Atlanta Downtown Walk, Atlanta

Atlanta Downtown Walk (Self Guided), Atlanta

Atlanta's dramatic skyline, with its gleaming skyscrapers, is testimony to the city's effort to spiff up its image. Downtown attractions such as the Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia Aquarium, or the new World of Coca-Cola are drawing scores of people to a shiny new area that frequently sprouts new offerings, including various festivals. The number of visitors to this "heart of the South" continues to rise, nearly doubling what it was just decades ago, and the district now has that round-the-clock big-city excitement found in places like New York. Use this self-guided walk to tour the major attractions and iconic places.
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Atlanta Downtown Walk Map

Guide Name: Atlanta Downtown Walk
Guide Location: USA » Atlanta (See other walking tours in Atlanta)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: brian
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Georgia State Capitol
  • Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
  • Flatiron Building
  • Healey Building and Fairlie–Poplar Historic District
  • CNN Center
  • College Football Hall of Fame
  • Centennial Olympic Park
  • SkyView Ferris Atlanta
  • World of Coca-Cola
  • Georgia Aquarium
  • National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Georgia State Capitol

1) Georgia State Capitol

An architectural and historical gem in the heart of Downtown Atlanta, Georgia's State Capitol stands out proudly with its gold-plated dome capped by a statue of Miss Freedom, while the equally impressive, regal-looking interior has marble floors, grand staircases and pillars that give that "government" feeling. Offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state are found on the 2nd floor, while the 3rd floor comprises chambers for the General Assembly. Lastly, the 4th floor houses visitors' galleries overlooking the legislative chambers and a free museum documenting Georgia's historical past in terms of nature, people, government, state politics and the physical building itself.

If you come by when the legislature is in session (January through April), expect a madhouse of activity, as this is one of the busiest working capitol buildings in the U.S., with large crowds of lobbyists clustered 'around the rope lines' that lead into the House and Senate cloakrooms. Also make sure to drop in on the galleries if your schedule permits – both offer great ways to look in on the impressive legislative chambers, whether in session or out.

Why You Should Visit:
Great place for those with an interest in Georgia history, politics, or buildings with golden domes.
Surrounded by lushly landscaped grounds with large hardwoods that are home to several varieties of hawks.

Start on the fourth floor, where the museum is, and work your way down to the main level.
Take a photo ID or copy of passport, as you need it for entrance.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am–5pm; free admission
Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

2) Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

A paragon of simple beauty, Downtown's Catholic Shrine may lack the grandeur and scale of a Catholic cathedral, but nonetheless does not shy in serenity and majesty. Whether or not you are a Catholic, this church, named after Murillo's painting "Immaculate Conception", should be on your list of attractions to visit, especially if you are in the Downtown area and enjoy history. It is extremely welcoming and genuinely friendly to people from all walks of life and every background.

Located near the Georgia State Capitol and almost next door to the Central Presbyterian Church, the Shrine, completed and dedicated in 1873, is one of Georgia's oldest churches that was fortunate to survive the shock of Civil War (or "The War Between the States", according to a nearby plaque).

The main building has only one large interior room, but within it you will find the sides flanked with gorgeous stained glass windows and paintings describing the Passion of Christ, while the ceiling is adorned with eight large colorful portraits of Catholic saints. However, the main spotlight as you walk in is the ornate main altar. Absorb the serene atmosphere as you slowly walk toward it to admire its detailed beauty!

Try to go on a sunny day with the light streaming through the stained glass windows.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am–4pm
Flatiron Building

3) Flatiron Building

The English-American Building, commonly referenced as the Flatiron Building, is a building completed in 1897 located at 84 Peachtree Street NW in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, on the wedge-shaped block between Peachtree Street NE, Poplar Street NW, and Broad Street NW. It was completed five years before New York's Flatiron Building, and shares a similar prominent flatiron shape as its counterpart.

