Best Museums in Atlanta

History and Art Take Center Stage at Atlanta's 10 Best Museums

Atlanta’s museums brilliantly highlight her rich and tumultuous history, and well as her increasing notoriety in the nation’s art and culture scene. From the precious art of High Museum Atlanta to the high-tech touches at the College Football Hall of Fame, patrons continuously meet with engaging opportunities for fun and learning.

The permanent and visiting exhibits in Atlanta display captivating exhibits to draw you in, but the special programming they offer will win you over. High Museum of Art hosts a number of city-celebrated programs, including Friday night lectures and live music, monthly free family programming, open studio time for teens and a host of free events on the Sifly Piazza. Michael C Carlos, a museum of ancient art, provides monthly story time for children, workshops for teachers, film screenings, workshops for older children and more.

Celebrate Civil Rights with Martin Luther King, Jr at his home and at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, which is one of 100 stops on the new US Civil Rights Trail.  Also greatly anticipated is the opening of the new exhibit at Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Eight acres of all-new experiences set in the natural woodlands adjacent to the Museum will feature family-friendly and inspiring ways to explore and enjoy nature.

Whether you prefer history, art, special programming or something altogether different, the Museums in Atlanta will impress and delight you.


Center for Puppetry Arts
Photo courtesy of Center for Puppetry Arts

Show your love for all things puppets at the Center for Puppetry Arts. Regularly playing host to puppet performances for adults and children, the site is also home to a museum featuring permanent and visiting exhibits. View examples of shadow, rod, marionette and hand puppets as you admire the extensive display of puppetry paraphernalia. Entry to the museum also grants you access to visiting exhibitions as well, perfect for visitors of all ages. After a tour of the museums, be sure to purchase a ticket to one of the center's phenomenal performances (there are shows tailored specifically to adults, too.) The new museum expansion opens November 14, 2015. It will bring the Center's world-renowned collection and the largest collection of Henson's art to a wider audience, and it will continue to make the Center a one-of-a-kind experience within the world of puppetry.

Recommended for Museums because: One of only four puppet museums in the nation, the performances here are world-class. Also available are workshops, classes, film screenings and much more.

Claudine's expert tip: If you live in Fulton County, you can also attend the museum for free on the first Saturday of each month.

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Feel the excitement and spirit of college football fanfare from the moment you step inside the football-shaped building. Your ticket includes high-tech RFID credentials. This microchip-enabled ticket personalizes your museum experience. You see stats, photos and intel about your favorite college football team displayed on walls and kiosks as you wind your way through the exhibits. It also allows you to show off your football experience with friends. Once home, log onto the website to retrieve photos and videos from your visit, such as your ESPN call of the game or your fight-song karaoke tune. The big draw for many visitors is the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl Skill Zone. Kick a field goal, run through a training course, or take the quarterback challenge. After that, make your way to the Game Day Theater, where the energy of college football comes to life.

Recommended for Museums because: High-tech ticketing that allows you to take the college football experience home with you spells a "touchdown" for this museum.

Lesli's expert tip: Don't miss the Game Day Theater programming. It's the perfect way to get into the spirit of the museum.

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Explore the history of Coca-Cola in the 60,000+ square foot exhibit. You'll find the world's largest permanent display of Coke memorabilia, a tasting room and a behind-the-scenes look at the bottling process. The tasting includes over 100 beverages from around the world. Plan to spend 1-2 hours at the museum in order to see a show at the 4D Theatre, pose for a picture with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear or take a multimedia journey through Coke's exciting past. The World of Coke is especially fun for those visiting with young children. They will find the tasting room and the possibility of sampling so many varieties exciting. It is also fun to see the history of Coca-Cola from its beginning to how far the company has come today.

Recommended for Museums because: Coke is more than a drink; it's a culture. From the Pemberton's apothocary to flavors from around the world, there is much to see here.

Kelly's expert tip: Sample a range of Coca-Cola flavors you never knew existed.

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Breman Museum of Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum highlights the achievements of Jewish people and promotes justice. When you visit, you might see exhibits on the Holocaust, the history of Jewish people and the exhibits focused on the Jewish community in the Atlanta area. Visitors can learn about the contributions that the Jewish people have made to Atlanta from 1845 to the present. Browse through the family photographs, documents and personal belongings of some of the people impacted by the Holocaust. You can also read about the tour before you go, by reading an online gallery guide. The gallery guide explains the pictures and other items shown in the exhibit.

Recommended for Museums because: Rotating exhibits, a tribute to Holocaust survivors and an exhibit dedicatd to preserving and nurturing Jewish life in the South make this a can't-miss.

Lesli's expert tip: Take a guided tour of Absence of Humanity using your cell phone. You can also download a podcast of the tour from the museum's website.

Read more about William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum →

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
Photo courtesy of iStock / lauradyoung

The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change honors Dr. King's life and reflects love, justice and peace. Both Dr. and Mrs. King's remains are housed in a crypt on the grounds, with an eternal flame. Freedom Hall houses a foyer displaying African art and exhibits paying homage to Rosa, Parks, Mahatma Gandhi and the Kings. In addition to visiting the center, visitors can tour Dr. King's birth home, which is located in the Sweet Auburn district. A park ranger leads the tour. Also in the area are Ebenezer Church, where Dr. King preached and Firestation No.6, where King played as a boy.

