6 Places in Downtown Atlanta You Really Shouldn't Miss
Downtown Atlanta is the pinnacle of the entertainment that the city has to offer, so if you're in the area, it's certainly a must see!
Perhaps you were brought to our dazzling city because of an event at our spacious Georgia World Congress Center. Maybe you are here because of a basketball game or concert hosted at our beloved Phillips Arena, or maybe you came to town to see your favorite football team duke it out for one last hurrah in the Georgia Dome before the Falcons debut the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium next door. Whatever the case may be, you have chosen a great city to visit, and you should make time to visit more attractions in our wonderful Downtown district just walking distance from both of our major sports stadiums and our world-renowned convention center.
The SkyView is a wonderful place to start your visit with its 200-foot tall panoramic views of the city and an audio overview of the Downtown area’s historic locations included. A flight in one of the gondolas lasts roughly fifteen minutes, but the view is phenomenal. This beautiful Ferris wheel became Atlanta’s newest attraction in 2013 and it has since towered over Centennial Olympic Park, becoming an ideal spot to see Atlanta from the sky.
Outside of tourism, it is an acclaimed date night location for many of the locals with its romantic night time views and a box of chocolate provided by the SkyView staff. Who wouldn’t want a kiss from the top of the glittering city? Whether it's date night or just a family outing, anyone in Atlanta must sample the SkyView during their stay, and make sure to look for the view of Centennial Olympic Park! It is the most breathtaking vision that SkyView has to offer.
Centennial Olympic Park
Just across the street from the Skyview sits Centennial Olympic Park, Atlanta’s premiere free attraction. Centennial Olympic Park was built as a gathering spot for spectators of the 1996 Olympics, and has since served as a gathering place for millions of Atlanta residents and visitors. This twenty-one acre park sits in the heart of Downtown Atlanta with most of the attractions encompassing it, so there is no excuse not to visit!
Centennial Olympic Park features many homages to its namesake most notably with its Fountain of Rings located in the east side of the park. The rings are, of course, the five Olympic rings laid out on the ground with refreshing water shooting up from them for children to play in. Every day throughout the year, the Fountain of Rings entertains park goers with its water show that plays four times daily. Surrounding the Fountain of Rings are the flags of all of the countries who previously hosted the Summer Olympic Games, and branching from it are large light towers that represent the Greek marker columns used during the original Olympics in Greece. Down the path, there is a statue of International Olympic Committee founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin in the very middle of Centennial Olympic Park, as a tribute to the founder of the modern Olympic Games.
As you stroll through the park, enjoy the spectacular fountains, statues, and city views it has to offer, but do remember to look down! The park was paid for through citizen contributions, and those contributions are preserved in the bricks below your feet. There are hundreds of thousands of engraved bricks in the park commemorating the public effort to create such a glorious gathering place.
On the south side of the park, you will find a small amphitheater used for many park events like Brew on the Brinks, Wednesday WindDown, Music at Noon, and many more. In the spring, Centennial Olympic Park will even be closed to guests for music festivals like the famous Sweetwater 420 Fest. In the winter however, when the outdoor music scene sees a decline in popularity, Centennial Olympic Park hosts a Holiday in Lights event throughout the park with an ice skating rink in the northwestern section. So regardless of when your visit may be, rest assured that Centennial Olympic Park will always be open to celebrate the heritage of the city.
The CNN Center
The CNN Center, the world headquarters of CNN, is conveniently located on the south side of Centennial Olympic Park. Atlanta native and prominent media proprietor Ted Turner of Turner Broadcasting founded CNN in 1980, and moved it to its current location at Omni International in 1987. Accompanied by the Olympic Games and the development of Centennial Olympic Park, the CNN Center helped tremendously to revitalize Downtown Atlanta to create the Atlanta we know and love today.
Inside the CNN center, you will find the world famous atrium which is home to several retail souvenir stores, almost all of which are related to Turner Broadcasting channels, and several fast-food eateries for you to indulge in while watching the colossal television broadcasting CNN live in the lobby. If you’d rather a sit down meal, the CNN Center offers several restaurants as well. On the back end of the complex, the center connects to Phillips Arena, making it a wonderful place to pop in for a meal before a game. For the more business oriented travelers, the CNN center connects to the four star Omni Hotel on the west side of the complex, and even offers rooms inside the CNN Center. CNN’s Omni Hotel offers even more amenities like a shoe-shine service, a hair and nail salon, a dry cleaner, and a post office all located on the premises.
