12 Must-See Atlanta Destinations Every Local, Visitor Should See Once

The High Museum has special events throughout the holiday season.
The High Museum of Art maintains regular operating hours the entire holiday season. Photo courtesy of High Museum of Art.

With busy day-to-day lives it’s easy to put visits to museums and local Atlanta attractions on the back burner. Often a visit from an out of town guest can motivate you to venture out to places you pass often but haven’t visited in years. In 2017, Atlanta PlanIt challenges you to be a tourist in your own city! Use this list as your guide to see one Atlanta landmark a month, and take pictures as you go. Use the hashtag #PlanIt12 to share photos of your adventures with our other followers.

December: High Museum of Art

Visit the High Museum of Art to see its renowned collection of classic and contemporary art, special exhibitions featuring the world’s greatest art, and celebrated architecture by Richard Meier and Renzo Piano. The High offers several special programs, including First Fridays live music, Second Sundays free admission and family programming, Friday night gallery talks, and Friday Jazz the third Friday of each month. Children can get into the art through scavenger hunts, the Greene Family Learning Gallery and more. Check ahead for special events in conjunction with winter breaks and the holidays.

Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. with the last ticket issued an hour before closing. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Price: Free to $14.50

Catch up on locations from previous months:

January: Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site

Learn more about Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy by visiting the places where he was born, lived, worked, worshiped and is buried. Head to the Visitor’s Center at the site to register for free tours of Dr. King’s Birth Home, view exhibits and watch a film. Grab a map, and you can easily spend half an hour or half a day on a self-guided tour of the sites.

Open Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Price: Free!

February: World of Coca-Cola 

This popular fizzy drink may be a part of your daily routine, but did you know Coca-Cola was created in Atlanta in 1886? Explore the history behind Coke at this downtown attraction. It includes a multi-sensory 4-D cinematic adventure, a gallery dedicated to Coke and pop culture, a 7-foot-tall Coca-Cola Polar Bear, a fully functioning bottling line, the Vault of the Secret Formula, and a World of Coca-Cola favorite — the tasting experience — where guests can sample more than 60 different beverages made by The Coca-Cola Company from around the world. A new gallery titled #ShareaCokewithATL celebrates the connections among Atlanta, the beverage born here and the inspirational people who call the city home.

Open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Price: Free to $17

March: CNN Studio Tours

Visit the World Headquarters of CNN to get a behind-the-scenes view of live news rooms, control rooms and studios. Visitors can choose from the “Inside CNN Studio Tour,” the “Morning Express with Robin Meade Tour,” or the “Inside CNN VIP Tour.” Standard tours are available daily but others are only offered at special times. Schedule ahead to get the tour you are interested in. Located in the CNN Center, you can also enjoy retail, a food court and sit-down restaurants during your trip.

Open Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: Free to $49

April: Zoo Atlanta

Zoo Atlanta is home to a host of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. Walk the grounds at your own pace while enjoying zookeeper talks, training demos, wildlife shows, a petting zoo and a kids play area along the way. New animals born to the zoo in the past year include panda twins Ya Lun and Xi Lun, a western lowland gorilla (who is the granddaughter of the late Willie B.), chinchilla kits, Louisiana pine snakes, Kunekune pigs, Chilean flamingo chicks, Angolan colobus monkeys and many others. There are special tours, chances to feed the animals, rides and behind-the-scenes experiences available at additional costs as well.

Open Daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with the last admission at 4:30 p.m.
Price: Free to $25.99

May: Centennial Olympic Park

Centennial Olympic Park is a 21-acre expanse downtown that serves as a lasting legacy of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta. As springtime temperatures rise dip your feet in the interactive Fountain of Rings to cool off, or, if you prefer to stay dry, enjoy the dancing water show daily at 12:30, 3:30, 6:30 and 9 p.m. Check in at the Visitor Center, located adjacent to the Fountain of Rings, to track down a commemorative brick or ask questions to volunteers. There is an audio walking tour downloadable via smartphone that you can use to learn about Atlanta, the park and the 1996 Olympic Games. Several special events take place in the park.

