Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Home of many of the civil right movement’s greatest leaders and organizations (read: Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy among others), Atlanta was at the front row in the fight for racial equality. Get to walk through MLK’s life from his childhood home, to the Church where he preached, to his final resting place, and learn about the achievements of black people in the US and around the world through an interactive visit to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Whether you’re a news junkie, a foodie with a taste for international cuisine or you just adore animals, there’s something for everyone in Atlanta, and we break it down for you in this post. Plus, there’s bonus info on how you can get up to 40% off your admission fee for some of the most popular tourist attractions. Enjoy!
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE
This has to be the first on our list. Here you’ll get to see the modest home in which revolutionary leader Martin Luther King Jr. was born and raised. You could visit Ebenezer Baptist Church where he once preached. At The King Center, you’ll find exhibits on the civil rights movement as well as his grave.
Arrive early to take a free 30-minute tour of his home which starts at 10 a.m. Weekdays and Sundays are the least crowded. The entire complex is spread over several city blocks so make sure to wear comfy shoes.
NATIONAL CENTER FOR CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Open to the public since June 23rd 2014, this museum is dedicated to the achievements of the civil rights movements and the fight for human rights around the world. It hosts both temporary and permanent exhibitions that tell the story of the civil rights movement and how it relates to more contemporary human rights struggles around the world. The three permanent exhibitions it contains are:
Voice to the Voiceless: The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection
It contains artifacts that belonged to Martin Luther King, Jr. like a briefcase and drafts of notable speeches. The exhibit gives the story of King from birth through to his assassination and beyond.
Rolls down like water: The American Civil rights movement
This is an interactive gallery that begins with showing examples of segregation in the US as embodied in Jim Crow laws. It is broken down into multiple sections, each marked by a significant event in the civil rights movement. The interactive exhibits include the recreation of a lunch counter sit-in with headphones that simulate the threats that were leveled at activists.
Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement
As its name suggests, this exhibit includes a gallery of dictators from around the world, and modern day activists who work to improve the conditions of women and the LGBT individuals around the world. In an activity called “Who Like Me”, visitors can define themselves according to a particular trait like gender or religion. They then are shown an individual that is being persecuted in their homeland for that same trait.
This is the final resting place of several outstanding black pioneers like Antoine Graves, who started the first school in Atlanta for African Americans and Carrie Steele Logan, founder of the oldest black orphanage in the United States.
ATLANTA HISTORY CENTER
Containing one of the largest civil war memorabilia in the country, this historic museum provides a walk through black history like no other, not ignoring the human cost of this conflict. It consists of six permanent and several temporary exhibitions and features historic gardens and houses located on the grounds all for your touring.
THE SWEET AUBURN CURB MARKET
It once had the largest number of African American businesses in the US, though it lived under segregation for a good while and Africans were forced to sell their produce from the stalls lining the curb from outside.
Today it operates as a non-profit sub-leasing to individual vendors. Here you can buy all sorts of meat, fruits and vegetables. There are also many restaurants located here representing different parts of the world.
Across from it is Butler Street YMCA, frequented by Martin Luther King Jr. and other community leaders, it was once considered the “black city hall” of Atlanta.
DOBBS PLAZA SHOP
The main attraction here is the “Through His Eyes” sculpture. Dobbs was an early African American civic leader who worked to end segregation in Atlanta. He is often credited for first using the term “Sweet Auburn” to describe the neighborhood.
ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES
Atlanta is a hub for innovation and investments. Two of its leading corporations are major tourist attractions. These include:
World of Coca-Cola
Started in 1886 by a curious Atlanta pharmacist, Coca-Cola has now become a world sensation. Visit the World of Coca-Cola to walk through its history from when it only made a few cents a day, to the billion dollar company it is today. You also get to interact with numerous exhibits and sample more than 100 beverages! Plan your visit here.
Do you love staying up-to-date on the latest news? Are you very particular about getting information only from a reliable source? Have you ever wondered how they put it all together? Then the CNN studio tour is for you. Get exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to their world headquarters . Visit their website to book a tour.
Your noodle game probably rocks, but have you ever thought to take your Asian culinary skills to the next level? You’ll find Chinese, Thai, Indian and everything-in-between cooking classes starting at $20 (Then you get a $10 gift card)
You can also buy pretty much everything you need for cooking international meals, the variety of their produce is astounding.
You’re never too old to play with Legos. So this one isn’t just for the tots. This is the ultimate indoor LEGO playground with two rides, numerous play zones, a 4D cinema and much more, plus it’s all super educative. Your kids will be bragging in school for weeks!
