It’s really difficult to visit Atlanta, and not end up at the World of Coca-Cola. The giant tourist trap, set up by the makers of that addictive beverage, is located at the north end of Centennial Olympic Park, next to the Georgia Aquarium. It’s oversized and overpriced, but it’s part of the Atlanta experience. So go ahead and do it. Once.
Once you’ve entered through the front doors, you’ll pass through this lobby where some creative bottle sculptures are on display. From here, crowds are funneled…
… into this auditorium, where you’ll stand and watch a presentation. An employee tells the story of Coca-Cola, and points out some of the advertising artifacts that have been preserved behind glass..
… and a few that are hanging overhead, like this nice neon sign.
The next stop is a sit-down auditorium, where you’re forced to watch one of the stupidest movies ever made. It features some odd-looking made-up characters that provide a tour of the “happiness factory”. I found it to be over-the-top, bizarre, and annoying — especially since I hadn’t had anything to drink in several hours of walking around Atlanta, and I was really anxious to get to the tasting room.
When the movie finally ends, you’re released into this atrium, where you can go in several different directions. Here’s my suggestion: go straight up the stairs and hit the tasting room. It’s somewhat hidden — just go up the staircase and take a left. The way the building is built, you’ll tend to turn right at the top of the steps, and you won’t notice the tasting room until later.
Visiting the tasting room early gives you the chance to load up on soda, then explore, and then gulp down some more free beverages before you leave. But, I didn’t know this, and I spent my entire visit thirstily wandering around, trying to find the soda fountains.
On the first floor, you’ll find some interesting exhibits, which preserve pieces of Coca-Cola’s advertising history — including valuable items like this antique Coke delivery truck.
Dozens upon dozens of advertising posters…
… and vintage Coke machines are also on display.
There’s even a Coca-Cola fountain that was used in space. Great. We haven’t gone to the moon in 40 years, but the astronauts can float around drinking Coke.
If you’ve ever wondered how Coca-Cola ends up in bottles and cans, you can get a behind-the-scenes look at the process.
These machines run much slower than the ones at real bottling plants, in order to make it obvious what they’re all doing. On my visit, it looked like some of the machines were shut-down completely. Not impressive.
Another attraction is “The Vault”, where the secret formula is locked-up, supposedly. This is another attraction that is designed to waste your time. After entering the vault, you follow a path to the vault…
… walking past some interesting TV screens that make your image “fizz”. At the end, you have to play a virtual-reality game (sort of like a Kinect gaming system, that captures your movements) in order to unlock the door that leads to the vault.
Once the game is complete, the vault is revealed. Yep, you went through all that…
… to see this: a locked vault, that most likely isn’t really a vault at all, just a wall with a fake spinning handle mounted on it. Where the hell is the tasting room?
There’s another theater upstairs — the “Secret Formula 4-D Theater”. It’s one of those attractions where you have to wear 3-D glasses so that things can come flying out into your face. The 4th dimension in its name refers to the jolting, shaking, and water-spurting seats. The movie follows a ‘scientist’ who attempts to uncover the ingredients in the secret formula. I’m pretty sure at the end, he determines that the secret ingredient is people. No, not actual ground-up people — more like love and happiness and wishes and rainbows, or some crap like that.
It’s not until I exited the 4-D Theater, and walked back towards the steps, that I finally found the “Taste It” room.
This is, of course, the only real reason for visiting the World of Coca-Cola. Dozens of soda fountains are assembled here, serving up beverages from different areas of the world. Most are not colas, instead, there are numerous fizzy, sugary fruit drinks, along with some that are very bizarre. One in particular, called “Beverly”, has an awful taste, and every kid inevitably tries to trick their parents into taking a big gulp of it.
You’re given a small cup, but that’s okay. You only want to drink a very small portion of each flavor. Sample wisely, since you’ll want to make it through all of the flavors from each continent.
In addition to these standard fountains, there is also a room with the new Coca-Cola Freestyle machines (the ones that look like a refrigerator with a touch-screen, allowing you to add flavors to standard sodas). After sampling dozens of exotic drinks, I tried to drink a “regular” Coke, and it didn’t taste good at all.
As you exit, you’re given a souvenir bottle of Coke — an old-fashioned glass bottle. It always tasted better that way, but of course, I’ll never open it and enjoy it, because it’s a souvenir.
And speaking of souvenirs, the exit leads into an immense gift shop, where you can buy just about every kind of Coca-Cola-branded product imaginable.
Bottom line: it’s worth going to the World of Coca-Cola, once. Just remember that, essentially, you’re paying $16 to taste a few dozen sodas, and receive an hour of intense marketing.
My visit to World of Coca-Cola was the final event of this day. I headed back to my hotel in Norcross to prepare for a day of driving around the Appalachian foothills north of the city.