A relative newcomer to Atlanta's landscape is the "Georgia Aquarium" which opened its doors in late 2005. This fantastic aquarium exists due to the enormous generosity of Bernie Marcus, a co-founder of The Home Depot. His desire to give Atlanta a world-class aquarium was announced to the public in 2003 and only 2 years later, his vision became reality. Mr. & Mrs. Marcus donated $250,000,000 to create this aquarium for the people of Georgia and others from around the world. With over 8.5 million gallons of water and 150,000 animals, this is the largest aquarium in the world. [The next time you hear someone complain about rich people, think for a minute of all that they have donated both past and present such as this aquarium.]
I've visited aquariums before, but I must say that I thought that the Georgia Aquarium was the best I've seen to date! Not only is the layout and interior design pleasing but the excellent exhibits are very distinct from each other. There are 7 different 'galleries':
Georgia Pacific's "Cold Water Quest" ~ featuring creatures from cold, ocean - Beluga whales were my favorite inhabitants but Weedy Sea Dragons from Australia, Pacific Octopus, and Japanese Spider Crabs were really interesting too.
AT & T's Dolphin Tales ~ A show for all ages features those lovable dolphins everybody loves! We really enjoyed the show and could have watched them perform for a longer time.
NOTE: When we purchased tickets on the day of our arrival, we automatically received timed tickets for the Dolphin show!
Southern Company's "River Scout" ~ Interesting animals & fish living in or around rivers found in Georgia, but also in Africa, South America and Asia. The otters were adorable too. See my photo of the albino alligator!
SunTrust's "Georgia Explorer" ~ The 3 touch pools at this exhibit were fun for all ages as well -- the shallow pools held many young sting rays and even young sharks, sea stars, anemones, and more -- all used to being touched. Have you ever heard of Grey's Reef off the coast of Georgia? Neither had I until I visited this aquarium. This exhibit also featured a lighthouse and trawler. There's also a brief film about the endangered right whales often seen off the coast of Georgia.
The Home Depot's "Ocean Voyager" ~ The stars of this exhibit are the giants --- enormous whale sharks, manta rays, and giant groupers. We were lucky to see the feeding of krill to one whale shark. The question is often asked why these sharks don't eat other small fish in the same tank. The docent told us it is because their throats are only about the size of a quarter so what they do eat has to be extremely small.
Southwest Airlines' "Tropical Diver" ~ This gallery had tanks, both large and small, holding some of the most brilliantly colored tropical fish you'll see anywhere. In one of the major tanks a Pacific coral reef has been recreated to act as a home for these spectacular fish. Also in this exhibit you can walk through a transparent, acrylic tunnel where you can see marine life from nearly a 360 degree perspective.
A T & T's "Deepo's Undersea 3D Wondershow" ~ This is the only exhibit we did not see as some in our party had no interest in it. The aquarium's brochure describes it as " ... a high definition 3D film and unique special effects, the Georgia Aquarium's 4D Theater allows guests to experience the underwater world from a marine animal's point of view."
Just before attending the "Dolphin Tales Show", we stopped for a quick break and light lunch at the Cafe Aquaria Food Court which was actually suprisingly good and well worth the stop.
(2013) Adult admission price $29.95; Senior - $25.95; Child - $23.95
Tuesday - Thursday: $21.95 regardless of age!! Website is a little confusing about whether these special discount tickets must be ordered online or not.
The aquarium is open 365 days per year. Hours may change by season and month so check the website for any particular day.
Regular operating hours:
Sunday - Friday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Parking is available in many nearby lots. Discounted parking passes can be purchased online.Related to:
If you find yourself near the bottom of Georgia on I95 exit 29, take the time to check out Jekyll Island to see Driftwood Beach, you will NOT regret it! This is a fantastic view to see, make sure you bring your camera, we just couldn't get over it. There is a $3.00 toll to get on the island but it is well worth the price.Related to:
- Family Travel
St. Simons Island Lighthouse, St. Simons Islan GA.
St. Simons Island Lighthouse, 1815, replaced many times, 1st one was a harbor light then a coastal light replace it. Located on the southern point of St Simons Island it marked the entrance to St Simons Sound. The lighthouse board raised the status in 1857 by installing a 3rd order lens. Civil war destroyed it. In 1870 work on the new one was started and completed in 1872 and lit in Sept. It can be seen for 16 miles and is still working to date.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- National/State Park
Go on a Riverboat Ride!
This is a great way to see the historic River Street from a Riverboat! The Captain will narrate the Savannah River history Location: Cruising year round from East River Street
Saturday lunch and Sunday brunch cruises, also includes narration by the Captain and a buffet, great food and a relaxing cruise.
