History buffs should make the Atlanta History Center their first stop. The center’s collections of photographs, maps, books, newspaper clippings, and decorative arts tell the history of Georgia, Atlanta, and the Southeast. In fact, the center has one of the largest collections of Civil War artifacts in the world. The Center itself is surrounded by 32 acres (13 hectares) of woodlands, including walking trails and five gardens.
Inside the Atlanta History Museum, hands-on discovery areas, displays, and photographs trace Atlanta’s history. Part of this permanent exhibit includes a fire engine used in Atlanta’s great fire of 1917 and a rare 1920 Hanson Six touring car. Another exhibit, the “Shaping Traditions: Folk Arts in a Changing South” shows the development and attributes of Southern folk art. It includes both traditional and modern forms ranging from clothing and food to singing and storytelling.
Also on the grounds of the Atlanta History Center are two must see historic homes. The Swan House, an immaculately restored 1928 house/museum, is filled with eclectic furnishings, decorative arts, and a swan emblem in every room. The Tullie Smith Farm, an antebellum mansion, evokes what life was like in Georgia in the mid-19th century.
The Atlanta History Center is about 10 minutes north downtown, and is easily accessible via bus and MARTA trains. Check with the center before you visit, as a variety of events, films, and festivals are always on the calendar.
Plan to spend most of the day here. For a break from the museum and historic homes, take a stroll through Swan Woods Trail, which is filled with many plants native to Georgia. The Swan Coach House is a pleasant place for lunch.