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: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: brian
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Georgia State Capitol
  • Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
  • Woodruff Park
  • SkyView Ferris Atlanta
  • College Football Hall of Fame
  • Centennial Olympic Park
  • 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
Woodruff Park

3) Woodruff Park

If you're out and about in Downtown, this is a nice place to relax, enjoy a cup of tea in the shade, and people watch for a minute. A famous lunchtime spot for locals as well as tourists, it includes several nice and well-kept features such as two fountains, a performance pavilion, several monuments, and a chess court. Bordering the park are beautiful planters with plants and umbrella tables to provide a place where you can sit and enjoy lunch or just chill in the cool breeze.

This is where many GSU students go to relive themselves of the stress of everyday life. Mr. Woodruff, the founder of the Coca-Cola Company, understood very well the central location's importance. City leadership does as well, and historians can view the park as a testimonial to how fervently Atlanta leaders have tried to preserve a vital Downtown.

Known as "Atlanta from the Ashes", the most famous sculpture within the premises 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. A gift of the private Rich Foundation, it was originally located on a viaduct adjacent to the first Rich's Department store on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, but was restored and moved to its current location in 1995.
SkyView Ferris Atlanta

4) 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
College Football Hall of Fame

5) 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

6) 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
World of Coca-Cola

7) 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

8) 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

9) 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

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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.
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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles