World of Coca Cola Theres a reason its called HOTlanta! I was standing (yes, standing) at a bus stop and sweat began dripping from my forehead. But, in spite of the heat and humidity, I enjoyed my visit to Atlanta.
I was attending a four-day conference and arranged to arrive early on the first day and leave late on the last day so I could squeeze in some time poking around town. Thinking about playing tourist, I purchased a CityPass which saved me nearly half the cost of admission to popular attractions. The Georgia CityPass includes entry to the Georgia Aquarium; the World of Coca Cola; the Inside CNN Studio Tour; High Museum of Art or Fernbank Museum of Natural History; Zoo Atlanta or the Atlanta History Center.
My hotel, the Omni at CNN Center, was conveniently located saving me some travel time between attractions too.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International is the worlds busiest airport, but well organized and easy to navigate. After arriving, I quickly found baggage claim, grabbed my heavy, over-packed bag and headed to the MARTA station to catch a train to downtown. According to my research, there was a MARTA station just a short walk from the hotel. I purchased a Breeze card, the Atlanta version of the Charlie Card (Boston); the MetroCard (NYC); the Oyster Card (London). Its a reloadable pass for traveling on busses and subways in the Atlanta metro area. There are a number of options available, but I decided to purchase a 4-day pass for $15 giving me unlimited riding privileges from the date of first use.
After arriving at my destination station, I was quickly reminded why its a bad idea to over pack. The escalator to street level was broken. Backpack, laptop case and heavy suitcase in hand, I started struggling up the steps. Fortunately, a kind soul took pity and helped me. I began walking to the hotel, only to discover that I wasnt REALLY all the way to street level, and another long flight of steps was ahead of me. (I will NEVER over pack again!)
Fortunately, the hotel allowed me to check in early. I regrouped and finalized my plan. My first stop was the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. While I enjoy taking public transit, I wasnt comfortable enough with the instructions I received so I took a taxi. Fifteen minutes and $13 later, I was dropped off in front of the museum. Similar to the three presidential museums Ive visited to date, the grounds were beautifully landscaped and quite peaceful. Exploring the museum, I gained a great deal of respect for Jimmy Carter. Exhibits from his youth; his efforts during the Camp David Peace Accords negotiations and the struggles of the Iran Hostage Crisis are all part of this enjoyable history lesson. After exploring the museum and grounds for about 90 minutes, I asked museum staff about transportation back to downtown. The bus stop was a short walk through the museum parking lot.
The evening brought a visit to the Georgia Aquarium. The worlds largest, the Georgia Aquarium tanks hold more than 10 million gallons of water. With more than 60 exhibits, the aquarium tells a story that is designed to inspire, entertain and educate. Exhibits include dolphins, beluga whales, manta rays and shark, including whale sharks, considered to be the largest fish in the world.
On my last day in Atlanta, I got up early and walked to Centennial Olympic Park before the heat of the day and the crowds arrived. The area had been converted from a run-down neighborhood into a gathering spot for people to enjoy during the 1996 Olympic Games. The parks centerpiece is the Fountain of Rings the worlds largest interactive fountain utilizing the five interconnecting rings symbolizing the Olympic Games. Its a beautiful place; peaceful in the early morning hours, later filling with children (and adults) playing in the fountains to cool off on hot Atlanta days.
I used to be a TV geek, studying broadcasting at Kent State, and wanting to be a TV producer. (Not quite sure how I ended up working in the insurance industry.) So, the Inside CNN Studio Tour was high on my list of things to do. It had been at least a decade (or maybe two) since I had been inside a TV studio. My, how technology changes — although remnants of the blue and green screens were still to be found, robotic cameras were the rule, as were magical touch screens. I volunteered to read copy from a teleprompter and received a chuckle or two from my fellow tour members. The short tour was interesting, but it wasnt long enough and I would have liked to have seen the daily news being assembled in front of me. (Or perhaps given an opportunity to direct a segment of the HLN.)
A quick walk across Centennial Olympic Park to Pemberton Place and I was at World of Coca Cola. Atlanta is home to Coca Cola and this museum brings its 125-year history to a level that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages. I found of particular interest the vintage advertising (including the TV commercials). Its also interesting to see how Coca Cola has impacted cultures around the world. In addition to the historical displays, visitors can sample more than 60 different Coca Cola products, as well as watch the bottling process. And every visitor leaves the museum with a bottle of Coke. (Visitors during this 125th anniversary year receive a commemorative bottle.)
I still had time to visit the High Museum of Art. I hopped on board a MARTA train and headed to midtown. I always inquire about the rules of photography at every museum I visit. Most prohibit the use of flash photography and photographing temporary exhibits. The High took it one step further by asking photographers to sign a statement acknowledging the rules.
Highlights of my visit to the High included the exhibit titled Modern by Design. It featured uniquely designed pieces of furniture and other decorative elements. The Folk Art exhibit was unique in that the High is the only major museum in North America to have a full curator of folk art. I also enjoyed the Decorative Arts and Designs installation which has the most comprehensive survey of American decorative arts in the southeastern United States. This exhibit is hard to describe but contained some very interesting pieces of furniture.
After visiting the High, it was back downtown to pick up my luggage and head to the airport. Once again, I was reminded how difficult travel can be when you over pack. Faced again with flights of steps, I was grateful for the kindness of southern strangers who helped me navigate them. Otherwise, travel back to the airport on MARTA was quick and efficient.