Recommended for Museums because: Martin Luther King Jr. was a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement. This museum complex ensure his work is not forgotten.

Lesli's expert tip: Only 15 people can tour Dr. King's birth home at a time.

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You won't find any other museums in town quite like the Michael C. Carlos Museum. Founded in 1919 and located at Emory University, the Carlos is Atlanta's oldest art museum. Its permanent collection features everything from Egyptian art to Bronze Age artifacts, and the gallery's Greek and Roman art section includes an exceptional portrait of Emperor Tiberius. The museum often hosts specially themed and traveling exhibitions, as well. Don't miss opportunities to engage the kids. Michael C. Carlos hosts monthly story times for children 3-5 years old and workshops for older kiddos. Adults will appreciate the regular film screenings and Doctoral discussions.

Recommended for Museums because: From mummies to paper works, nearly 17,000 artifacts from around the world offer visitors a glimpse into the art and history of multiple cultures.

Lesli's expert tip: When you purchase a child's ticket it comes with scavenger hunt cards, perfect for navigating young ones through the ancient artifacts.

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The Atlanta History Center has a wide array of exhibits. Visitors can tour the Swan House, located on the museum's grounds. The Atlanta History Center operates the Margaret Mitchell House, which is located on Crescent Avenue. While at the museum, explore the gorgeous gardens or meander at the Signature Exhibitions. Temporary exhibitions and traveling exhibitions provide visitors with a variety of new pieces to see and ideas to explore.

Recommended for Museums because: You'll find the Atlanta History Center museum, the Smith family farm, the 1928 Swan House and 22 acres of gardens.

Lesli's expert tip: You can purchase admission to the Atlanta History Center and the Margaret Mitchell House, or just the Margaret Mitchell House.

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This highly interactive museum provides activities, stories, crafts and performances. Regular interactive traveling exhibits always offer something new. Permanent exhibits include Fernbank NatureQuest, the newest way for kids to explore nature and science through immersive exhibits; A Walk Through Time in Georgia, with a dinosaur gallery and a giant sloth; and Sensing Nature, demonstrating the role our senses play on our interpretation of the environment. Other features in the museum include its floors made of fossils, the star gallery, its forest and rose garden. Fernbank Forest is currently being re-established by the museum, but you can take a guided walk periodically. Check the calendar for details. Don't miss the new outdoor exhibit coming in 2016, separate from Fernbank Forest.

Recommended for Museums because: From Georgia's history to DeSoto's artifacts and from dinosaur encounters to hands-on science tools, there is something for everyone.

Lesli's expert tip: Martinis & IMAX on Friday nights is the perfect date night experience. Don't forget to download the museum app on your phone.

Read more about Fernbank Museum of Natural History →

National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Photo courtesy of Gene Phillips Photography

The Center for Civil and Human Rights is a powerful, moving museum that ties the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s with the today's global Human Rights movement. Visitors can tour a number of permanent and temporary exhibits, including the Morehouse College collection of MLK memorabilia, an interactive gallery of the Civil Rights Movement and a human rights exhibit that encourages onlookers to identify with modern-day activists around the globe who are being persecuted in their own countries. Expect to see emotionally raw images and portrayals at this new Atlanta attraction, watching, seeing, hearing and interacting with history in an intimate and modern setting. The Center will stir your emotions, move you to tears, allow you to celebrate how far we have come and recognize how far we have to go.

Recommended for Museums because: Civil and Human Rights are emotionally charged topics in today's world. CCHR master's the story with beautiful, raw exhibits that challenge us to better ourselves.

Lesli's expert tip: Bringing the kids? Be sure to check out the Family Guide on the website. It will help prepare you for talking about this sensitive subject with the kittle ones. Also, CCHR is part of Atlanta's CityPASS.

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The High Museum of Art is a fine arts museum that has exhibits displaying artwork from some of the greats. Learn about some of the most influential artists in the world through the High's lectures and events. Children will enjoy the Greene Family Learning Center, with hands on exhibits, family programming and more. Members relish special member-only preview days as well as discounts to shows at Alliance Theatre and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. If you get hungry while art-gazing, find Table 1280 near the front entrance of the museum. Chow down on burgers, steak and other American dishes, or bring a picnic to enjoy on Sifly Piazza.

Recommended for Museums because: High Museum is known as the the leading art museum in the southeastern US. Enjoy spectacular art, inspiring programing, and educational opportunities en masse.

Lesli's expert tip: High Museum offers myriad events for everyone. From FREE Second Sunday Fundays for the family to Friday Night Events that include half-price bottles of wine, gallery talks and live music with half-price admission.

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Meet Lesli Peterson

Lesli made her way to Atlanta over 20 years ago, after living in Germany, Japan and six U.S. states. She relishes the discovery of obscure, offbeat and unwonted places, and she will chat up any...  More About Lesli