By the time autumn rolls around, the best of Georgia’s succulent summer peaches have long been picked and eaten. But there’s a bountiful crop of delectable destinations, savory events and juicy amusements you can sink your teeth into—minus the pits—while in Atlanta during this year's NACS Show in October.
There’s more to Atlanta than the Braves, Hawks and Falcons (and, starting next year, Atlanta United FC, the city’s long-awaited pro soccer team). This city is also famous for being the home of Coca-Cola, CNN, “Gone With the Wind” and two Nobel Peace Prize winners—Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Jimmy Carter.
With its numerous festivals, parks, museums and historic buildings, as well as its rich history and cultural diversity, Atlanta is an ideal gathering spot for both business and pleasure. The balmy temperatures that linger well past summer don’t hurt either.
This quick-picks guide to the best Atlanta has to offer in mid-October can aid in planning your agenda for before, during and after the show.
Table of Contents
All the World's a Stage
Adult Excursions and Family Adventures
Plan a Histori-cation
Eager to explore Atlanta’s freshest attractions during your stay? Think contemporary and check out these hot happenings in and around the downtown area:
Atlanta in 50 Objects: Here’s your chance to get immersed in all things Atlanta by viewing 50 artifacts affiliated with the city, now on display at the Atlanta History Center. From Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech manuscript to broadcaster Skip Caray’s Atlanta Braves World Series ring and a 1915 Coca-Cola bottle mold, this exhibit is loaded with relics and rarities. ($16.50; 404-814-4000; www.atlantahistorycenter.com)
Jim Henson Collection Tour: The genius and artistry of the man responsible for the characters you know and love from “The Muppets,” “Sesame Street,” “Fraggle Rock,” “Labyrinth” and “The Dark Crystal” is being featured at the Center for Puppetry Arts in this brand-new attraction, billed as the most comprehensive exhibit of Jim Henson’s handiwork on the planet. Kermit, Miss Piggy, Big Bird, Ernie and Bert, Elmo, Grover, Oscar, Fozzie Bear—they’re all here, waiting to be ogled and adored. Also worth the visit: The Ghastly Dreadfuls, a special puppetry event for the Halloween season. ($20.50; 404-881-5109; www.puppet.org)
The College Football Hall of Fame: Can’t get enough NCAA pigskin action? Glued to fall Saturday games and bowl games every December and January? Then the new College Football Hall of Fame is your kind of place. It features a wall of helmets that represent every college team in the nation, a 45-yard football field designated for special events and skills challenges, a massive Jumbotron broadcasting games, an augmented reality booth providing a 365-degree look at famous moments in college football history, a fight song karaoke area and, of course, special exhibits on every player inducted into the hall. ($20; 404-880-4800; www.cfbhall.com)
Chihuly in the Garden: American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly is known for his awe-inspiring blown glass art, including glass flower arrangements, chandeliers and Navajo blankets painted onto glass. See for yourself why the art world considers Chihuly an unparalleled innovator and global treasure in this limited exhibition at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Chihuly in the Garden showcases 19 glass installations bathed in natural light by day and artificial illumination on select nights when the garden offers extended hours. ($22; 404-876-5859; www.atlantabg.org)
Porsche Experience Center Atlanta: Fess up—you’ve always dreamed of putting the pedal to the metal in a Porsche sports car. Now you can make that fantasy become reality (without worrying about a speeding ticket) by taking a 90-minute test drive in the fast lane at this private raceway, which opened last year and features a 1.6-mile course. Or, if you’re on a tighter budget and schedule, take a virtual ride in the state-of-the-art Simulator Lab. ($300 and up for drive programs, $35 for simulator lab; 888-204-7474; www.porschedriving.com/centers/Atlanta)
Next: On Stage
All the World's a Stage
If live entertainment and limited-run performances are your thing, Atlanta hosts several concerts, plays and other stage-bound amusements that coincide with your NACS Show visit, including:
Moby Dick at the Alliance Theatre: Herman Melville’s Great American Novel takes on a whole new life in this inventive live theatrical adaptation, featuring intrepid acrobatics and heart-stopping trapeze artistry, courtesy of the Lookingglass Theatre Company and its troupe of energetic thespians and gymnasts. Attendees in the first few rows may not get wet, but this play is sure to whet the appetite for imaginative adventure. (Phone for ticket prices and dates; 404-733-5000; www.alliancetheatre.org/production/moby-dick)
Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox: If pop music gets your toes tapping, you owe it to yourself to experience this one-of-a-kind show hosted at the Fox Theatre, Atlanta’s restored movie palace paradise. Postmodern Jukebox reimagines classic and contemporary top-40 tunes, infusing them with new arrangements—including Lorde’s “Royals,” which gets reworked into a catchy ballad sung by a clown, and Macklemore's “Thrift Shop,” now transformed into a hot jazz number that would fit the 1920s. Experience Bradlee and his large band in an intimate setting where every seat in the house is a good one. (Oct. 15, 8 p.m.; from $54; 855-285-8499; www.foxtheatre.org)
Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller: Just in time for Election Day, America’s conservative cable TV king and popular political jester team up for a humorous and thought-provoking discourse they’ve dubbed the “Who Wants to Be President Tour.” Meander through O’Reilly’s “no spin zone” and marvel at Miller’s irreverent brand of Washington, D.C., lampoonery when they visit Atlanta’s historic Fox Theatre. (Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m.; from $55; 855-285-8499; www.foxtheatre.org)
Bonnie Raitt: Are you ready for the thing called love? Don’t come from me and you, it comes from Bonnie Raitt, whose infectious blend of blues, folk, rock and country music and satisfying slide guitar skills will bring you to your feet. Catch Raitt’s only stop in Atlanta as she continues her Dig in Deep tour, which has been selling out across much of North America, and arrive early to hear her hand-picked opening act, The California Honeydrops. (Oct. 22, 8 p.m.; from $36; 855-285-8499; www.foxtheatre.org)
Next: Adult Excursions and Family Adventures
Adult Excursions and Family Adventures
Sometimes you want to ditch the safe touristy paths and trek into thrill territory. Liven up your Atlanta stopover by exploring these exciting options:
Fright Fest at Six Flags Over Georgia: If there’s one thing scarier than braving the harrowing coasters and thrill rides peppered across this world-famous amusement park, it’s attempting to do so during Halloween season. Fright Fest features spooky rides, haunted houses, scary shows and wandering horror characters. While at the park, experience the New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster, the Joker Chaos Coaster, the Blue Hawk rollercoaster and the DC Super Friends and Bugs Bunny Boomtown—four all-new attractions for 2016. (Oct. 14-16, 21-23; from $65; 770-739-3400; www.sixflags.com/overgeorgia)
Atlanta Movie Tours: Plenty of popular TV shows and movies have been filmed in Atlanta over the years, and now is your chance to get an exclusive look by taking a three-hour guided tour straight from the set. Choose from the Big Zombie Tour, which spotlights filmed locations from “The Walking Dead”; the Victory Tour, where you will experience sites made famous in the “Hunger Games” films; or Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” Tour, a can’t-miss excursion for any fan of the most famous big-screen epic ever. (From $65; 855-255-3456; wwwatlantamovietours.com)
Stone Mountain Park: Curious what makes Stone Mountain Park Georgia’s most visited destination, enjoying 4 million guests a year? Discover for yourself why this adventure mecca—one of the biggest blocks of exposed granite on the planet—is so popular by attending one of four fall events. First, join the Tour of Southern Ghosts, where supernatural stories will be told along the lantern-lit pathways of the park’s Antebellum Plantation grounds (Oct. 14-16). Or partake in the 44th annual Highland Games, featuring dancing, bagpipes, harps, fiddles, the Parade of Tartans and other Scottish-themed fun (Oct. 15-16). Make plans to attend the annual Pumpkin Festival, where your family can play games, hear tall tales, wander through a maze and join a scavenger hunt (Oct. 14-16, 21-23). Or consider the Country Living Fair, where 200 vendors from across America will boast a harvest market of tasty edibles, handcrafted jewelry, antiques and more (Oct. 21-23). (From $15; 800-401-2407; www.stonemountainpark.com)
Legoland Discovery Center Atlanta: Don’t be a blockhead—bring your family (or even just you and your inner child) to Legoland, which recently unveiled “The Lego Movie 4D A New Adventure,” a four-dimensional mini-sequel to the 2014 blockbuster film. Indulge in interactive rides such as Merlin’s Apprentice and Kingdom Quest, a Master Builder Academy, Pirate Adventure Island (where you can build your own sandcastle or treasure map) and a Build and Test area for race cars. (From $16; 404-848-9252; www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com/atlanta)
