Rediscover Nature Along the Golden Isles

It’s said that the Golden Isles got its name 400 years ago from Spanish explorers in search of gold. 

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Encore at Wynn Las Vegas
Encore at Wynn Las Vegas

Encore at Wynn Las Vegas

Opened in December 2008, the 2,034-room Encore is all about pure opulence, including the gorgeous European Pool. The classically elegant pool surrounds a unique outdoor casino. 960 1280

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Mondrian Los Angeles

Mondrian Los Angeles

This ornately designed Sunset Strip hotel has an exclusive pool and poolside lounge, and more scene than even the Sunset Marquis. The Mondrian Los Angeles’ white walls and hanging potted plants gives this pool a beachy feel -- despite it being several stories above bustling Sunset Boulevard. 960 1280

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La Reunion Golf Resort & Residences

La Reunion Golf Resort & Residences

La Reunion Antigua Golf Resort is an outstanding luxury pick, located in the shadow of 4 volcanoes -- 2 of them active -- about 30 minutes from the colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala. Rooms have private patios with infinity-edge swimming pools, but the resort also has a main pool as well as a separate kiddy pool. These gorgeous volcanic views are hard to beat. 960 1280

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Gansevoort Turks and Caicos

Gansevoort Turks and Caicos

The Gansevoort Turks and Caicos is without a doubt the sexiest resort on Grace Bay, and a large part of its appeal is thanks to its stunning pool surrounded by palm trees. The pool features 4 hard-decked islands. 960 1280

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The Joule

The Joule

The Joule is one of the coolest -- and most luxurious -- hotels in Downtown Dallas. And it features one of the most talked about pools in the states. The Joule's cantilevered pool juts out over Main Street, so swimmers can get a glimpse of pedestrians below. 960 1280

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Biltmore Coral Gables

Biltmore Coral Gables

Built in 1926, the iconic Biltmore, a national landmark, brings timeless luxury to Miami’s hotel scene. Though far from any beaches, it offers -- among many other luxuries -- an amazing pool. This 22,000-square-foot pool is the largest in the continental U.S. Actor Johnny Weissmuller, better known as Tarzan, was a swimming instructor at the pool many years ago. 960 1280

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Gansevoort Park Avenue

Gansevoort Park Avenue

This 249-room hotel with flashy decor, lots of bars, and an outdoor pool is the uptown sister to the original, once wildly popular Hotel Gansevoort. The Gansevoort chain knows how to do their pools. One of only a handful of rooftop pools in New York, this is the only one that features a sexy pin-up mural. Plus, the pool has an underwater sound system and is a popular scene during the summertime. 960 1280

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Ventana Inn & Spa

Ventana Inn & Spa

Situated on more than 200 acres of picturesque land -- in Big Sur, CA -- , the Ventana Inn & Spa looks like a rustic cabin nestled in the woods -- yet it features a long list of on-site amenities, including 2 pools. This pool is in a secluded spot for a reason -- it's the resort's clothing-optional pool. So forget your bathing suit and enjoy a dip au naturel. 960 1280

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Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa

Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa

The beautifully designed, 780-room Grand Wailea has one of the top US spas, a prime location on one of the best US beaches, and 9 pools -- including arguably the best one in Hawaii. The massive main pool has several fun features, including volleyball nets, a waterslide, and a rope swing. Dive in! 960 1280

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Four Seasons Maui

Four Seasons Maui

An immaculate, art-filled property fronting Wailea beach, the Four Seasons Miami stands at the pinnacle of the area's resorts, offering spacious rooms, a top-notch staff and a slew of amenities, including three high-design pools. The poolside cabana staff refills guests' free glasses of ice water, and employees patrol the lounge chairs with cold towels and spray-bottles of Evian to spritz guests' faces. 960 1280

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Royal Corin Resort

Royal Corin Resort

For Costa Rica’s Royal Corin Resort & Loto Spa, this 54-room boutique hotel has a lot to offer, including great views of Arenal volcano, a lovely spa, a bar with an outdoor terrace, an on-site restaurant and a beautiful pool. This hot springs pool features natural thermal waters that help guests relax and take in the scenery. 960 1280

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The Raleigh Hotel

The Raleigh Hotel

Some things at the Raleigh Hotel are vintage-bordering-on-dated, but not the stunning free-form pool. This pool became a Miami landmark when former swimmer and movie star Esther Williams leapt from its waterfall diving board in a sequined bathing cap. 960 1280

