Atlanta is known as the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. and as the cradle of the civil rights movement. It’s where S. Truett Cathy perfected his mouth-watering original chicken sandwich, home to the world’s busiest airport, and where the only Georgian to live in the White House built his presidential library and museum. Whether you are interested in Atlanta’s history, art, sports, food, or culture, these are the 25 best museums in Atlanta.
Hotels.com asked me to share my favorite museums in Atlanta.
Sage Advice: Whether you stay in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Historic District, Arts District, or another part of town, you can find the perfect accommodation for your adventures with one of these fabulous hotels in Atlanta, Georgia.
Shortly after her husband’s assassination, Coretta Scott King founded The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change to preserve his legacy. Now a National Historic Park, the King Center is one of Atlanta’s top destinations. When you visit The King Center, you’ll dive deep into the life of the civil rights leader by touring the two-story Queen Anne style house where he was born, visiting the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where three generations of Kings served as pastor, and exploring the exhibits about the civil rights movement in the visitors center. You can also pay your respects at Dr. and Mrs. King’s crypt.
Sage Advice: There is no fee to park at or visit The King Center, making it one of the most popular free museums in Atlanta.
2. National Center for Civil and Human Rights
After learning more about the life and contributions of one of the United States’ most renowned civil rights leaders at his birthplace, history lovers will want to head over to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The curved building is designed to look like two hands coming together, and its textured tiles in shades of beige and brown represent all skin tones. Inside, visitors can delve into the history of civil and human rights in America, from segregation to the nonviolent protests Martin Luther King, Jr. led in the 1960s to the present-day Black Lives Matter movement.
3. Atlanta History Center
When it comes to the history of Atlanta, the museum, historic houses, and gardens of the Atlanta History Center have it all! Start at the Atlanta History Museum with exhibits that spotlight everything from the indigenous Mississippian people to modern-day Atlantans, the city’s important role during the Civil War and the blockbuster movies filmed locally. Then head outdoors to wander through the gardens and explore the historic homes that are also part of the Atlanta History Center, including the Swan House and Smith Farm.
4. Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum
While Virginia has produced more US presidents than any other state, Georgia is home to just one (so far), Jimmy Carter. History lovers wanting to learn more about the life of POTUS 39 will enjoy the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum. When he left office in January 1981, President Carter was only 56 years old. And as the nation’s oldest living president at the time, his four decades of post-presidency work outshine his time in the Oval Office. With a focus on diplomacy and humanitarian efforts, Carter has earned a Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and two Grammy Awards in a long list of accomplishments.
Related Article: A Visit to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum
5. Margaret Mitchell House
Author Margaret Mitchell penned most of her one-and-only novel, Gone with the Wind, while living in a small apartment in a red brick Tudor Revival just south of the Atlanta Arts District. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the Margaret Mitchell House allows visitors to tour the rooms where she lived with her second husband. But the exhibits that dig into the criticism of the novel are likely to interest history buffs the most when they visit this historic house museum. Although it won a Pulitzer Prize and has long been considered the most popular historic novel from the American Civil War and Reconstruction Era, critics scoff at the derogatory way Gone with the Wind depicts African Americans and the rosy picture it paints of life in the antebellum South.
6. The Wren’s Nest House Museum (Joel Chandler Harris House)
Atlanta was also home to another accomplished writer, Joel Chandler Harris, who wrote a series of books told by fictional character Uncle Remus based on the tales he heard slaves share when he was growing up in the South. Known as Wren’s Nest (due to a family of birds living in the mailbox), the Joel Chandler Harris House is a 19th-century Victorian farmhouse in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood. The creator of Br’er Rabbit began renting the home around the time Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings was published and was able to purchase the home a few years later thanks to its success. Tour the home, see the author’s typewriter, and listen to a story when you visit.
