Have a Coke and a smile
– World of Coca Cola
One of the first things I noticed about Atlanta was the sense of community. During my weekend stay I saw four different charity walks supporting causes including diabetes, breast cancer and down syndrome. The latter ended with a massive celebration in Centennial Olympic Park. I was also staying in an AirBnB room a block from the local high school in the outer suburb of East Point. From my bedroom the music from the school band travelled through the walls, which made me feel like I was in an American sitcom.
I went into my visit to Atlanta with no expectations and I was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered. I LOVE it when that happens. The only thing I knew about the Georgia capital was that it hosted the 1996 Olympics. Yep, I am a knowledgeable one. But later I found out that it has the world’s busiest airport in terms of passengers and it is the seventh most-visited city in the United States. Atlanta also has a thriving film and television production industry thanks to the tax credit offered to companies. The Hunger Games, The Walking Dead and The Vampire Diaries are all filmed in the area.
I was armed with an Atlanta CityPASS for my stay, which is definitely the most affordable way, in my opinion, to see the best of this world city. You are saving $63 by purchasing the pass, which is a substantial amount when you are a budget traveller. That equals two nights in most hostels. Here I will break it down so you can decide whether or not it would be worthwhile for you to get the pass for your Atlanta visit.
1. Georgia Aquarium
I’m not a big fan of visiting aquariums away from home. This has something to do with the fact I grew up on the Great Barrier Reef (minor brag, sorry) so I used to visit the aquarium in my hometown regularly for school and fun. But I liked Atlanta’s version a lot. It was so busy the day I visited with lots of children enjoying the exhibits. I spent too long staring at the dolphins, because they are without a doubt my favourite water-inhabiting animal. They just always seem to be having so much fun, even in a tank.
There is a Dolphin Tales Show on regularly during the day, which I unfortunately missed, but it is part of the Atlanta CityPASS admission. You can stand on a conveyor belt and watch beautifully bright fish and strikingly large sharks swimming above your head and to your left and right. Another animal having a whale of the time (pun intended) is the beluga whale. I had never had the opportunity before to see one, so I fell in love with this marvellous creature almost instantly.
The aquarium has a celebrity status too, having been used in the movies The Change Up and What to Expect when you’re Expecting.
2. World of Coca-Cola
Who knew Coca Cola was created in Atlanta? I certainly didn’t. But what a fun place to add to the Atlanta CityPASS agenda. Confession: I spent so long in this wonderful worldThere was just so much to see and do. My time there started well when I won a wristband for answering a quiz question correctly: a Coke product starting with F. Do you know it?
When you first enter you watch a short movie on Sharing the Happiness. Then inside there is The Vault to discover the secret ingredient and a gallery of memorabilia. You can watch a 3D movie (complete with water, air sprays and chair movements) and sit in an area to watch advertisements old and new, local and international. I did enjoy seeing the older ads for Coca Cola, including one from 1971. Several young adults from different nationalities were singing the song “I Want to Teach the World to Sing,” whilst holding glass bottles of coke.
The highlight, however, is probably the tasting zone, where you can try coke products from nearly every continent. My favourite was an Apple and Kiwi Fanta from Thailand. As you exit the facility you receive your own collectable glass Coke bottle and then you enter the massive gift store. If you do not want to purchase anything, just run, because there is so much goodness inside.
3. Inside CNN Studio Tour
For those unaware, I actually studied Journalism at university, so I was very excited to go behind-the-scenes of the world’s first 24-hour news network. But you don’t have to be a journalism graduate to enjoy the tour. It was informative and showed you exactly how a usual program is made: from the newsroom to the teleprompters to the weather boards to the studio itself. Over 2 billion people view the news channel worldwide today. That’s a third of our global population!
A fun fact they tell you at the end is that the escalator you ascend at the beginning of the tour is actually the world’s longest freestanding escalator. So cool.
4. Zoo Atlanta OR Atlanta History Center
Now, for this part of the Atlanta CityPASS, you must choose between animals and history. I’m sorry history, I really do like you, but I couldn’t look passed PANDAS. Because they are not only pandas but two Giant Panda cubs at that. I would really like to cuddle one but I feel like they wouldn’t enjoy being hugged so much, unless I was made of bamboo. Even if you do visit, have a look at the Zoo’s website here and marvel at the video they produced on the panda’s growth, it is amazing.
But alas, there is more to this habitat than just these cuddly creatures. You can also see the giraffe, rhinoceros, gorilla, Sumatran tiger and African elephant. I should also mention there is a little surprise from my home country too: kangaroos!
5. Fernbank Museum of Natural History OR High Museum of Art
This is where I become useless to your Atlanta CityPASS decision making because I did not go to either of these probably fantastic institutions because I ran out of time. If you are just visiting for the weekend and purely focus on the pass, I believe you would be able to see all the sights. However, I did a film tour one morning and then spent a further afternoon at the Martin Luther King Jr Historic Site. So if you want to stick to the same itinerary as myself then an Atlanta long weekend would be perfect!