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Atlanta Movie Tours Heritage Tour

atlanta movie tours

The newest addition to Atlanta Movie Tours, Inc.‘ lineup of tours focused on the city’s notable filming locations is their Heritage Tour. It celebrates African-American television and film and interweaves it with local history. I was recently asked to hop on the tour with guides Clyde and Jimmy for an informative afternoon in a city I thought I knew well.

The tour starts at AMT’s offices in Castleberry Hill, a neighborhood once known for its gambling and prostitution, now a favorite of film productions. In fact, 35 movies and television have been filmed here since the 1990s, including early projects like Driving Miss Daisy and Kalifornia before The Walking Dead, Captain America: Civil War, and The Hunger Games. The Gulch, the area beneath the now closed Nelson Street Bridge that connects to the abandoned  Norfolk Southern Building, is frequently seen on camera.

Right across the street is Fire Station #1, the city’s first. Next door is now Elliott Street Deli & Pub, but it used to be Dee’s Bird Cage, where Ella Fitzgerald performed. The pub was featured in Ride Along and Triple 9. Now the site of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, this space used to be the site of Friendship Baptist Church. And down the road is the new location of Paschal’s Restaurant, an important restaurant in the Civil Rights Movement.

Crossing into Vine City, we also saw Paschal’s original location, then a hotel as well, that is now sadly boarded up. Our guides told us about the Bronner Brothers Hair Show, a unique yearly event, as we passed the company’s offices. The show was featured in Chris Rock’s Good Hair. Also noted were Busy Bee Cafe, Hunter Street Baptist Church, and Booker T. Washington High School.

Morris Brown College, one of Atlanta’s historically black colleges and universities, has been the location for films like Drumline, We Are Marshall, and Stomp the Yard. Its campus is no longer in use and is sadly covered in graffiti and boarded up windows.

Other HBCUs include Clark Atlanta University, Spelman CollegeInterdenominational Theological Center, and Morehouse. Morehouse College has a long legacy of successful alumni, including Martin Luther King Jr., Spike Lee, and Samuel L. Jackson. We Are Marshall also filmed on this campus, along with this year’s Oscar-nominated Hidden Figures, where the school portrayed NASA.

atlanta movie tours

Herndon House Museum

Our guides pointed out some of the notable homes in the area like those of Alfonso Herndon and Grace Hamilton, early black leaders in Atlanta. Herndon founded the Atlanta Life Insurance Company while Hamilton was an educator and executive director of the National Urban League, working tirelessly to include African Americans in local politics. You can go on tours of the Herndon Home Museum.

In the part of Vine City known as “The Bluff,” the Kings had a home and Gladys Knight and the Pips went to school nearby. Next up was the Sunset Avenue Historic District, where actor Orlando Jones, of Sleepy Hollow fame, grew up. Julian Bond lived here, along with the last home Martin Luther King Jr. and his family lived in. The home is now a private residence. The story goes that after Martin died, Coretta continued living there until the house was broken into one night. Oprah heard about it and bought her a condo in Buckhead, where she lived the rest of her days.

Next, we explored the West End Historic District, an area steeped in history and Victorian homes. It was here that Joel Chandler Harris lived at The Wren’s Nest. We passed the Willie A Watkins Funeral Home, which is where Real Housewife of Atlanta Phaedra Parks came for guidance in entering the funeral business. This is also the company that did Coretta Scott King’s funeral. Our guides pointed out West Hunter Street Baptist Church and the McCall and Lahey houses featured on Teen Wolf.