7. APEX Museum
Although it’s been more than 150 years since the Civil War ended, and a woman holds the second-highest office in the land, the history lessons taught in school still predominantly derive from the perspective of white European males, beginning with Christopher Columbus. But just down Auburn Ave from The King Center, the APEX Museum is dedicated to emphasizing the contributions that Black Americans have made throughout history by telling our nation’s story from their eyes. Dive into the horrifying realities of the African Holocaust during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, discover Atlanta’s first African American-owned businesses, admire the accomplishments of chemist Alice Ball, and so much more when you visit APEX.
8. The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum
Just north of the Atlanta Arts District, The Breman Museum shares the history, culture, and art of Jewish Americans. One permanent exhibit, Absence of Humanity, details the events that led to the Holocaust, the unspeakable atrocities that resulted in the deaths of millions of European Jews, and the voices of Altlanta-area survivors. The Breman Museum also includes special exhibits and history talks that dive into topics like antisemitism in Atlanta, the history of Rich’s Department Store, and more.
9. Delta Flight Museum
In addition to birthing Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King, Jr., Georgia gave life to Delta Air Lines. At the Delta Flight Museum, learn more about the little crop dusting company founded in Macon, GA, that grew into the world’s largest public airline with $44.9 billion in annual revenue and nearly 90,000 employees. See one-of-a-kind historical planes like a restored 1940 Douglas DC-3 passenger plane and the last remaining Waco 125 biplane. Or slide into the cockpit of a Boeing 737-200 for a training session in the only full-motion flight simulator open to the public in the United States.
10. High Museum of Art
In a porcelain-tiled building that looks a bit like the Getty meets the Guggenheim, the High Museum of Art is a can’t-miss museum in Atlanta for art lovers. Filled with more than 18,000 pieces, including French terracotta sculptures, impressionist paintings, contemporary photographs, African decorative art, and much more, it’s easy to surround yourself with impressive art from around the world in the heart of Atlanta’s Arts District.
Related Article: 5 Tips to Help Kids of All Ages Appreciate Art Museums
11. Museum of Design Atlanta
Known as MODA, the Museum of Design Atlanta is just across Peachtree St. from the High Museum of Art. On the first few floors of this tall, glass-walled building, art lovers can dive into the design principles that make furniture, toys, vehicles, and kitchen appliances practical works of art in our daily lives.
12. Hammonds House Museum
About ten minutes west of the Sweet Auburn neighborhood that was the center of Martin Luther King, Jr’s life is the beautiful Victorian home of prominent Atlanta physician Dr. Otis Thrash (O.T.) Hammonds. In addition to an impressive list of career accomplishments, including being named the Atlanta Medical Association’s “Man of the Year” in 1985, Dr. Hammonds was also a generous supporter of the arts. After his death from a mysterious illness at the age of 55, his home was transformed into an art museum. When you visit the Hammonds House Museum today, you’ll discover hundreds of works of art across a wide range of media by artists from the African Diaspora.
13. Center for Puppetry Arts
Perhaps it’s because the puppets on Sesame Street reinforced all that my parents taught me as a child, but I’ve admired Jim Henson and adored the Muppets for as long as I can remember. If you are a fellow fan, you’ll want to stop at the Center for Puppetry Arts just northwest of Atlanta’s Arts District. While the museum is largely focused on a younger audience, it’s still a great place for nostalgic grownups to spend a little time with Kermit, Miss Piggy, Oscar, Grover, Elmo, Big Bird, and other Henson characters that are sure to spark wonderful childhood memories.
14. Michael C. Carlos Museum
Located on the main campus of Emory University, the Michael C. Carlos Museum houses the region’s largest collection of ancient art. Discover works from around the world, including masks from Africa, amulets from Egypt, a goblet from Peru, statues of goddesses from Rome, and Buddha statues from Tibet.
15. SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film
Another college campus museum for art lovers is the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. The permanent collection features fashion-forward garments from designers like Pierre Cardin, Diane von Furstenburg, and Karl Lagerfeld that graced fashion-week runways over the past five decades. It also includes exhibitions starring everything from shoe art to movie costume design.
