The first stop on the Atlanta trivia tour is the Georgia Aquarium. The beluga whales at Georgia Aquarium—juveniles Grayson and Qinu, plus adults Maris and Beethoven—have quite the famous friends. Among the celebrities who have stopped by for a playdate are Justin Beiber, Demi Moore, Rosie O’Donnell, Nick Carter and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Noncelebrities are allowed interaction with the whales, as well, through the Aquarium’s special programs. Only six aquariums and zoos in the U.S. care for beluga whales. Georgia Aquarium also holds the distinction of being the world’s largest aquarium.
Atlantan Rankin M. Smith purchased an NFL franchise in 1965 and held a contest to decide its name. While “Falcons” was suggested by many, he awarded the top prize to teacher Julia Elliot because of the reasoning behind her choice: “The Falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and fight. It never drops its prey. It is deadly and has a great sporting tradition,” she said. A white Falcons crest adorned the sleeves of the team’s home uniform in its inaugural season, with the red helmet featuring a black Falcons crest. Red and white stripes replaced the crest on the sleeves in 1968 and didn’t return until 1979.
While many scenes in the 1981 Burt Reynolds film “Sharky’s Machine” were shot at Atlanta’s Westin Peachtree Plaza, the Hyatt Regency downtown actually doubled for the other hotel in one of the movie’s most dramatic scenes. When Sharky shoots hitman Billy Score, played by Henry Silva, the bad guy goes flying through a plate-glass window in the tower part of the Hyatt and falls to his death. Stuntman Dar Robinson dropped 220 feet for the scene, setting a record for the highest wireless free-fall jump from a building in a film.
The history between Atlanta and Coca-Cola dates back to 1886, when inventor John S. Pemberton sold his soda for the first time at Jacobs’ Pharmacy downtown. During its first year of availability, nine drinks were sold per day. The company, which celebrated its 125-year anniversary in 2011, now estimates that consumers around the globe consume Coca-Cola products 1.7 billion times per day.
Atlantans have a healthy respect for fire, thanks to the city’s history with the destructive element. Atlanta remains the only city in North America destroyed by fire as an act of war; only 400 structures were left standing after Sherman’s attack in 1864. The Atlanta fire of 1917 destroyed more than 3,400 buildings and left more than 10,000 people homeless. In 1946, 119 people died at the Winecoff Hotel, making it the worst hotel fire in the history of the U.S.
The Varsity covers more than 2 acres downtown and can fit 600 cars outside and more than 800 people inside, making it the world’s largest drive-in. It goes through 2 miles of hot dogs, 1 ton of onions, 2,500 lbs. of potatoes, 5,000 fried pies and 300 gallons of chili every day. Imagine the amount of antacid consumed on those days, as well.
In 2008, Bravo launched its third “Real Housewives” series in Atlanta. The profiled drama queens—along with the entertainment factor of the city itself—keep this series the highest rated of the franchise, season after season. Season four got underway in 2012, with Cynthia Bailey, Phaedra Parks, Kandi Burruss, Sheree Whitfield, NeNe Leakes and Kim Zolciak making up the cast of usually-fighting Atlantans.
The birth home of Martin Luther King, Jr., reveals much about the man. Visitors can tour the house, located at 501 Auburn Ave., and learn that not only did he hate taking piano lessons, as evidenced by the scars on the old family upright, but that the lack of a garage on the property was the result of a joyride he took in his father’s car at the age of 12. Turns out, King wasn’t the best parker in his tween years.
The Communicable Disease Center opened in Atlanta on July 1, 1946. It underwent a name change in 1970, becoming the Center for Disease Control. In 1992, Congress changed the name again to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the initials remained. In addition to its main goals, the organization does fun stuff, too. The CDC Disease Detective Camp takes place each summer, and the organization launched a Zombie Preparedness section on its website to get everyone ready for the eventual undead apocalypse.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden received the first-ever “Amphibian Pod” in the United States. These insulated overseas shipping containers create biosecure laboratories in which to house and breed amphibians. The organization’s Amphibian Breeding Program uses its pod to breed the critically endangered Horned Marsuipial Frog, among other species. Programs such as these allow the garden to reintroduce endangered frogs. While the breeding program takes place behind the scenes, visitors can see plenty of rare and endangered frogs on display, including the fringed leaf frog, black-legged dart frog and the golden poison frog, not to be confused with its also deadly relative, the blue poison frog.
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