It was designed by Bradford Gilbert, a Chicago school contemporary of Daniel Burnham, the designer of the New York building. The building has 11 stories, and is the city's second and oldest standing skyscraper. The Flatiron building is protected by the city as a historic building in the Fairlie-Poplar district of downtown, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

FlatironCity is now home to a Microsoft Innovation Center, Women's Entrepreneurship Institute and 20+ entrepreneurs and startups.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Healey Building and Fairlie–Poplar Historic District

4) Healey Building and Fairlie–Poplar Historic District

Often dubbed "The Queen of Atlanta", the Healey Building in the Fairlie–Poplar District was the last major skyscraper erected in the Capital of the South during the pre-WWI construction boom. On August 8, 1977, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and since 1987 and has enjoyed local landmark status as well. 2001 saw the upper floors converted into condominiums, while the lower floors continue to be the home of galleries, shops, and restaurants. Anyone wanting to see a great example of adaptive re-use and rehabilitation of a landmark will enjoy a visit.

Part of downtown Atlanta's central business district, the Fairlie–Poplar Historic District is named for the two streets that cross at its center: northeast-only Fairlie and southeast-only Poplar. With smaller city blocks than the rest of the city (about half by half), and streets running at a 40° diagonal, Fairlie–Poplar contains many commercial and office buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including local interpretations of prevailing national architectural styles: Chicago, Renaissance Revival, Neoclassical, Commercial, Art Deco, Georgian Revival, and Victorian.

The district's buildings also represent the shift in building technology from load-bearing masonry and timber walls to steel and concrete framing. Other individual structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places that lie within Fairlie–Poplar include the Flatiron Building, Rhodes-Haverty Building, the Empire/C&S Building, the Prudential/W.D. Grant Building, the Retail Credit Company Home Office Building, and the Elbert P. Tuttle United States Court of Appeals Building.
CNN Center

5) CNN Center (must see)

The CNN Center is probably one of the most visited tourist attractions in Atlanta. You can see the different CNN shows and the various departments that comprise the company. The favorite part of many visitors is the control room where you can observe a live news broadcast. The CNN Center is the world headquarters of CNN. The main newsrooms and studios for several of CNN's news channels are located in the building. The facility's commercial office space is occupied entirely by CNN and its parent company, Turner Broadcasting System, a subsidiary of Time Warner. The CNN Center is located in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia, adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park.

The CNN Center also houses a major hotel (an Omni Hotels franchise owned by Turner Broadcasting, now Time Warner) and a large atrium food court frequented by local business employees, tourists, event goers from Philips Arena and the Georgia Dome, and conference attendees from the Georgia World Congress Center. CNN's multi-channel output to the world is broadcast on large screens around the center. Studio tours are available and include demonstrations of the technologies such as Chroma key as well as visits to viewing galleries overlooking the newsrooms and anchors of CNN, CNN International, CNN Radio, HLN, In Session, CNNfn, CNN Sports Illustrated, and CNN en Español. The atrium escalator that is used to transport visitors on the CNN tour has been listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest freestanding (supported only at the ends) escalator in the world. The CNN Center is directly connected to the Philips Arena, home to the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA.

Why You Should Visit:
Gives you a better behind-the-scenes idea of how 'news' are made and what goes on at CNN, and how many people are actually involved in the process, too.
There are paid 50-minute guided tours highlighting the CNN broadcasting and with a VIP tour, you can walk right through the newsroom among people working and take all the pics you want.

Perfect place to get your food and drink on before events at Philips Arena and the Georgia Dome (prices are half as much).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
College Football Hall of Fame

6) College Football Hall of Fame (must see)

If you are into college football or just want to gain a better understanding of the sport, this is a great place to kill an hour or two taking it all in. They have plenty of impressive artifacts on display and informative / interactive exhibits, along with a small, authentic football field in the middle of it all where you can kick a ball or throw a touch pass.

Additional reasons for a visit are the huge welcoming wall with helmets of every college team in the country, the displays of football equipment and accessories through the years, the gift shop stocked with lots to choose from, and the 3rd-floor Hall of Fame itself, which is a large circle of glass columns with etched names of the inductees. Everyone working here is super helpful and will point out a few things you might not discover on your own – things that people of all ages can enjoy!

