We can actually hear what some of you naysayers are thinking: Atlanta -- a southern, humid city nowhere near a beach -- for the summer? Yet, summertime is actually this popular city's peak season, and there are numerous reasons why. Atlanta can be amazing in the summer; it's all about looking in the right places. Here's our list of seven things to do that can make a trip here during the sultry season a great idea.
1. World of Coca-Cola
There’s little better on days when even your calves are sweating than an ice-cold soda pop — well, that and fully cranked a/c. Get both at the World of Coca-Cola. You’ll find not only refreshing beverages, but also a refreshing museum. Yes, World of Coca-Cola breaks the musty museum mold as a high-tech visual and interactive experience. As the world famous drink had its origins in the area, it’s no coincidence that the catch-all term for any carbonated drink in these parts is Coke.
The hottest hours of the day will pass quickly here, with a multi-sensory theater, a 19th-century soda fountain, the smallest bottling line in the world, and over 100 samples of different varieties of Coca-Cola products from across the planet — just in case you want a swig of Bibo Candy Pine-Nut from Africa… We wager you won’t regret getting a sugar rush while keeping your cool at this only-in-Atlanta attraction.
2. 20th Anniversary Party for the 1996 Olympics
In 1996, the Olympic Games made Atlanta its home for a little over two weeks. Now you can relive the moments (or, more likely, get a first taste of them) at a celebration of the Atlanta Games’ 20th anniversary on July 22. The 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park will be the site of the festivities, attended by athletes who competed, including Janet Evans — considered the greatest female distance swimmer of all time. Can’t be there then? Centennial Park is worth a stop on any summer day. It’s full of shade trees (read: cool) and the ginormous fountain is programmed for walk-through water curtains, fog, and mist (ditto). Fun fact: Granite from all five continents represented in the Olympics are used throughout the park.
3. SkyView Atlanta
What are the two greatest words to be uttered during the summer? “Climate controlled.” A spin on the aptly named SkyView ferris wheel lends air-conditioned comfort along with views of downtown Atlanta. At nearly 20 stories up, riders in any of the 42 fully enclosed gondolas will be looking down…way down…on nearby Centennial Park.
4. Stone Mountain Park
The words “stone” and “mountain” may not evoke summer comfort, but hear us out. Stone Mountain Park (spanning 3,200 acres) has a slate of summer events that are unique. Among our favorites: Summer at the Rock, a time for family fun, including a nightly laser light show; the Independence Day celebration; and the Yellow Daisy Festival, where over 400 artists from 33 states and two countries come together to show you their masterpieces.
Remember, being out in nature is always cooler than being on heat-absorbing concrete. And it’s cooler in the mountains than at sea level. Win-win.
5. Starlight Drive-In Theater
Sometimes going old-school can’t be beat. Case in point: Starlight, Atlanta’s last remaining drive-in movie theater. It’s also the largest one in Georgia, with six screens.
While drive-ins are extinct in many parts of the country, this one has lasted since 1949 and is beloved by locals for its old-fashioned double features, showing two movies for the price of one. During the summer it hosts special activities, such as the Rock and Roll Monster Bash where local artists, food trucks, and classic monster flicks come together for a night of throwback fun. Just don’t bring alcohol; this theater like to keep things orderly (and has been known to check).
6. Atlanta Ice Cream Festival
A whole festival dedicated to the creamy deliciousness that every man, woman, and child loves? Yeah, it’s pretty great. Happening this year on July 23, at the festival you can take a step into your second-grade dream and lap up dozens of tempting flavors — think Peanut Butter Chocolate Buckeye — throughout the day. The event kicks off with a brain freeze bang by starting with an ice cream eating contest.
7. Georgia Girl Cave Tours
Escape the blazing sun by dipping underground into the cool, dank cave systems of northwest Georgia on Pigeon Mountain. The experience is dark, muddy, wet– and thus quite memorable.
The tours vary in length and scope, but are all at least moderately taxing (leave children younger than six with grandma back at the hotel pool). It will likely feel completely worth the effort when a “room” the size of a house opens up in front of you. Salamanders and other small critters camper through the tunnels, on the rock formations, and in the pools. Yes, there will be bats, but they only add to the thrill. The temperature in their lair is 56 degrees year-round. We’ll take it!