DIY Architectural Walking Tour

By Hilary Morrish and Amanda Pellerin

Walk Atlanta #SAA16! While your out make it a point to scope out the built environment of our beautiful city. Here are few places near the conference hotels with plenty of history to explore.

Woodruff Park and the William-Oliver Building

Robert W. Woodruff donated the land used to create the 6-acre park in the heart of downtown Atlanta. It first opened to the public in 1973 as Central City Park. It is surrounded by historic buildings and the lunch row known as the Fairly-Poplar district. Historically, the area contained by the park was been filled with structures. There are two interesting fountains in the park. The statue Atlanta From the Ashes, as known as The Phoenix, was restored and moved to Woodruff Park from its location at the city’s first Rich’s Department Store.  Because of its central location, the park is often a meeting site for rallies and protests.

The William-Oliver Building is one of the historic buildings flanking the park. Built by Francis Palmer Smith in 1930 as Atlanta’s first Art-Deco skyscraper. It’s sixteen stories currently function as apartments. It is named for the founders of the development firm that completed it, William T. Healy, Jr. and Oliver M. Healy. It was originally an office building for the growing center of Atlanta. The characteristically Art-Deco elements of the building are the ornamentation of the flat façade and frieze with wave and plant motifs and the prominent chevron patterns.


William Oliver Building, south façade circa 1950s. Photo Credit: Lane Brothers Commercial Photographers Photographic Collection, 1920-1976. Photographic Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.
William Oliver Building, south façade circa 1950s. Photo Credit: Lane Brothers Commercial Photographers Photographic Collection, 1920-1976. Photographic Collection, Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library.
Aerial view of Woodruff Park, November 12, 1977. Photo Credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
Aerial view of Woodruff Park, November 12, 1977. Photo Credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
Aerial view of Five Points looking north on Peachtree St. at the intersection of Marietta St., 1904. Woodruff Park is presently on the cluster of two story buildings in the photograph. The William Oliver Building would replace the structure on the northwest corner of Peachtree and Marietta. Photo Credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
Aerial view of Five Points looking north on Peachtree St. at the intersection of Marietta St., 1904. Woodruff Park is presently on the cluster of two story buildings in the photograph. The William Oliver Building would replace the structure on the northwest corner of Peachtree and Marietta. Photo Credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.

John Portman Hotels and Peachtree Center

The very setting of #SAA16 is embedded with Atlanta architecture gold.  While not a native son, John C. Portman, graduated from the Georgia Tech School of Architecture in 1950. He became world famous from his headquarters in Atlanta and single handedly reshaped the downtown hotel/convention/shopping districts. He designed and developed some of our best known hotels and conference centers intended to revitalize a dying city center. The Peachtree Center Office Building built in 1965 followed principles of multi-use development combining office, retail, and living. Portman created the prototype for atrium hotels that would dominate the hotel designs of the 1970s. The Hyatt (1967) and the Westin (1976) both have the characteristic vastly vertical lobby. The Marriot Marquis (1985) was designed with the aid of a computer and its atrium bested Portman’s previous designs with a 470” atrium that rises the entire span of the building separated by elevator banks bridges. For a while it was the largest hotel atrium in the world. Skybridges are another defining feature of Portman architecture and therefore the Atlanta downtown. The Apparel Mart (1957) is four interconnected buildings of wholesale home decorator’s heaven.


Photo 4 caption: Multiblock view of John Portman designed buildings, Peachtree Center, 1990. Photo credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
Photo 4 caption: Multiblock view of John Portman designed buildings, Peachtree Center, 1990. Photo credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.

Central Library, Atlanta-Fulton County Public Library System

The Central Library of the public library system is a masterpiece of Brutalist architecture designed by the master architect Marcel Breuer and represents his last work. Completed in 1980, Breuer did not make it to the opening ceremony for the building. The Brutalist style is characterized by rough exterior cladding often of rock or concrete with blocky, unornamented shaping. The Central Library is constructed of precast concrete panels that were then bush-hammered to give it a rough texture. The interior concrete staircase creates a monumental anchor bringing the Brutalist aesthetic inside. Even during its hey-day, the style was controversial. It replaced the classic architectural styling of the Carnegie Library that once stood at the site. The fate of the iconic building is uncertain as the AFPL struggles with budget shortfalls and high maintenance costs.