Of course, you can’t talk about African American films without mentioning Tyler Perry, who was born in New Orleans but moved to Atlanta in the 1990s. It was here that he produced his first plays, which were not successful. But he persisted and his plays began to find their audiences. It was through this success that he produced a film version of Diary of a Mad Black Woman, the screen debut of his famous Madea character. Madea, who is inspired by Perry’s aunt, mother, and grandmother, has gone on to appear in eight films. In fact, the same Avon Avenue private residence has been featured in all of them. He now has his own studio at Fort McPherson as well as shows on TBS, OWN and Lifetime.

atlanta movie tours

Pawn shop from ‘Atlanta’

Stone Mountain native Donald Glover has also come to fame for his FX show Atlanta but previously appeared on Community and as rapper Childish Gambino. This pawn shop was featured, along with iconic local eateries Zesto and J.R. Cricket’s and Gwinnett’s Infinite Energy Arena, standing in for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The show has been praised for its accurate portrayal of life in Atlanta. He’s next set to play Spiderman

Back downtown, our guides pointed out landmarks like the Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kandi’s soon-to-open Castleberry Hill restaurant and the former FAB restaurant, now The League Tavern, where Kim’s wig was notoriously pulled. The Georgia World Congress Center has played the airport many times while the Marriott Marquis was featured in The Hunger Games and Flight. Captain America: Civil War, Atlanta, and Family Feud were filmed at the Civic Center, site of Maynard Jackson’s funeral.

Sweet Auburn Historic District was another important stop, known by John Wesley Dobbs as the “richest Negro street in the world” for its abundance of African American-owned businesses. Auburn Avenue’s First Congregational Church educated freed slaves. On the same block is the former Daily World offices, now Condesa Coffee, and the Apex Museum. The Sweet Auburn Curb Market was the city’s food market, but limited black residents to selling on the curb. Today it’s a beloved food hall and market in a food desert. It was even featured in Ride Along.

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site runs alongside Sweet Auburn, honoring the neighborhood’s most famous resident. King grew up here and preached with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church, which you can still visit. The clock inside the sanctuary is still set to the time of his funeral. Neighboring Wheat Street Baptist Church was actually used for the filming of Selma about King’s life. His birthplace and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change are also included in the historic site complex.

On our way back to Castleberry Hill, we passed Oakland Cemetery, where the city’s most notable residents are buried, including Margaret Mitchell, Bobby Jones, and Maynard Jackson. We also passed the gold dome of the Georgia Capitol, where Coretta Scott King was given a state funeral. She was the first African-American to lie in state in the capitol.

If You Go

atlanta movie tours

Atlanta Movie Tours’ Heritage Tour is a great introduction to the city for visitors or a way to get to know neighborhoods you didn’t know about for locals. Most of the tour takes place on the tour bus, but you do get off a few times for sightseeing and breaks. Bring some cash to tip your guides and purchase snacks like a juice from Arden’s Garden.

The tour lasts three hours. Parking is available in the deck next to AMT’s offices or on the street. Tickets cost $55 per person.

Thanks to Atlanta Movie Tours for hosting me on their Heritage Tour. 

Mentioned in this post
  1. Atlanta Movie Tours, Inc.
    Attraction in Atlanta Georgia

    327 Nelson St SW
    Atlanta Georgia
    (855) 255-3456
    http://atlantamovietours.com/
  2. 125 Ted Turner Dr NW
    Attraction in Fulton County Georgia

    125 Ted Turner Dr NW
    Fulton County Georgia
  3. Elliott Street Deli & Pub
    Restaurant in Fulton County Georgia

    51 Elliott St SW
    Fulton County Georgia
    (404) 523-2174
    http://www.elliottstreet.com/
  4. Mercedes-Benz Stadium
    Attraction in Fulton County Georgia

    35 Northside Dr NW
    Fulton County Georgia
    (678) 686-4400
    http://mercedesbenzstadium.com/
  5. Paschal's Restaurant
    Restaurant in Fulton County Georgia

    180 Northside Dr SW
    Fulton County Georgia
    (404) 525-2023
    http://www.paschalsatlanta.com/
  6. Busy Bee Cafe
    Restaurant in Fulton County Georgia

    810 M.L.K. Jr Dr NW
    Fulton County Georgia
    (404) 525-9212
    http://thebusybeecafe.com/
  7. Booker T. Washington High School
    Attraction in Fulton County Georgia

