5 Museums for Under $100: Why CityPASS is the way to see Atlanta

I don’t know about you, but I love visiting museums. During my recent excursion to Atlanta, I was struck at how many exhibits and tours there were to enjoy. As staying on a schedule and budget is always the goal, the Atlanta CityPASS helps you achieve both.

Having first used it in Seattle, CityPASS allows visitors to experience some of the best museums and attractions in a metropolitan area at a greatly discounted price. For Atlanta, this includes admission to 5 of the city’s most iconic places, including the Georgia Aquarium. While your choice of Fernbank Museum of Natural History or College Football Hall of Fame are included, alas, I didn’t make it to either. Nonetheless, my 4 attractions I got to experience were wonderful introductions to Atlanta. Read on to learn more about what you’ll see with the Atlanta CityPASS!

The Georgia Aquarium

After I got settled at the American Hotel, I was ready to hit the streets and discover the sights. Just around the corner from the hotel, the Georgia Aquarium is the USA’s largest aquarium and didn’t disappoint. Currently undergoing a massive expansion, this did make for a bit of a “maze” trying to find the entrance. Once I made my way through, I found myself in awe as soon as I walked through the door. This was unlike any other aquarium I’d visited.

One of the highlights (and there were several) is definitely Ocean Voyage. As visitors walk through, you’ll be greeted by whale sharks, manta rays and thousands of stunning fish. I adored the wall-sized windows that surrounded you. I’d never felt this up close and personal with sea life.

Playing photographer is also fun and the models make it very easy to feel like a pro. There’s several shows and seminars throughout the day, with a few giving visitors the chance to meet some of the animals. As the aquarium is extremely kid-friendly, it was fun to see little ones get a kick out of visiting with the penguins and seeing an array of jelly fishes.

Even if you’re not usually an aquarium person, Georgia’s is a must-see. While certainly built with families in mind, it’s one of Atlanta’s shining stars and reason enough to purchase CityPASS.

Aquarium Adult Admission (on own): $35.95

The whale shark. (c) Mary Farah
Something to see all around. (c) Mary Farah
Jelly fishes! (c) Mary Farah
World of Coca Cola

I must admit: World of Coca Cola was my guilty pleasure. Who doesn’t love an ice-cold Coke now and again? Since Coca Cola was discovered in Atlanta, it’s only fitting that its history be archived in the heart of downtown at Olympic Centennial Park (and a stone’s throw from the aquarium.)

As you arrive to begin your tour, you’re offered a Coke of your choice to enjoy in line. I was ultra-impressed they had Coca Cola Life, made with cane sugar and no high fructose corn syrup. Once you begin your descent into all things Coke, you’re escorted to a theatre to watch a short film before starting your self-guided tour. Honestly, I could have done without this part. While good-hearted and upbeat, showcasing a wide variety of people and our Military families enjoying Coca Cola, it didn’t feel very relevant to the tour.

As we made our way into the “world,” I was more than a little excited to grab a fan girl picture with the Coca Cola Polar Bear. What 90’s kid didn’t love him?

Star struck. (c) Mary Farah

From exploring the early days of Coca Cola to countless artifacts and fun memorabilia, the best part of World of Coca Cola has to be the Tasting Lab. Over 100 kinds of soda from all around the world are available to sample. Some were better than the American flavors; the flavors from Africa were my favorite, while some were just odd. If you’re all American and want your usual, that’s fine, too, as the lab has several of the Coke Freestyle machines.

If you want to get some shopping in, the Coca Cola gift shop is your destination for all things Coke. As you make your way to the back of the store, check out their large clearance section for terrific souvenirs at a fraction of the cost.

World of Coca Cola Adult Admission (on own): $17

Throwbacks at World of Coca Cola. (c) Mary Farah
Tasting lab. (c) Mary Farah
I miss the sodas down in Africa. (c) Mary Farah
CNN Studios Tour

While some may think the CNN headquarters are in New York, think again. The world’s first 24 hour cable news network was launched and still thriving in Atlanta. Just adjacent to Olympic Centennial Park, CNN’s world headquarters not only delivers all of the latest news and works round the clock, but also host daily, group-led tours.

While I envisioned bumping into Anderson Cooper as he got a coffee from the cafeteria, the CNN Studios Tour gives guests a fun, interactive chance to see a small part of how broadcasting the news comes about.

During the tour, we were guided into a variety of small studios to see how the news shows get from the studio to your TV. We also got to see one of the main news rooms to witness the CNN staff busy at work as they researched and wrote their stories. It was neat to notice that several other news channels were being watched; CNN has to see what the competitors are finding and have to say, too.

Despite the tour having some interesting stops, I was surprised it only lasted about 35 minutes. Our tour guide explained that when more questions are asked, it tends to be 50 minutes. While the lobby was exhilarating and I got to ride the world’s longest freestanding escalator, I don’t think I would have bought a ticket to the tour on its own. It’s certainly worth it should you have the CityPASS.

CNN Studios Tour Adult Admission (on own): $15

The lobby at CNN Headquarters. (c) Mary Farah
While no pictures are allowed during the tour, I managed a few before we began. (c) Mary Farah
Zoo Atlanta

While my first 3 stops were all in the proximity of each other, Zoo Atlanta will be about a 20 minute drive over to the charming Grant Park. Although the “Parking Lot Full” signs worried me, the adjacent tree-lined streets and quaint neighborhoods will have you covered (just always check street signs.)

A captivating 40 acres await you at Zoo Atlanta. See over 1500 animals and enjoy their petting zoo and shows. The zoo is currently expanding and soon there will be an exciting Africa exhibit as well as polar bears. Despite it was a hectic Saturday afternoon, I still managed to see such a beautiful array of creatures.

With an impressive collection of animals, Zoo Atlanta is iconic for its diversity.. Mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians are all represented. The zoo is also known for the largest gorilla and orangutan population in the USA. Celebrating their 20th anniversary is the adorable panda exhibit that includes Ya Lun and Xi Lun, the only panda twins in the USA! Visit their fun webcam with live footage of the cuties here.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and probably wouldn’t of thought to go had it not been for the CityPASS. Since it’s a zoo, that means it’s a great option for kids in tow. If you enjoy zoos and are on your own or with adults, Atlanta Zoo is still worth the visit. I appreciated the variety of dining options they had including food trucks and Nourish Cafe, with seasonal and fresh offerings.

Zoo Atlanta Adult Admission (on own): $24.99 online, or $27.99 at gate

Arriving to Grant Park and Zoo Atlanta. (c) Mary Farah
Panda! (c) Mary Farah
Their Children’s Zoo was full of goats and barn yard friends. (c) Mary Farah
The Atlanta CityPASS

CityPASS enabled me to see several of Atlanta’s must-see’s. Some that were on my bucket list, and a few that wouldn’t of been on my radar so much. An adult pass is $76, and don’t forget includes Fernbank Museum of Natural History or College Football Hall of Fame. Learn more and compare the savings on their website HERE.

If you’re in need of a great place Downtown to stay, The American Hotel is a terrific option that’ll have you within walking distance to nearly every stop mentioned in this article.

(*Disclosure: As common in the travel writing industry, I received an Atlanta CityPASS for story purposes. All opinions are my own.)