After two years of canceled trips we are on our way to Europe. Our flight though is out of the Atlanta airport so we decided to drive down to Atlanta the day before and spend the night then spend all day touring around the city before our flight. The goal is to be good and tired so we sleep through the whole flight. Our hotel room was a corner room that offered a great view of downtown Atlanta in the morning. I have driven through Atlanta many times but I have never actually seen anything of the city. So I was pretty excited to really see more than the highway through it.
Our first stop of the day was to the Georgia Aquarium. This is the largest aquarium in the country and the third largest in the world. With over 11 million gallons of water housing the thousands of creatures this aquarium is absolutely incredible.
The aquarium is set up with 7 different sections that get visitors up close to the creatures of the sea. Each section has massive glass walls and tunnels through the water to really allow you to see the creatures. The first section we walked through was the predators where we watched different sharks swimming through the school of small fish.
We really loved getting to see the beautiful white colored Baluga whales as they played with their toys. They were curious about all the people watching them and would come right up to the glass over and over again to get a better look at everyone.
We happened upon the Giant Pacific Octopus as it made its way across the tank from one corner of the tank to the other. Watching the smooth undulating movement of the tentacles across the glass was mesmerizing. This octopus is very intelligent and apparently enjoys taking lids off of jars to play with.
Just down from the octopus was the Sea Dragons. I had never heard of sea dragons before, but they are winged version of sea horses. Their frilly appendages and leaf like fins are perfect for hiding in the seaweed.
There are many interactive areas of the aquarium, but our favorite was in the penguin area where you can crawl down below and stand up in a plastic tube in the middle of the penguins. We were face to face with a group of penguins and they thought we were really fun. We would tap the side up and down and the penguin would tap back and follow our fingers.
But the best part of the aquarium was the giant tank full of thousands of fish big and small. The tiniest fish is half the size of a finger. Among the mammoths is a manta ray with a span of 20 feet and a whale shark stretching 25 feet long. There is also a giant sea turtle named Tank who is about 60 years old.
It was amazing to see so many interesting and beautiful creatures of the sea at the aquarium and to be so close to them. Admission is $36/person but there is a $5 discount is you purchase the tickets beforehand online.
World of Coke
Right next to the aquarium is World of Coca-Cola. The legacy of the world’s favorite cola started here in Atlanta and visitors can come and learn the history and sample all the different flavors from around the world.
Coca-Cola first came about in May 1886 when it was created as a medicine. The first drinks of Coca-Cola were served at the counter of the pharmacy in downtown Atlanta. From there it has spread to over 200 countries throughout the world.
The recipe for Coke is still a closely guarded secret. But the image of the classic coke bottle is one of the most recognized in the world. The marketers of Coke wanted to create a design and bottle that would be immediately recognizable, even if it was broken on the ground. That label and brand have survived through the generations and has retained its popularity.
It was really interesting to see Coke through the different decades and the different events that it sponsored starting at the end of the 1800s and working its way to the present day. They also had an entire wall of Christmas pictures featuring Santa with a bottle of Coke. And a wall of Olympic pins from every Olympic games that Coke has been a sponsor for.
Originally Coke was dispensed out of a large porcelain bowl that would mix the ingredients together and pour out the bottom into a glass. They showed one of these early dispensers along with one of the old delivery trucks.
We ended the tour at the tasting room where over 200 kinds of Coke products are available to try. Grab a stack of plastic cups and go on a world tour of every product made by Coca-Cola. We loved trying so many different drinks, but couldn’t believe just how sticky the floors were. Clearly some people got a little too enthusiastic about the never ending flow of Coke products and it spilled on the floor.
National Center of Civil and Human Rights
Next to the World of Coke is the National Center of Civil and Human Rights. This museum was created by the organization of the same name in 2014 and has since been working to inspire people to make the changes needed in the world.
The museum offers visitors educational lectures, immersive exhibitions, and training opportunities focusing on bringing awareness to the greater population about civil rights. The road to civil rights has been a difficult one and there is still so much farther to go.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park
We ended the day with a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. Raised during the time of segregation, Martin Luther King Jr. went on to change the country and lead the way in the Civil Rights Movement.
Sadly, many of the buildings were closed as they are working on some renovation projects to mark the 40th anniversary of the historic park. This entire district is included in the park and includes the place where Martin Luther King Jr was born, where he worshiped, and where he is buried. It was disappointing to not even be able to go into the visitor center but we will come back when it is all opened again.
It was interesting to see a statue of Gandhi next to the visitor center of the historic park. Surrounding the statue are the teachings of Gandhi offering visitors a reflective place to consider his thoughts on nonviolent resistance. Martin Luther King Jr was a great admirer of Gandhi and was greatly influenced by him. The statue was unveiled by Nelson Mandela in 1998 on his visit to Atlanta.
Visiting this historic park is top of my list next time we are in Atlanta so we can really see the park and learn more about this incredible leader who was lead by a dream of people being judged on the content of the character and not by the color of their skin.
It was a full and wonderful day in Atlanta as we came face to face with the creatures of the sea, enjoyed the bubbly history of the history of Coca-Cola, and reflected on the road to civil rights. The goal was to spend a day in Atlanta tiring ourselves out so that we would sleep the whole way on our night flight to Europe and I would say that we certainly were tired after a such a day seeing some of the sights of downtown Atlanta.
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Thank you for coming along on this day in downtown Atlanta. May the water be clear, the cola cold, and the dream strong.