Atlanta Downtown Walk (Self Guided), Atlanta

Downtown Atlanta is a home to many attractions, including such famous sites as the Georgia State Capitol and the Centennial Olympic Park. This orientation tour will also take you to some other prominent sites, outside Downtown, like Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and Historic Oakland Cemetery, which are just a short walk away.
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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: 10
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.0 Km or 3.1 Miles
Author: brian
Centennial Olympic Park

1) Centennial Olympic Park (must see)

Centennial Olympic Park is a 21 acre (85,000 square meters) public park located in downtown Atlanta, owned and operated by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority. The park was built by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) as part of the infrastructure improvements for the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics. It 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.

A key feature of the park is the Fountain of Rings interactive fountain which features computer-controlled lights and jets of water synchronized with music played from speakers in light towers surrounding it. It forms a splash pad that was designed for children to frolic in, as well as for concert-goers and joggers to cool off in on hot summer days. It consists of 251 jets that shoot 12 to 35 feet (3.7 to 10.7 m) in the air and also creates a beautiful water sculpture that is essentially the front yard of the nearby museum. 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 Dundas Square in Toronto and in commercial uses such as the Bellagio Fountains at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The fountain area is surrounded by flags representing the host countries of each Summer Olympics preceding the 1996 games and eight 65-foot-tall (20 m) light towers reminiscent of classical Greek marker columns. There are several pieces of sculpture scattered through the park including a statue of Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympic movement. A small amphitheater is located at the southern end of the park.

The park has shows at the fountain all 365 days of the year, four times daily. They play at 12:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 9:30 p.m. In July 2013, SkyView Atlanta, a transportable Ferris wheel, debuted across the street from the park. The 200-foot (61 m) wheel features 42 air-conditioned cars and views of the park and the surrounding area.

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.

If adventurous wear your swimming suit and cool off in the fountains!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-11pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

2) Tabernacle

The Tabernacle, known colloquially as The Tabby, is a mid-size concert hall in the U.S. city of Atlanta. The Tabernacle has been a venue for notable acts, including Guns N' Roses, The Black Crowes, Fergie, Adele, Robbie Williams, Alice in Chains, Bob Dylan, Prince & The New Power Generation and Atlanta's own Sevendust, among others. Along with music concerts, the venue also holds many comedy tours annually including Bob Saget, Lisa Lampanelli, Cheech & Chong and Stephen Lynch. The Tabernacle is managed by concert promoter Live Nation and has a seating capacity of 2,600 people. The building had a varied history. Tabernacle is located in a 100 year old church that has been redecorated into a stylish music venue. The place has a 2600 capacity. The stage is well equipped with the latest sound and light systems. The ambiance has a groovy feeling that will let you enjoy the night.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Woodruff Park

3) Woodruff Park

Woodruff Park, named for Robert W. Woodruff, is located in the heart of Downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The park's 6 acres (2.4 ha) are north of Edgewood Ave, between Peachtree Street NE and Park Place NE. The park includes two fountains, a performance pavilion, and several monuments. The original 4 acres (1.6 ha) were purchased anonymously by Mr. Woodruff then donated to the city in 1971 and the first incarnation of the park opened in 1973. During the lead up to the execution of Troy Davis, Woodruff Park served as a rallying point for marches and rallies for his life and freedom. The park is famous for the bronze sculpture known as The Phoenix. It depicts a woman releasing a phoenix, a symbol of Atlanta's rise from the ashes after being burnt to the ground by William T. Sherman's Union armies during the Civil War. Atlanta from the Ashes (The Phoenix) was a gift of the Rich Foundation in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Rich's Department store. The sculpture was designed by James Seigler, sculpted by Gamba Quirino, and fabricated by Feruccia Vezzoni in 1969. It was originally located on a viaduct adjacent to the first Rich's Department store on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. In 1995, the sculpture was restored and moved to its current location in Woodruff Park. Being a famous lunch time spot for locals as well as tourists, you can relax and have a nice time here.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Underground Atlanta

4) Underground Atlanta

Underground Atlanta is a 12-acre collection of restaurants and shops in Kenny's Alley, that specialize in souvenirs and gifts. You can find a large number of vendors selling merchandise off antique pushcarts. This shopping venue is a great place to find a gift for your near and dear ones. It is a shopping and entertainment district in the Five Points neighborhood of downtown Atlanta, Georgia, near the intersection of the east and west MARTA rail lines. First opened in 1969, it takes advantage of the viaducts built over the city's many railroad tracks to accommodate later automobile traffic. Each level has two main halls, still called Upper and Lower Alabama and Pryor Streets. In 2004, in an effort to keep Underground Atlanta from closing a second time, the city passed an ordinance allowing bars in the complex to remain open and serve drinks until 4:00AM -- a last call 90 minutes later than the rest of the city had recently been restricted to. Patrons were also permitted to take their open alcoholic drinks from bar to bar. Despite this, Underground Atlanta has consistently struggled to attract consistent and diverse patronage. Indeed, since its re-opening in 1989, Underground has become a conundrum that leaves tourists befuddled and struggles to attract locals.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Church

5) Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Church (must see)

Being the oldest Catholic Church in Atlanta, the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is a true representative of Christian belief and Atlanta history. It was named after Murillo's painting "Immaculate Conception". Designed by local architect William H. Parkins, the cornerstone was laid September 1, 1869 by poet Abram Joseph Ryan. It was completed and dedicated in 1873 and is still in use.

Why You Should Visit:
May lack the grandeur and scale of a Catholic cathedral, but nonetheless does not shy in serenity and majesty.
Also, extremely welcoming and genuinely friendly to people from all walks of life and every background.

