Diane is a transplant southerner who has lived in the South about half her life. She moved to the Atlanta area about 10 years ago.
The Atlanta area has produced political leaders, businessmen, actors, musicians, authors, athletes, and more. But why have so many influential people come from Atlanta? The culture, the people, and the activities in the area were likely big factors.
Atlanta is considered a metropolis, meaning that although there are a lot of things to do inside the confines of the city, there are also a variety of other exciting attractions just around the corner from the heart of the South.
The Georgia Aquarium
You may think it strange that the largest US aquarium is land-locked in the heart of Atlanta, however, this marvel is not to be missed. The Georgia Aquarium boasts more than 500 species of animals and more than 10 million gallons of water!
In addition to the standard starfish and sea anemones you’ll likely see at any aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium boasts creatures such as whale sharks, beluga whales, stingrays, dolphins, sea lions, puffins, penguins, and much more!
Sit down in the café, visit the petting zoo, watch a dolphin or sea lion show, stroll through the gift shop, or take a rest while viewing a 3D movie. All these attractions are free with standard admission. Georgia residents get free access to the aquarium on their birthday (with valid ID or birth certificate) and must be used on the same day. Other discounted tickets are also available on special event days, with group discounts, or on Military Mondays.
The Georgia Aquarium also hosts parties, offers dive programs, lets you swim with sharks, and has encounters with critters such as penguins, dolphins and sea otters, all for additional costs, of course.
Fernbank Museum of Natural History
The Fernbank Museum is more than an ordinary museum. At Fernbank, you’ll be able to view dinosaur exhibits, see live animals, participate in hands-on activities, explore outside in a 75-acre “outdoor nature adventure” setting, and view movies on a giant screen.
Although exhibits change periodically, frequent activities include things such as wildflower tours, toddler storytime, and after-dark activities for adults.
Sports fans are sure to enjoy visiting Atlanta, a city that hosted the Summer Olympics in 1996. Today, sports are still a vivid part of the landscape, since the town likely holds a sporting event whenever you are visiting.
Baseball: The Atlanta Braves play at SunTrust Park in Cobb County. The Brave’s AAA feeder team-- the Gwinnett Stripers-- is located about 30 minutes North of Atlanta at Cool Ray Field in Gwinnett County.
Basketball: The professional basketball teams—the Atlanta Hawks and the WNBA Atlanta Dream—play downtown at Philips Arena.
Football: The Atlanta Falcons play at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the heart of the city.
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Soccer: Professional soccer is alive and well with the Atlanta United team that plays at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta.
College Sports: The Atlanta metro area boasts a number of colleges with thriving sports teams. The GSU campus is in the heart of the city, while UGA is farther northeast in Athens, GA. Atlanta also hosts the College Football Hall of Fame, where patrons can learn the history of the game in a hands-on way.
Atlanta is quickly becoming an entertainment capital. Many production houses film in the area, with projects for both the big and small screen. On any given day you may walk down a street and view a production team.
There is also a thriving music and theatre industry in the area. Popular theatre houses include the historic Fox Theatre in downtown, the 7 Stages Theatre, and the Atlanta Magic Theater. The Center for Puppetry Arts offers a show and museum-in-one for kids of all ages.
The 95-member Atlanta Symphony orchestra performs over 200 times a year around town and at the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown. They have won more than two dozen Grammy Awards and produced more than 100 recordings.
Atlanta offers plenty of things to do outdoors, so bring your walking shoes (or a bike), some snacks, and a cooler if you plan on enjoying the landscape.
Centennial Olympic Park
Walk around downtown Atlanta and visit the Centennial Olympic Park, where you can listen to live music, eat some great grub, and splash in the fountain of rings. Follow the Audio Walking Tour on your mobile device to learn about the park and the city itself. There are plenty of restaurants near the park, so you can cool off and get some grub as needed. Just steps away from the park sits the giant Sky View Ferris Wheel, where you can see the famous skyline of the city.
The Chattahoochee River and Nature Center
The Chattahoochee Nature Center invites visitors to observe wildlife, picnic, hike trails, explore butterfly gardens, and more. The center has several activities throughout the year, including things such as plant sales, spring break camps, drive-in movies, and hands-on STEAM exhibits.
Stone Mountain Theme Park
Enjoy the beautiful outdoors with southern charm at Stone Mountain. Daytime activities include things such as a water park, train rides, 3D movies, hiking trails, and a cable car Skylift to the top of Stone Mountain, and at night you can view a laser light show against the giant rock. Overnight accommodations, catering, festivals, and educational activities abound. Don't worry about the weather either, as Stone Mountain turns into "Snow Mountain" complete with snow, tubing, Santa, and Rudolph during the winter months. Several indoor activities are also available at Stone Mountain, including glass-blowing demonstrations, gift shops, and museums.
Places to Eat
The Varsity hamburger and hot dog joint is a must-see for any Atlanta visitor. Upon entering the establishment you’ll likely hear “What’ll Ya Have?” from the line of cashiers at the counter. You’ll likely need to learn the proper lingo before placing your order, so visit the website to make sure you get the right toppings for your entrée. And be sure to order an “F.O.” a frosted varsity orange shake; there are fewer things refreshing on a hot Atlanta day!
If you like adventure, the Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament may be the place for you to visit with your family. Although there are several locations around the country, the metro Atlanta area is lucky to have a location just to the north in Duluth, GA. The experience is inspired by an 11th-century feast and tournament. Admission includes a gift shop, meal, photo experience with the “king” and a dinner show.
During your dinner show, you’ll be assigned a particular knight, and root for your knight to win the hand of a young maiden. You’ll also see great horsemanship and jousting.
On the other end of the eating spectrum is The Vortex Bar & Grill, a location known for its crazy portions and awesome food. Featured on many foodie television shows, they are most famously known for their “Coronary Bypass” burgers in excess of 4,000 and 9,000 calories (and no, that’s not a typo). You have to see these behemoth burgers to believe they really exist!