By: Winnie T. Sittón
Photos: David Mesa Jaén, Shutterstock
Copa Airlines has added a new destination to its growing route map: Georgia’s largest city, Atlanta, sometimes known as the capital of the U.S. south. Since large, prestigious U.S. corporations are headquartered here, the city is a nerve center for business and transportation. It is also a vibrant, dynamic, and very modern city that offers a wide range of entertainment options, including major sports and cultural events, first-class museums, excellent local cuisine, and high-end stores for dedicated shoppers.
Here, we preview a splendid selection of the attractions you can enjoy from the moment your plane touches the ground on your next visit to Atlanta. You’ll be glad you came!
Fun for the Whole Family
Some of Atlanta’s most popular family fun attractions are located in the city center, near the lovely Centennial Olympic Park.
The Georgia Aquarium is stunning. Until 2012, it was the world’s largest aquarium, with more than 8 million gallons of fresh and salt water —an amount that later increased to 11 million gallons. It features a total of 120,000 animals with nearly 500 species from various latitudes, including favorites such as whale sharks, belugas, dolphins, penguins, piranhas, and otters. There are seven exhibit spaces, the most impressive of which is Ocean Voyager. It is one of the world’s largest individual aquatic exhibits: thousands of fascinating fish can be observed through a gigantic 60’ x 26’ window. We suggest you save this experience for the end of your visit to finish on a high note.
Just across the street from the Georgia Aquarium is the World of Coca-Cola. If you didn’t already know, the famous carbonated beverage was invented in Atlanta 135 years ago. This permanent exhibit presents the history of the company, with images showing the evolution of the brand and its iconic ads. There are many fun spaces and attractions, as well as an exciting 4-D cinema adventure. This is an ideal place to bring the little ones.
Since you’re in the neighborhood, pay a visit to the College Football Hall of Fame. You don’t need to be a fan of the sport or know anything about it to have a good time reviewing the history of the college league of one of the most popular sports in the United States. The three floors of exhibits that make up this modern, interactive museum immerse visitors in a dynamic, entertaining experience. You can test your ability to run, clear, and block and the theater shows a 14-minute video that highlights great moments of college football.
Are You a Sports Fan? Atlanta is the Place for You
If you like sports, you’ll already be aware that this city is home to major professional teams in several leagues, such as the Atlanta Braves (baseball), the Atlanta Hawks (basketball), the Falcons (football), and the Atlanta United F. C. (soccer), to name the most popular. Any of their games will be great sports entertainment, so if your time and wallet permit —tickets here can be more reasonable than in other U.S. cities— don’t miss a chance to root for one of the city’s teams.
I had the pleasure of attending an Atlanta Hawks game and it was exceptional. Especially because they won in their home arena, the amazing State Farm Arena, a modern sports complex that holds 20,000 fans, located right in the heart of the city. It opened in 1999 after an investment of 200 million dollars; a further 192 million was spent on improvements in 2017-2018. It has a little of everything for fans, including clothing stores, bars and restaurants, and even a high-end barber shop where you can get your hair cut or have your beard trimmed as you enjoy the game from one of the best vantage points in the arena. It’s over the top!
Although I wasn’t able to go in, next door is the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the imposing home of the Atlanta Falcons (NFL) and the Atlanta United F. C. (MLS). This commanding structure has room for more than 70,000 spectators. I was happy I at least got to see the outside and snap a few photos, but I’ll do my best to see the inside on my next visit to the city.
Following in the Footsteps of Martin Luther King
Before leaving downtown, remember to stop at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. This fairly new and very well-curated museum is dedicated to civil rights movements in the United States and the general struggle for human rights worldwide. As you might expect, much of the exhibit centers on the legacy of Black American activist and Nobel Peace Laureate Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most important figures in the history of Atlanta, who was assassinated in 1968. There is a pavilion devoted exclusively to him on the lower level, which shows important personal documents belonging to the pacifist leader.
The Old Fourth Ward —slightly east of the museum— is home to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park. In the park you can learn even more about his life and work by visiting the house where he was born and the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he was the pastor. You can also visit the somber The King Center, the final resting place of Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, and take in the history exhibits and art shows.
A little over a mile from downtown lies the vibrant, modern Midtown neighborhood. Known as Heart of the Arts, this area houses well-recognized art institutions, including the High Museum of Art (informally known as the High), the principal art museum in the southeastern United States. Its permanent collection includes more than 18,000 works in seven exhibit areas: African Art, American Art, Decorative Arts and Design, European Art, Folk and Self-Taught Art, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Photography. Representing the most famous artists are pieces by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Claude Monet, Martin Johnson Heade, and Dorothea Lange.
Midtown also has a selection of bars and restaurants if you’d like to relax for a moment and savor the best of local cuisine. One good choice is Politan Row in the Colony Square shopping center. This is an exclusive food court headed by chefs and designed just for Midtown. It offers a carefully curated mix of local food and beverages in a variety of outdoor spaces where people can meet and eat, making it a required stop for foodies.
We’ve given you a brief look at Atlanta’s best, but there is certainly more to see and know in this city. If your time and budget permit, you can also take a look at the following attractions
Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail
This trail forms part of a larger project that will transform 22 miles of historic railway track into parks, green spaces, and transportation trails around Atlanta. It’s an ideal spot for biking or walking.
Ponce City Market
Located along the Atlanta BeltLine, this market has become the city’s nerve center and one of its most popular destinations. It offers a diverse food court, retail shops from leading brands, and spaces for living, working, and having a good time.
Experience a Safari at the Illuminarium
This new immersive space will take you on a virtual safari through parts of Africa. Just steps away from the Ponce Market (going south), it is surrounded by outdoor cafés and bars.
This natural science museum will transport you to a world of dinosaur adventures, live animals, artifacts, and scientific exploration, not to mention movies on a giant, latest-generation 4K screen.
Atlanta History Center
This lovely campus contains the Atlanta History Museum, which features interesting historical exhibits illustrating the past and present of Georgia and the southern United States.
Further information at https://discoveratlanta.com