Founded in 1926, the Atlanta History Center is a complex of multiple buildings over 33 acres that represent the history of Atlanta, the state of Georgia, and the southern United States. Along with the museum is acres of gardens, an event facility, a research library, and two historic homes.
Located in the Buckhead neighborhood north of downtown, it’s an essential stop for visitors to the city because it provides a necessary primer to the local history.
What to See at the Atlanta History Museum
Start your trip to the Atlanta History Center at the inside galleries, starting with Gatheround, which covers the history of the city including the Civil Rights Movement, the universities, festivals, traditions, and politics.
The museum has the largest collection of Civil War-related items in the state in the Turning Point exhibit, made up of over 500 pieces. It includes cannonballs, uniforms, and weaponry. The Locomotion exhibit shows off an antique train and highlights the city’s railroad history.
Other exhibits focus on the folk art traditions of the region, Georgian golfer Bobby Jones, the 1996 Centennial Olympics, and the architect who designed the Swan House. Traveling exhibits have focused on the history of barbecue and the 19th amendment.
The Atlanta History Center is also home to the Cyclorama painting, one of the world’s largest oil paintings, that depicts the Civil War’s Battle of Atlanta. Previously housed in Grant Park, the painting underwent an extensive restoration before being moved in 2019.
The painting is 132 years old and 49 feet tall, visible from a rotating platform. An interpretive film plays over it. What’s unique about the painting is that it focuses on a Confederate loss and is one of two cycloramas in America. There’s also a Rhett Butler figure, added after Clark Gable’s iconic role. Underneath the platform is an exhibit of additional artifacts related to the painting and the Civil War.
The Swan House
The crown jewel of the Atlanta History Center is the Swan House, the city’s most well-known home, even inspiring a novel series. Designed by Philip Trammel Shutze, the Inman family that lived there had a fascinating history.
The home was later featured in the movie The Hunger Games: Catching Fire as President Snow’s mansion. Inside, you’ll see items from how it would have looked when the Inmans lived there as well as large-scale photos from the film production.
Once you’re outside, don’t miss the other features of the property. The Smith Farm was built in the 1840s and is the oldest surviving farmhouse in the city. There are animals like goats and sheep roaming the property. There’s a wood cabin on a back trail, a native plant garden, and a veteran’s park.
Where to Eat Near the Atlanta History Center
The Swan Coach House, located next door to the majestic Swan House, is a popular spot for lunch, known for its chicken salad and cheese straws. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends. The Atlanta History Center also has Brash, a coffee shop with pastries and bagels, and Souper Jenny, a cafe selling healthy salads, soups, and sandwiches.
Within a short walk, there are dozens of restaurants along Buckhead’s main drag. For happy hour margaritas and tacos, head to Chido and Padre’s. Anis Cafe and Bistro is a lovely French bistro tucked away from the busy roads. Tamsung Thai Street Eats is one of the best Thai restaurants in town with authentic khao soi.
Where to Stay Near the Atlanta History Center
There are a number of luxury hotels in Atlanta, but the St. Regis Hotel Atlanta is the closest to the Atlanta History Center, only a block away. It has unrivaled rooms and is home to Atlas, one of the city’s most praised restaurants. The Kimpton Sylvan Hotel is a new option with 1950s-style decor, a supper club restaurant, and a swanky cocktail bar.
Tips for Visiting the Atlanta History Center
Admission is $23 for adults, $19 for seniors and students, and $9 for children. You can also visit on the Atlanta Historical Homes Tour. Parking is included in the ticket price. The center is a short walk from where the 110 bus stops at Peachtree and East Paces Ferry.
Give yourself at least two hours to see the Atlanta History Center and don’t miss the gift shop. You can also get same-day access to the Margaret Mitchell House, the home of the Gone with the Wind author that is managed by the history center. They also regularly host lectures and author events.