Atlanta Tour Review – A Few Tips for Atlanta Winter Tourists



Perhaps you too have been to Atlanta several times but never ventured much beyond the Convention Center? 



Since some conventions are held near Atlanta’s airport and there are plenty of good hotels in the airport area it could be that you also have never even been to Atlanta’s downtown, except perhaps to sample one of its many high-end restaurants such as one we enjoyed our second night, Lure.



A Chicagoan planning a winter trip to Atlanta would of course hope for warm weather.  Polar vortexes being what they are of late, this is not too probable, or at least not predictable.  The good news is that the city does have attractions to keep you busy enough to forget the February cold and certainly enough variety to warrant the “something for everyone” label.


The top tip on what to do in Atlanta is to take in the sights that have to do with the city’s unique history as the birthplace and home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 



The Martin Luther King National Historic Site is a free tour that includes his home, the Ebenezer Baptist Church and this historic figure’s tomb.  Auburn Avenue, once listed as the nation’s leading center of African-American businesses, is still thriving, which one could see by the crowd at a barber shop very early on a Saturday morning.



Atlanta did itself a great service by capitalizing on King’s historic role in the city by also building the Center for Civil and Human Rights.   This is arguably the nation’s best repository of civil rights archival material as well as exemplary in telling the tale of segregation’s end with a very human face, or rather the many faces who made this democratic moment in our history come to be.   There are certainly other cities and places to visit on the so-called “Civil Rights Trail” but this is one stop that is essential.



The High Museum of Art is another Atlanta museum of world-class quality. 



If you are a fan of Renzo Piano architecture that alone warrants a visit to the High.  The museum’s special exhibits were numerous and noteworthy. 



The ample space in the collections that gives you much room to breathe and relax in makes the High a very visitor-friendly space. 


The Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau offers a CityPASS that includes discounts on many of its attractions.  You may want to be conscientiously selective about what you choose from this packet.  “World of Coca-Cola” is certainly out to entertain “children of all ages” and is probably a good family outing despite its corporate touting in extreme.  Parental Warning:  Plan to exert control in the tasting room or lose your children to a multi-hour sugar high. 



CNN Studio Tours will show you how the news is made for TV, albeit with a healthy dose of commercials for their corporate franchise too.   The History Center should definitely be a top stop for anyone with a deep interest in Civil War history, which is one of many focal points in its archives.  Note:  If you are familiar with other city’s history centers typically devoted to conveying the history of their namesake city you should know ahead of time that this history center doesn’t have that purpose.


It’s always a challenge to try to get to know a place the way the locals do when you have but a few days. 



We got a few tips from Stacy Shade of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau well worth passing on.  Two are places to eat and drink that are known to many an Atlantan.



For breakfast, brunch and more head to the Westside Provisions District’s West Egg Café, so well known to many that it is simply referred to as “the egg”. 



A historic watering hole on most Atlantan’s map that also has very tasty food in the adjoining restaurant is the Atkins Park Tavern in the Virginia Highlands. 



Also, carve out time to take the tour of the historic Fox Theatre.  You are not only seeing a fantastic preservation of Egyptian art deco in the extreme but also taking in a place that has made memories for countless Atlantans—attending proms, parties, rock concerts and more.



If you are looking for an interesting exercise space the Atlanta Beltline should probably be high on your list. 



This might include a walking tour of a two-mile segment peppered with art.  Warning:  Make very sure you know exactly where the tour meets up as many locals who are Beltline jogger regulars seem to know nothing about it.


With more time and perhaps warmer weather we would have devoted more attention to the Oakland Cemetery where Margaret Mitchell (author of “Gone with the Wind”), famed golfer Bobby Jones, among many others are buried. 



We just had missed a special tour of the former slave burial grounds that was part of the Cemetery’s programs for Black History Month.  



Needless to say, it’s also quite a peaceful spot.



For someone coming from a city as large as Chicago or larger expect to be struck by how livable Atlanta is and its relative lack of density. 



The MARTA pubic transportation system is inexpensive and efficiently gets you to most of the places where you want to go.  Better yet, it’s very easy to find street parking, just outside the center of the main downtown streets.  If parking meters are required they always give options for up to four hours meaning we didn’t have to do wild dashes to re-feed meters.  Yes, there is gridlock during the early morning rush hours and again at 4 PM or so.  But you’re a tourist with time on your hands and you can avoid that.  Warning:  Google Maps’ Directions aren’t the best guides to either public transportation or required driving times in Atlanta.  Ask a local instead. 


For more information visit the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau website.




Photos:  Peter Kachergis unless otherwise indicated.



















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