Once you have experienced the abundance of atrium and lobby luxuries, be sure to get tickets for the Inside CNN Studio Tour. Once you have your tickets, you can journey up the world’s longest escalator into the globe atop the atrium to begin your journey through the history and day to day life of CNN. This hour-long walking tour of the complex will offer you exclusive looks at how CNN News is developed and produced before showing on your television! If one hour doesn’t do it for you though, CNN offers a VIP tour that boasts private tours of the CNN, HLN, and CNN.com newsrooms as well. Plus, if you are free on a Thursday morning, you can take the Morning Express with Robin Meade Tour where you can tour the HLN control room and watch Robin Meade live from inside the studio! Be sure to book your tickets in advance though! CNN tours are notorious for selling out quickly, and I would know. It took me seventeen different visits before I could finally journey into the globe and watch CNN come to life.
College Football Hall of Fame
In 2009, Atlanta was chosen to be the permanent home of the College Football Hall of Fame with the actual museum opening just in time for football season in 2014. The Hall was moved from South Bend, Indiana to Atlanta, which was appropriate considering the stronghold the Southeastern Conference has had over college football in recent years. Atlanta is vast in its love for football, and aside from having its full-time NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons, the city also hosts the annual SEC Conference Championship and the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl here in Downtown Atlanta. The new College Football Hall of Fame sits adjacent to this stadium, offering a new attraction for the sports fans who flock to the city in the hope of seeing their favorite SEC school advance to the newly founded College Football Playoff, or to see their favorite team triumph in one of the highly sought after New Year’s Six Bowls.
The museum features much more than just a Hall of Fame. In addition, it offers several exhibits and interactive rooms for fans to indulge in during their visit. Guests will enter the museum through the Quad which flaunts a wall of helmets comprised of the helmets of all 765 college football teams. Inside, you can find several exhibits such as Why We Love College Football highlighting cheerleaders, marching bands, players, fans and coaches, or the Fans’ Game Day that highlights tailgating, fight songs, traditions and mascots. There is even an interactive ESPN College GameDay desk for guests to join analysts in talking about the excitements of the day and the never-ending race to the playoffs. Inside the Game Day theater, we are taught what game day is like from the perspective of coaches and players, and in the Building a Champion gallery, we are reminded of the sacrifices it takes to become a College Football Champion. The Game Time exhibit highlights rivalries found throughout college football and talks in depth of their origins and traditions. It also tells of the greatest moments in college football, and teaches through the Anatomy of a Play section that there is tremendous communication and analysis involved in every play call.
However, the most popular attraction inside the College Football Hall of Fame is the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl Skill Zone hosted in the The Playing Field exhibit. Here every museum goer is given the opportunity to try their hand at kicking field goals, throwing passes in the Quarterback Challenge and taking on an obstacle course used by coaches to test agility. Then, they can take a picture with the actual Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl trophy, a gem sought after by many college football teams.
There is plenty of excitement waiting at Atlanta’s College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-a Fan Experience, and inside these walls you will learn exactly why Atlanta, as well as the rest of the country, absolutely loves our college football. Because here in Atlanta, we wait all year for football season!
A visit to Atlanta is never truly complete without a visit to the world-famous Pemberton Place. Named for Coca-Cola founder John Pemberton, this quaint tourist section off of the west end of Centennial Olympic Park was born as the Coca-Cola Olympic City for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Since then, Coca-Cola set up its own museum called World of Coca-Cola to showcase its history and brand through the city’s most beloved museum. In 2002, the Coca-Cola Company donated the rest of the land on Pemberton Place to make room for more tourist attractions like the Georgia Aquarium and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Through these three wonderful attractions, Pemberton Place becomes the center of Atlanta’s heritage in highlighting our love for life, people, and Coca-Cola.
The Sun Dial at the Westin Peachtree Plaza
The Sun Dial Restaurant, Bar and View is situated at the very top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza. If your trip is begun with the SkyView, it must end with the Sundial. Where the SkyView gives tours from atop the city, the Sun Dial expands the view and makes the city that much more visible.
Guests enter through the grand atrium lobby of the hotel, and make their way to the back where external glass elevators will hoist them up seventy-three stories to the restaurant entrance. The classy, upscale dining room serves four star dishes while guests enjoy the best views of the city. Perhaps the greatest part of the Sun Dial’s charm is its rotating seating, in which the tables rotate around the entire floor while customers dine.
Upstairs at the bar, you meet a slightly more casual, yet still ritzy, atmosphere where the lounge seats also rotate to give truly panoramic views of the sparkling city. At night, you can gaze at the dancing city lights while sipping on cocktails and listening to live sultry jazz music. All in all, you can never experience Atlanta without experiencing the Sun Dial. It will quickly win your heart at the top of the city.
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