-Cola was invented in 1886 by the pharmacist John S. Pemberton). You can also taste samples of from all over the world, enjoy their Pop Culture gallery, 4D Theater, and learn about the legendary, secret formula of Coca- Cola. You can also take a behind-the-scenes tour of the bottling process, and buy Coca-Cola memorabilia from their gift store.
Stone Mountain Park
Georgia’s most visited attraction, Stone Mountain Park boasts of numerous, fun activities to entertain old and young alike. The mountain itself is known to be the world’s largest piece of exposed granite rock and stands over 1600 feet tall. The face of the highest relief sculpture illustrates 3 Confederate heroes of the Civil War, President Jefferson Davis, along with Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, on their horses.
Its massive 3200 acres holds other appealing activities, such as the Old Grist Mill, the Farmyard Petting Zoo, the SkyHike Adventure Course, the Park’s collection of antebellum homes, two golf courses, a wildlife reserve, as well as 15 miles of wooded trails around the park.
Places to eat
Ponce City Market
You’ll never run out of fun things to do at Ponce City Market where you can find boutiques and shops in all shapes and sizes to satisfy even the pickiest of shoppers. You’ll probably be hungry after all that shopping and you can find a myriad of tasty restaurants and cafes to choose from. The Market’s management also has fun events planned year-round, such as cooking classes, candle making workshops, wine tasting, art drawing contests and much more. And if that isn’t enough, you can, for a small fee, take the freight elevator to the rooftop to enjoy a view of the city’s skyline and play some vintage carnival games.
Atlanta is quickly becoming the cultural capital of the New South and Buford Highway is the reason why. This busy, 8-mile long street contains every type of international menus served in cafes, fast food places, restaurants, bakeries and markets. You can find Mexican, Cuban, Malaysian, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Peruvian, French, and much more.
Places to stay
Luxurious and majestic are just 2 words that describe the Ritz-Carlton. A great hotel with plenty of common amenities, the price is quite affordable. Another advantage is its downtown location which is a few blocks away from the World of Coca-Cola, Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia Aquarium. All guests can enjoy Atlanta’s fantastic skyline from their rooms, as well as from the AG steakhouse which entertains mouth-watering Southern-style meat and seafood dishes as well.
Another great hotel is Loews Atlanta which is located in Atlanta’s trendy Midtown district. Loews provides amenities and activities for families, workaholics and night owls alike. It also boasts of a wonderful in-house restaurant, Saltwood, famous for its delectable and tasty menu.
W Atlanta Downtown
The W Atlanta Downtown is also one of the city’s favourite hotels. It sits just a few blocks from the Georgia Aquarium and Centennial Olympic Park. It provides a wide variety of amenities in its sleek and contemporary rooms. It also has panoramic views, a rooftop pool bar, a spa, a fitness centre, and pet program. The W Kitchen restaurant is known for its delicious regional cuisine.
The best option to get around Atlanta is by using its rapid rail system, or MARTA. Starting at the airport and moving all over the city, your best bet is this affordable, fun way of sightseeing while moving from one destination to another. There’s also a streetcar which moves only around the entertainment district, with only 10 stops on its route. And when in doubt, you’ll find a lot of taxis all over the city at your disposal.
If you’re travelling to the US from countries participating in the VWP (Visa Waiver Program) which allows citizens of certain countries to stay in the US for 90 days or less on either business or pleasure without the need for obtaining a visa first, you must apply for a new ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) no less than 72 hours prior to traveling to the US. Everyone travelling to the US is required to apply for an independent ESTA, even children regardless of their age, which is easily done via the ESTA website. You’ll only need a valid passport from a VWP country, contact information, a valid email, your most recent employment information and $14 per application paid through a valid credit card (American Express, MasterCard, Discover, or PayPal). Once you’ve applied, you can check ESTA application to find out whether it has been accepted or denied within a matter of minutes, or a maximum of 72 hours. Once your ESTA approval comes through, it remains valid for 2 years, or until your passport expires, depending on which comes first.
A Final Note
Atlanta is definitely a traveller’s dream and one that doesn’t disappoint. You can find everything from fun-filled attractions for the family to interactive spots for the adventure-seekers, to historical centres and parks to pique the interest of history buffs, and an excellent array of bars and boutiques if you enjoy staying up late into the night. With its exceptional dining, grand history and fine shopping, Atlanta is a city with Southern appeal and world-class refinement, it’s easy to see why it’s one of the most attractive destinations to visit.