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

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10am-4pm
Georgia State Capitol

6) Georgia State Capitol (must see)

The Georgia State Capitol is an architecturally and historically significant building. It has been named a National Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the primary office building of Georgia's government housing the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, and secretary of state on the second floor, and on the third floor, chambers in which the General Assembly, that consists of the Georgia State Senate and Georgia House of Representatives which meets annually from January to April. The fourth floor houses visitors' galleries overlooking the legislative chambers and a museum. A statue of Miss Freedom caps the dome.

Like many U.S. state capitols, the Georgia State Capitol is designed to resemble the Neoclassical architectural style of the United States Capitol, in Washington, D.C. Former Confederate general Philip Cook. was a member of the commission that oversaw planning and construction of the building. The commission engaged architects Willoughby J. Edbrooke and Franklin Pierce Burnham, of Chicago to design the building and Miles and Horne of Toledo, Ohio for construction. Work completed in March 1889. Sculptor George Crouch executed all the ornamental work on the building.

The Capitol faces west on Washington Street. The façade features a four-story portico, with stone pediment, supported by six Corinthian columns set on large stone piers. Georgia's coat of arms, with two figures on each side, is carved on the pediment. The Capitol's interior represents the 19th-century style of its time. It was among the earliest buildings to have elevators, centralized steam heat, and combination gas and electric lights. Classical pilasters and oak paneling are used throughout the building. The floors of the interior are marble from Pickens County, which still produces marble today.

The museum within the Capitol, in existence since 1889, houses extensive collections representing the natural and cultural history of Georgia. Native American artifacts, animals, rocks and minerals, and fossils illustrate the diversity of the collections. Removed during restoration or renovation, most of the collection remains in storage. The portraits of governors, statues of famous Georgians, and historic flags from many wars are displayed throughout the Capitol.

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
Sight description based on wikipedia
Big Bethel AME Church

7) Big Bethel AME Church

The Big Bethel AME Church is the oldest African-American congregation in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta, and is the mother church of AME in North Georgia. It is located at 220 Auburn Avenue NE in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. It is the "first" church on the North Atlanta District, in the Atlanta-North Georgia Annual Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Big Bethel was founded in 1847 as Union Church in the town of Marthasville. Marthasville became Terminus, and finally Atlanta, and Union Church became Bethel Church, then Bethel Tabernacle. At the close of the Civil War, the AME Church spread rapidly throughout the former Confederacy, and the Bethel Tabernacle allied herself with the denomination, becoming Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Her first pastor was Rev. Joseph Woods.

In 1879, the first public school for blacks in Atlanta, Gate City Colored School, was founded in the basement of the church, though it would later move to Houston Street. Morris Brown College held its first classes here in 1881 before moving to its first campus. Big Bethel was known as "Sweet Auburn's City Hall." In 1911, President William Howard Taft spoke here, as did Nelson Mandela in 1990.
Ebenezer Baptist Church

8) Ebenezer Baptist Church (must see)

Built in 1922, Ebenezer Baptist Church is one of Atlanta's most famous sites. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor here and this is the place where his famous sermons were first heard. The building has been renovated and restored several times. Most of the furniture was preserved intact. The church also houses the largest organ in the southeastern part of the country. You can take a tour of the church or just roam by yourself.

Why You Should Visit:
This church is preserved in a manner that you could just have easily walked into 1960s Atlanta to hear a sermon by Dr. King, himself.
A great place to begin a tour of Dr. King's life and legacy. Admission is free.

Plan to stay 2-3 hours or more to experience the church, MLK NHS, and the surrounding historic neighborhood.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-5pm
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

9) Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site (must see)

This landmark contains multiple buildings that surround Dr. King's childhood home. They include the Ebenezer Baptist Church, King's grave and the famous Sweet Auburn district. You can also visit the "I Have a Dream" International World Peace Garden, King's boyhood home and the Visitors' Center that has a permanent exhibition on the American Civil Rights Movement. This is a true world heritage of human freedom that should be experienced by everybody.

If you want to tour MLK's birth home, arrive early (9 a.m. / 11 a.m.) to get a ticket at the visitor center. The tours are limited to 15 people at a time and are about 40 minutes long.
You can spend money in the various gifts shops, but all of the historical displays and programming are free of charge.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
Historic Oakland Cemetery

10) Historic Oakland Cemetery (must see)

Oakland Cemetery is an excellent example of a Victorian-style cemetery and reflects the "garden cemetery" movement started and exemplified by Mount Auburn Cemetery in Massachusetts. The original 6 acres (24,000 m2) of Oakland remains one of the oldest historical plots of land in Atlanta, most of the rest of the city having been burned in 1864. Because of its age and location, the cemetery directly reflects the history and changing culture of the City of Atlanta and the significant events it has seen. Names of Atlanta streets, buildings, parks, subdivisions, and more can be found within the cemetery gates. An estimated 70,000 people are interred at Oakland, and while the last plots were sold in 1884, there are still regular burials today.

Among the many important personalities buried here are golfing legend Bobby Jones, Georgia governors and Margaret Mitchell. The cemetery has an enchanting view of Downtown Atlanta and you can find a number of restaurants down the street.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the most interesting places to see in Atlanta, full of history and beauty and secrets and stories across its many sections.
Tours are inexpensive and led by intelligent guides who engage people in conversation, and give facts about the many people buried here.
The space itself is massive with many walking trails and lots of stately trees which cast a lot of shade throughout the property.

Stop by the Visitor Center when you first arrive to get a few bottles of water and to find out about the guided and/or audio tour if you're so inclined.
The 'Capturing the Spirit of Oakland' Halloween tours occur over two weekends near the end of October and are sold out quickly each year.

Mon-Sat: 9am-5pm; Sat: 9am-8pm

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