I can’t believe its June already and the Annual SHRM Conference is almost here! It seems like just yesterday I was boarding the bus at my hotel to go to the conference center in Las Vegas. This year, I’m especially excited to go to SHRM—besides a layover in the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport I’ve never been to the great city of Atlanta—so it should be fun.
Atlanta has been on my list of places to visit for some time, so when SHRM announced it would be coming here in 2012, I was very excited and now I cannot believe it is already here! So for those of you who are equally as excited about spending some time in The A, here are ten things (in no particular order) you shouldn’t miss (besides eating some delicious southern cooking, seeing the inside of a session room and cruising the expo floor of course!).
- Take in a baseball game at Turner Field. This ballpark was originally built as Centennial Olympic Stadium as the center piece for the 1996 summer Olympics and after the games it was turned into the new home of The Braves. Unfortunately, The Braves are only home one night while SHRM is taking place in Atlanta—but that doesn’t mean you can’t catch the Tuesday night game against the Diamondbacks.
- Remember, in Atlanta it’s ALWAYS Coca-Cola. The likelihood of a server asking you, “Is Pepsi, okay?” upon ordering a Coke while at SHRM will be slim. Visit the World of Coca-Cola and learn about the legendary secret formula of this tasty beverage first sold in pharmacies, taste more than 60 different products, watch Coke being made and bottled right before your eyes, and check out the influence that Coke has had as a pop culture icon.
- Go back in time and experience the Civil War, tour the birthplace of Gone With The Wind, get to know former President Carter, and visit the home of a young Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Atlanta is steeped in history, so if you’re into that sort of thing (like I am) there’s plenty to see—I can’t wait! First, there’s The Battle of Atlanta that played a crucial role during the Civil War; under command of General Sherman the Union army seized the city, which was important as they then also controlled the railroads and supplies needed by the Confederate Army. You can learn more about the Battle of Atlanta and the Civil War at The Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum located in Grant Park (right near the Atlanta Zoo). And speaking of the Civil War, you can also visit the Margaret Mitchell House to see where the Pulitzer Prize winning author wrote Gone With The Wind. Next on the list, if you’ve ever been to a presidential library then you already know that it is a treat and Atlanta is home to the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum. Here you can check out (not literally) U.S. President Jimmy Carter's papers and other materials related to his administration and the Carter family's life. You can also see Carter's Nobel Peace Prize, a full-scale replica of the Oval Office and a copy of the Resolute Desk. Lastly is the birthplace of Dr. King. Visitors can tour the house where he was born and lived in until age 12. Tickets are on a first come first serve basis so plan accordingly.
- Check out the world’s largest Aquarium—The Georgia Aquarium. This facility is relatively new—it opened in 2005 and it houses some amazing species like the beluga whale, bottlenose dolphin, manta ray, and hammerhead shark. Of the 120,000 sea creatures the most intriguing is the whale shark—the Georgia Aquarium is the only place outside of Asia to house them. So if you need a break from the sessions (don’t tell your boss) go explore!
- Go for the gold at the Centennial Olympic Village. From July 19 to August 4, 1996 the world was focused on Atlanta, GA as the Centennial Olympics (that’s right the 100th Anniversary of the first summer Olympics held in Greece) were being held right there in Atlanta. Need a break on Tuesday? From noon to 1PM at the Southern Company Amphitheater enjoy a variety of live music performed by local artists. Another fun thing is to check out the Park’s history—get an overview of what the park looked like before the park was built and learn about the park’s monuments and Olympic tributes. Also, don’t miss the centerpiece of the park—The Fountains of Rings. The fountain is not only one of the most recognized landmarks in Georgia but the fountain show—which plays four times a day—is completely free!
- To ur the CNN World Headquarters. The Cable News Network is located in downtown Atlanta and the working studios and newsrooms of CNN are the open to the public to tour. Visitors can come on a timed-entry studio tour of the world’s first all-news network. Start by taking a ride on the longest freestanding escalator and enter the world (literally) of the around-the-clock TV network.
- Do some shopping at historic Underground Atlanta. A shopping and entertainment district in downtown Atlanta that was built over the city’s many viaducts—Underground Atlanta has had many ups and downs over the years, but it can still offer you shopping, history, and then some more shopping. You can take a historic tour starting at the train depot (the oldest building in downtown Atlanta). And if you need a new pair of comfortable shoes to walk the expo floor, you can probably find some here.
- Think Pandas are cool? Yeah we do too! Check out the Atlanta Zoo in Grant Park and say, “Hi!” to the Giant Pandas. One of the oldest zoos in the United States, Zoo Atlanta houses more than 1,300 animals and if you don’t get the chance to go you see the pandas in person you can visit them online via the Panda Cam!
- Stop and smell the roses at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. This 30-acre botanical garden in midtown Atlanta is beautiful getaway and regardless of the amount of time you have to spend, they’ll make sure your time is spent wisely with their Day Planners. After all, we are at SHRM for business—but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something fun (even if it’s for an hour).
- Don’t pass up the opportunity to see Norah Jones at the famous Fox Theatre. The Fox Theatre (sometimes known as the Fabulous Fox) is a former movie palace turned performing arts center in midtown Atlanta. This beautiful building will host Grammy award winning, singer-song writer Norah Jones on Saturday night and on Sunday night you can become a member of the Van Trapp Family Singers when they show the Sound of Music Sing-A-Long.