Photo 5 Caption: Exterior of the Atlanta’s Central Library, 1982, Photo credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
Photo 5 Caption: Exterior of the Atlanta’s Central Library, 1982, Photo credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.

Georgia State Archives

A bit of a hike from the conference is the first purpose built building for the archival records of the state of Georgia. You may catch a glimpse of this structure if you are headed to the SAA Braves outing. Built in 1965 by A. Thomas Bradbury and dubbed the  “White Ice Cube” for it’s monolithic, windowless design. Bradbury was a local architect who also built the Georgian (location and aesthetic) Governor’s Mansion on West Paces Ferry Rd, and the Shriner Temple on Ponce de Leon. Bradbury was known for his marble work on modern government buildings. The archive is actually 17 floors, but you wouldn’t know that from the street as two-thirds of it is underground. Some of the underground levels are parking but it was designed to eventually accommodate more archival storage. It has been used as storage and staging for the growing film industry in the Atlanta area. The building is slated for demolition in December due sinking from ground water infiltration and nearby interstate vibration.

Photo 6 Caption: Georgia State Archives building, 1966. Photo credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.
Photo 6 Caption: Georgia State Archives building, 1966. Photo credit: Copyright Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Courtesy of Georgia State University.

Brief History of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)

By Cathy Miller

The SAA meeting is almost upon us and many of you will be flying through Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).  Here’s a little history on the world’s busiest airport.

You may have flown through ATL before, but did you know that the site of the Atlanta airport used to be a racetrack?  Asa Candler, the business tycoon who established the Coca-Cola Company, built the racetrack in 1909.  It was abandoned in 1923 – the photo here shows the racetrack ca. 1920.

Image courtesy of the James G. Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center
Image courtesy of the James G. Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center

In 1925, Atlanta mayor Walter A. Sims signed a five-year lease agreement on the abandoned racetrack land, aiming for the site to be developed as an airfield.  As part of the agreement, the budding airport was named Candler Field after the land’s former owner, the Candler family.  Four years later, the city of Atlanta bought the land and Candler Field became known as the Atlanta Municipal Airport.  In the 1940s, Delta Air Service (now Delta Air Lines) moved their company headquarters from Monroe, Louisiana to Atlanta.  [Sidebar 1: The Delta Flight Museum is located right next to the airport and is a fun place to visit, if you find you have the time!]  During WWII, “Atlanta was declared an air base by the U.S. Government” [1], resulting in the airport’s doubling in size. [Sidebar 2: It’s likely that land condemnations expanding the airport’s land for military purposes during WWII are in the National Archives at Atlanta’s holdings!]

ATL’s hold on being the world’s busiest airport is not a recent phenomenon.  As early as 1957, ATL was already the busiest airport in the United States and between noon and 2 p.m. each day, it became the busiest airport in the world.  The 1960s brought the “Jet Age” and with it, the continuing expansion of the Atlanta Municipal Airport.  The largest single terminal in the country was opened on May 3, 1961, accommodating 6 million travelers a year.  Within the first year, the terminal was stretched past its capacity, prompting the Atlanta Regional Metropolitan Planning Commission to conduct formal planning studies and propose the mid-field terminal concept that opened in 1980.

Image courtesy of the James G. Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center
Atlanta Municipal Airport in 1966. Image courtesy of the James G. Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center

Within the first 7 months of 1971, the airport saw itself go through two name changes. In February, former Mayor William B. Hartsfield died and the airport was named in his honor. On July 1, the name changed to William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport due to Eastern Airlines introduction of international flights. The 1980s witnessed the opening of the world’s largest air passenger terminal complex, the completion of a fourth parallel runway, and the opening of MARTA’s airport station, linking the airport to Atlanta’s rapid transit system.

The MARTA airport station is seen here in the foreground, ca. 1989. Image courtesy of the James G. Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center
The MARTA airport station is seen here in the foreground, ca. 1989. Image courtesy of the James G. Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center

The 1990s and 2000s were years of increasing expansion for the airport. In September 1994, International Concourse E opened and became “the largest single international facility in the nation.” [2]  Construction on a fifth runway was begun in 2001 and completed in May 2006; the runway “is hailed as ‘The Most Important Runway in America.’” [3] The airport received the name it is known by today – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – in October 2003 with the decision by the Atlanta City Council to honor late Atlanta Mayor Maynard H. Jackson.  In 2012, the airport opened the Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal to manage the millions of international passengers traveling through Atlanta. Last year the airport celebrated its 90th birthday.

