Dive into Atlanta’s past with Atlanta’s premier history museum. There is simply no better place to learn about the city’s history than the Atlanta History Center. Check out this in-depth guide to visiting the Atlanta History Center and explore the history of Georgia’s capital city.
About the Atlanta History Center
In 1926, 14 Atlanta enthusiasts came together to preserve Atlanta’s history through the Atlanta Historical Society. In 1990, the Atlanta Historical Society officially became the Atlanta History Center.
The museum encompasses 33 acres of land, has three historic homes on the grounds, and has an array of permanent and temporary exhibitions on display. The Atlanta History Center’s mission is to connect people, history, and culture.
Atlanta History Center Permanent Exhibitions
See what’s on at the Atlanta History Center. These permanent exhibitions are always on display and explore different aspects of Atlanta’s history.
Atlanta ’96: Shaping an Olympic and Paralympic City
Atlanta ’96 explores the impact of the Centennial Olympic Games, held in Atlanta in 1996, on the city and on the lives of Atlantans. The exhibit tells stories and memories of the city’s Olympic and Paralympic history, showcases iconic and unexpected objects, and includes memorabilia from athletes and fans.
Cyclorama: The Big Picture
The Cyclorama, recently moved to the Atlanta History Center from Zoo Atlanta in 2019, features the fully restored cyclorama painting of The Battle of Atlanta. The 49-foot-tall hand-painted work of art was created in 1886 depicting the Union victory.
A 12-minute film is projected on to the painting every hour on the hour. The film explores the painting’s history from conception through changes to depict a false “Confederate victory” and its change back to its original form.
Locomotion: Railroads and the Making of Atlanta
Locomotion centers around the restored locomotive Texas, which was built in 1856 for the Western & Atlantic Railroad, which established its terminus in Atlanta. You can climb aboard the Texas and learn how to operate a steam engine. This exhibit also features the Zero Mile Post, which was used to determine the city center of Atlanta in 1842.
Turning Point: The American Civil War
In Turning Point, you can view 1,400 Civil War artifacts including cannons, uniforms, swords, and other materials. This is one of the largest Civil War exhibitions in the United States. It tells the story of the Civil War from beginning to end to help visitors better understand Civil War life.
Gatheround: Stories of Atlanta
Gatheround is an interactive exhibition exploring the various influential people and places that make up Atlanta. This exhibition shares the stories of the many different individuals who helped shape Atlanta. You can explore artifacts, ephemera, interactive media, recording booths, and immersive experiences covering themes like Politics and Policy, Cultural Life, Family and Community, and Urban Growth..
Shaping Traditions: Folk Arts in a Changing South
Shaping Traditions includes a collection of 500 artifacts ranging from pottery to musical instruments. You can explore folk art processes, touch examples of highlighted works, and hear folk storytelling, singing, and instrumental music.
Native Lands explores the history and stories of the state’s original inhabitants from the Mississippian people to the Creeks and the Cherokees. The exhibition explores the art, music, ceremony, agriculture, architecture, and trade industries of the Native Americans.
Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story
Fair Play explores the life of Georgia’s most famous golfer, Bobby Jones. The exhibition chronicles the early development of golf in the United States and Jones’ 14 year playing career.
Mandarin Shutze: A Chinese Export Life
Mandarin Shutze highlights the collection of Swan House architect Philip Trammel Shutze. Displayed in the basement of the Swan House, the collection includes decorative arts, silver, pottery, rugs, painting, Chinese porcelain, and English period furniture.
The Goizueta Gardens captures the variety of landscapes that shaped Atlanta’s history, from curated gardens to native Piedmont forest. The Goizueta Gardens encompasses nine distinct gardens with preserved woodland, diverse plant collections, and heritage-breed animals.
The Atlanta History Center is home to three historic buildings at its Buckhead campus. You can explore each one to learn about different periods in Atlanta’s history.
The Swan House was built for Edward and Emily Inman in 1928. The home contains many of its original furnishings, ranging from 18th century antiques to 20th century objects. Exhibits and items on display depict Atlanta life during the Jazz Age.
The Smith Farm is Atlanta’s oldest surviving farmhouse. The farm tells the story of a working slaveholding farm in the 1860s and includes the main farmhouse, a smokehouse, and the slaves’ quarters. The landscape includes historic varieties of crops in the fields, the enslaved people’s garden, a kitchen garden, and a yard of heirloom flowers. You can also see heritage-breed sheep, goats, chickens, and turkeys on the farm.
The Wood Cabin is an example of a log structure constructed during the time North Georgia was the frontier. Wood Cabin tells the story of Native Americans, white settlers, and folk traditions of the rural South.
Things to Do at the Atlanta History Center
Eat at the Center’s Dining Facilities
The Atlanta History Center offers three different spots for coffee and food while you visit the museum. Admission is not required to dine at these restaurants.
- Swan Coach House — The Swan Coach House is an iconic Atlanta restaurant that used to house the carriages for the Swan House mansion. The women of The Forward Arts Foundation renovated the carriage house into a restaurant, wedding venue, gift shop, and art gallery in 1967. Dine on Southern-inspired dishes that are perfect for a ladies’ luncheon. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Souper Jenny — Located in the main museum building, Souper Jenny offers a rotating daily menu of soups, salads,, and sandwiches using the freshest local ingredients. The café is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- BRASH Coffee — Located in the main museum building, BRASH Coffee offers drinks including drip coffee, espresso, cortado, cappuccino, mocha, matcha and chai lattes, and tea, as well as baked treats, wine, and beer. The café is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Attend Special Events and Programs
The Atlanta History Museum offers a variety of annual programs and events that explore and celebrate the city’s history. These include things like conversations author talks, community engagement, interpretive performances, and annual events for holidays like Juneteenth, MLK Day, Dia de Los Muertos, and Veterans Day.
Find the Perfect Gift at the Museum Shop
Located in the main museum building, the Museum Shop offers gifts, goods, and an extensive book selection highlighting regional history.
Entrance to the Museum Shop is always free. The Shop is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Visiting the Atlanta History Center
Admission: Museum tickets include access to the entire 33-acre campus, the permanent and rotating exhibitions, three historic houses, the gardens, and the Kenan Research Center. Admission costs $24 for adults, $20 for students and seniors 65+, and $10 for children ages 4-12.
Hours: The Atlanta History Center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The historic houses open at 11 a.m.
Parking: Onsite parking at the Atlanta History Center is free!
Atlanta History Center FAQ
Exploring everything the museum has to offer can take all day! I recommend budgeting at least 4 hours to go through the entire museum.
Admission to the Atlanta History Center costs $24 for adults, $20 for students and seniors 65+, and $10 for children ages 4-12. This includes access to the entire 33-acre campus, the museum exhibits, three historic houses, the gardens, and the research center.
Yes, you can tour the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center. Your tour of the historic home is self-guided, though there are docents available if you have any questions.
Craving More Atlanta Activities?
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Ready to visit Atlanta, Georgia? Plan your trip with these tips.
- Get Familiar With the City: Check out my Ultimate Guide to Atlanta to help plan your trip!
- Book Your Flight: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
- Find Accommodation: You can find top hotels in Atlanta using Booking.com.
- Save on Attractions: Save 44% on admission to Atlanta’s top attractions using the Atlanta CityPASS.
Have you visited Atlanta History Center? Let me know in the comments!