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No visit to Atlanta would be complete without a stop at the World of Coca Cola. At least…that’s what they say. Whoever “they” are. Leading up to our trip to the Georgia capital, I was split on whether to add the World of Coca Cola to our itinerary. I have no affinity for Coke. But it is a household name in the south, so much so that one can ask, “want a Coke?” To which you might reply, “yes”, and the host would respond, “what kind?” Huh? The Coke kind, of course.

Out west soda (/ˈsōdə/) isn’t collectively identified by a single dominant brand name. But given that the Coca-Cola global powerhouse had its start in Atlanta, I eventually caved to the marketing pressure and added The World of Coca Cola to the list of places to visit. I hoped the history of one of most valuable corporations in the world would be interesting. The convenience of visiting the World of Coca Cola also played into this decision. It is just steps from the Georgia Aquarium and Centennial Olympic Park.

As we basically don’t ever buy soda, my son was thrilled I’d added this to the itinerary. The cynic in me was a whole lot less enthusiastic about our visit.

Do I really need to pay admission?

I mean…do we really need tickets to The World of Coca Cola? Won’t it just be one giant advertisement for Coke? Come on. An admission price of $17 for adults and $13 for kids is a bit steep, don’t you think? We didn’t buy tickets ahead of time, although they do sell them online. They are the same price at the window.

You enter into a World of Coca Cola lobby that is filled with advertising photos for the company, mostly of people happily enjoying a bottle of Coke in whatever special moment they find themselves. It’s emotional branding at its best. Life is happier with Coke. Obviously.

Be prepared to hang out in the lobby for a bit before entering the first “exhibit” section of The World of Coca Cola. I use exhibit loosely, as the place isn’t exactly a museum. The receptionists at the counter are welcoming and will offer you a choice of Coke: regular, diet, zero sugar, or the new Coca Cola Life, with real cane sugar and fewer calories. There are some themed Coke bottles scattered around that were part of a display for the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta back in 1996. Eventually, the door will open and you can make your way into a gallery filled with a truly impressive collection of Coke memorabilia.

After some initial explanation about The World of Coca Cola, you will hear snippets about some of the most well known Coke artifacts and advertisements in the room.

See it through a kid’s eyes

I had to keep reminding myself that we were here to enjoy the time together. I was seeing The World of Coca Cola through cynical eyes. My son, on the other hand, was enjoying himself. We headed in to watch a movie after the memorabilia room, and I could tell he was excited.

Once the advertisement movie is over, you exit to the central atrium of the World of Coca Cola. From there you can visit the different exhibits. These include The Vault, the Bottle Works, and the Milestones of Refreshment, among others. the atrium is honestly pretty cool.

You can get your picture taken with the Coke mascot here as well. I’m sure the photo he took with his camera includes the rest of the polar bear’s head.

Fun fact: I didn’t even know Coke’s mascot is a polar bear. That’s just how out of touch I am with the brand!

From there we headed to the bottle works, where I hoped to see some Coke creation in action. However, it was closed that day, which was a major bummer. I’d expected this to be the highlight, at least for me. It was cool to still read through the whole process, even though the machinery was under repair.

My son’s favorite part was the short film showing in a 4-D theater. It is totally geared towards kids his age. It is about as cheesy as they come, and, like  everything else, pretty much just an extended advertisement for Coca Cola. But he liked it so much we endured watched it again.

He was having a ball, which was enough to make me happy I’d decided to add it to the itinerary.

History of one of the most valuable companies in the world

Like I mentioned at the beginning, the part that was most interesting to me (besides the inoperative bottling line) was simply the history of this corporation that is a household name is nearly every corner of the globe. From its invention in Atlanta in 1886 by pharmacist John Pemberton to its development into a national brand, the history of Coca Cola is actually pretty interesting.

It also amazes me that Coca Cola has around 900 bottling plants around the globe and its products are sold in all but 3 countries in the world (any guesses which these are?) I knew they have a global reach, but that blew my mind. There are some really cool vintage Coke memorabilia, including this beautiful soda fountain.

This bright yellow antique delivery vehicle from Argentina (if I recall correctly) is also neat.

The vault is where you can (supposedly) see the safe that contains the secret formula for Coca Cola syrup. You could call it pretty cool. I’m going to go with mostly cheesy.

Highlight: testing all the international products

If you visit, definitely save this part for last. The tasting room is almost certainly going to be the highlight, if you don’t mind sugaring up the kids. I probably drank more soda testing a couple dozen beverages than I had had all year.

But it’s worth it. Coke makes a ridiculous number of products. You only get to try a couple dozen, but that is more than enough. The choices are arranged roughly by continent, and each is labeled with the name of the country in which that particular beverage is distributed.

The Chilean Lift takes the cake for the offerings from Latin America, although the Country Club soda from the Dominican is a close second. Don’t miss the Bonbon Anglais from Madagascar.

The weirdest was the Vegita Beta from Japan. Hands down. I don’t what to know who dreamed this up, or why. I hope they were fired.

After filling yourself with as much sickly sweet liquid as possible, you may finally exit the World of Coca Cola. If you weren’t already hooked on the brand, you’re bound to be now.

My impressions of the World of Coca Cola

I was prepared to be utterly disappointed, which is probably why I actually left pleasantly surprised at the whole experience. You basically have to take the advertisements in stride. I mean, you’ve chosen to visit an attraction for a single company that is a marketing juggernaut. There are definitely some enjoyable portions, though, including the history of the company and bottling line (even though it was closed the day we were there).

Is it worth visiting and paying the entry fee? It probably all depends on what you and your family like. My son later told me it was one of the highlights of the trip, which floored me. Coke: 1. Whale Sharks: 0 (SEE: 3 reasons why you need to visit the biggest aquarium in the U.S.). At least the Delta Flight Museum was still his top favorite of the whole trip.

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