The home of Gone With the Wind, Coca-Cola, the world’s largest drive-in and a dozen or so Peachtree streets — that’s Atlanta. If you haven’t visited the big city recently, it’s time for another look. And if you’ve never been, you need to go.
There are many ways to explore the city, aptly nicknamed Hotlanta for its 100-degree-plus temperatures in the summer. But if you’re a beginner, you can’t beat the Atlanta CityPASS, which buys you a trip to the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, Zoo Atlanta and the Inside CNN Studio Tour. You also get a choice between Fernbank Museum of Natural History or the Atlanta Botanical Garden and the High Museum of Art or the Atlanta History Center.
The pass, which sells for $74 for adults and $54 for kids nets you more than 50 percent savings if you take advantage of all the attractions offered.
I’ve highlighted some of the city’s true mainstays: the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola and the Inside CNN Studio Tour. These three are all located around beautiful Centennial Olympic Park. An Atlanta institution in its own right, the park offers a great place to relax, cool off in the interactive fountain, have a picnic and enjoy the water gardens before additional sightseeing.
Georgia Aquarium It’s big. Think beluga whale big. Now five years old, the Georgia Aquarium still retains its title as the largest aquarium in the world, boasting 8 million gallons of water and the largest collection of aquatic animals.
With six themed galleries, a restaurant, gift shop, 4-D Theater and Behind the Scenes Tour, the aquarium will help you while away a few hours or easily lose an entire day exploring its depths. The aquarium is home to tens of thousands of animals, comprising about 450 species. Among these are alligators, manta rays, whale sharks, giant hammerhead sharks, otters, penguins, sawfish, sea horses, beluga whales and jellyfish.
Admission is $26 for adults, $19.50 for children 3 to 12 and $21.50 for seniors 65 and older. The theater costs $4 for kids and $5.50 for adults. The Behind the Scenes Tour is $50 per person. Skip the lines and purchase tickets online at www.georgiaaquarium.org.
World of Coca-Cola This is where you’ll find the whole story of all things Coca-Cola. If you went to the attraction when it was located in Underground Atlanta, the new facility, which opened in 2007, has many updated features, including more than 1,200 international artifacts never before displayed.
See historic Coca-Cola ads and related pop art, learn about the bottling process, watch a 3D, multi-sensory film and — best of all — sample more than 60 unique beverages from around the world. Each guest receives a complimentary 8-ounce glass bottle of the classic drink.
A visit lasts approximately 90 minutes. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for children 3 to 12 and $13 for seniors 65 and older. For more information, call 800-676-COKE or visit the website: www.worldofcoca-cola.com.
Inside CNN Studio Tour Hear what goes on inside a CNN control room, see the newsroom at work and find out how a green screen functions. This hourlong tour shows visitors how global news goes from story to air and lets you ask questions of the tour guide.
Aficionados will enjoy the opportunity to watch anchors in action and see photographs and quotes from CNN news history on the walls along the guided tour.
While children of all ages are welcome, the several flights of stairs involved make this attraction not stroller accessible. Photography is not permitted, but a souvenir photo opportunity is available in the black box studio.
Tours depart every 10 minutes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Prices are $13 for adults, $11 for students, $10 for children 4 to 12 and $12 for seniors. Military with active-duty ID are admitted free.
For more information and group pricing, call 404-827-2300 or visit www.cnn.com/tour.
To find out about the many sights available at Centennial Olympic Park, download a map or learn about the park’s history, visit www.centennialpark.com. The park is open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.