I think if I had visited Atlanta’s World of Coca Cola on a day that wasn’t a holiday weekend that also happened to be the official start of summer I would have had an entirely different opinion of it. But I didn’t visit on some random Tuesday in February; I was there on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend which meant that the place was packed. But let me give you a bit of a background on World of Coca Cola.
If you’re wondering about the whole Coke and Atlanta connection, the world’s most popular soft drink was invented in the late 19th century by the Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton, although it was originally intended as a patent medicine (compounds promoted and sold as medical cures that do not work as promoted). So when you hear about someone in the “olden days” having gone down to the local drugstore for a coke, that’s where the whole pharmacy connection comes in.
Located in the city’s downtown, this popular attraction is a massive complex, adjacent to the even more massive (and judging from the people queuing outside, more mobbed) Georgia Aquarium. You are able to buy your tickets in advance which eliminates having to wait in line to purchase them once there. I did this and although the lines to buy tickets weren’t too bad when we entered (around 2 PM), by the time we left about two hours later, the lines were packed with people. Note: tickets are not timed so if you purchase them in advance, you can enter at any time for the day you bought them.
After having our tickets scanned and queuing up (the start of the many queues), we were lucky as we made it in with a group of people that was being admitted (we were the last two; this never happens). We waited inside an open-air room that was mobbed with people. It had some cool Coca Coca themed sculptures and artwork in it that I would have liked to have taken pictures of but there were too many people. Next came going into another room where there was more standing with a large group of people while a Coca Coca employee “introduced” the visitors to the facility, asked where people were from, etc. Then we moved from this room into an auditorium where we watched a seven minute movie. The movie was cute (it had clips of families and people from all around the world), but it wasn’t until the very end that one saw Coca Coca in it. So I found that a bit strange.
After the movie had finished, we were let into the actual tour facilities. At this point you could go wherever; we opted to start with what was basically right in front of us, the Vault. And if you’re sensing a theme here, yes, this involved standing in yet another long line that didn’t exactly move very fast. The premise of the vault is that “supposedly” the secret formula behind Coca Coca is stored inside of it. You never actually see anything like a recipe, there is just an “unveiling” of a vault with some special lights and other digital effects. I’m the cynic who doesn’t actually believe that the secret formula is really there.
On the same level you could also wait in line to have your picture taken with the famous polar bear from the Coca Coca commercials, you know the ones that usually play at Christmas time, where the polar bears from the North Pole are drinking Coke? Had I known what a waste of time the vault would be, I definitely would have stood in the line to pose with the polar bear instead (he was also animatronic which was extremely cool) since at least then there wouldn’t have been any disappointment, as you know what you’re getting.
Other features include the Milestones of Refreshment (a history of Coca Coca including a look as a popular drug store refreshment to its immense worldwide popularity), Bottle Works (a behind the scenes look at the actual bottling process), the Pop Culture Gallery (some pretty cool art work made by Coca Cola’s fans from around the world), and the Secret Formula 4-D Theater, which played a cheesy but cute enough 15 minute multi-sensory movie about the search for what goes into Coke’s secret formula.
I think the part that most people are excited to visit and experience at World of Coca Cola was also the worst in terms of the madness that was taking place there. The Taste it Room allowed you to sample more than 100 different flavors (the Coca Cola Company owns many different companies) of its products. Drinks were broken down by continent so there were drink dispensers for Africa, South America, Asia, North America, and Europe. Some I had heard of while others were completely foreign sounding and tasted equally foreign. All of Coke’s flavors (Coke zero, regular Coke, Cherry Vanilla, Coke lime) had their separate room where you could taste and try. But the tasting experience was just a madhouse in the worst of ways. Kids were running everywhere and many would just stand in front of the soda dispensers continuously refilling their cups, never letting other people try. In the whole time we were there, I only saw one parent actually be a parent and say to their children, you need to move back once you have your drink and let others take a turn. For the most part, I saw no parenting actually taking place there, which just colored my experience.
Upon leaving, all guests get their own glass bottle of Coke which says World of Coca Cola on it so you know it’s not something you could just pick up at a supermarket.
I can definitely say that World of Coca Cola caters to the child demographic. Not a bad thing and yet so many of its features and exhibits were cheesy for adults. I would have loved to learn more about John Pemberton, for instance. The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland is similar in terms of being a self-guided tour with interactive exhibits and yes, while I know more adults would be interested in that than children, I still feel they did a better job of appealing to all ages. They also didn’t have crazy queues for any and everything.
I think if you have the chance to visit World of Coca Cola you should, but I would either go on a non-busy day (during the winter months or on a weekday), or if you do happen to go on the weekend, be sure to be there first thing when it opens.
Tips for visiting!
121 Baker Street NW Atlanta
Open every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Check their website for current operating hours by clicking here.
Adults 13-64 ($16), Senior 65+ ($14), Youth 3-12 ($12), Toddler 0-2 (Free with adult)