“”I don’t know where I’m going when I die,” most Southern air travelers have said at one time or another, “but one thing is sure: I’ll change planes at Atlanta.”” [4]  While a bit morbid, this quote is undeniable proof of the prominence of the Atlanta Airport in the commercial/cargo aviation world.  It’s amazing to consider that what started as a dirt racetrack would become the busiest airport in the world.

Special thanks to Sue VerHoef and Jada Harris from the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center for their assistance in providing the images you see in this post.  As attributed in citations below, much of the history written above was drawn from the airport’s own “Airport History” page.

[1] “Airport History,” Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Accessed July 22, 2016,
[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid
[4] King, Wayne, “All of the South Changing Planes at Atlanta; Complaints Are Rising More Service Sought Another Disturbing Fact Petitions to C.A.B.,” New York Times, July 27, 1978, Accessed July 22, 2016,

A Guide to Gay and Gay-friendly Locations in Atlanta

By Anne Graham

Did you know that Atlanta has a long history of LGBTQ activism? The first unofficial Gay Pride March was held in 1971, two years after Stonewall, by the Georgia Gay Liberation Front. Maynard Jackson, Mayor of Atlanta, proclaimed June 26th, 1976, Gay Pride Day in the city. Today, Pride is celebrated in October due to the city’s sweltering summer temperatures and humidity. The parade ends in Piedmont Park, a large green space in the midst of Midtown, an area that loosely extends from Downtown to Buckhead. Check out these gay and gay-friendly areas and locations and welcome to Atlanta!

Piedmont Park/10th Street

Piedmont Park can be reached after a short walk from the Midtown station on the MARTA North-South line. It’s open daily from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm and features trails and a farmer’s market every Saturday. Go for a run or walk or just relax and have a picnic. The park is adjacent to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, which is a great place to spend an afternoon. There are several restaurants and bars in this area, including Blake’s on the Park, a neighborhood straight-friendly gay bar, with live karaoke, DJs, and drag shows. A few blocks off 10th Street on Peachtree Street, you’ll find Bulldogs (no website), a local gay bar with DJs and a dance floor.

If you cross 10th Street when emerging from the Midtown MARTA train station on the North-South line and head down Peachtree Street for a couple of blocks, turning left on 12th Street, you’ll find My Sister’s Room, a local lesbian bar with dancing and shows.

Ansley Mall/Monroe Drive

A short drive down Piedmont Avenue – not an advisable walk, as it’s long with lots of traffic – is Ansley Mall, a shopping mall that opened in 1964. It hosts gay and gay-friendly shops, restaurants, and bars, including Burkhart’s, Hideaway Atlanta, Oscar’s Bar, and Mixx Atlanta. Across Monroe Drive, you’ll find more restaurants and Smith’s Olde Bar, a great venue for live music. Across Piedmont Avenue there’s another cluster of restaurants and bars. If you’re looking for fashionable clothing, take a short walk to the Boy Next Door on Piedmont.


Ponce de Leon Avenue (pronounced ponts de LEE-on by locals) from Spring Street to Moreland Avenue has a number of bars, restaurants, and shops of various levels of gentrification. For the adventurous, there are numerous second-hand clothing shops and local bars and restaurants. Check out the Atlanta Eagle or The Model T for a drink, music, and themed nights. Mary Mac’s Tea Room features Southern comfort food. So, visit if you need a banana pudding or sweet tea fix. Further down Ponce, in the former Sears/City Hall East is the Ponce City Market, which features a central food hall, a foodie’s dream. Continuing on Ponce across Moreland Avenue will eventually take you to downtown Decatur. It’s recommended that you arrange transportation to visit Ponce, as the closest MARTA station, North Avenue on the North-South line, is a long walk.

Cheshire Bridge/Lindbergh

Not really a walking location, Cheshire Bridge Road and the nearby Lindbergh Drive are commercial areas with shops, restaurants, and bars. Cheshire Bridge Road has antique shops and Jungle Atlanta and The Heretic, nightclubs with DJs and dance floors. A short drive away, you can visit Woof’s on Piedmont, Atlanta’s only gay sports bar. You’ll need to arrange transportation to these areas, as there are no MARTA trains stations nearby.

