4 hours in Atlanta

If you travel to the United States, or even within the country by Delta, chances to have a stop-over in Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta are pretty high. At Christmas 2013, I was travelling to the States and my connection flight in Atlanta gave me an opportunity to explore the city in a very short way. Basically, I had only four hours for Atlanta.

Santa Claus in Atlanta Airport
Santa Claus in Atlanta Airport

But it is more than enough if you’re just planning a short walk&look around the downtown where main sights are concentrated. First, you need to take an airport train and go to the terminal “T”, where you change to the public transportation. Go to the train station, and the MARTA train will bring you to the Atlanta downtown and back only for $5 (tickets available in tickets machines). Trains keep 5-10 minutes interval in the daytime, and you need to plan another 20 minutes to get to the downtown (Peachtree Center Station).

MARTA train in Atlanta
Taking a MARTA train in Atlanta

Take off at Peachtree Central and go out to Peachtree St, Atlanta’s main street which is splitting the downtown into two equal parts from the North to the South. The street used to be the first trade street in the old Atlanta, but now there are mostly premium hotels, offices and few chain restaurants. However, for a very short moment it can seem you are in the downtown New York, not in Atlanta, Georgia.

I knew few things about Atlanta and wanted to experience them. First, Atlanta was the host of the 1996 Summer Olympics. Second, Atlanta is the city where Coca-Cola was founded (and where the Company’s headquarter stays until today). These two points were enough to head towards the Olympic park located 3 blocks away from the underground station.

Although it was December 24th, I didn’t expect such cold (it was -2C), so the streets in the downtown and even the paths in the Centennial Olympic Park were pretty empty. The park itself is not as big as you might expect, you can go around it back and forth within 5 minutes. On the southern side of the park, there are singing and dancing fountains in the form of 5 Olympic rings worth to see (they were performing even at that weather), and in the deep of the park you can find the statue of Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement. Except those points, nothing really special in this park, at least, you don’t feel it was worth coming so far. Probably, in the Summer time it looks way more attractive.

Atlanta Downtown view from the Centennial Olympic Park
Atlanta Downtown view from the Centennial Olympic Park
Atlanta Olympic Park
Singing fountaints in Atlanta Olympic Park

If you head to the north end, you will change your mind. Cross the road, and enter another park called Pemberton Place, which I liked a lot more. Pemberton is the founder of the Coca-Cola, and the park is fully on equity of the most sold beverage in the world. Especially in the Christmas time it was extremely nice decorated: huge beautiful baubles, red Christmas trees and good old Coca-Cola Santa Claus – all that made this place pretty special. No wonder that today’s Christmas has been massively influenced by the Coca-Cola advertisement.

Pemberton Place Atlanta
Entrance to Pemberton Place

There’s a museum called the World of Coca-Cola in the middle of Pemberton Place. I had so much luck as it should close earlier on December 24th, but I just came few minutes before last entry. I got my ticket($16), and now I’m in, in the museum of the world’s most sold beverage. The exhibition (or even, the “show” how the guide called this) was pretty ok, but nothing out of the box. You are surrounded by the Coke advertising materials from all over the world, know few facts on the origin and development of the Coke’s business and can experience few interactive moments including few cartoons, Pemberton laboratory and even see the strongbox where the original recipe is being stored. My favorite part was the tasting room, where you can taste over 60 different sodas from 5 continents including such rare drinks like those from Uganda, Tanzania, Estonia, Georgia or Sri Lanka.

Coca-Cola Xmas trees
Coca-Cola Xmas trees
Coca-Cola museum
Coca-Cola museum
Coca-Cola Around the World tasting
Tasting the sodas from all around the world

Time was running, and I must get back to the airport. If you would have some more time, there are also famous aquarium and CNN headquarter in Atlanta downtown, but I needed to go to celebrate Christmas to sunny Florida. The MARTA train back to the airport is as easy to catch as in the Airport Terminal, and I’m back to Hartsfield-Jackson within 4 hours as initially planned. Was it the city I will visit once again? I doubt this. But is it the city worth to visit if you have a stop-over? My answer is “for sure”, it’s worth and it’s more than possible.

Drink of the day

No question, this is good old glass bottle of Coca-Cola, which you get for free in the World of Coca-Cola while going away.

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