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12 Amazing Pools  12 Photos

Disney Fantasy
Disney Fantasy

Disney Fantasy

The fourth ship in the Disney fleet, the Disney Fantasy has 14 decks and can accommodate 4,000 passengers. Visit one of the 3 different pools on deck 11, or splash around in the AquaLab, a 1,800 square foot water play area. When you’ve had enough fun in the sun, catch a Disney musical show or a first-run movie in 3D. 960 1280

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Carnival Magic

Carnival Magic

Test your climbing ability at Carnival Magic’s SportSquare, the world’s first ropes course at sea! If you’d rather keep your feet firmly planted on the deck, catch a movie or sports game on the ship’s huge outdoor screen at the Seaside Theatre. 960 1280

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MSC Divina

MSC Divina

Stare out to sea from MSC Divina’s infinity pool. For a more exclusive and luxurious experience, upgrade to the MSC Yacht Club and enjoy a private pool deck with a private restaurant featuring panoramic views. 960 1280

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Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Epic

The Norwegian Epic certainly lives up to its name. With performances by the Blue Man Group and the Second City, an Aqua Park complete with 3 waterslides, Nickelodeon characters and 20 different dining options, the ship has something for everyone. Have a drink in the Svedka ice bar and then head to Spice H20—an adults-only Ibiza-inspired beach club (pictured here). 960 1280

Norwegian Cruise Line  

MSC Fantasia

MSC Fantasia

The new flagship of MSC cruises, the Fantasia has staircases made of Swarovski crystals and a transparent ceiling for stargazing. If that’s not enough to make you sign up, the Fantasia also has an Aqua Park, a Formula 1 simulator and an interactive 4D theatre. 960 1280

MSC   

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas has everything you could ever dream of…including a zipline that’s 9 decks in the air. Climb a rock wall, test your skills in a surf simulator, go ice skating on the rink, play a round of mini golf or see a performance of Hairspray. There’s even a Starbucks on board! 960 1280

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Carnival Breeze

Carnival Breeze

Think all cruise food is boring? Think again. Hop aboard the Carnival Breeze and sample signature burgers by celebrity Food Network chef Guy Fieri. Then, take in a “5D” movie—a 3D movie with special effects and moving seats. 960 1280

Carnival Cruise Lines  

Ruby Princess

Ruby Princess

Christened in 2008 by Trista and Ryan Sutter of The Bachelorette, the Ruby Princess is a perfect ship for couples. Relax in a cabana in the adults-only sundeck called The Sanctuary, or cozy up for a first-run movie in the outdoor theatre. 960 1280

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Celebrity Silhouette

Celebrity Silhouette

On the Celebrity Silhouette, order food and wine from an iPad menu in one restaurant and sample 50 international craft beers in another. Take a painting class, grill your own food in the “Lawn Club,” or rent one of the cabana-style “Alcoves” for a relaxing day at sea. 960 1280

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Disney Dream

Disney Dream

As the only cruise line to feature fireworks at sea, Disney's Dream lights up the sky to dazzle guests with the largest fireworks extravaganza presented aboard a cruise ship. The skies above the Disney Dream explode with brilliant colors during "Buccaneer Blast!" -- a pyrotechnic spectacular choreographed to a dramatic score featuring songs from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, "Peter Pan" and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" attraction at the Disney theme parks. 960 1280

Matt Stroshane/Disney  

Mickey's Pool, a favorite feature of the Disney Cruise Line fleet, continues on the Disney Dream. This play area for children features a Mickey Mouse-shaped pool and an oversized version of Mickey's hand supporting a yellow winding slide that splashes down into the pool area. 960 1280

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Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas' AquaTheater located in the ships Boardwalk neighborhood, hosts spectacular shows during its voyage. 960 1280

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Fireworks cast a colorful light on the Queen Mary 2. 960 1280

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Passengers aboard the Queen Mary 2 can enjoy planetarium shows in Illuminations. 960 1280

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Norwegian Pearl

Norwegian Pearl

The Norwegian Pearl's pool area can easily be mistaken for a full-blown water park. 960 1280

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The Emerald Princess Piazza dazzles passengers with its opulence. 960 1280

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Photos

Southern Soul Barbeque

Southern Soul Barbeque

This BBQ joint has put St. Simons on the culinary map, not only earning noteworthy applause from Garden and Gun Magazine and Southern Living, but also landing spots on TLC’s “BBQ Pitmasters” and Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Fame hasn’t changed the way owners Giffin Bufkin and Harrison Sapp have always made good food: slow, steady, and in full southern style. Their rubs are made from scratch daily, they bottle their own sauces and they cook in an outdoor pit using only wood. Pulled pork and sweet ribs coated in brown sugar and tupelo honey rank among the favorites, but the Brunswick stew, homemade pimento cheese and smoked chicken salad can’t be overlooked. Meat and three? Yes, please.