Sweet Auburn

If you’re visiting the city’s historic African American neighborhood, Sweet Auburn, check out the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, The King Center, and the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site, stop for a drink at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium. It’s a small local gay-friendly hangout and a must-see if you like paintings on velvet. Wednesday evenings feature church organ karaoke.

While it’s not located in the Sweet Auburn area, you can find out more about Atlanta’s civil rights history at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, which is within walking distance of the Peachtree Center MARTA train station North-South line.

Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? Check out these online publications to find the latest hotspots in the Atlanta LGBT community.

A Guide for Beer Drinkers in Atlanta

By Anne Graham

Officially founded in 1837 as Terminus, the end of a rail line starting in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Atlanta has emerged as an economic powerhouse in the southern United States. It’s known for its diverse neighborhoods, lush tree canopy, and a penchant for continuous reinvention. The latter is epitomized by the city’s seal, which features a phoenix rising from the ashes. These characteristics combine to make some amazing craft breweries, brew pubs, and beer bars. After a hectic day in sessions and meetings, book a ride, share a taxi, or, if you’re lucky, ride the train or walk and explore the city’s neighborhoods and brews.

Avondale Estates/Decatur/Emory

Avondale Estates, Decatur, and Emory Village are cities and areas located east of Atlanta in neighboring DeKalb County. Decatur offers a walkable downtown area with shops, restaurants, and bars. Avondale Estates has an English Tudor design in its downtown area, although is not as pedestrian friendly. The Emory Village area is a small collection of shops and restaurants located on the North Decatur Road entrance. Downtown Decatur is accessible from the Decatur trains stop on the MARTA East-West line. Visitors will need to arrange transportation to Avondale Estates and the Emory Village.


Don’t want to stray too far from the conference hotel? There are two great beer bars within walking distance, although you may want to wear some comfortable shoes.

East Atlanta/Grant Park

Grant Park is an established neighborhood that encompasses a lot of different areas: Victorian homes and small bungalows, as well as Memorial Drive, a 4-lane road that links downtown Atlanta with Stone Mountain in the east, and historic Oakland cemetery. East Atlanta is a more recently developed area with lots of new shops and restaurants. Oakland cemetery, Augustine’s, Republic Social House, and Six Feet Under are all accessible from the King Memorial station on MARTA’s East-West line. You’ll need to arrange transportation to visit Argosy.

Howell Mill/Westside

The Howell Mill Road/Westside area is a developing neighborhood that borders the Georgia Tech campus to the west of Atlanta. Previously made up of industrial parks, it is now full of eclectic shops, restaurants, and bars. There are no MARTA train stops within walking distance, so you’ll need to arrange transportation to visit.

Little 5 Points

Little 5 Points is an established neighborhood with an identity all its own. There is a pedestrian-friendly commercial area with music and theater venues, eclectic shops, diverse restaurants, and comfortable bars, ranging from gastropubs to dives. It is accessible from the Inman Park station on the East-West MARTA train line, walking 2 blocks to Euclid Avenue.


Midtown is used to describe the rambling area between downtown Atlanta and Buckhead. It includes Ponce de Leon (pronounced ponts de LEE-on by locals), the High Museum and Woodruff Arts Center, and Piedmont Park, among other areas. Visitors will need to arrange transportation. One note: The Highlander is included in the list because I’m a regular from way back. It’s a comfortable neighborhood bar with a punk attitude.

Want to forget about the bars and get right down to the beer? Atlanta has a growing craft brewery scene. Listed are the major breweries in metro-Atlanta. Check out their websites and schedule a tour and tasting.

Atlanta Area Breweries

Atlanta also has a number of growler stores if you’re interested in sampling a wide variety of beers or taking home some local brews.


Interested in taking a day trip? Athens, the home of the University of Georgia, is a great little town about an hour east of Atlanta. It has a quaint downtown area with a variety of shops, restaurants, and bars and is very pedestrian-friendly. The breweries alone are detailed because there really is no wrong answer regarding beer bars. Walk in to any random establishment and you’ll be happy. If you are interested in incredible mixed drinks, check out the Trappeze Pub (

Athens Breweries

Looking for an overnight trip to begin or end your annual meeting experience? Savannah is a little over 4 hours south of Atlanta. It’s a charming city with a lovely and walkable historic district with lots to do and see. Savannah is all about hospitality. People in Atlanta ask what you do and people in Savannah ask what you drink.