    45 Whitehouse Dr SW
    Fulton County Georgia
    (404) 802-4600
    http://www.atlanta.k12.ga.us/Domain/904
  8. Morris Brown College
    Attraction in Atlanta Georgia

    643 Martin Luther King Junior Drive Northwest
    Atlanta Georgia
    (404) 739-1010
    http://morrisbrown.edu
  9. Clark Atlanta University
    Attraction in Atlanta Georgia

    223 James P Brawley Drive Southwest
    Atlanta Georgia
    (404) 880-8000
    http://www.cau.edu/
  10. Spelman College
    Attraction in Atlanta Georgia

    350 Spelman Lane Southwest
    Atlanta Georgia
    (404) 681-3643
    http://www.spelman.edu/
  11. Interdenominational Theological Center
    Attraction in Fulton County Georgia

    700 M.L.K. Jr Dr NW
    Fulton County Georgia
    (404) 527-7700
    http://www.itc.edu/
  12. Morehouse College
    Attraction in Fulton County Georgia

    830 Westview Dr SW
    Fulton County Georgia
    (404) 681-2800
    http://www.morehouse.edu/
  13. Herndon Home Museum
    Attraction in Fulton County Georgia

    587 University Pl NW
    Fulton County Georgia
    (404) 581-9813
    http://www.herndonhome.org/
  14. Sunset Avenue Historic District
    Fulton County Georgia

    Fulton County Georgia
  15. West End Historic District
    Fulton County Georgia

    Fulton County Georgia
  16. The Wren's Nest
    Attraction in Fulton County Georgia

    1050 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd
    Fulton County Georgia
    (404) 753-7735
    http://www.wrensnest.org/
  17. Willie A Watkins Funeral Home
    Attraction in Fulton County Georgia

    1003 Ralph David Abernathy SW
    Fulton County Georgia
    (404) 758-1731
    http://www.williewatkins.com/
  18. Fort McPherson
    Neighborhood in Fulton County Georgia

    Fulton County Georgia
  19. The League Tavern
    Restaurant in Fulton County Georgia

    30 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd NW
    Fulton County Georgia
    (404) 850-0199
  20. Georgia World Congress Center
    Attraction in Fulton County Georgia

    285 Andrew Young International Blvd NW
    Fulton County Georgia
    (404) 223-4000
    https://www.gwcca.org/
  21. Marriott
    Hotel in Atlanta Georgia

    9700 Spine Rd Sw
    Atlanta Georgia
  22. Civic Center
    Attraction in Fulton County Georgia

    Fulton County Georgia
  23. Sweet Auburn Historic District
    Fulton County Georgia

    Fulton County Georgia
  24. Condesa Coffee
    Restaurant in Fulton County Georgia

    145 Auburn Ave NE
    Fulton County Georgia
    (678) 515-0899
    http://www.condesacoffee.com/
  25. Apex Museum
    Attraction in Atlanta Georgia

    135 Auburn Ave NE
    Atlanta Georgia
    (404) 523-2739
    http://www.apexmuseum.org/
  26. Sweet Auburn Curb Market
    Attraction in Atlanta Georgia

    209 Edgewood Ave SE
    Atlanta Georgia
    (678) 927-9401
    http://sweetauburnbakery.com
  27. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
    Attraction in Atlanta Georgia

    450 Auburn Avenue
    Atlanta Georgia
    (404) 331-5190
    http://www.nps.gov/malu/index.htm
  28. Ebenezer Baptist Church
    Attraction in Fulton County Georgia

    101 Jackson St NE
    Fulton County Georgia
    (404) 688-7300
    http://www.historicebenezer.org/
  29. Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change
    Attraction in Atlanta Georgia

    449 Auburn Ave SE
    Atlanta Georgia
  30. Oakland Cemetery
    Attraction in Atlanta Georgia

    248 Oakland Ave SE
    Atlanta Georgia
    (404) 688-2107
    http://www.oaklandcemetery.com/

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