I recently spent a weekend in Atlanta and wanted to highlight my top five attractions of interest to the LGBT community. Being I was only in the city for a short period of time, I briskly visited each of these destinations, giving the most time of course to the world-renowned Georgia Aquarium. It was my first time visiting so I wanted to dedicate as much time as possible to exploring the galleries and exhibits. The aquarium, World of Coca-Cola and National Center for Civil & Human Rights are all located within the same complex, so it makes sense to group these together during your stay.
Georgia Aquarium (2 Hours)
First off, I recommend not partying the night before and get here as soon as it opens. You will beat the lines and more importantly, avoid the screaming children. Atlanta's aquarium is home to tens of thousands of animals including 500 species from around the world and more than 60 habitats. Some highlights of the aquarium include Cold Water Quest, a gallery home to animals that are perfectly adapted to living in frigid waters all over the world. Taking the spotlight in this exhibit are the Beluga whales, African penguins, southern sea otters and the giant Pacific octopus. Swing by the Dolphin Coast gallery to view the aquariums bottlenose dolphins as they interact with each other as well as guests standing within feet of the beautiful mammals. They are so close, you can almost touch them.
World of Coca-Cola (1.5 Hours)
Everyone’s journey in the World of Coca-Cola begins with a six-minute film called Moments of Happiness which celebrates some of life’s most memorable moments experienced by people of different ages and cultures around the world…and of course centered around Coca-Cola. Guests can visit the vault where the legendary secret formula for Coca‑Cola is secured. I was expecting to at least see the recipe from a distance, but alas, the only thing you get to see is the vault. There are some beautifully painted Coca-Cola bottles and other artwork sprinkled throughout the building and definitely worth admiring. The tour ends in the Tasting Room, where folks can sample over 100 different Coca-Cola products from around the world. Talk about a sugar high!
The Center for Civil & Human Rights (1.5 Hours)
One of the most informative stops on my journey, the center was first imagined by civil rights legends Evelyn Lowery and former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young. The center is one of the few places in the world educating visitors on the bridge between the American Civil Rights Movement and the contemporary struggle for Human Rights around the world. The Global Human Rights Movement gallery enables visitors to make connections to the world of human rights including LGBT rights. The gallery features interactive technology intended for all audiences to help visitors gain a deeper understanding of human rights and how they affect the lives of every person. A separate space is dedicated to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., where visitors can view the personal papers and items of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Within that collection was a section devoted to honoring the women of the Civil Rights Movement as the role of women is often overlooked. The exhibit highlights nine women who either inspired, worked alongside or influenced Dr. King, including: Coretta Scott King, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. King’s literary agent, Joan Daves.
CNN Studio Tour (1 Hour)
A stop at CNN’s global headquarters gives visitors behind-the-scenes access to one of the largest media outlets in the world. Guests take a 50-minute guided tour through the halls of CNN Center and get an inside look at how a live broadcast is produced. Visitors get to see the inner workings of a teleprompter and weather map, as well as Studio 7, the largest studio CNN has ever built anywhere in the world.
Atlanta Botanical Gardens (2 Hours)
After Sunday Brunch at Henry’s Midtown Tavern, walk over to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, located adjacent to Piedmont Park. Since the Garden opened more than 35 years ago, there's been more than 50 different updates, new exhibits and upgrades. During my visit, the Gardens were preparing for their 7th annual electrical extravaganza featuring light displays throughout the Garden, including the new high-tech Nature's Wonders, illuminating the world's natural phenomena through countless strands of synchronized dancing lights strung high over Storza Woods. Highlights also include the Walk of Flames and Tunnel of Light as well as the Model Trains that continue to make the exhibition a must-see holiday favorite.
I recommend staying at the Crown Plaza Atlanta Midtown as the property is close enough to walk to the majority of the attractions listed above and situated within a mile from the epicenter of Atlanta’s LGBT nightlife.