Open Daily
Price: Free!
(Special event ticket prices vary.)

June: Atlanta Botanical Garden

Discover the beauty of nature at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which develops and maintains plant collections for display, education, research, conservation and enjoyment. Highlights include the Fuqua Conservatory, Japanese Garden, Kendeda Canopy Walk, Rose Garden, and the Anne Cox Chambers Southern Seasons Garden. Adults can sign up for classes in gardening, beekeeping, drawing and more. Kids can play in the recently renovated Lou Glenn Children’s Garden as well as attending playtime sessions Tuesday mornings, storybook time on Wednesdays, seasonal camps and themed events.

Open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Price: Free to $21.95

Hear an audio interview about the Garden’s summer exhibit “The Curious Garden.”>

July: Stone Mountain Park

Celebrate Independence Day all through July with the Stone Mountain Lasershow Spectacular, a display of neon laser lights featuring characters, stories, graphics and fireworks choreographed to popular musical scores. The park extends across 3,200 acres for visitors to take hikes, walk trails, enjoy family picnics, fish, golf, camp, play and enjoy attractions such as the Summit Skyride, SkyHike adventure course and Geyser Towers. And climbing to the top of the mountain has unsurpassed views of the area, including downtown Atlanta. Check the park’s calendar before you go for special events during your visit.

Park Open Daily from 5 a.m. to midnight. Lasershow open April 1 through Oct. 21 at 9:30 p.m. Attraction hours vary.
Price: $15 per vehicle
(Attraction and special event prices vary.)

August: Atlanta History Center and Margaret Mitchell House

Step back in time to see the people, places and events that made the city into the vibrant place it is today at the Atlanta History Center. The Center’s 33-acre experience features exhibitions, the Swan House and Tullie Smith Farm historic houses, enchanting gardens, interactive activities and a variety of year-round adult and family programs. If visited within nine days of each other, a ticket purchased at the Atlanta History Center also grants visitors admission to Margaret Mitchell House, where Mitchell lived and wrote “Gone With the Wind,” located five miles south of the History Center.

Open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Sunday from 12 to 5:30 p.m.
Price: Free to $21.50

September: Georgia Aquarium

Go under the waves to learn about aquatic biodiversity throughout the world in the Georgia Aquarium’s exhibits that include tens of thousands of animals across seven major galleries. For an extra fee visitors can book up-close encounters with animals and behind-the-scenes tours. The Aquarium offers special programming, including Sips Under the Sea for adults select Friday nights (with a Sept. 22 theme of Pajama Jam) and Toddler Time for children select Monday mornings (with a Sept. 11 theme of Sea Stars).

Open Sunday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Hours may vary by date.
Price: Free to $39.95

October: Oakland Cemetery

If you’re in the mood for some ghost stories, Oakland Cemetery is the place to go! This garden cemetery, founded in 1850, is the final resting place of many of Atlanta’s settlers, builders and most noted citizens like Bobby Jones, Margaret Mitchell and Maynard Jackson. It is home to notable architecture and sculptures as well. Download the Historic Oakland Foundation’s mobile app to guide you through your journey. Halloween tours are a seasonal tradition at the cemetery, and themed guided tours are offered year round.

Open Daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tour times vary by date.
Price: General Admission: Free! Guided Tours: $6 to $12

November: Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Through exhibits, hands-on activities and the 75-acre Fernbank Forest, Fernbank Museum of Natural History offers the opportunity to explore everything from dinosaurs to cultural artifacts to the world right outside your door. Fernbank plans to open a renovated Giant Screen Theater in February 2017 featuring 4K digital projection with both 2D and 3D capabilities to showcase science-based films. Toward the end of the month Fernbank’s annual Winter Wonderland exhibit of trees showcases holiday traditions from around the world. Adults can check out Fernbank After Dark the second Friday of the month, and frequent learning days for children are offered throughout the year, including Adventures in Science Day on Nov. 4.

Open Daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Price: Free to $18

Start exploring your city with these recommendations, and don’t forget to share your experiences on Facebook and Twitter with #PlanIt12. 

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