Day Two: Heart of the Arts
A short drive from Centennial Park, visitors will find the Midtown district, which is known to locals as the “heart of the arts.” A day in this neighborhood gives groups a chance to soak in the best of Atlanta’s cultural attractions.
Ground zero for culture in this neighborhood is the Woodruff Arts Center, a facility that several of the city’s arts institutions call home. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performs in a concert hall at the arts center; the Alliance Theatre Company uses space at the center to mount original productions, many of which continue on to Broadway or other international theater hot spots.
Woodruff is also home to the High Museum of Art, a classic and contemporary art institution that has developed a reputation for its special exhibitions and collaborations.
“They’re in the middle of a multiyear collaboration with the Louvre in Paris,” Hayden-Miller said. “They’re always hosting major works of art from the Impressionist time period. They’ve had exhibitions of van Gogh, Picasso and da Vinci. Recently, they’ve gotten into some pop art and culture, with exhibits about the art of the automobile and the art of golf. They’re very creative, and always doing something new.”
Groups will find art commingled with nature at Midtown’s Atlanta Botanical Gardens. This beautiful urban garden is just a few blocks from the Woodruff Arts Center and attracted a lot of attention when it began showcasing a series of Dale Chihuly glass sculptures in the gardens in the early 2000s. Today, the garden is helping visitors rediscover a love of local food.
“They’ve just turned their surface parking lot into an edible garden, where you can go and see what can be grown there,” Hayden-Miller said. “They built a master chef’s kitchen there, where they can do culinary demonstrations.”
For evening entertainment, Midtown has the Fox Theater, a 4,600-seat venue that hosts more than 300 performances every year. The theater was built as a movie house in 1929 and was outfitted with an Egyptian motif. During the mid-20th century, the theater languished until a communitywide preservation campaign saved it from destruction in the 1970s.
Today, the Fox is a portrait of resurgence. It is widely regarded as one of the best historic theaters in the country and features a variety of national music, comedy and fine-arts acts. The Atlanta Ballet Company performs at the Fox, and the theater shows a series of historic films throughout the year.
“It’s an experience in itself to go inside that beautiful theater,” Hayden-Miller said. “You look up and see stars in the ceiling twinkling as if it were nighttime. There aren’t too many of these great old theaters around anymore.”
Day Three: A Granite Goliath
On the outskirts of Atlanta, Stone Mountain Park presents a diverse day full of activities for groups, from nature hikes to history museums, an amusement park and a laser show.
The multifaceted park is built around Stone Mountain, the world’s largest freestanding piece of exposed granite. More than 3,200 acres of parkland surround the 825-foot-tall granite dome.
One face of the mountain contains a carving that honors Southern heroes of the Civil War.
“The memorial carving is the world’s largest relief sculpture — it’s actually taller than Mount Rushmore,” said Jeanine Jones, public relations manager at the park. “It depicts three Civil War figures: Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.”
Visitors can gaze up at the carving from a memorial lawn below and learn more about its creation at the park’s museum. The Summit Skyride offers up-close views of the sculpture as it ferries riders to the top of Stone Mountain in closed gondolas.
Adventurous travelers can choose to hike back down the mountain on a 1.3-mile trail. Another 15 miles of trails in the woods and along the lakeside in the park provide additional hiking opportunities.
Beyond exploring the mountain itself, groups can take a tour of an antebellum plantation and farmyard. This attraction features 19 buildings, all built between 1730 and 1875, that were brought to the site from across Georgia. One of the buildings, the Thorton House, is the oldest restored home in the state. The farmyard at the plantation has heritage breeds of animals, such as sheep and pot-bellied pigs, from the pre-Civil War period.
A family amusement park at Stone Mountain has a number of interactive theaters, rides and other attractions. Two hotels and a golf course on the property offer accommodations and recreation opportunities for adults.
For groups, the park’s most popular activity is the evening laser show, which has run for 28 years.
“It’s a 45-minute show that has lasers, fireworks, and music all choreographed together,” Jones said. “There’s a sports-and-everyday-heroes theme. We have a salute to Georgia, with music by a lot of Georgia artists. And we just added a new enhancement called Mountain Vision, which is like 3-D effects without the glasses.”
The excitement of the laser show makes a great end to three fascinating days in Atlanta.
Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau