Explore and Make History in Atlanta
Atlanta’s roots run deep. Discover some of the most fascinating landmarks that make this city so unique. Make history on your next weekend trip to The Big Peach.
Atlanta is one of America’s great modern cities
, a center of cutting-edge business, bigger-than-life entertainment and some of the best contemporary cuisine in the country. But these present-day perks are only part of what makes Atlanta a truly special place. The birthplace of America’s greatest civil rights champion, its greatest movie and its greatest global export, Atlanta is a city with a rich history that will reward the curious weekend traveler
in countless ways.
Any guide to Atlanta history has to begin with its most famous son. Martin Luther King, Jr’s, dreams of a more just world have their roots in Atlanta, where he was born and where he was buried at the end of his momentous life. More than 50 years after King delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, you can hear his timeless words booming from the speakers outside Atlanta’s King Center
. The museum is a testament to King’s life as well as the site of his grave, which is lit by an eternal flame that honors his burning dedication to the struggle for equality. Just east along Auburn Avenue is Dr. King’s boyhood home, another monument of the American Civil Rights Movement.
Coincidentally, King was in a church choir that sang at the film premiere of Gone With The Wind, which was adapted from a novel by another famous child of Atlanta, Margaret Mitchell. Movie lovers can head over to Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood to visit the Margaret Mitchell House
. Affectionately labeled “the Dump” by Mitchell herself, this is the 1930s-era basement apartment where she spent three years crafting the classic tale of Scarlett O’Hara on a Remington typewriter.
Another historic landmark for movie buffs is the Swan House, a 1930s home probably most recognizable as President Snow’s palace in the Hunger Games. The house sits on the grounds of the Atlanta History Center, a mecca for history lovers from around the world.
Mitchell, like many famous Atlantans, is buried in Oakland Cemetery
. With monuments, sculptures, gardens and walking paths, the cemetery is one of the most beautiful, lush and popular green spaces in the city. Over 1,400 trees, including ancient oaks and magnolias, line the Victorian-style gardens, which are known for summer blooming trees and crape myrtles.
Looming large against the backdrop of Oakland Cemetery are The Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts
. In the late 19th century, the site used to host thousands of textile workers who subsisted on a steady diet of cabbage. Because of the smell that permeated its narrow, cobblestone streets, the village became known as “Cabbagetown” and the nickname stuck. Thankfully, the smell didn’t. Today Cabbagetown is home to Atlanta’s creative class and offers an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, parks and shops. But you can still sense the area’s hardscrabble history in its architecture, with the mill’s smokestacks still intact and towering over the neighborhood of tightly packed shotgun row houses.
While textile mills certainly contributed to Atlanta’s rise as an economic powerhouse, one homegrown export rises above all the rest: Coca-Cola. It may seem like just a drink, but the connection runs deep. Have you ever tried to order a Pepsi in Atlanta? Don’t. Only Southern hospitality will keep you from being laughed out the front door.
This beverage juggernaut had its humble beginnings right here in Atlanta, and Atlantans are loyal to their hometown brand. And with good reason. Over the past 125 years, the five-cent soda fountain drink sold at a neighborhood drug store has grown into a trillion-dollar global brand whose products are sold in more than 200 countries. Even so, the company hasn’t forgotten its roots: In Atlanta, Coke money has funded everything from hospitals, universities, sports teams, arts centers and more.
So it’s not surprising the city has a museum dedicated exclusively to the popular drink. Wonder what Coke tastes like in Japan or Brazil? The World of Coca-Cola
has a tasting room that pours Cherry Coke, Sprite and more than 100 Coca-Cola flavors from across the globe. The museum’s pièce de résistance is also the city’s most well-guarded secret: the original recipe for Coke, kept under lock and key in a sealed vault on the property.
You’ll probably never get into that room, but don’t let that stop you from making your own history on your next weekend trip to Atlanta.