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Andrew Thomas Lee  

Halyards Restaurant St Simons Island Georgia

Halyards Restaurant St Simons Island Georgia

This restaurant seamlessly blends laid-back island environment with upscale food. Owner and Executive Chef Dave Snyder consistently impresses guests with creative dishes thoughtfully—and locally—sourced. Chef Snyder recognizes that Georgia is home to some of the best family-owned farms and dairies, and with an entire ocean at his front door, his food brings new meaning to fresh and farm-to-table. The wild Georgia shrimp and grits is a must-have, and there’s a good reason why the recipe for the creamy blue crab bisque has remained the same for decades: if it ain’t broke...

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The Darkroom Photography  

Palmer’s Village Café

Palmer’s Village Café

“The place” for breakfast, this local hot-spot, inconspicuously nestled in the The Village and tucked behind unassuming wooden doors, is home to five-star Chef John “JB” Belechak and his mind-blowing culinary creations. But it’s entirely without pretension. The playful menu features everything from poached eggs over collard greens and house-made tomato jam to what’s known as The Local (aka “The Islander”), an artistically designed egg white tri-fold with avocado, cheese and bacon served with seared tomatoes and arugula topped with cucumber ribbons. Yes, ribbons. Breakfast is so popular here, it’s served all day. But Chef JB—whose resume includes Blackberry Farm and The Cloister at Sea Island—offers an entirely new dinner menu every week based on what’s in season from local and regional farmers. You know, to keep things fresh.


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Palmer's Village Cafe  

Palm Coast Coffee, Cafe and Pub

Palm Coast Coffee, Cafe and Pub

As the name indicates, this unassuming little yellow house has it all. In addition to being an authentic island coffee house offering homemade sweets and an open mic, Palm Coast transforms every weekend into one of the island’s most popular outdoor music venues for local and regional talent. The outdoor patio and courtyard is pet-friendly and home to a few Palm Coast fur babies itself. An affordable menu (the most expensive being the popular seared Ahi tuna wrap for a mere $13) and an extensive and constantly evolving craft-brew menu keeps customers coming back for more.

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Palm Coast  

4-Hour Music Fest

4-Hour Music Fest

For four years running, Palm Coast Coffee, Cafe and Pub has played host to four hours of non-stop rocking revelry at this intimate musical celebration on Labor Day weekend. From 8 p.m. until midnight, audiences fill the outdoor courtyard and patio, tossing back craft brews and cocktails, and keeping time with the tunes from local and regional talent. Seven bands play everything from Celtic folk to acoustic rock, delighting concert goers with an authentic, grassroots music festival—for nothing more than a cover charge.

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Anthony Stubelek  

A Little Light Music

A Little Light Music

Each year the Coastal Georgia Historical Society releases the lineup for its summer concert series, A Little Light Music. The season runs May-September, so it’s easy to catch any one of the concerts that fall on select Sundays each month. Taking place on the seaside lawn of the historic St. Simons Lighthouse, musicians from around country entertain crowds from the outdoor gazebo with classic rock, Motown, blues and more, depending on the day. Concert goers are encouraged to bring their own beach chairs and blankets to beat the evening breeze, as well as pack picnics and libations for an easy-going experience for the whole family.

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Eliot VanOtteren, Coastal Georgia Historical Society   

Sounds by the Sea

Sounds by the Sea

Rounding out the calendar of summertime music-going experiences is this summer concert series presented by the Golden Isles Arts & Humanities. On alternate Sundays of A Little Light Music, Sounds by the Sea takes place on the expansive lawn (the “casino”) of St. Simons’ most popular ocean-side park, Neptune Park. Concert goers spread out their beach chairs and coolers under the live oaks to enjoy any one of the five concerts specifically scheduled during high tide for a bug-free evening of music with a welcoming ocean breeze.

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GoldenIsles.com   

Local Talent Phil Morrison

Local Talent Phil Morrison

A bevy of skilled musicians continue to breathe life into the Island’s live-music scene. These talents include none other than bassist/songwriter Phil Morrison. Known best as a member of the late ‘60s and ‘70s electric jazz group Stark Reality, Morrison has also played with the great Dizzy Gillespie and Freddy Cole (Nat’s youngest brother). As both a world-class musician and a Golden Isles resident, he and his jazz ensemble are a crowd favorite and often headline the island’s summer concerts. Morrison even wrote the official song of the Golden Isles, “Take me to the coast of Georgia.”

