Bringing History to Life
Museums and Attractions Highlight Atlanta’s Heritage
By Amber Pittman
Among other things, Atlanta is well known for its history.
The rich heritage of this Southern city never ceases to amaze newcomers, and even locals keep finding more to learn and appreciate. From civil rights to the Civil War, Oakland Cemetery to the State Capitol, vintage airplanes to “Gone With the Wind,” the sights of the city will keep you engaged and enlightened, and coming back for more. And what better way to learn more about your new community? Here is just a little taste of the historical venues and attractions the Atlanta area offers.
Atlanta History Center
If you want to know about the history of this Southern city, the Atlanta History Center has got you covered. Folk art, Native American relics and art, civil rights and the Civil War, Coca-Cola and local sports legends—the center encompasses all of that in its regular exhibits, and adds even more with traveling exhibits that are shown periodically throughout the year. 404-814-4000, atlantahistorycenter.com.
Callanwolde Fine Arts Center
The legacy of this historic Gothic Revival mansion revolves around Coca-Cola and nearby Emory University, but the beauty of it surpasses its history for many. The mansion was built between 1917 and 1921 and was home to Howard Candler, oldest son of the founder of The Coca-Cola Company and the company president from 1916 to 1923. Callanwolde today is a busy community arts center offering classes and workshops for all ages, is available for tours and special events, and hosts a variety of events every year, including Easter egg hunts and a Christmas party. 404-872- 5338, callanwolde.org.
Center for Civil and Human Rights
From the Civil Rights Movement to today’s Human Rights Movement, the Center for Civil and Human Rights offers an inviting place to explore, to ask questions, and to learn about the past and the future. Exhibits are like giant storybooks. Wars, movements, leaders who have shaped the world—the exhibits change regularly, but the theme never does. 678-999-8990, civilandhumanrights.org.
Delta Flight Museum
Located in Delta’s original aircraft hangars, the museum allows visitors to learn about the history of flight, the story of Delta, and the future of aviation. Get an intimate look at planes dating back to the 1920s as well as modern jet aircraft, walk on the wing of the first Boeing 747-400 ever produced, tour interactive exhibits, and take part in a 45-minute, full-motion flight simulator. 404-715-7886, deltamuseum.org.
Originally built in the 1920s to be the home of a Shriner’s organization (they backed out when they saw just how ornate it was), the Fox is the place to see plays, concerts and movies, but it’s also an amazing venue to tour. Modeled after ancient temples, the building’s architecture alone is reason to visit. The Fox hosts dozens of shows annually, and tours are available, including a ghost tour. Because of course a theater with this kind of history has a couple of ghosts. 404-881-2100, foxtheatre.org.
Georgia State Capitol
More than a century old, the iconic gold dome of the state capitol seems to peek its golden head up through the hustle and bustle of the city, beckoning to visitors. Home to the state government, it also boasts a pretty spectacular museum of local treasures and oddities, and its beautiful grounds hold several statues and pictures of interest. 404-463-4536, libs.uga.edu/capitolmuseum/tours.
Gone With the Wind Museum
The classic movie might not have been filmed in Georgia, but it was set here, and written by Atlanta native Margaret Mitchell. A visit to the museum is like stepping back into the time of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Among other things, the museum houses some original costumes and scripts from the movie, as well as educational displays and several of the author’s personal volumes of the book. 770-794-5576, gwtwmarietta.com.
Marietta Museum of History
Located in the historic Kennesaw House close to the scenic Marietta Square, this museum provides a fascinating peek into the history of the city of Marietta, with galleries highlighting the culture of the area’s Native Americans, vintage artifacts from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and displays paying tribute to local businesses and the city’s role in various wars, from the Civil War to the present day. 770-794-5710, mariettahistory.org.
MLK Jr. National Historic Site
Come walk in the shadow of the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by visiting his early home (currently closed for repairs), his church, the house he grew up in (you’ll want to arrive early for this extremely popular tour) and his final resting place. The site also offers a monument, the “I Have A Dream” World Peace Rose Garden, and a visitor center where you can learn more about Dr. King. 404-331-5190, nps.gov/malu.
Whether you visit for the ghost stories and alleged hauntings, the history or the captivating vintage architecture, Oakland Cemetery is a favorite haunt for photographers and sightseers alike. Winding paths, gardens and large trees are scattered throughout the landscape, making it seem as much a park as the final resting place for many of Atlanta’s most respected and historic citizens. 404-688-2107, oaklandcemetery.com.
Stone Mountain Park
More than 5 miles around at the base, and over 800 feet tall, Stone Mountain was purchased by the state of Georgia in the late 1950s. Its famous carving depicts three Confederate figures from the Civil War (Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis). There are also train rides and cable car skyrides, fireworks in the summer, and a busy schedule of annual and holiday events. 800-385-9807, stonemountainpark.com.