Atlanta may not be the first US city you think of to head to for a holiday, but the Georgian state capital has a few surprises up its sleeve. The ninth largest city in the country, Atlanta’s booming economy and influx of migrants from other parts of the US has led to it becoming a rather more dynamic and multicultural hub than many neighbouring cities, though it also retains much of its traditional Southern charm and character.
Like most major cities, Atlanta has a wealth of museums, galleries and cultural and natural attractions, and inexpensive car hire USA means that you can explore these easily and on your own schedule. We take a look at some of the top attractions below.
Zoo Atlanta, founded in 1889, is the city’s oldest cultural attraction and has had a long and interesting history. When a travelling circus visiting the city went bankrupt, several animals, including lions, a hyena, jaguar and black bear, were left in their cages to their fate. But the local residents relocated them and added more animals, forming the beginnings of the city’s zoo. Today Zoo Atlanta holds many more animals, including giant pandas, leopards, giraffes and Sumatran tigers, and many birds, amphibians and reptiles. It also runs several conservation programmes to protect wildlife and their natural habitats.
Atlanta Cyclorama and War Museum
Atlanta Cyclorama and War Museum is home to what was until very recently the largest painting in the world – a breathtaking cylindrical panoramic vision of the 1864 Battle of Atlanta, which took place during the American Civil War. Standing almost 13 metres tall and 110 metres wide, the Cyclorama painting is noted for its realistic depictions of battling Union and Confederate soldiers against a bloody landscape. Visitors enter the Cyclorama and view it from inside, as it slowly rotates, accompanied by music and narration. The Cyclorama was painted in the late 19th century by German artists.
The other major attraction at the War Museum is the Texas steam locomotive, the train used in the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862 as it pursued the stolen General locomotive. Also at the War Museum are various Civil War artefacts, including weapons and uniforms, together with interactive exhibits.
Atlanta Botanic Garden
Atlanta Botanical Garden is a beautiful 30 acre oasis of lush greenery and vibrant plantings. The outdoor collection includes an educational Edible Garden, beautiful Rose Garden, serene Japanese Garden and a Winter Garden for year-round colour. Glasshouses complement the outdoor collection, with desert succulents and tropical exotics, a cloud forest habitat and a colourful orchid house.
Centennial Olympic Park
Centennial Olympic Park is a public park in downtown Atlanta, built for the 1996 Olympics and now home to various events throughout the year, including music concerts and fireworks displays. One of the central features is the Fountain of Rings, a fountain in the shape of Olympic rings, with lights and jets of water set to music. Around the rings are light towers designed to evoke Greek columns. In the park there’s also a pretty waterfall and a splash pad for children to play in.
The SkyView Atlanta, a 60 metre diameter Ferris Wheel, is just across the road from the park. Take a ride in one of the air-conditioned cars for sweeping views across the park and cityscape.
Bars and Restaurants
Atlanta has a lively bar and restaurant scene, with something for everyone, from sports bars, great grills and traditional diners to swanky rooftop cocktail bars, upscale restaurants and superb music venues.