Savannah Breweries/Brew pubs

Updates, logistics, and practical advice for Archives*Records 2016

by Traci Drummond and Courtney Chartier, who like the boom

With the annual meeting just around the corner, here are updates, logistics, and practical advice in advance of your visit to Atlanta.

Atlanta skyline from the southwest.

The SAA 2016 Host Committee Blog

So I know that if you’re seeing this post, you’re looking at the blog. But I encourage you to read (or review) all of the posts to learn more about the host city, it restaurants, attractions, and repositories. We will be adding information up until the annual meeting so make sure to check back regularly. 

The All-Attendee Reception

This year’s reception will start at The World of Coca-Cola and move to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, located across the lawn from one another at Centennial Olympic Park. If you don’t catch the shuttle from the hotel to the museums, it’s a half-mile walk west taking Harris Street/John Portman Boulevard to Centennial Olympic Park Drive.


When posting about the annual meeting on social media, use the designated hashtag so that other attendees can easily find your Twitter threads and Instagram photos. You don’t have to wait until the meeting starts: a quick search on Twitter shows that the hashtag is already in use.

Tours, Tours, Tours!

Thirteen pre-conference tours have been scheduled for August 2nd and 3rd. Most are for metro Atlanta repositories (academic, corporate, private, and government) but Crawford Media is also providing a tour of their media management and post-production facility. Check out the complete list on the blog or the conference website and schedule a tour today!

Service Activities

Gardening at Historic Oakland Cemetery – Tuesday, August 2, 9:00am

Archivists will help staff at Historic Oakland Cemetery replant Irises. Easy work even for the untrained gardener, but it will be hot. Oakland will provide tools and gloves (but if you have a pair you love, bring them). Don’t forget sunscreen and weather-appropriate clothing. Look for more information including sign-up, directions, and hours on the blog. Oakland is about a mile and a half walk from the hotel and a 2 block stroll from the MLK MARTA station.Sign up here.

From Oakland’s website: This garden cemetery, founded in 1850, is the final resting place of many of Atlanta’s settlers, builders, and most noted citizens like Bobby Jones, Margaret Mitchell, and Maynard Jackson. It is also a showplace of sculpture and architecture, and a botanical preserve with ancient oaks and magnolias. Here in this peaceful place the full scope of the city’s rich and fascinating history unfolds before you.

LifeSouth Blood Drive – Thursday, August 4, 11:00am-4:00pm

We are excited to provide an on-site service activity. Please donate if you can!

Braves vs. Pirates – August 4, 7:10pm

SAA, partnering with JAL tours, will be headed out to the ballgame! Of note at Turner Field are the Hall of Fame, the Museum, and the artwork all around the park. This is the last year that the Braves play at Turner Field before their move to Cobb County. The Atlanta Braves website has info about attractions, concessions, and team stats. For more information about discounted tickets to the game, visit:

The Atlanta Braves play at Turner Field.

Getting to the Conference Hotel

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is located about 12 miles south of Midtown. Here are options for getting from the airport to the Hilton Atlanta.


Taking the train from the airport to the hotel is easy. Purchase either a Breeze Card ($2.00, is reloadable for as many trips as you need) or a Breeze Pass (a single/limited limited use ticket for one way, round-trip, or one day and is non-reloadable). Follow signs from baggage claim area to MARTA, purchase your ticket, and take the train north to the Peachtree Center Station. Exit Peachtree Street, head north two blocks to Harris Street/John Portman Boulevard and make a right. Walk two more blocks and cross Courtland Street – the Atlanta Hilton will be on your left (and it’s about a half-mile walk).

By Cab

A cab ride from the airport to Downtown (and the Atlanta Hilton) is about $30 (and $2 for each extra person). Follow signs to ground transportation from baggage claim.

Rental Car

The ATL SkyTrain will take you from the airport to the rental car center. It’s about a five minute train ride from the airport. Directions from the airport can be found on the Atlanta Hilton website.

Around the Hotel

There is a CVS Pharmacy just a few blocks away on Peachtree Street. Take Harris Street/John Portman Boulevard west two blocks and make a left on Peachtree.

A Publix grocery store is located about a mile north of the hotel at 595 Piedmont Avenue.