Opening Hours:
Sun-Fri: 10am–5pm; Sat: 9am–6pm
Centennial Olympic Park

7) Centennial Olympic Park (must see)

Built by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) as part of the infrastructure improvements for the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics, this park plays host to millions of visitors a year and several events, including a summer popular music concert series (Wednesday WindDown) and an annual Independence Day concert and fireworks display. It covers 21 acres (85,000 sq m) and can be divided into The Great Lawn, Centennial Plaza, and the Visitor Center.

A key feature is the interactive Fountain of Rings which features computer-controlled lights and 251 jets of water synchronized with music played from speakers. An important formal architectural landmark that is also a fun and playful space, the computer-controlled fountain concept has since been replicated in other urban designs such as Toronto's Dundas Square and in commercial uses such as the Bellagio Fountains at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Apart from the light towers reminiscent of classical Greek marker columns, the fountain area is surrounded by flags representing the host countries of each Summer Olympics preceding the 1996 games. Scattered throughout are also several pieces of sculpture, including a statue of Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympic movement.

The park has shows at the fountain four times daily (12:30/3:30/6:30/9pm). In 2013, SkyView Atlanta, a 200-foot (61-m) Ferris wheel with 42 air-conditioned cars and great views of the park and surroundings, debuted across the street.

Why You Should Visit:
Relaxing environment, family-oriented, clean restrooms, nice atmosphere.
City views from the main lawn and nice shade by the waterfalls and rocks.
The fountains are great fun for kids and a favorite backdrop for photographers.

If adventurous wear your swimming suit and cool off in the fountains. Your visit should otherwise start at the Visitor Information Center (pick up a walking tour map, or get the online version for your phone).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am–11pm
SkyView Ferris Atlanta

8) SkyView Ferris Atlanta

One of those "one-and-done" type attractions, SkyView nevertheless allows seeing Atlanta from a new perspective, especially if you don't have access to the city's high-rise buildings. It is fun, romantic, air-conditioned, non-expensive, and only scary if you're already really afraid of heights; however, try checking Groupon/local offers before purchasing onsite.

The length of time waiting and actual time on the ride are within reason; also, those seeking a more private experience can easily pre-book a VIP car with tinted windows and a clear floor. To be considered when visiting the Downtown area!

Opening Hours:
Sun-Thu: 12–11pm; Fri: 12pm–12am; Sat: 10am–12am
World of Coca-Cola

9) World of Coca-Cola (must see)

A classic Atlanta tourist destination, this place is well worth the admission and experience to see how much of an impact Coca-Cola have had on people's lives around the world. General admission for adults is $17, which is quite a good value since you will probably spend around 2 hours here exploring the different exhibits on two floors. Right as you enter, you are greeted with a free can of Coke, a short introduction by a guide about the company's historical artifacts, and a video – essentially a long Coca-Cola ad – which acts as a nice segway into the next portion – the entrance into the main hall.

On the 1st floor, you can explore "The Vault" (known to hold a physical copy of the secret Coca-Cola recipe), the "Milestones of Refreshment" walk-through exhibit, the manufacturing process in "Bottle Works", and even get to take pictures with the ever-jovial Polar Bear mascot. On the 2nd floor, there is the 4D theater with a wild roller-coaster feeling as the seats move to the short film, plus various galleries, massive gift shop, and of course the most exciting portion: the Tasting Room!

In the Tasting Room, you can sample over 100 different flavors of drinks from all over the world, produced under Coca-Cola license, as well as some drink specials from the bar. A very cool way to end the tour!

Why You Should Visit:
Tons of Coca-Cola paraphernalia and memorabilia, and you are given a virtually unlimited supply of Coca-Cola beverages from around the world to taste (naturally, you won't find any Pepsi drinks or merchandise here!).

Try to book online or buy the City Pass to jump at least one or two queues for entrance.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Thu: 10am–5pm; Fri-Sat: 9am–5pm
Georgia Aquarium

10) Georgia Aquarium (must see)

Since it bills itself as the largest in the world, the Georgia Aquarium should definitely be on most visitors' lists of things to do while in Atlanta. It's a well designed aquarium with exhibits broken down by habitat and the only water tank big enough to accommodate several whale sharks, which is reason alone to buy tickets, especially if you've never seen them live.