Take a trip to one of the largest aquariums in the world boasting more than 100,000 animals and 700 species. The aquarium features cold water displays, touch tanks and the most famous of all, the Ocean Voyager; a huge salt water tank where you can swim with whale sharks.
A hub for giant panda conservation, this is perfect for all our animal lovers. Animals include gorillas, giraffes, lions among others . Head over to their website for more information.
Did I mention that Atlanta is a foodie haven? Yes? Well… I’ll just have to say it again for emphasis. From seafood to Haitian to real authentic soul food (It is the South, after all). Here are some black-owned restaurants you simply have to check out.
Busy Bee Café
Started by a self-taught chef in 1947 and the only business in the neighborhood that was started during segregation and still exists today, this eatery holds a lot of history with it. It was a famous stop for MLK, thereby serving both as a restaurant and a heritage site. Known for its delectable soul food and southern hospitality, eating here is synonymous with dining like a King (see what I did there?)
Sweet Auburn Seafood
From the live music to the cocktails, this place is a must-visit for every seafood lovers.
Tom, Dick & Hank
If you visit Atlanta in the summer and feel up for a barbeque, this is the place for you, plus they have some of the best wings in Atlanta.
Feeling tropical? I guess you could tell I was going there just by the name of the restaurant. This cool, colorful eatery serves Jamaican cuisine at its finest. The paintings of Bob Marley give it a great reggae vibe.
Soul Vegetarian Restaurant
Their Southern vegetarian menu (vegan and gluten-free options are available) will keep you coming for more every time you’re in Atlanta.
The Spice House
Back to the tropics with this exotic Haitian restaurant. They have amazing food (try the chicken) and live music Friday nights. Thank me later
A few more things you need to know about Atlanta:
-The Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is among the hugest in the world. Meaning you’d have to arrive two hours early for local flights, more for international, because it takes a significant amount of time to navigate the airport.
There are usually lots of great events happening all year round. Visit Creative Loafing to find out what’s happening when you’re there.
Remember that 40% off trick I promised, visit the Atlanta City Pass website, with this you can cut costs on great places like The World of Coca-Cola, Georgia Aquarium, Zoo Atlanta and the National Center for Civil and Human rights. It saves both money and time spent in queues.
And finally, which I think is also most important:
Use MARTA-RAIL, the subway, to get to and from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. It is the quickest way to get around Atlanta perfect for travelling north to south or east to west. Fare is $2.50 for one-way, day passes cost $9 and multiday passes range from $14 for two days to $23.75 for one week. You could also opt for a 10 or 20 trip pass for $25 and $42.50. Up to two children below the height 46 inches ride for free with one paying adult. Reduced rates are available for seniors. The train runs roughly every 10 to 20 minutes starting from 4:45 a.m. and continuing past midnight.
They operate throughout downtown and the suburbs. It is the easiest way to reach neighborhoods that are not accessible by the train such as West Midtown and Atlantic station in the Westside. They arrive every 12 to 25 minutes on weekdays and 30 minutes on weekends. Fare is $2.50.
Found at the airport, hotels and special events, flat rates to the business district are available for $30 to $40, with each additional person adding $2 to the fare. Rates outside the business district start at $2.50 for the first 1/8 mile and an extra 25 cents added for each additional 1/8 mile traveled. You may need to bring printed directions to less known destinations as the streets are so confusing even cab drivers occasionally get turned around. Uber and Lyft are also available.
The most popular mode of transport for touring the downtown and Eastside sights is the Atlanta streetcar. Pick a stop near you on the map. Vending machines for purchasing fare are available at all stops. Choose from one way ($1) or daily pass ($3). You could use the app for Android or iPhone to purchase weekly, monthly or five-day visitor passes. Kids that measure less than 46 inches ride for free with a paying adult. Have your ticket or app proof of purchase accessible for staff as they circle through the streetcars. They operate from:
Monday-Thursday 6:00 am-11:00 pm
Friday 6:00 am-1:00 am.
Saturday 8:30 am-1 am
Sunday 9:00 am-11:00 pm
Exact hours may vary on holidays.
This is the least recommended means of transport in Atlanta. The terrible congestion, the aggressive drivers, the major slowdowns during rush hour and scarce parking all make it a no-no. Hotels can charge $20 per night to park on-site and with the many one-way roads, frequent road name changes and several roads even sharing the same name, it is advisable to use a car only if you’re trying to get somewhere beyond MARTA’s range. There are rental agencies in the airport and throughout the downtown area.
Have you been to Atlanta before? What was your most memorable experience? Talk to us in the comments!
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