Atlanta, capital of Georgia, is in almost all respects the principal center of the American South. The city was originally a military outpost, becoming an early railway junction and rapidly developing into an important commercial town. During the Civil War, it was an important Confederate stronghold and supply base but was reduced to rubble when captured by Union General William Sherman. These events became the setting for Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell's best-selling novel Gone with the Wind, which won her the Pulitzer Prize.
One of the top things to do in Atlanta with kids, the Georgia Aquarium features a wide variety of marine life and some very interesting and interactive activities for visitors. The world's largest aquarium, it houses more than 100,000 aquatic creatures, including the largest in the ocean - whale sharks.
You can see rare albino alligators and watch as trainers interact with California sea lions. One unique option offered by the Georgia Aquarium is the opportunity to dive or snorkel in the tank with the sharks. To participate in the dive program, visitors must have SCUBA diving certification. For those not looking to get wet, the aquarium also has an acrylic tunnel to walk through and view fish swimming on all sides.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden offers a lovely space with a variety of well laid out gardens, including formal flower beds and majestic trees that frame the urban landscape of Midtown Atlanta. The Botanical Garden is a great place year-round, with something always in bloom.
Spring is, of course, an amazing time with a riot of colors. Some of the highlights include the Orchid Display House in the Fuqua Orchid Center, the Winter Garden, the Japanese Garden, the Conservation Garden, and the Desert House. Two of its major specialties are the Rose Garden and the hydrangeas, each of which comprise the largest collections in the southeast.
Two blocks on Auburn Avenue are now protected as a National Historic Site. They include the birthplace of the civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King Jr. at 501 Auburn Avenue, which dates from 1895, and the Ebenezer Baptist Church at 407-413 Auburn Avenue, in which he and his father were ministers. Free tours of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birth home are offered by the National Park Service.
There are several other places to go in the historic site. Immediately adjoining, in the Freedom Hall Complex, is King's grave. Between his birthplace and Ebenezer Baptist Church is Fire Station No. 6, which played a role in the life of the neighborhood and where volunteers tell stories of life here when King was growing up. The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change is also in this area.
Atlanta's place in the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s is marked by a beautifully conceived interpretation center/museum that places this epic struggle into the greater worldwide movement for human rights.
The Center for Civil and Human Rights explores the history of Jim Crow laws with actual television newscasts, speeches, photos, videos, personal accounts, and interactive experiences that bring visitors into the struggle. Portraits and stories of their work honor men and women who lost their lives in the struggle.
The Fox Theatre was built in the 1920s as the Yaarab Temple Shrine Mosque, with an extremely posh Arabian-themed design. It has had a varied history, with problems during the Great Depression, but has always been a much-loved landmark building since its construction. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The interior of the theater has seen considerable restoration work over the years in an attempt to maintain its original elegance, including the repair and restoration of the furniture collection to preserve its 1929 appearance.
In 1886, a chemist named Dr John Pemberton devised a syrup designed to relieve headaches. A friend of his mixed the glutinous liquid with water and carbonic acid, and the result of the mixture soon became the world's most popular soft drink.
The World of Coca-Cola illustrates the history and triumphal progress of the world-famous drink in entertaining ways that will please all ages. A new exhibit, Scent Discovery, explores the sense of smell and the origins of various fragrances, testing your sense of smell and exploring the sources of different aromas.
Located just a short distance northeast of downtown Atlanta, Piedmont Park is the oldest and largest park in the Atlanta metro region. The grounds were the site of the Battle at Peachtree Creek during the Civil War.
The miles of walking and running trails through its gently rolling meadows and shady groves include a four-mile loop that passes the park's scenic highlights, natural areas, gardens, and historic sites. Or for an intense workout, join fitness fans on Piedmont Park's Active Oval running track.
In addition to providing walking and running trails, the park has off-leash dog parks, gardens, sports fields, a lake with fishing piers, children's playgrounds, a swimming pool at the Piedmont Park Aquatic Center, and a splash pad for children at the Legacy Fountain.
Local farmers and artisans gather on Saturdays at the Green Market, where you may find everything from fresh peaches, handmade soaps, and smoked meats to biscuits, Irish pancakes, sheep cheese, and sheep milk caramel. Look for chef demonstrations every Saturday from 11am until noon.
The Atlanta History Center is a large complex that comprises the Atlanta History Museum, Centennial Olympic Games Museum, Swan House, Smith Family Farm, and the Kenan Research Center, along with a number of historic gardens.
The History Museum features changing exhibitions and a permanent collection with topics such as the American Civil War, Folk Art of the South, and various other exhibits related to the history of Atlanta.
The historic houses range in age from the 1860s to the 1920s and offer a glimpse of life during these time periods. The Margaret Mitchell House contains the apartment where Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind. The guided tour includes a look at this room as well as a brief film and exhibition on Margaret Mitchell.
Designed by architect Richard Meier and enlarged with three new buildings designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the High Museum of Art is noteworthy both for its architecture and its extraordinary collections of art from the Renaissance to the present day. It is particularly known for its works by 19th-century French masters and an extensive collection of 19th- and 20th-century American art.
There is also a significant collection of European paintings and decorative art, and newer additions include modern and contemporary art, photography, and African art. The museum forms part of the Robert W. Woodruff Arts Center and hosts an annual film series featuring foreign, independent, and classic cinema.
Inviting you to rethink everything you know about puppets, the Center for Puppetry Arts is a hands-on museum with a large collection of puppets from around the world. The Global Collection Gallery traces puppetry through four continents, and through displays as diverse as Chinese hand puppets and African rod puppets, you'll discover the five main types of puppets and learn about some of the world's major puppetry traditions.
The Jim Henson Collection Gallery will delight Sesame Street fans of all ages, with the world's largest collection of Jim Henson puppets, props, and costumes. Many of the puppets from Sesame Street and The Muppet Show are here, along with figures from The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and others created by Henson's imaginative mind.