Zoo Atlanta: Want to meet the only twin pandas in America, born three years ago at Zoo Atlanta? Yearning to see the country’s largest zoological collection of orangutans and gorillas? Curious to take a gander at the rare Guatemalan lizard? As if these weren’t enough reasons to visit Atlanta’s world-renowned menagerie, there’s also Scaly Slimy Spectacular: The Amphibian and Reptile Experience, which made its debut in 2015. (From $23; 404-624-WILD; zooatlanta.org)
Next: Plan a Histori-cation
Plan a Histori-cation
If you really want to appreciate Atlanta’s influence and legacy, plan a trip to one or more of the Big Peach’s memorable museums, where you can reward your brain and your sense of imagination at the same time. Among the recommendations:
Georgia’s Global Peacemakers—The Carter and King Legacy: Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Jimmy Carter were known for their abilities to bring people together and bridge differences. Now their peacemaking accomplishments are celebrated in a special limited-time exhibit in the D.R.E.A.M. Gallery at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. During your visit, learn more about the civil rights movement and pay your respects at King’s gravesite and tomb, located on the premises. (Free; 404-331-5190; www.ps.gov/malu)
Bodies ... The Exhibition: If you could peel back your skin and take a peek underneath, what you’d see would astonish you. For proof, visit this display at the Atlantic Station Exhibition Center, where more than 200 human cadavers and specimens, each painstakingly dissected, are waiting to be discovered. Thanks to an innovative preservation process, the inner beauty of the human body is respectfully showcased, including the skeletal, muscular, nervous, respiratory, digestive, urinary, reproductive and circulatory systems. (From $16; 404-496-4274; www.premierexhibitions.com/exhibitions/4/4/bodies-exhibition)
World of Coca-Cola: Take a sweet sojourn from your cares and concerns by visiting a shrine to this soft drink, invented in 1886 in Atlanta. Get a look inside the Vault of the Secret Formula, experiment with concocting your own fizzy drink, tour the on-site bottling plant, peruse Coca-Cola advertisements that span the company’s history, and sip on more than 60 Coca-Cola samples made here and abroad. ($16; 800-676-COKE; www.worldofcoca-cola.com)
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum: Carter is more than the world’s most famous former peanut farmer—he’s also one of Georgia’s favorite sons and our nation’s 39th commander in chief. This museum is chock-full of Carter curios and interactive attractions, including “A Day in the Life of the President,” a replica of the Oval Office and a virtual trip with the Carter family to spread democracy and curb disease around the world. ($8; 404-865-7100; www.jimmycarterlibrary.gov)
Next: No-Charge Amusement
The Atlanta BeltLine: The new Atlanta BeltLine boasts 33 miles of multiuse trails, 1,300 acres of parks and green space (including the city’s first public skate park, ample examples of public art and plenty of restaurants and shops. If you’re hankering for a relaxing outdoor getaway during your stay, explore this picturesque 22-mile corridor. (404-477-3003; www.beltline.org)
Centennial Olympic Park: More than 3 million people frequent this 21-acre park every year—home of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games and the famous Fountain of Rings dancing water display (showtimes daily at 12:30, 3:30, 6:30 and 9:30 p.m.). Best times to visit? Oct. 18 or 20, when local bands put on a show during the daily Music at Noon event; Oct. 19 during rush hour, when you can catch a Wednesday Wind Down jazz performance; and Oct. 22 during Family Fun Day, which features performers and children’s activities. (404-477-3003; www.centennialpark.com)
Little 5 Points Halloween Festival and Parade: Join the fun from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 15, when more than 30,000 people will descend on Atlanta’s historic Little 5 Points neighborhood to celebrate the city’s best Halloween shindig—complete with a costume parade and frightfully festive live entertainment. (404-762-5665; www.l5halloween.com)
Fifth annual Atlanta World Kite Festival and Expo: Come be a kid again—kite in hand—by visiting Piedmont Park on Oct. 22 (1 to 6 p.m.) and craning your neck skyward as your spirits soar higher than your tethered toy aircraft. (404-875-7275; www.piedmontpark.org)
AIA Atlanta Historic Downtown Architecture Tour: Take a guided audio tour of the city’s historic downtown district, courtesy of your smartphone, by downloading a free app at geotourist.com. The tour begins at the Candler Building on 127 Peachtree St. and resumes south along Woodruff Park. Along the way, you’ll see the Hurt Building (one of Atlanta’s first skyscrapers), the legendary Flatiron Building, the Fairlie-Poplar Historic District and more architecturally significant edifices.
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