The Super Bowl might be the main attraction in Atlanta next February, but you should definitely schedule in a few extra days to see the sights. There are lots of things to do in the ATL and you’d be missing out if you skipped them!
Parks, sports, news, history, food, and vibrant neighborhoods – if you’re interested, chances are this city’s got it! Lots of these attractions are family-friendly too, so bring everybody along. Here are some of the highlights of any trip to Atlanta…
Take the Coca-Cola Tour!
Sure, it’s touristy, but you’re only here for a little while and it’s one of the most famous things to do in the city! Visit the World of Coke to see how the nation’s favorite soft drink is made.
You’ll get to check out the huge vault where they keep the secret recipe, snap a photo with their massive polar bear mascot, and view over 1,000 Coca-Cola artifacts and pieces of memorabilia displaying the brand’s history. There’s a 4-D theater and gift shop (obviously) too. Finish by visiting the tasting room where you can sample the company’s products from all over the world… and take home a glass Coke bottle as a souvenir.
Georgia Aquarium… or Zoo Atlanta
If you’ve got kids (or you’re into wildlife yourself), check out the magnificent Georgia Aquarium with its enormous whale sharks, beluga whales, and manta rays. It’s one of the biggest and best aquariums in the nation with tons of sea life, programs, and shows. If you’re adventurous, you can even get into one of the tanks to swim with the whale sharks – and have it recorded on DVD as proof! If not, you can still walk through an aquarium tunnel with fish swimming all around you. They’ve got seals and penguins too!
If you’d rather stick with land animals, Zoo Atlanta has lions, tigers, rare birds, giant tortoises, and gorillas. It’s a zoo you don’t have to feel icky about visiting because they work really hard on conservation programs and preservation efforts around the world. But the main attraction is the pair of one-year-old twin panda cubs. Enough said.
College Football Hall of Fame
If you’re here for the Super Bowl, but you legitimately cannot get enough of football (you animal), check out the College Football Hall of Fame downtown. As they put it, it’s “More than a game. More than a museum.”
This place is truly interactive. It has an indoor playing field where you can kick field goals, throw a pass or two, and try to make it through a football obstacle course. As you enter through “The Quad,” there’s a three-story wall of college football team helmets and you can light up your alma mater or favorite team. Check out all the game’s history and memorabilia through outstanding exhibits and even try out some virtual reality. You can see the Heisman Trophy and National Championship Trophy here.
If you’re feeling active while you’re in The Big Peach for the Super Bowl and it happens to be a nice day (hey, you never know in Georgia!) check out the Atlanta Beltline. You can walk, run, or bike around for miles. You’ll find restaurants, artwork, and shops along the path too if you need a breather or an excuse to stop. It’s a great way to explore the city and get some exercise!
Centennial Olympic Park
Head to Centennial Park for a stroll or bring the whole family to have a walk around this huge green space in the middle of downtown. Check out the Olympic statues and the Fountain of Rings that lights up in bright colors at night. If you’re visiting other tourist attractions downtown (like the ones on this list), you can’t miss the park. It’s close to all of them, and it’s right near Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
SkyView Ferris Wheel
Want a better view of the Atlanta cityscape? Head to the SkyView Ferris Wheel just next to Centennial Park. It’s 20 stories high and the gondolas are climate-controlled. There’s even a VIP option with glass floors and Ferrari seats. We’d recommend going at dusk so you can watch the city as it lights up below.
The Woodruff Arts Center
If you’re hoping to get some culture along with your Super Bowl weekend – or hey, maybe you’re traveling with someone who is – you can check out the theatre, music, and artwork that can all be found at the Woodruff Arts Center.
The Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre hosts Broadway shows, plays, and musicals. Or head out for an evening of amazing music and surround sound at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Check their calendars to see which shows and artists will be in town. For a more casual browse of artwork, head to the High Museum of Art for modern works, photography, historical exhibitions, and traveling displays of famous artwork (like Andy Warhol).
Okay, now for something not so obvious. Castleberry Hill is Atlanta’s Historic Arts District and former industrial area turned hip, trendy spot. You can browse indie art galleries built in old warehouses, visit ceramics and furniture studios, and see spots where they filmed movies and TV shows like The Walking Dead. There are also plenty of places to grab a beer, check out some live music, and have dinner. Rapper 2 Chainz just opened his restaurant Escobar here.
Great for indie films, green spaces like the Atlanta Botanical Garden, and hip coffee shops, Virginia Highland is a vibrant “bohemian” (well, by Southern standards anyway) neighborhood with lots of young people… and bars. It’s got beautiful streets lined with bungalows, quirky shops, and fab restaurants. Locals recommend exploring on a Sunday morning, but it’s also pretty popular for Saturday night bar crawls too!
Shopping, Of Course
Whether you need clothes, accessories, or furniture that’s made in the ATL, you can find it here. Visit the boutiques along Howell Mill Road, and explore the posh, upmarket shops in Buckhead. For design-centric businesses and more local shopping and dining, head to Westside Provisions District in West Midtown. You’ll find antiques, furniture, textiles, fashion, and other Atlanta-made goods and gifts. Built on the site of Atlanta’s first meatpacking facility, it’s the perfect place for a lazy afternoon of shopping, snacking, and sipping cocktails. You can’t get much cooler.
Tour the CNN Center
Sounds completely random, sure, but you can actually take a tour of CNN Studios in Atlanta. You get to see all the work that goes into the news with a behind-the-scenes look accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. Don’t expect to see Anderson Cooper or anything, but do expect a peek backstage at the studios as they’re broadcasting with an explanatory 50-minute tour. You can even get your photo taken as a reporter!
Atlanta History Center and Center for Civil Rights
Check out some living history while you’re here. The Atlanta History Center offers 33 acres of exhibitions about the nation and the city’s past, from the Native Americans to the Olympics to the beautifully well-maintained Swan House that was featured in The Hunger Games. If you’re a Civil War enthusiast or a big fan of the golfer Bobby Jones, it’s a must!
Next, stop by the Center for Civil Rights to see achievements in civil rights in the US and around the world – it gets rave reviews from visitors. There are photographs, recordings, and a full section on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. You can even sit at the famous lunch counter where peaceful protesters suffered abuse in the 1960s – put on a pair of headphones and feel what it was like.
Local Eats (and Drinks)
From barbecue joints to local craft breweries, there’s a lot to taste in Atlanta before you leave. Expect a separate post here on all the foodie options, but be prepared for things like fried chicken, burgers, fresh seafood, and beers.
You can sample all the goods at food markets around the city or eat your way along Buford Highway. And of course, you’ll need to have a hot dog and a Frosted Orange at The Varsity… and at least get a glimpse of the world’s very first Chick-Fil-A. Atlanta has everything from classic Southern cuisine to all sorts of international options. Seriously, more on this later.