The National Museum of Commercial Aviation sends visitors into the friendly skies without ever leaving the ground. Inside the 6,000-square-foot facility rests a collection of more than 35,000 artifacts from airlines and facilities dating as far back as the 1930s. Glass cases house a variety of dishes and flatware from mile-high kitchens, as well as timetables and ticket jackets. Meanwhile, mannequins display 200 vintage uniforms for pilots and attendants alike. Visitors can take a seat inside a Delta Airlines 727 familiarization trainer, replete with switches, gauges, and buttons. Inside they can attempt realistic take-offs and landings while navigating the Microsoft Flight Simulator housed within. The museum is also home to one of the first tug tractors, a Gate Gourmet catering truck, and the cockpit of the Eastern Airlines Martin 404 once used by singer and musician Ray Charles to travel from gig to gig along with his three million baby grand pianos.
Located in a historic train depot in Jonesboro—the setting for Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind—the Road to Tara Museum assembles memorabilia and artwork inspired by the novel and its classic 1939 film adaptation. Visitors can meander past reproductions of the costumes worn by Vivien Leigh or peruse the many foreign translations of the book. The voice of Fred Crane, who played Brent Tarleton on screen, narrates sights throughout the museum, regaling with behind-the-scene tales of the movie set and Clark Gable’s mustache wax. Regular tours extend the educational experience outside the museum walls, exploring Clayton County’s various plantations and historic battlefields still littered with cork pop guns and broken water balloons.
The Atlanta History Center, one of the largest history centers in the nation at 33 acres, chronicles the life and exploits of Georgians with signature exhibits and temporary displays in the Atlanta History Museum, depicts the history of the Olympics in the Centennial Olympic Games Museum, and enlightens visitors with historic houses, trails and gardens. In the temporary exhibit, War in Our Backyards: Discovering Atlanta, 1861-1865, visitors study interactive map overlays, artifacts, and photographs to discover which Civil War battles took place in their yards and which took place where their statue of Bruce Lee stands. Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment explores the history of the Apollo Theater’s influence on American entertainment and showcases memorabilia including Michael Jackson's fedora and dresses worn by The Supremes, and the Native Lands: Indians and Georgia display educates modern Georgians on the state’s original residents, the Mississippian Indian tribes. The Atlanta History Center’s historic houses such as Swan House give visitors a glimpse of rural Georgian lifestyle during the 1920s and '30s, and gardens and trails both historic and contemporary soothe minds with lush foliage, leaving visitors as relaxed as a rubber band in a steam room.
When the Center for Puppetry Arts opened its doors in 1978, Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog were on hand to cut the ribbon. Fittingly, one of its first major exhibitions, The Art of the Muppets in 1981, attracted more than 50,000 attendees. Since then, the center has matured into a multifaceted complex equal parts museum, performance center, and hub for working artists.
The masterful instructors at the Spruill Center for the Arts soak students’ brain sponges in creative know-how via a diverse selection of 90-minute art classes, ranging from digital photography to blacksmithing. Basic or watercolor painting classes stoke the flames of inner van Goghs, and screenplay-writing lessons provide the trade secrets necessary to write distinguished works such as The Magna Carta: Live. A brief foray into ceramics puts participants on the right path to spun-clay enlightenment, and skills acquired in jewelry crafting and portrait drawing may pay dividends in future romantic courtships. No class will exceed 26 pupils, ensuring that each attendee will receive ample instructor attention to ask questions about postmodern art or create intricate student-teacher secret handshakes.
Confined to plutonium-powered DeLoreans and unwieldy telephone booths, time travel is a dangerous and mischief-baiting activity. Instead, let history repeat itself as often as you can stand it with today’s Groupon: $42 gets two adults and up to four children or grandchildren (under 18) a yearlong family membership to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History (an $85 value). Individuals can purchase solo museum membership, including admission and member benefits for one person, for $30 (a $60 value).