The closest liquor store to the hotel is Sol’s Liquor, described online as a “venerable store for liquor, beer, and wine.” It’s located at the intersection of Andrew Young International and Courtland Street, just a few blocks south of the hotel.

If you don’t want to rent a car for your entire trip, there are a few car rental agencies nearby the hotel for short or day trips.

There is a guide to area churches on the blog if you’d like to attend services while in town.

Three hotels in downtown Atlanta are connected by the SkyBridge – Atlanta Hilton, the Atlanta Marriott Marquis and the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. Keep this in mind when navigating the area around the conference as it will protect you from heat, rain, and in some cases, our hilly streets. If you’re a fan of architecture or design, make sure to visit the Hyatt Regency Atlanta to see John Portman’s stunning, influential atrium design from the late 1960s. And the SkyBridge ultimately leads you to the Peachtree Center Mall and Food Court, which has more than 35 eateries.

hyatt medium
John Portman’s Atrium at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.


Speaking of hotels, there’s free WiFi in the Atlanta Hilton lobby. And here’s info about the layout of the hotel:

  • Registration will be on the first floor to the right of the main entrance as you walk in (near Kinko’s).
  • Sessions will be held on the second floor.
  • Exhibits will be in the Galleria Exhibit Hall on the lower level (below the first floor).

Restaurants (around the hotel and around town)

Restaurants near the hotel include Alma Cocina, Hsu’s, Gus’s Fried ChickenMax Lager’s Wood-Fired Grill & Brewery, and Meehan’s Public House.

About a 10 minute cab or UBER ride from the hotel are Noni’s,  SerpasKrog Street Market, the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, and Ponce City Market.

Discover more restaurants:

And there are additional blog posts on nightlife, breakfast options near the hotel, Southern food, cocktails, Atlanta’s best restaurants, and downtown Decatur.

We are so excited you’re coming. Welcome to Atlanta.



Family Activities in Atlanta

By Pamela Nye

Atlanta is a great place to bring along your family, especially since your children may not yet be back in school during that first week in August. This blog post will not cover sites that will be covered in other posts, such as the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, the Atlanta History Center, or the Center for Civil and Human Rights. The sites below would be in my top 10 list of child and family friendly places to visit, but please check out the links at the end of the post for more ideas if you have already been to these and want to see something different.

Pro Tip: Purchase the Atlanta City Pass if you are planning to go to multiple attractions. Admissions include the following sites, so you will save money by buying one pass instead of individual tickets:

  • Georgia Aquarium
  • World of Coca-Cola
  • CNN Studio Tours
  • Zoo Atlanta OR Center for Civil and Human Rights
  • Fernbank Museum of Natural History OR College Football Hall of Fame

My tip for MARTA is to remember that each person in the family will have to have their own Breeze card. The kiosks at the MARTA stations are very easy to use, and the kids will enjoy having their own MARTA pass as a souvenir at the end of the trip. The best option for during the conference would be to purchase the 7-day unlimited passes, although you can purchase one-, two-, three-, or four-day passes.

Centennial Olympic Park

This is a gorgeous 21-acre park located in the heart of downtown Atlanta. They have a walking map that you can use, but don’t forget to bring your bathing suit to play in the in-ground fountain! The Park is also within walking distance of the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, Imagine It! Children’s Museum of Atlanta, Inside CNN Atlanta Studio Tour, National Museum of Patriotism and Underground Atlanta.

Center for Puppetry Arts

Image courtesy of Center for Puppetry Arts
Image courtesy of Center for Puppetry Arts

During the week of the conference, your options are a museum-only admission, the Worlds of Puppetry Tour, the show “Old MacDonald’s Farm,” and the Jim Henson Collection Tour.

  • Cost: Wide variety of pricing, but children under 2 are free. See website for details.
  • Website:
  • Address: 1404 Spring St. NW at 18th, Atlanta, GA 30309-2820 USA. Parking Directions
  • MARTA: The Center for Puppetry Arts is conveniently located in Midtown at the corner of Spring and 18th Street. They are minutes from Arts Center MARTA, the Woodruff Arts Center, and across the bridge from Atlantic Station. They are next door to The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum.

Imagine It! Children’s Museum of Atlanta

The ultimate place for kids 0-8 to play, learn and ignite their curiosity, and it’s the only museum in Atlanta designed specifically for kids.