1 hour no reservation required
Children under 12 $8.50
There are several other cuise packages that are longer and more expensive and do require reservations, so check the link below for more details and prices.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
A long Sunday afternoon drive into the country brought us to Gibbs Gardens located in Cherokee County, Georgia. Carved into the rollings hills are over 200 acres of gardens designed and executed by Mr. Jim Gibbs. A degreed landscape designer and horticulturalist, Mr. Gibbs looked for many years to find the perfect piece of land to make his dream of expansive gardens come true. Mr. Gibbs traveled throughout the country and the world viewing gardens and studying the philosophy particularly of Japanese gardens construction.
In addition to a Welcome Center, Gift Shop, and the Arbor Cafe there are 16 distinct gardens to visit. In spring alone there are 50 acres planted in daffodils of which there are 60 varieties. Many gardens are a very long walk from the Welcome Center so there are trams to help ferry you to gardens you might like to visit. Pick up a map at the Welcome Center to orient yourself.
We used the tram to visit the Japanese Garden entered by strolling beneath the Torii Gate which covers 40 acres and which features ponds, special rock structures, Japanese statuary and stone pagodas. Another unusual feature in this beautiful garden is the Zig Zag Bridge, the design of which is thought to perhaps deter the loss of good luck or perhaps help to shed bad luck. This garden certainly encouraged feelings of peace and serenity.
A tram is available for the 150 foot ascent up to the Manor House, the Gibbs personal residence, which is featured for its rock pool, arbor garden and the paths leading down to the Grandchildren's Sculpture Garden and the rest of the gardens.
The Waterlily Garden and the Wedding Gazebo, aptly used for weddings, were other areas I really enjoyed but I have to say that the impression left on first seeing the entry bridge with its bounty of flowers still in full bloom is what I'll remember about Gibbs Gardens.
It was a special pleasure to speak personally to Mr. Gibbs himself! He greets customers as they arrive at the Visitor's Center. He is very willing to answer any questions about his gardens that you may have.
Looks for special events at the Gardens on the website calendar.
Closed Monday & Tuesday
9:00 am to 5:00 pmWednesday thru Sunday
* Last admission every day is 4 pm
Admission Fees (2013 prices):
Adults (18 to 64 years old): $20 per person
Seniors (65+): $18
Children: (ages 4-17) $18 (Children 3 and under are free.)
Group rates are $18.00 per person for an unguided group of 10 or more.
Use of trams is $5 additionally
If you live within driving distance of the Gardens, consider a season ticket if you are interested in visiting more than twice per year. With the gardens changing in every season, a visit 4 times per year wouldn't be unreasonable. If you love gardens or would be interested in attending any of their several events each year, a season ticket would undoubtedly save you money.
The High Museum of Art
The High Museum of Art is the leading art museum in the Southeast. It houses a permanent collection of over 11,000 works of art, including contemporary art, a decorative arts collection featuring nineteenth- and twentieth-century American furniture, nineteenth-century American landscape paintings, European paintings and sculptures from the fourteenth century through the nineteenth century, African masks and carvings, folk art, and photography.
The museum also features a wide range of traveling exhibitions throughout the year, as well as guided tours, lectures, films, and special events.
The High Museum of Art has two locations: the main facility (pictured here) is in Midtown Atlanta, and the Folk Art and Photographic Galleries are located in the Georgia-Pacific Center in downtown Atlanta.
Underground Atlanta is one of the city's most popular tourist, entertainment, and shopping districts. More than 100 retail and specialty stores, and numerous restaurants and bars line the underground streets.
Underground Atlanta got its start in the 1920s. To improve the flow of traffic, the city constructed concrete viaducts over the existing streets in a five-block area to form an elevated street system. The merchants moved their businesses to the new level, and for a time used the old premises, which were now all underground, for storage. However, the underground streets were soon abandoned and were forgotten until 1968. It was then that the Atlanta Board of Aldermen declared the original five-block area a historic site. A year later, Underground Atlanta opened as a retail and entertainment district.
The Margaret Mitchell House and Museum
The world's second most popular book, after the Bible, was written by Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell. Since publication of Gone With the Wind in 1936, sales have totaled nearly 30,000,000 copies translated into 32 languages.
One month after publication, Margaret Mitchell sold the film rights to the book. The premier of the movie Gone With the Wind was held in 1939 at the Loew's Grand Theatre in downtown Atlanta. (The Loew's Grand Theatre has since burned down). The movie won ten Academy Awards, and has been seen more times than any other film in history.
The Margaret Mitchell House and Museum features a new 4,000-square-foot (373-square-meter) museum which contains exhibits, including letters written by Margaret Mitchell and her husband, pictures, and archival exhibits that portray the life of Atlanta's favorite daughter. The museum opened on December 15, 1999 on the 60th anniversary of the premier of the movie.
