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Enjoy Diversity and Accessibility in the Big Peach

From historic attractions and world class museums, to the high tech wizardry of CNN Studios, Atlanta has something to suit nearly every taste. And, thanks to the 1996 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the majority of these attractions are now wheelchair-accessible. That’s good news for visitors who walk a little slower or rely on a wheelchair or scooter to get around. Indeed, today everyone can enjoy the diversity of Atlanta.

For a look at how Atlanta has changed over the years, check out the Atlanta History Center (404-814-4000, www.atlantahistorycenter.com). Located on 33 wooded acres, the Atlanta History Center features one of the Southeast’s largest history museums, two historic homes and the Swan Coach House restaurant. Accessible parking is available in front of the main building, and there is level access to the museum and barrier-free pathways throughout all of the galleries. Inside you’ll find everything from an excellent Civil War exhibition to an interactive exhibition on the Centennial Olympic Games.

Outside, access is variable, but a tour of the Swan House is highly recommended. If you have a car, it’s best to drive up to the Swan Coach House and park there. If you’re on foot, ask the person at the front desk to map out the most accessible route for you. There is level access to the main floor of the Swan House; and you’ll get a good look at the foyer, dining room, sitting area, library, porch, living room, butler’s pantry and kitchen on the excellent docent-led tour. The second floor is only accessible by stairs, however only a bedroom and a bathroom are open upstairs, so the bulk of the tour is accessible.

And don’t forget to save some time for a leisurely lunch at the Swan Coach House (404-261-0636, www.swancoachhouse.com). Originally the coach house and servant’s quarters for the Swan House, this Victorian tearoom serves up a scrumptious lunch daily, except Sunday. There is ramp access to the front door and valet parking is available. Menu items range from the signature chicken salad to curried chicken, sandwiches, salads and even crab cakes. Be forewarned that this is a favorite spot for ladies group lunches, so if it’s bit too feminine for your man, then just grab a Chick-fil-A sandwich at the Coca-Cola Cafe in the main museum building.

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in a newsroom, then don’t miss the Inside CNN tour (404-827-2300, www.cnn.com/studiotour). Although the standard tour has some access obstacles, an elevator assisted tour is offered three times a day. The standard tour requires participants to descend approximately seven flights of stairs; so if that’s beyond your ability, be sure and opt for the elevator assisted tour.

For folks that can stand up, the tour includes a trip up the world’s longest escalator, which is an experience in itself. Other parts of the tour include a look at a simulated control room theater, an introduction to the special effects used in news production, and a chance to watch live broadcasts in the afternoon. It’s a fun tour and it lasts about an hour.

No trip to Atlanta is complete without a visit to the High Museum (404-733-4400, www.high.org), one of the leading art museums in the Southeastern US. And although the High’s permanent collection is quite impressive; it’s dwarfed by the temporary Louvre Atlanta exhibition. This three-year exhibition was developed in an exclusive partnership with the Musee du Louvre in Paris, and features hundreds of works from the Louvre’s collection; some of which have never been on public display.

Access to the High Museum is excellent, with elevator access to all floors and barrier-free access throughout the galleries. Wheelchairs are available for loan at the front desk. As an added bonus, the museum is conveniently located across the street from the Arts Center MARTA rail station.

Last but not least, save some time to visit Atlanta’s newest attraction, the Georgia Aquarium (404-581-4000, www.georgiaaquarium.org). Opened in November 2005, this gift from the co-founder of The Home Depot features five galleries filled with underwater creatures from around the world. Highlights include an 800,000-gallon tank which houses the Beluga Whales in the Cold Water Quest gallery, and the acrylic tunnel and massive Whale Sharks in the Ocean Voyager gallery. And don’t miss the impressive jellies in the Tropical Diver gallery.

Access is good throughout all of the galleries and there is ramped access to the outside ticket area. Keep in mind that this is one of Atlanta’s most popular attractions, so buy your tickets in advance to avoid the long lines. Best bet is to visit on a weekday afternoon and stay until closing, for a more relaxed aquarium experience.

If You Go

Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau
(404) 521-6600
www.atlanta.net