In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let's take a virtual trip to his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Educational, fun, and absolutely stunning as a lovely southern belle, Atlanta is the perfect destination for all manner of student groups. Maybe this little foray will even inspire your group into visiting!
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site - We will start off this adventure with the great leader himself, Dr. King. The Civil Rights leader was born in Atlanta in 1929. The family's house, King's birthplace, in the Sweet Auburn Historic District was memorialized as a walk-through landmark as part of the National Historic Site. Many people start at the birthplace and move on to see the King Center which is now the final resting place for Dr. and Mrs. King, as well as the Visitor Center including the Gandhi Promenade and the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. Other sites included in the 35 acre site is Fire Station No. 6, the "I Have a Dream" International World Peace Rose Garden, and the original Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King and his father preached.
World of Coca-Cola - Though not exactly historical, the World of Coca-Cola is a magnificent and wholly entertaining romp into pop culture and soda. Everyone knows Coca-Cola, even if they don't drink the soda, and so it's a delight to take a tour through time from the inception of the soft drink all the way through to today. The image of Coca-Cola sure has changed, as you will see from the early memorabilia, but the excitement surrounding the pop and fizz of the drink hasn't changed. See original soda fountains, an early delivery truck, a giant Coca-Cola polar bear, and much more. Explore the theater section and even spend time traveling the world with the taste-testing stations which allow you to sample Coke products sold in dozens of international countries. The World of Coca-Cola is one of Atlanta's most popular destinations and is located in Pemberton Place next door to the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
Sweet Auburn Walking Tours - A historically African American district in Atlanta, Sweet Auburn was designated a national landmark in 1976. Though only 19 acres, Sweet Auburn draws national historical attention as being the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as for its history of being developed and segregated under the Jim Crow laws. The area was first inhabited during the Civil War and knew violence and unrest during its time. There are several historic sites located in the Sweet Auburn district including the Big Bethel AME Church, the APEX Museum, the Atlanta Daily World, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the Sweet Auburn Curb Market which was founded in 1924. The Curb Market continues today and remains a popular attraction for visitors and locals alike as a meeting ground and shopping center.
Georgia Aquarium - Who doesn't love a good aquarium? And Georgia's self-named delight amazes visitors year round for its revolutionary exhibits, fantastically exotic and beautiful animals, and interesting experiences. Your group will be in absolute awe and shock to learn that the Georgia Aquarium is the only such place in the country to house whale sharks in a massive 6.3 million gallon salt water tank. Wander through the rest of the aquarium and find yourself face to face with roughly ten species of sharks, Beluga whales, bottlenose dolphins and sea lions, African penguins, and schools of Indo-Pacific tropical fish. There's even a 4D movie theater where your group can sit back and enjoy a multi-sensory movie experience!
Center for Civil and Human Rights - Located in Pemberton Place in downtown Atlanta, the Center for Civil and Human Rights opened in 2014 with the mission of educating the world on not only the American Civil Rights movement but on international human rights. There are three main exhibit areas: one which focuses on the advancements made by Dr. King, one specifically on the American Civil Rights Movement, and another more unusual area which is dedicated to global human rights. This last exhibit is of a non-linear style and exhibits gallery displays of international dictators including Adolf Hitler who are then countered by modern-day activists. Unique and effective, the Center for Civil and Human Rights shouts to the world (and to its hometown in Atlanta) that all humans have a right to a voice, to freedom, and no matter the struggle, they will fight to be heard.
Underground Atlanta - Located in the Five Points district of downtown Atlanta, Underground Atlanta is a phenomenon. Quite simply put, the Underground Atlanta is a shopping, dining, entertainment zone located under the streets and feet of "normal" Atlanta. Looking a little deeper, the Underground is also a historical destination. The tunnels under the city were built during the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era and were later used during the Prohibition as hideaway speakeasys and juke joints. It wasn't until 1969 that legal businesses began being established in the underground area and it has only blossomed from there. Come down under the ground for a night of fun, shop till you drop, grab a bite to eat, and explore the tunnels on a guided tour with live music spilling through the stone walkways. Just to see it in person is reason enough to visit.
Atlanta Botanical Garden - 30 beautiful acres in Midtown Atlanta, the Atlanta Botanical Garden ranks among the top in the nation for stunning garden displays, wonderful curation, and educational experiences for groups of all kinds. Several of the exhibits/gardens include the lovely Japanese garden, the Upper Woodland and Storza Woods areas, a Children's Garden with educational activities, and the Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory with tropical rainforest and desert ecosystem exhibits. Among their generally well-regarded seasonal exhibits, the Atlanta Botanical Garden is also one of the few to have a permanent Chihuly glass artwork collection displayed among the flowers. The glass art both mimics nature and elevates the seasonal beauty with something permanent, man made and of inspired imagination.
Atlanta History Center - This unusual history center does not begin and end in a single building. Instead, the Atlanta History Center covers a 33 acre campus including historic gardens and houses like the Swan House, Tulie Smith House, and more. With the price of admission, visitors will be able to spend a day touring many of Atlanta's most reputable historic house museums such as the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum where the author penned Gone With the Wind. Make sure you stop by the Tulie Smith House where you can explore the historic plantation and experience what life might have been like with live demonstrations and costumed guides. There's so much to see and do, including exploring one of the world's largest Civil War artifacts collections, that your group may never want to leave the Atlanta History Center.