So now that I told you where to stay and how to get around, I suppose it’s time to tell you what to do in Georgia’s Peach of a City and show you just how Type A I can be. When I planned the trip, I actually themed the days. Yes, call me crazy, but give me access to that little World Wide Web and a smattering of an idea, and I’m going to theme it. For Atlanta, knowing what I knew about the City and the amount of time that I would be there, I chose 3 themes – food, history/current events and the typical sight-seer. I’ve already covered our food walking tour, now, pull up a chair, and get comfy, because you are going to learn a little more about Atlanta’s History.
Atlanta for the History Buff
Atlanta for the history buff and media enthusiast starts in the Sweet Auburn Historic District where one of my heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. started out. This was the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and to me, at least, a must see if you are going to be in Atlanta and have any semblance of curiosity of the events of the 1960s. Here are the must dos:
- The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site (Visitor’s Centre). Start your journey by slowly walking along the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. Everyone from Desmond Tutu to Sammy Davis, Jr. to Magic Johnson has their footprints in the walkway. Let’s just say my feet are half the size of Magic’s and leave it at that. Stop and take in a statue of Ghandi who inspired MLK insist on non-violent protest as the way to desegregate. Head indoors and watch a movie that brings context to everything that you are about to see. It’s a tough watch, but so important. Then, check out the DREAM Gallery with basically King’s entire life laid out for you and the history of the Civil Rights Movement. This is the best exhibit in Sweet Auburn and includes the powerful “Freedom Road” statues where you feel like you can march along side of these heroes.
- Next, head to the Ebenezer Baptist Church where MLK’s father preached, where he was baptized and was also the launching pad of his own career as a pastor. He returned to this church many times throughout the Civil Rights Movement and his mother was actually shot and killed at the organ in the church. A brief movie in the basement showcases the history of the church.
- The next stop in the neighbourhood is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. MLK and Coretta Scott King’s Tombs are in the front of the centre in a beautiful reflection pool. Close by is an eternal flame. As you walk through Freedom Hall (outdoors and beautiful) – take some time to stop and look at the photos. The museum has rooms dedicated to King’s life plus a room dedicated to to Coretta Scott King, one to Rosa Parks and another to Ghandi. Some of the artifacts are amazing including his suitcase, cologne and his own books that he carried with him for reference. The foyer is filled with art and the Stone of Hope. The book selection in the gift shop, sadly isn’t great.
- Walk to Fire Station Number 6 to learn about desegregation in the Atlanta Fire Department. There is an old fashioned fire engine that’s worth a look. It’s well set up, but if you are running low on time, skip this building.
- Last, but not least, walk up a row of shotgun houses to the birthplace of MLK. We didn’t get tickets, but I didn’t think that I was missing anything by not going in.
- Once we finished this area, we headed downtown to take a tour of CNN. This was by far the least interesting thing that I did in Atlanta. I recommend trying the VIP tour to actually get behind the scenes. The best part for me was taking the world’s longest and tallest escalator into the CNN Centre. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked in TV for so long, but seeing a newsroom just wasn’t exciting. You only get to see it through glass. They also take you fake control room with a fake weather demo. Again, not well done and our tour guide was even less enthusiastic.
Things to keep in mind if you are in Atlanta:
- The museums and attractions close early – many by 5pm and some even earlier. Keep that in mind if you are going to be a Type A Traveller.
- There is a lot of walking, especially if you get lost in Sweet Auburn – wear comfy shoes and stay hydrated. If you need restrooms, go to the Visitor’s Centre.
- Take the Trolley rather then the MARTA if you are going downtown after Sweet Auburn – it’s only $1 and not crowded at all.
- Get an Atlanta City Pass. It let’s you into CNN, the Georgia Aquarium, The World of Coca Cola, Zoo Atlanta or the National Civil Rights Museum, the NCAA Football Hall of Fame or the Fernback Museum of Natural History. It saves you money and time – you can skip the line ups for many of the attractions so it’s worth having. I picked up mine at CNN but pre-ordered it. Look online you can often get a deal.