Tours also include a visit to Apartment Number 1 in the house where Margaret Mitchell lived between 1925 and 1932, and in which she wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
The World of Coca-Cola
The world's most popular soft drink, Coca-Cola, was invented in Atlanta by Dr. John Pemberton in 1886. Originally intended as a medicinal drink, Coca-Cola contained cocaine, which gave rise to its name. John Pemberton took the syrup to a nearby pharmacy, where it was mixed with carbonated water and sold for five cents per glass. From such humble beginnings, Coca-Cola is now consumed 13,000 times every second of every day, worldwide. The Coca-Cola Company claims that their soft drink is the most successful product in the history of commerce.
One of the most popular attractions in Atlanta, the World of Coca-Cola highlights the history and heritage of Coca-Cola, and displays Coca-Cola memorabilia from throughout the years. The three-story atrium is draped with the flags of over 200 nations and territories where Coca-Cola products are available. Visitors can experience exhibits containing over 1,200 Coca-Cola artifacts, participate in interactive exhibits, and watch video presentations and classic Coca-Cola commercials. One of the most popular exhibits is a replica of Barnes Soda Fountain where "soda jerks" demonstrate how early Coca-Cola was prepared.
Visitors can also sample 23 beverages made by the Coca-Cola Company around the world, but which are not available in the United States.
The CNN Center
Founded and owned by media mogul Ted Turner, CNN (Cable News Network) was the world's first 24-hour cable news service. The Atlanta-based studio brings news to over 1,000,000,000 people around the globe every day.
Vistors can take a guided tour of the CNN Center to learn about the history of the CNN networks and their state-of-the-art studios. Highlights include a re-creation of CNN main control room where visitors can see the behind-the-scenes operations of a 24-hour news service. An exhibit area features interactive video clips of the top 100 news stories that CNN has covered since its inception. There are demonstrations that show how such special effects as making images appear behind anchors and correspondents are made. And there is a special presentation showcasing the other networks that make up the rest of the Turner broadcasting empire, including TBS, TNT, and the Cartoon Network.
The Fox Theatre
Built in 1929, the Fox Theatre was originally intended to serve as the headquarters of the Atlanta Yaarab Temple. Because of the Great Depression, the order was forced to sell the building. It was bought by Hollywood movie executive William Fox, who converted it into a movie palace with the decor of an Arabian courtyard. In addition to featuring movies, the theater was also the home of the Metropolitan Opera.
The Fox Theatre was almost lost to developers in the 1970s. However, the "Save the Fabulous Fox" campaign led to the preservation of the Fox Theatre as a historic landmark. Nowadays, visitors can join a guided tour of the theater offered by the Atlanta Preservation Center.
Zoo Atlanta provides natural habitats for almost 1,000 animals among the trees, hills, and along streams that closely replicate the animals' homes in the wild.
Among the exhibit highlights are the Ford African Rain Forest which is home to four gorilla families (numbering 22 gorillas) in a jungle-like setting. The Masai Mara is a recreation of the plains of Kenya, with free-roaming ostriches, antelopes, giraffes, and zebras. Neighboring land harbors elephants, lions, and rhinoceros. The Ketambe exhibit showcases three families of orangutans, while the Sumatran Tiger Forest provides a jungle habitat complete with a stream and waterfall for the rare tigers. Finally, the Asian Forest features the zoo's most popular attraction: a pair of giant pandas from China.
The State Capitol Building
The Georgia State Capitol Building was completed in 1889 on the site of Atlanta's antebellum City Hall. The most striking aspect of the neo-Classical building is its golden dome. The gold was a gift from the people of nearby Dahlonega, Georgia where the nation's first gold rush occurred in 1830. There are 43 ounces (1,220 kilograms) of gold leaf covering the dome. The gold leaf was first applied in 1958 and refurbished in 1981.
In addition to housing the State Legislature, the office of the governor, and various other state offices, the inside of the capitol building contains historical exhibits, a small science and natural history museum, the Hall of Valor which houses a collection of priceless flags, and the Hall of Fame which features busts of the Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence and other notable citizens from Georgia's past.
Peachtree Street is Atlanta's "grand avenue," stretching north for miles from downtown, through Midtown and Buckhead, and ending in the far northern suburbs. Many of Atlanta's prime attractions, bustling business centers, most chic shopping venues, and best neighborhoods are on or adjacent to Peachtree Street. Despite its name, no peach trees grow along the street, since Atlanta is a little too far north, and a little too high in elevation, for peaches to thrive.
Midtown is one of Atlanta's most vibrant areas, and is bisected by Peachtree Street. Located about one mile (1.6 kilometers) north of the downtown area, many corporations are based here in one of the many new skyscrapers that have sprung up recently. In addition, many of Atlanta's cultural and historical attractions are located in Midtown, such as the Fox Theatre, the High Museum of Art, the Woodruff Arts Center, and the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum.
Bank of America Plaza
Built in 1992, the 55-story Bank of America Plaza is Atlanta's tallest building at 1,023 feet (312 meters), and is the tallest building in the South and the eleventh-tallest building in the United States. The building is topped with an open pyramidal structure which is spectacularly illuminated at night, and which has been referred to as Atlanta's Eiffel Tower.
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