16. Trap Music Museum
For travelers who appreciate that art is more than realistic sculptures of Greek goddesses and pastoral settings painted on canvas, then the Trap Music Museum might be the Atlanta museum for you. But with exhibits that depict drug use and foul language (like the N-word), most parents don’t consider the Trap Music Museum to be a family-friendly activity in Atlanta.
Sage Advice: Parking is $10 cash, so be sure to have a Hamilton on you before heading to the Trap Music Museum.
17. Fernbank Science Center
Explore everything from a prehistoric planet Earth to the mysteries of the universe with a visit to Fernbank Science Center. Stand next to dinosaur skeletons, see the Apollo 6 Command Module on loan from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and sit back and watch a planetarium show. On select evenings (weather permitting), visitors can gaze up at the heavens through the lens of one of the largest telescopes in the US available for public viewing.
18. David J. Sencer CDC Museum
Before COVID-19 made its debut in early 2020, most Americans didn’t spend much time thinking about the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a daily basis. But after the pandemic, this three-letter acronym is now a household name — along with Dr. Anthony Fauci’s — and probably will be for years to come. Science lovers with a passion for public health policy or who work in a health-related field will be fascinated by the permanent and temporary exhibits at the CDC Museum. Learn more about the history of the CDC, from its establishment shortly after World War II to the present day. Discover the agency’s role in eliminating polio, battling rising obesity rates, studying the link between humans and animals in terms of disease control, and more.
Sage Advice: There is no fee to park or visit the CDC Museum, making it one of several free museums in Atlanta.
19. College Football Hall of Fame
Although the first college football game in history took place more than 800 miles north of Atlanta in New Brunswick, New Jersey, between Rutgers and New Jersey (now known as Princeton), Atlanta is home to the College Football Hall of Fame. Visitors will want to search for their alma mater among the 760 helmets on display in The Quad, gaze at the coveted Heisman Memorial Trophy, and get hands-on with the many interactive experiences. Try kicking a field goal, throw a virtual pass, and get behind the microphone as an announcer.
20. Atlanta ‘96 Olympic and Bobby Jones Exhibits at the Atlanta History Museum
Although it was listed above as one of the best museums in Atlanta for history buffs, sports fans will also want to visit the Atlanta History Center for two sports-related experiences. First is “Atlanta ‘96: Shaping an Olympic and Paralympic City”, with 2,600 square feet of exhibits associated with the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta. Relive historic sporting moments and examine examples of the gold, silver, and bronze medals placed around the necks of the champions. The exhibit also details the pipe bombing attack that killed one and injured 111 others, an event that was recently pushed back into the spotlight due to the 2019 Oscar-nominated movie, Richard Jewell.
Golf lovers will want to explore “Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story.” It’s the only permanent exhibit at the Atlanta History Center dedicated to an individual, and it details the ways Bobby Jones popularized the sport, including his role in designing the Augusta National Golf Club and co-founding the Masters Tournament. Admire replicas of Jones’s Grand Slam trophies and the 1930s-era Spalding golf balls that Jones helped design. But most importantly, don’t overlook the scroll that Jones received when he was named a Freeman of St. Andrews in Scotland. (The only other American to ever enjoy this honor was Benjamin Franklin.)
Sage Advice: Sports lovers will also want to check out the World of Coca-Cola (mentioned below), where Olympic pins and torches are on display. When we visited, a museum docent was carrying an Olympic torch around the exhibit and my daughter was allowed to hold it!
21. World of Coca-Cola
If you think the last place you want to spend precious vacation time is in a shrine to carbonated sugar water, I understand how you feel. It was exactly my sentiment when my daughter added World of Coca-Cola to her “must-see” list for our trip to Atlanta. But our proven process for planning family travel requires compromises so that everyone has a chance to experience what matters most to them, and so off we went! As it turns out, World of Coca-Cola was one of my favorite museums in Atlanta! Learn more about the incredible cultural impact that Coca-Cola has made around the world over the past century, including its role in shaping Santa Claus as we know (and love) him today. One of the coolest exhibits was “Taste It!” where we had the opportunity to try Coke products from around the world, including coffee drinks for me!
