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Atlanta’s rich past is a strong draw for history buffs, rich as it is with Civil War sites and civil rights landmarks. But the city also boasts an impressive array of museums covering a wide range of topics and tastes, from puppets to former President Jimmy Carter to the history of soul food.

Atlanta Museums

Atlanta History Center

Plan to spend the better part of a day at this 32-acre center, which provides an extraordinary look at the history of Atlanta, Georgia, and the Southeast. Browse a stunning collection of photographs, books, exhibits, decorative arts, furnishings, newspaper accounts, and Civil War artifacts. Take a tour of the Swan House, the 1928 estate of Atlanta high-society businessman Edward Hamilton Inman, to get a feel for how the city’s upper crust lived during the 1920s and 1930s. Be sure to leave enough time to stroll through the property’s wooded walking trails and the lush five gardens, which include many indigenous plants.

130 West Paces Ferry Rd., GA, 404-814-4000,
Tags: hiking | history | museum

Center for Puppetry Arts

In 2008, this puppetry center – the first in the country and the largest American organization solely dedicated to the art of puppet theater – marked its 30th anniversary, and there’s plenty here to celebrate. Even if you don’t take in a show, an afternoon at the interactive museum, which houses both permanent and special exhibits, is sure to delight visitors of all ages. The 350 puppets on display represent countries and cultures from all over the globe, including African rod puppets, Chinese shadow puppets, and Jim Henson’s famous “Pigs in Space” characters from “The Muppet Show.” The World of Puppetry tour, which will teach you about how puppets are made, is offered Tuesday-Friday at 1 p.m. A behind-the-scenes tour is also offered.

1404 Spring St. NW, GA, 404-873-3391,
Tags: tour | museum | performing arts

Fernbank Museum of Natural History

This attractive museum houses a range of impressive exhibits, from hands-on astronomy displays to exotic shells, but the dinosaurs are the real stars of the show. The atrium holds the breathtaking Giants of the Mesozoic exhibit, which recreates a snapshot of life approximately 100 million years ago, depicting a 47-foot-long Giganotosaurus chasing a 123-foot-long Argentinosaurus, the largest dinosaur ever discovered. Also make note of the floors, which are made from prehistoric limestone sediment that encompasses fossils from prehistoric marine animals approximately 150 million years old. From January through November, sip martinis and listen to jazz with locals at the popular Martinis & IMAX events (book early to ensure seating at your preferred time).

767 Clifton Rd. NE, GA, 404-929-6300,
Tags: history | museum | science

Imagine It! Children’s Museum

Opened in 2003, this 30,000-square-foot children’s museum, across the street from Centennial Olympic Park, is an excellent choice for families with children ages 2-8 (though all ages are welcome). Based on Howard Gardiner’s theory of multiple intelligences, Imagine It! features four learning zones of hands-on exhibits and activities that engage a child’s senses. They can express their inner creativity on the painting wall, learn about the food chain from the farm to the delivery truck, and “fish” in the water area (rain gear provided). Be sure to reserve tickets ahead of time, as school field trips and weekend visitors fill up the place fast.

275 Centennial Olympic Park Dr. NW, GA, 404-659-5437,
Tags: family | museum

Jimmy Carter Library and Museum

The only Presidential Library in the southeast United States houses an exact replica of the Oval Office, the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to President Jimmy Carter, and an impressive schedule of exhibitions, speakers, and events. Allow for extra time to stroll through the sweeping, manicured grounds, which also are the site of various outdoor jazz concerts in the spring and summer.

441 Freedom Pkwy., GA, 404-865-7100,
Tags: history | museum | jazz

Margaret Mitchell House

A must-do for literary lovers and fans of Gone with the Wind, this two-block historic site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and evokes the feel of early 20th-century America. Docent-led tours feature the furnished apartment where Margaret Mitchell penned her Pulitzer-Prize winning novel from 1925 to 1932, while a movie museum showcases items like the front door of the legendary Tara plantation from the movie set and the portrait of heroine Scarlett O’Hara from the Butler house.

990 Peachtree St. NE, GA, 404-249-7015,
Tags: historic | tour | museum

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site

This multi-building complex in Sweet Auburn encompasses King’s boyhood home and Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he and his father pastored.

450 Auburn Ave., GA, 404-331-5190,
Tags: editor pick | historic | things to do | culture | museum

Soul Food Museum

This storefront establishment is less a museum than a cultural oddity, but it’s worth a visit to see Dr. Kenneth Willhoite’s collection of foods made or marketed by black Americans. Willhoite leads a 45-minute tour of the collection, which includes everything from an antique icebox to Aunt Jemima pancake mix to Crunk! energy drink. No reservations necessary.

372 Sweet Auburn Ave., GA, 678-508-9478,
Tags: great value | things to do | museum

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