  • Cost: $14.95 per person; Under 1 free.
  • Website:
  • Address: 275 Centennial Olympic Park Dr NW, Atlanta, GA 30313; Tel: 404-659-5437; They are located in Museum Tower, on the corner of Baker Street and Centennial Olympic Park Drive in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.
  • MARTA: Peachtree Center Station

Fernbank Museum of Natural History

There are permanent exhibitions, and while you are here the first week in August you can see “Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence.”

  • Cost: Wide variety of options. Part of the Atlanta CITYPass
  • Website:
  • Address: 767 Clifton Road, NE, Atlanta, GA 30307; Driving Directions
  • MARTA: Using the Marta bus system only, board Bus #2, which runs east to west on Ponce de Leon Avenue, and ask the driver to drop you at the corner of Clifton Road. Walk north on Clifton Road, and Fernbank Museum will be the first drive on your right.

Georgia Aquarium

Image courtesy of Georgia Aquarium
Image courtesy of Georgia Aquarium

This is a favorite destination for adults and kids alike (including my kids), and conveniently located in the downtown area.

  • Cost: Lots of options. Also part of the Atlanta CITYPass
  • Website:
  • Address: 225 Baker Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30313; Tel: 404-581-4000 Directions and parking.
  • MARTA: The Georgia Aquarium is a 10-15 minute walk from the Dome/GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center Station on the Blue/Green line or from the Civic Center or Peachtree Center Stations on the Red/Gold line.

Inside CNN Studio Tour

This tour is very interesting, but may not be as interesting to little ones. I’d say school-age and up, but definitely for the older ones. Great behind the scenes tour.

  • Cost: Adult $16; Senior (65 and older) $15; Student (ages 13–18 or with College ID) $15; Child (ages 4–12) $13. Part of the Atlanta CITYPass.
  • Website:
  • Address: One CNN Center • Atlanta, GA 30303; For mapping software, use 190 Marietta St, NW, Atlanta, GA 30303.
  • MARTA: CNN Center is located on MARTA rail stop: Dome/GWCC/Philips Arena / CNN Center

Legoland Discovery Center of Atlanta

Everytime we go here, I have a hard time getting the kids back out the door. There are areas to build whatever you want, places to build and race cars, a GREAT display of Atlanta landmarks created in Lego blocks, two indoor rides, and a 4D (yes, 4D) movie.

  • Cost: You get to pick your own options. Children 2 and under free. Just know that you will have to either make a reservation ahead of time, or if you walk-up, you will have to wait for the next time slot. They limit the amount of visitors during each time slot so that the center does not get overcrowded.
  • Website:
  • Address: 3500 Peachtree Rd. NE, Atlanta, GA 30326; Tel: 404-848-9252
  • MARTA: Take the North/North Springs Line to Buckhead Station. LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Phipps Plaza will be on the left, a few blocks north on Peachtree Road. Or take the Northeast/ Doraville train to the Lenox Station. LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Phipps Plaza will be on the right, a few blocks west on Lenox Rd.

World of Coca-Cola

If you are in Atlanta, you need to go see this. Even if you have been here before, they are constantly changing out exhibits. Plus you have to get your photo taken with the polar bear, right?

  • Cost: General Admission is $16 for adults, $14.00 for Seniors (65+), $12 for Youth (3-12), and free for toddlers (0-2) with an adult. Also part of the Atlanta CITYPass.
  • Website:
  • Address: 121 Baker Street NW Atlanta, GA 30313–1807. Parking Garage Address: 126 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd NW Atlanta, GA 30313 ($10 per vehicle per day); Tel: 404-676-5151 or 1-800-676-COKE (2653)
  • MARTA: MARTA stop W1: Dome/GWCC/Philips Arena/CNN Center or MARTA stop N1: Peachtree Center. It is approximately a 10 minute walk from either station.

Wren’s Nest

This somewhat hidden treasure is a must-see if you have time. The storytelling alone is amazing, if you can catch the 1pm Saturday show.

  • Cost: $6 for children; $8 for seniors and students; $9 for adults
  • Website:
  • Address: 1050 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd, SW, Atlanta, GA 30310; Tel: 404-753-7735; Directions by car: Take I-20 to exit 55A, Lowery Blvd. Head South. Turn right onto Abernathy Boulevard. We’re two blocks down, just beyond West Hunter Street Baptist Church. Free parking.
  • MARTA: Take I-20 to exit 55A, Lowery Blvd. Head South. Turn right onto Abernathy Boulevard. The Wren’s Nest is two blocks down, just beyond West Hunter Street Baptist Church.