Related Article: A Visit to the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia
22. Chick-fil-A Backstage Tour
While the original Chick-fil-A location (known as the Dwarf House) is in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville, fans who like to “eat mor chikin” can take a guided tour of the 80-acre Chick-fil-A Support Center just a few minutes from the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Visitors will learn about the company’s founder, S. Truett Cathy, the original chicken sandwich he invented in 1964, and the company’s culture (including why they’re always closed on Sundays). Mirroring the fast-food chain’s mouthwatering menu, visitors can choose between the original and deluxe tours. While the deluxe chicken sandwich adds lettuce, tomato, and a slice of cheese to the original chicken sandwich, the deluxe tour is about 15 minutes longer and includes a one-on-one visit with the Archives Team and a peek inside The Nest, the company’s test kitchen and training center.
Sage Advice: Whether you order the original or the deluxe, there is no charge for either Chick-fil-A backstage tour.
23. Waffle House Museum
In the eastern suburb of Decatur, about 20 minutes from downtown Atlanta, the Waffle House Museum preserves the original location of the 24-hour, breakfast-all-day chain that now boasts more than 2,000 locations from coast to coast. The arrow on the bumblebee-colored signature sign points you to the restored restaurant and memorabilia-packed museum. See the chain’s original menus, place settings, uniforms, and more.
Sage Advice: There is no admission fee to visit the Waffle House Museum.
24. Children’s Museum of Atlanta
If you are visiting with children eight and under, one of the best museums in Atlanta is the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. Pint-sized guests will enjoy collecting eggs from the chicken coop, delivering goods to the grocery store, stocking shelves, and filling up their carts. They can also travel to the center of the Earth, explore the world’s surface, and launch rockets in this out-of-the-world, please-touch museum designed to educate and inspire.
25. Atlanta Monetary Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
To learn more about the history of money, from bartering goods to the paper money and coins in circulation today, and the Federal Reserve’s role with respect to the American economy, head to the Atlanta Monetary Museum. After exploring the interactive exhibits, get a glimpse of the cash-processing operations, where millions of dollars are processed daily, and the bank’s automated vault.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Museums in Atlanta, GA
What is the best museum in Atlanta?
Identifying a single best museum in Atlanta is impossible because of each traveler’s unique preferences. But to help you find the best museum in Atlanta based on your interests, browse the list above that identifies the best museums in Atlanta for history buffs, art lovers, science fans, foodies, and more.
Who owns the Trap Museum in Atlanta?
The Trap Museum was founded by Atlanta rapper and actor T.I. It includes some of his clothes, assault rifles, and his 2008 Grammy for Best Rap Performance.
Is there a wax museum in Atlanta?
According to this article, Underground Atlanta once included a wax museum. To the best of my knowledge, there is no longer a wax museum in Atlanta.
Who designed the High Museum in Atlanta?
The High Museum was designed by Richard Meier. The Pritzker Prize-winning architect won several awards for the magnificent building, including the National Honor and Distinguished Architecture Awards from the American Institute of Architects.
What year did the Coke Museum open in Atlanta?
The World of Coca-Cola opened to the public in its new location near the Georgia Aquarium on May 24, 2007, moving from an older exhibit established in 1990 in Underground Atlanta.
Is there a Holocaust Museum in Atlanta, Georgia?
The Breman Museum has a permanent exhibit dedicated to the Holocaust. Titled Absence of Humanity, it details the events that led to the Holocaust, the unspeakable atrocities that resulted in the deaths of millions of European Jews, and the voices of Altlanta-area survivors.
Where is the Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta?
As one of the cities that claims to be the cradle of the civil rights movement, Atlanta is home to several museums with exhibits about its role in the movement. If you’re interested in this important ongoing chapter in American history, be sure to visit these museums in Atlanta:
What Do You Think is the Best Museum in Atlanta?
Why is it your favorite museum in Atlanta? Are there any museums in Atlanta that you’d add to this list? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
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