Of course, while the whale sharks are the star attraction, the Aquarium has so much more! Their many smaller tanks feature an array of interesting species with everything from freshwater fish to penguins, otters, and beluga whales. Sea lion and dolphin shows are a part of the admission fee, but just watching the several species of jellyfish in their individual tanks can keep you mesmerized for hours as they move gracefully up and down with their flowing hairlike tentacles.

Everything is beautifully presented with large walls of thick glass so visitors can feel close to the sea life, separated by mere inches from the most amazing coral and fish, both large and small. In some places aquarium windows glitter with fish moving overhead, and at the entrance there is even a watery wall of schooling fish reflecting changing shades of blue light.

Why You Should Visit:
To experience all the world's major marine ecosystems in a single place – mostly via spectacular large displays and sometimes pop-up viewing stations/crawl spaces. From the Arctic waters where you'll see beluga whales and penguins to tropical seas where there is everything from seahorses to stingrays and sharks.

Buy your tickets online as it is a better deal – some discounts there cannot be purchased in person.
Consider paying a little extra to do the backstage tour – well worth the money and great for all ages.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am–9pm; Sat-Sun: 9am–9pm
National Center for Civil and Human Rights

11) National Center for Civil and Human Rights (must see)

Opened to the public in 2014 and located in the same downtown plaza as the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola building, the Center for Civil and Human Rights boasts stunning architecture and highlights the central role the city of Atlanta has played in the (rather recent) civil and human rights movement.

The Center hosts a number of exhibitions, both permanent and temporary, that not only tell the history of the civil rights movement in the U.S., but how that period is related to more contemporary human rights struggles around the world. During the development phase, it was determined that the average visitor would be more familiar with events in Sudan or the Middle East than they would with others in e.g. Selma, Alabama, and that civil rights history alone would not be enough to sustain the facility. Currently contained are 3 permanent exhibitions which the average visitor can experience in ~75mins.

In early 2014, the New York Times named the Center as one of the biggest reasons to visit Atlanta, along with the then-soon-to-open Atlanta Streetcar and other new attractions. Do not leave the city without spending time here!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am–5pm; Sun: 12–5pm
Last entry: 1h before closing time

Walking Tours in Atlanta, Georgia

Create Your Own Walk in Atlanta

Create Your Own Walk in Atlanta

Creating your own self-guided walk in Atlanta is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
"Gone with the Wind" Walk

"Gone with the Wind" Walk

Follow in the footsteps of the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of one of America's all-time classic novels, Gone With the Wind. See sites related to the life of Margaret Mitchell including the apartment where she wrote the novel and her final resting place. ***PH***

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 Km or 3.1 Miles
Atlanta Midtown Walking Tour

Atlanta Midtown Walking Tour

Though its boundaries have never been clearly defined or decided, Midtown basically comprises the area north of Downtown and includes Piedmont Park – one of Atlanta's major recreation areas; the famed Fox Theatre, a 1920s Moorish-motif movie palace; the Woodruff Arts Center, home of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Alliance Theatre, and the High Museum of Art; and the oh-so-yummy Mary...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Centennial Olympic Park

Centennial Olympic Park

The Centennial Olympic Park was opened in 1996, for the Summer Olympic Games. It consists of amazing green spaces, rock gardens and works of art. Nowadays, the park serves as a reminder of Georgia's Centennial Olympic Games. The area has also witnessed commercial development. Its main features are the dancing water fountain, a memorial quilt in remembrance of the victims of the 1996 Olympic...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Martin Luther King Walking Tour

Martin Luther King Walking Tour

The most recognized spokesperson and leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1950s and 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist Minister who used non-violent and civil disobedience tactics to advance the civil rights cause. Though he's had his share of critics, this world is a better place because of him and this is where it all started!

Other than Dr. King's birthplace...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Top Religious Buildings

Top Religious Buildings

Atlanta has a large number of religious sites. Every church located here is closely linked to the events of the American Civil War. Most of them have been destroyed, while the ones that remained standing have kept the dark secrets of war in them so we can know what happened. Be sure to visit the world-famous Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor. This tour will guide...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.6 Km or 2.9 Miles