“What’ll ya have?”
~ The Varsity
We’re heading to the deep South! This week we’re spotlighting another destination that holds appeal for both educational and performance tours. Atlanta is a city with a lot of history, a lot of character, and a lot of charm. It’s also super affordable, which makes it an ideal choice for student groups who have already done the “DC thing” and are looking for something new.
1. The King Center and MLK, Jr. National Historic Site
I know, this is two sites again, but they really should be done together to get the full MLK experience while in Atlanta. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent and Social Change, which was founded in 1968 by Coretta Scott King, is the official, living memorial dedicated to advancing Dr. King’s legacy. The King Center houses the world’s largest collection of primary source material on MLK and the Civil Rights movement, along with Dr. King’s tomb. The Historic Site is where you will be able to tour MLK’s birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church, where you can listen to recordings of Dr. King’s speeches and sermons. Tours of the birth home can be hard to come by, but groups are able to reserve up to three time slots per day (15 people per reservation for a total of 45 people each day).
No visit to Atlanta is complete without spending a few hours at what was once the world’s largest aquarium. Popular with groups of all ages, the Georgia Aquarium is home to some magnificent creatures including whale sharks, manta rays, and (my personal favorite) beluga whales. Most student groups opt for self-guided tours, but the aquarium does offer instructor-led programs for groups of all ages.
Just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Georgia Aquarium another Atlanta icon, the World of Coca-Cola. Student tour groups will have the opportunity to learn about the history of Atlanta’s favorite soda and spend some time in the world-famous tasting room where everyone can sample Coke products from around the world. Pro tip – The Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola are within walking distance of one another, so it makes sense to schedule the two activities on the same day. If you add in the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, you easily have a full day of activities.
If your student group is looking to spend a little time outside, look no further than Stone Mountain. There are many activities to choose from at the park, but highlights include the Summit Skyride and the Lasershow Spectacular. The Lasershow in particular is a wonderful nighttime activity for your group.
You can’t go to Atlanta and not stop at the Varsity for a quick lunch or dinner. Located right outside of Georgia Tech’s campus, this huge, quick serve restaurant, famous for its chili dogs and Frosted Orange milkshakes, is a “can’t miss” experience.
For Performance Groups
Ideal for choral groups with at least 30 performers, Holiday in the Park is an adjudicated event offered through Southern Star Music Festivals. The event is open to church, elementary, middle, and high school groups and makes for a fun and festive performance tour for your students. Tickets to Six Flags are included in the event price. You can either book direct with Southern Star Music Festivals or through your tour operator.
Located in the heart of Downtown Atlanta, Centennial Olympic Park features a 22-acre green space, the Fountain of Rings Plaza, and Southern Company Amphitheater where your group can perform.
Another adjudicated music festival, the Atlanta Heritage Festival offers your choir, band, or orchestra the opportunity to perform on stage at the Georgia Aquarium in front of three adjudicators followed by a mini-clinic and an awards ceremony. This event is operated by Worldstrides.
The Alliance Theatre is Atlanta’s national theater and offers programming for all ages. Depending on your schedule, your group can take in a show, attend a workshop, or both! Specially designed workshops are offered through the Alliance Theatre Institute and can host up to 30 students at a time.
If you’re looking for a truly memorable experience for your performance group, check out the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. This event includes a bit of site-seeing, a competition with an awards banquet, and your band will perform in the bowl game Pregame Massed Band Show. Again, you can book direct through the event organizers or through your performance tour company.
Disclaimer! Many sites, venues and activities are closed, have limited hours or other various restrictions due to Covid-19. Be sure to check with your tour company and/or the sites themselves for more detailed information.