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Anthony Stubelek  

St. Simons Food and Spirits Festival

St. Simons Food and Spirits Festival

For five days during the first week of October, the Food and Spirits Festival transforms the island into a non-stop drinking and dining extravaganza that showcases the area’s top culinary talents. The main event, Tastings Under the Oak, which offers hundreds of food and drink tastings, takes place in the historic—and breathtakingly scenic—Gascoigne Bluff Park. Festival goers enjoy dozens of additional events across the Golden Isles like the Chef Showdown, Farmers and Artisans Market, oyster roast and even a Kids Zone. In its fourth year, the festival is quickly becoming a culinary destination event.

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Benjamin Galland  

Cassina Garden Club Slave Cabins

Cassina Garden Club Slave Cabins

A significant piece of African-American history resides on a former working plantation at Casciogne Bluff on the western side of the island. There, in the late 18th century, James Hamilton built four slave quarters made of tabby—a mixture of lime, sand, water and oyster shells—as part of a planned community of slave dwellings to work the 500 acres of the antebellum plantation that harvested Sea Island cotton and logged timbers. British troops later raided and looted the Hamilton Plantation during the War of 1812, liberating many of Hamilton’s slaves.

The Cassina Garden Club were deeded the property in 1950 and proudly took on the role of land stewards, restoring the two remaining cabins with as much historic accuracy as possible. Their work earned the cabins a place on the National Register of Historic places in 1988.
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Johnson Pictures Inc., GoldenIsles.com  

Fort Frederica National Monument

Fort Frederica National Monument

James Oglethorpe built the fort in 1736 to protect the southern border of Georgia from the encroaching Spanish. Overlooking the Frederica River, the military outpost gave the British an important vantage point from which they could control the inland passage up the coastline and operated as a hub of military operations for more than a decade. Most notably, the fortified walls proved impenetrable by the Spanish during the Battle of Bloody Marsh in 1742. Shortly after that British victory, the fort disbanded. 


Today, visitors walk among the fort’s archaeological remnants that include the ruins of the palisade walls, the magazine where gun power was stored and a soldiers’ barrack. The property, which is managed by the National Parks Service, also includes burial grounds from the 1700s, with ancient tombs emerging from layers of natural overgrowth.

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Johnson Pictures Inc., GoldenIsles.com  

Christ Church

Christ Church

Built in 1820, Christ Church is the second oldest Diocese in Georgia and regarded as one of America’s most beautiful churches—and most photographed. The quaint chapel not only serves as a memorial to John and Charles Wesley, the founders of the Methodist Church who delivered sermons there under a magnificent oak, but also to a young man’s lost love.


After Union forces nearly destroyed the church during the Civil War, 24-year-old Rev. Anson Dodge, Jr. financed its reconstruction in honor of his wife, Ellen, who died unexpectedly on their honeymoon. Anson had her buried beneath the altar. The peaceful and pristine grounds also bear one of the oldest cemeteries in the state, where a number of well-known Georgians rest, including novelist Eugenia Price.

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Chris Bordeleau, GoldenIsles.com  

Avenue of Oaks

Avenue of Oaks

Many a country club boasts a grand entrance, replete with auspicious waterfalls and Roman statues, but few can compare to the natural, breathtaking beauty encountered upon the approach to the Sea Island Golf Club on St. Simons. Formerly the entrance to the most prosperous antebellum plantation in the Golden Isles, double rows of majestic 160-year-old live oaks form an expansive canopy. It’s said that at one time the property boasted so many flowers that sailors could smell their alluring fragrance before ever stepping foot on land. 960 1280

GoldenIsles.com  

St. Simons Lighthouse

St. Simons Lighthouse

The white statuesque lighthouse is a signature of St. Simons—as is the ghost rumored to roam its spiral staircase. After the original lighthouse was destroyed by retreating Confederate troops during the Civil War, the U.S. Government built the current 104-foot structure in 1872. Eight years later, the keeper at the time, Frederick Osborn, was killed in a duel on the grounds by his assistant keeper. Reports of hearing mysterious footsteps along the staircase have been made ever since.

