At CNN global headquarters, you can get an inside look at how it all comes together, from the "magic screen" (that giant computer monitor announcers use to enlarge and shrink images) to the old-school green screen and the small, out-of-sight television monitor weather announcers glance at to make sure they're sweeping their arms in the right direction.
Under that little stack of papers news announcers tap at the end of the show (the real script, in case all the technology fails), computer monitors embedded in the lit-from-within glass-topped desks provide updates to keep the announcers abreast of developments elsewhere in the world. We look into the Teleprompter that rolls the script for the announcers to read (that's why it looks so natural), and wonder how, with all the information flowing from so many directions, they manage to stay perfectly on track.
Kids will be jazzed by the technology, including the dizzying ride on the world's longest freestanding escalator ride (up into a giant globe) at the start of the tour. And even CNN headquarters has a gift shop.
190 Marietta St.; $15 for adults, $10 for kids; cnn.com/tour/atlanta/atl.tour.home.html
WORLD OF COCA-COLA
Skip across Olympic Park (really, it's just a park) from CNN headquarters to the World of Coca-Cola. The ultimate experience here, of course, is the product - but not just the Coke we've all grown up with. Upstairs, in the tasting room, you'll find about 60 soda-pop flavours from around the world.
But before you get all jacked up, look at the photos of Coke deliveries around the world, check out the gallery of Coca-Cola-inspired art, and visit the theatre for a recap of some of the best Coke commercials ("I'd like to teach the world to sing…") - it's a nostalgia rush for pop-culture lovers, no pun intended. Now for the sugar rush. In the tasting room, a bottle line runs overhead, and big dispensing machines beckon throughout the room. If you're an organic, spinach-, chickpea- and granola-pushing parent, your kids may self-combust in a frenzy of soda-pop pleasure. Take in the flavours from around the world (I liked the gingery offering from Tanzania), but don't say we didn't warn you about Beverly from Italy (blech!). And, yes, there's a gift shop.
121 Baker St. NW; $16 for adults, $12 for kids; worldofcoca-cola.com
Creatures in captivity: a morally tricky experience. I confess to enjoying aquariums, especially when I know the aquarium is expanding our understanding of the ocean life we seek to protect. At the Georgia Aquarium, the biggest in the world, you'll find yourself mesmerized by all manner of aquatic life - from tiny, barely moving seahorses to giant, frisky beluga whales. Get a good close-up of the piranhas, and amuse yourself with the always entertaining otters. Pet a stingray and run your fingers through an anemone's tentacles (the venom isn't strong enough to hurt you).
For $225, you can spend 30 minutes swimming with the filter-feeding whale sharks (you're provided with a mask, fins, air supply, booties and a wetsuit, and you get two hours of behind-the-scenes access not offered with regular admission). If time's an issue, opt for the behind-the-scenes tour ($48): Seeing the actual size of the tanks is discomfiting, but the chance to talk with a marine guide, see the whale sharks and giant rays up close, and learn about the academic research being conducted at the aquarium makes it worth it. With that enriched experience, you may walk on by the gift shop (but the stuffed belugas are cute).
225 Baker St.; $36.95 for adults, $27.95 for children; georgiaaquarium.org. (The Atlanta CityPass - $74 for adults, $54 for children - covers CNN, Coca-Cola, the aquarium and a few other sites. The Pemberton Place pass - $39.50 for adults, $29.50 for children - covers Coca-Cola and the aquarium.)
This will be the highlight of your visit to Atlanta, and it's a short taxi ride from the downtown core. Wren's Nest was the home of Joel Chandler Harris (1881-1908), author of the Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit tales. A visit here is timely in light of two much discussed topics: stuttering, and the debate around making Southern literature politically correct. Harris, as his great-great-great grandson, Jonathan Lain, who works here, relates, was a "short, stuttering, stammering, Irish, red-headed bastard." At 13, he went to work on a plantation to support his unmarried mother, and "hung out with the slaves and learned their stories." Then, working as a "printer's devil" setting type, he immersed himself in black culture, internalized the African American folklore, and read classic Western literature.
It was later, during his 25 years at the Atlanta Constitution (where he wrote editorials promoting reconciliation between North and South, black and white, rural and urban) that Harris started publishing the Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus tales he had learned as a teen - in hopes, Lain says, of bringing the cultures together. This was the first serialized narrative, and the first time in print that animals talked and wore clothes and related morality tales (Beatrix Potter illustrated his first book).
The tour of the home is interesting too (especially the worry-knot doll that Harris and his French-Canadian wife used when their children were naughty), but the best part is the storytelling session. Curtis Richardson captivated us from the start. We laughed, we nodded, we hung on in suspense, we joined in on cue, and, in the end, we wished the gift shop was better stocked. Really.
1050 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. SW; $8 for adults, $5 for children; storytelling on Saturdays at 1 p.m.; wrensnestonline.com.
To listen to a story told by world-renowned Georgian storyteller Akbar Imhotep, go to wrensnestonline.com/visit_storyteller.php.