Zoo Atlanta

Image courtesy of Zoo Atlanta
Image courtesy of Zoo Atlanta

There is something for everyone here, from a fun playground to in-depth shows from staff. My kids like making up voices while we are at the Meerkat exhibit.

  • Cost: Adult (12+): $25.99; Child (3-11): $17.99; 2 and under: Free; Check website for more options. Also part of the Atlanta CITYPass.
  • Website:
  • Address: 800 Cherokee Ave., SE, Atlanta, GA 30315; Parking: Free.
  • MARTA: Bus service is available from the Five Points MARTA station via Route #32.
  • NOTE: You can get a FREE Checkered Cab ride to and from the Zoo. Call 404-351-1111 when you’re ready to head to the Zoo or return to your hotel, and the dispatch operator will know what to do! The Hilton conference hotel is part of this program.

Two sites that are really not easily accessible by MARTA would be Six Flags over Georgia (closing August 7 for the season) and Stone Mountain Park. Very fun places to go if you have the day to spend and a car to drive there in.

For more ideas, check out these websites:

Nightlife near the hotel

By Courtney Chartier

Image of Trader Vic’s Mai Tai by Sam Howzit via flikr
Image of Trader Vic’s Mai Tai by Sam Howzit via flikr

Do not be afraid; you will be able to find a fine cocktail within stumbling distance of your room. Best of all is that the Atlanta Hilton is home to a Trader Vic’s, America’s premier chain of tiki bars. It’s a great place to share a fishbowl size Rum Keg with three of your closest friends.The menu remains the same from the era of America’s infatuation with both Hawaiian and Chinese culture.

Personally, I can’t have much sugar in my drinks. I much prefer a handcrafted cocktail, and with the proliferation of good hotels in the downtown area, there are plenty of fine establishments happy to cater to weary travelers.

Serving Southern fare, White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails is just two blocks from the conference hotel (Go right outside of the door, then turn left on Baker street. Walk two blocks and you’ll see White Oak at the corner of Baker and Peachtree). The focus here is on brown, Southern liquors; bourbon and whiskey lovers will be happy with what they find. Extensive wine list with a surprising number of bottles in the $30-$50 range.

Absolutely worth the 10 minute walk is The Sun Dial, a bar/restaurant with a 365 degree view of the city. It’s located at the top of the Westin Hotel, but call ahead; they often close for private events. (From the hotel, turn left and walk down Courtland Street and turn right on Andrew Young International. You’ll see the Westin towering on Peachtree Street, just to your left).

You can find no frills bars within a short walk too. Try Gibney’s Pub in the Peachtree Center Mall, or catch the game at Twenty Two Storeys or Meehan’s Public House.

Not necessarily a place for drinks, but your spot for fried chicken and a Mint Julep is Pitty Pat’s Porch. Walk straight down Andrew Young International for your fill of dishes named after characters and places from Gone with the Wind.

One of my favorite treats is to have drinks on the porch at Livingston, the restaurant in the Georgian Terrace Hotel (about a 20 minute walk; better accessed by taking MARTA one stop north to North Avenue Station). The terrace is directly across Peachtree from the historic Fox Theater; bask in the shadow of the Fox’s onion domes as you watch theater goers arrive for a show. (If you do any one tourist activity while in town, attend one of the Fox Theater tours, available only on Thursdays and Saturdays. Built for the Shriners, the Theater has an Egyptian Ballroom, a ceiling painted to look like the night sky in an Eastern bazaar and the fanciest bathrooms in town. As the stars of Gone with the Wind arrived for their premier, a school-aged Dr. King sang outside in a children’s choir dressed as slaves.) The hotel also has a craft cocktail bar, Proof and Provision, down in the basement, accessed from the North Avenue side of the building.

While downtown has some options, the closest center for a broad variety of nightlife is Midtown, only two train stops north from Peachtree Center Station. Enjoy fancy cocktails at  The Lawrence and Grain (which also has oyster happy hour every weeknight), or hit the concentrated clubs bounded by Cresent and Piedmont Avenues. You can find a complete list of Midtown nightlife through the Midtown Alliance.