The keepers’ brick cottage at the base of the lighthouse has been converted into a popular museum, but the 129-step to the top of the tower is well worth the breathtaking, panoramic view of the Golden Isles.
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GoldenIsles.com  

Rooted in the South

Rooted in the South

The South is well-known for its cotton and rice production in the 1800s, but few realize that timber was also a thriving industry. St. Simons began exporting lumber in the late 1700s. The timber harvested from Gasciogne Bluff was sent up north to build the USS Constitution, better known as “Old Ironsides,” as the hardy oak planks helped prevent cannonballs from penetrating the ship. Nearly a century later, lumber from St. Simons was also used in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. 960 1280

Johnson Pictures Inc., GoldenIsles.com  

Ebo Landing

Ebo Landing

In 1803, a slave ship made the harrowing trek through the Middle Passage and landed in Savannah, Georgia, to be sold at the slave market. There, some of the African people known as the “Igbo” (also spelled Ebo or Ibo) were purchased and sent by boat to a plantation on St. Simons Island. En route, the Africans united and rebelled, sending their captors overboard. From there, the story of the Igbo’s landing on Dunbar Creek diverges along several paths.


One written account claims that the Africans immediately walked into the creek, proudly singing, “The Water Spirit brought us, the Water Spirit will take us home,” and drowned themselves. Other stories claim only a few drowned, and the survivors were re-enslaved or relocated. But another account, handed down by African American oral tradition, is known as the “Myth of the Flying Africans,” and has been immortalized by notable writers like Toni Morrison, Alex Haley and Jamaica Kincaid, to name a few. According to the legend, the Africans transformed into buzzards and flew back to Africa. While a historical marker does not yet officially designate the private property on which Ebo Landing exists, it will forever be an important piece of African America.

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GoldenIsles.com  

Wesley Memorial and Gardens

Wesley Memorial and Gardens

On the grounds of Christ Church, one can enter the venerate scape of the Wesley Gardens. The 2-acre garden is adorned with 4,000 azaleas and shrubs of 60 varieties, of particular interest to visitors with green thumbs. But the garden’s centerpiece remains the 18-foot Celtic cross made of Georgia stone to honor the early ministries of John and Charles Wesley.

The brothers came to Georgia in 1736. And while Charles was revered as a poet and writer who penned well-known hymns like “Hark the Herald,” and served as Oglethorpe’s secretary of Indian Affairs, John would be remembered as the founder of American Methodism.
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GoldenIsles.com  

Tree Spirits

Tree Spirits

As the legend goes, back in 1982, local resident and artist Keith Jennings first carved a face into the truck of an oak behind the local haunt Murray’s Tavern in an attempt to settle a bar tab. The intricate weathered face then inspired Jennings to carve more than 16 in the trunks and severed branches of trees across the island. Many of the faces allegedly pay homage to the sailors who lost their lives at sea, but it’s more likely that the trees themselves determine the spirit that emerges from their skin. Either way, the artistically rendered faces perpetually serve as a reminder of the creative talent literally carved into the island’s roots. 960 1280

GoldenIsles.com  

10 Photos

Enjoy the city lights of Atlanta's skyline at dusk. 960 1280

  

Art aficionados should make a trip to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. 960 1280

  

Explore the Margaret Mitchell House, the home of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author who penned Gone With the Wind. 960 1280

  

Figures of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis are carved into the bas-relief of Stone Mountain. 960 1280

  

Visit Turner Field to catch an Atlanta Braves baseball game. 960 1280

  

The Wren's Nest is the home of Joel Chandler Harris, author of the Brer Rabbit and Uncle Remus tales. 960 1280

  

World of Coca Cola

World of Coca Cola

One of Atlanta's main attractions, the World of Coca Cola attracts over a million visitors each year. Get a look at Coke bottles from around the world, learn about the soda’s secret formula, watch the bottling process, sample all of Coca-Cola’s products and check out the Pop Culture Gallery full of memorabilia. 960 1280

Allee Sangiolo  

Centennial Olympic Park

Centennial Olympic Park

Centennial Park was built for the 1996 Summer Olympics. It is now host to special events, including Family Fun Days. 960 1280

Allee Sangiolo  

Atlanta Aquarium

Atlanta Aquarium

The Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the world, and it has attracted more than 6 million visitors. 960 1280

Josh Hallett, flickr  

Atlanta Botanical Garden

Atlanta Botanical Garden

Atlanta Botanical Garden, a 30-acre garden in Midtown Atlanta. Get a look at the trees and plants from 40 feet in the air on the 600-foot-log Kendeda Canopy Walk. 960 1280

David Berkowitz, flickr  

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