5 Places History Buffs Should Visit in Atlanta

Sure, Atlanta is a hip, modern city, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on throwback charm for all the history lovers out there.

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Sure, Atlanta is a hip, modern city, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on throwback charm for all the history lovers out there. It has a long, colorful history that includes surviving the Civil War and producing the African American leader who was the driving force behind Civil Rights. Add a few of the city’s historical highlights to your list for your next visit.

1. Oakland Cemetery

An 1850s cemetery may not seem like your go-to entertainment destination, but think about it for a minute. Atlanta legends like golf hall-of-famer Bobby Jones and the city’s first African American mayor, Maynard Jackson, lay to rest at Oakland Cemetery. Tour guides tell their stories along with lesser known tales of Confederate soldiers, statesmen, and everyday folks buried onsite. Bonus points for being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Large headstone featuring a lion at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia, on a sunny day

Oakland Cemetery by London looks used under CC BY 2.0

2. Margaret Mitchell House

When Margaret Mitchell started writing “Gone with the Wind” in the 1920s, no one cared or even paid attention. Now, her Midtown Atlanta home (which she jokingly called The Dump) is a museum, and visitors from around the world flock to Margaret Mitchell House for a peek inside the life of the author. Learn how the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel became a movie classic, and relive the 1939 world premiere in Atlanta. You also get some juicy inside scoop on Margaret, the feisty reporter who scandalized early 20th century society by working as a flapper.

External view of The Margaret Mitchell House, home to the author of Gone with the Wind in Midtown Atlanta, Georgia, on a sunny day

The Margaret Mitchell House, Atlanta, Georgia by Lars Juhl Jensen used under CC BY 2.0

3. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site

One of Atlanta’s most popular tourist attractions is also the biggest. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site covers 35 historic acres in the center of the city — and that doesn’t even include The King Center where Dr. King is buried. It does include various historic buildings and the World Peace Rose Garden. Tour MLK’s birth home and the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where he became a minister. Don’t miss the Civil Rights movement exhibit inside the Visitor Center. It’s serious stuff, but the overall tone is hopeful and optimistic.

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4. The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum

The Breman Museum sheds light on a little-known part of Atlanta’s history. You can read first-hand accounts and see memorabilia from metro Atlanta Holocaust survivors and important figures in the Jewish community. The exhibits may surprise you with their variety: period dolls and games, medallions, a 1946 wedding dress, and souvenirs from the Cotton States and International Exposition of 1895. If you can, catch one of the special events. The Breman hosts everything from storytelling to historic tours, both good options for families wanting to learn something new together.

Colorful Visitor Center mural in Atlanta, Georgia shows Martin Luther King Jr and his family

Visitor Center mural by Malcolm Surgenor used under CC BY 2.0

5. Atlanta History Center

Several museums rolled into one, the Atlanta History Center takes a deep dive into the city’s past. How deep? It covers just about all of it: folk art, sports, Coca-Cola, Native Americans, the Civil War, and much more. It’s located in Buckhead, Atlanta’s swankiest neighborhood, so it’s no surprise to find the Swan House nearby. This 1920s mansion shows you how the other half lived in glam “Gatsby” style.

On a more down-to-earth level, the Smith Family Farm, Atlanta’s oldest surviving farmstead, is also nearby. It’s not fancy, but it’s practical and interesting. You can catch live demos of all kinds of things related to 1840s farm life: blacksmithing, weaving, cooking, animal care, and more.

What piece of Atlanta history do you like best? Tell us on Twitter.

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