Get us in your inbox

World of Coca-Cola
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 12 best museums in Atlanta

The essence of this multicultural, history-making city is on display at the best museums in Atlanta

Written by
Gerrish Lopez
Contributors
Mike Jordan
&
Krista Diamond
Advertising

As one of the best cities in America to visit and to live, Atlanta is a beloved hub of culture and Southern charm. The city buzzes with excitement, bursting with a long list of things to do, restaurants to try, and bars to check out. Of course, the city is big on culture, too, and the best museums in Atlanta are essential for understanding its history, art, and people.

To take your museum-going experience to another level, do your research and plan ahead to coordinate your visit so you can take a scheduled tour, hear a guest speaker, or check out a timed performance. Unlike in some other cities, you’re not likely to encounter much attitude as you browse—it’s just not this city’s style—so be sure to ask questions and engage with the staff (it’ll make your visit all the more memorable, no doubt).

So whether it’s your first time—or your first time in a long time—here are the best museums in Atlanta that you should visit right now.

RECOMMENDED: the best things to do in Atlanta

Best museums in Atlanta, ranked

Editor's Note: The buildings are temporarily closed.

Celebrate the spirit of the visionary Civil Rights leader on a stroll along Auburn Avenue for a few well-spent hours. Inside the home where Dr. King was born, you'll find restored rooms and original furnishings from his childhood. Pay your respects at his nearby crypt (on the grounds of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change) where you can also explore exhibits dedicated not only to Dr. King, but his wife (an accomplished opera singer), Coretta Scott King, and fellow social reformer Mahatma Gandhi. Since Dr. King inspired minds, hearts, and socio-political change, it's no wonder that visitors here find the entire site infinitely moving.

The High Museum of Art's appeal begins with its Midtown building’s sleek, all-white exterior—the architecture is as much a work of art as the exhibits inside. The collection itself ranges from French art of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to touring exhibitions that feature work from Picasso and other prominent art figures. The museum also boasts a diverse set of advisors that give it an extra layer of credibility—think uber-rich directors like Anne Cox Chambers and Tom Cousins, along with more accessible folks like rapper and activist Michael “Killer Mike” Render. Plus, how many museums can say they appeared in Black Panther?

Advertising

You’re never too old to love dinosaurs (this museum doubles as one of the best things to do with kids in Atlanta), but there’s much more to the Fernbank than the fossil-filled gallery (which features a 47-foot-long Giganotosaurus). There’s also a four-story 3D IMAX theater, 75 acres of walking trails, canopies, and outdoor exhibits within the Wildwoods and Fernbank Forest, and of course, adult programming (like the Fernbank After Dark events, where science meets live music and cocktails).

As Atlanta’s historic West End community faces gentrification, it’s never been more important to remind new residents of the heritage and culture they are joining. Hammonds House, with its endearing single-family home exterior, takes an updated, action-based approach to fine African-American art through exhibits inside the house and field trips that challenge visitors to take their ideas out to the community. It’s a great place to see new works from established local creatives like Shanequa Gay, as well as an excuse to grab a drink while conversing about new books from Black authors, discussing modern masculinity, and diving even deeper into Atlanta’s remarkable historically Black neighborhood.

Advertising

Once the huge undertaking of moving Atlanta Cyclorama—the 49-foot-tall, 10,000-pound, 132-year-old panoramic painting of the Battle of Atlanta—from Grant Park to Buckhead was complete, the status of the AHC as an unmissable landmark for visitors and residents was cemented. But it’s always been a place where Atlanta’s past and present meet, with events and exhibits that cover the city’s unique cultural contributions that range from barbecue, folk art, and golf. There’s also the actual museum, where you can see a replica of the barbershop that helped build the fortune of Atlanta’s first Black millionaire Alonzo Herndon, as well as 32 acres of gardens and walking trails. You can even record your own submission to StoryCorps on NPR, which means you might make a bit of history for yourself while here.

Advertising

This gleaming museum chronicles the history of Coca-Cola as well as the soda industry itself. Coca-Cola is king—and ubiquitous—in Atlanta, considering that it’s where Coke was invented in 1886 (it’s also where the brand’s global corporate headquarters is based). The World of Coca-Cola is totally overwhelming, in a fun, fizzy, hyper-commercialized sort of way; you’ll find replicas of soda fountains, a pop-culture museum, 4-D theater displays, and DIY beverage fountains that dispense flavors from around the world. Feeling thirsty? There are over 100 beverages available, including all the classics as well as limited editions.

The NCCHR presents the civil rights movement and its Atlanta roots as a progressive and ongoing project. With three permanent exhibits representing the fight for equality both here in the U.S. and on a global scale, the institution has a clean, open-air layout and design. Neon signage is incorporated on segregation displays, bold colors capture the spirit of standing up for justice, and interactive portions salute activism in the face of danger. All these factors contribute to providing brutal but necessary honesty about how much work remains to be done.

Advertising

Shaped like two-thirds of a football and conveniently located downtown between Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Centennial Olympic Park, proud fans of undergraduate Gridiron games flock to the CFHOF year-round. Beginning at The Quad, register and watch your favorite team’s official helmet begin to glow along a wall of more than 760 schools. Then test your talents on the 45-yard indoor playing field where you can kick field goals, practice throwing, and run an obstacle course while learning more about any inductee you pick through augmented reality.

Rapper T.I. opened this physical salute to Atlanta’s street hip-hop sounds just in time for the release of his 10th album, Dime Trap, in September 2018. Since then, thousands of visitors have come by to see the museum’s walk-through exhibits dedicated to pioneers of the now-world-famous “trap” genre, including an all-pink area setup (there’s a matching old-school Chevrolet in there) for 2 Chainz, a kitchen with scattered drug paraphernalia for Gucci Mane, a jail cell replica outlined with paintings of rappers who’ve served time, and even an “Escape The Trap” challenge where you have to navigate your way out of a “trap house.”

Advertising

Airplanes never get old—at least in a city that serves as Delta’s headquarters. Just down the street from the world’s busiest airport, you can visit hangars full of history. Get hands-on and test your skills on the flight simulator or see how the experience of flying Delta jets has changed (and continues to evolve) through exhibits that highlight the company’s service during events like Atlanta’s 1996 Olympics. You can also see 12 beautifully maintained and meticulously restored aircraft, including a Waco 125 propeller plane (the only one in existence) and a gleaming silver Douglas DC-3.

Editor's Note: Tours and open houses are currently suspended.

The world’s first Waffle House opened right here in Avondale Estates. Today, with more than 1,700 locations across America, the brick-and-mortar building still stands and you can book a tour, led by WH employees, who’ll show you the original restaurant as well as memorabilia in the adjacent building. Browse through menus, take a look at dishware, silverware, and uniforms from the era.

Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising