Walkin’ and gawkin’: Tours on foot are way to go now


Time to start walking.

That’s not a Hail Mary pass for getting around this town’s legendary traffic. Merely making the case that walking tours are plentiful here. And arguably the best way to really see metro Atlanta, from, well, the ground up.

“You’re walking through here and you stumble across names you recognize from buildings,” Atlanta Preservation Center education director Paul Hammock said at Westview Cemetery, site of his organization’s newest walking tour. “And in a way, who they are and what they did becomes more real, more compelling.”

With that in mind, we set out to find five especially interesting, informative or just plain unique walking tours. They had to be offered on a regular basis, and we didn’t limit ourselves only to guided tours, or to ones in Atlanta.

So grab your kicks and get going. But first, read our guided tour of these walking tours.

> Westview Cemetery Tour 

Next tour: 2 p.m. May 24 (check APC website for additional Sunday dates). 1680 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd., Atlanta. $10, $5 seniors and students. 404-688-3353, www.atlantapreservationcenter.com.

Walking the Walk: 90-minute tour of the Southeast’s largest cemetery, all on foot. Two different tours, led by knowledgeable APC guides, are offered on a rotating basis: the original 19th-century cemetery, where countless Atlanta notables rest in peace in a rolling, parklike setting; and the 20th-century expansion of the cemetery by colorful then-owner Asa Candler Jr.

Talking the Walk: The 19th-century tour visits the suitably grand or one-of-a-kind burial sites of big names from the arts (Joel Chandler Harris, Robert Shaw); business (Coca-Cola founder Asa Candler); politics (legendary Mayor William Hartsfield) and cultural institutions (the High Museum founder, the guy who gave Atlanta the Cyclorama painting). Meanwhile, Candler Jr.’s the irresistible star of “his” tour, which covers his big ideas — flat, set-in-ground grave markers, an eyepopping Westminster Abbey-style mausoleum — and subsequent fallout.

Tour tidbit: If this gravesite could talk! Lemuel Pratt Grant (1817-1893), the railroad magnate and philanthropist who donated 100 acres to the city for Grant Park, is buried with both his wives, and with his second wife’s first husband. The poor guy was uprooted from his original resting place and moved in at some point.

Extra steps: Atlanta Preservation Center offers nine other guided walking tours of historically significant neighborhoods and places from March through October. See website for details and schedule.

> Marietta’s Black Heritage Walking Tour: Walk Together Children

Downtown Marietta. Free. Brochures/walking maps available at Marietta Visitors Bureau, 4 Depot St. N.E., Marietta. 770-429-1115, www.mariettasquare.com.

Walking the Walk: Self-guided, 13-stop tour in and around the Marietta Square area. The longest walk, between stops 11 and 12, takes some five to seven minutes. (Note: Markers/informational signage is in the works for all stops, and should go up sometime in the fall.)

Talking the Walk: Jointly developed two years ago by black community leaders, the city of Marietta and the Visitors Bureau, the tour’s as much about telling important stories as it is highlighting locations. Andrew Rogers’ circa-1880s barber shop (Stop No. 1) is long gone, but its prominent location on South Park Square throws light on an early, important black businessman. Stop No. 7, Marietta City Hall, underscores Councilman Hugh Grogan’s (1977-1981) long struggle to become Cobb County’s first black elected official.

Tour tidbit: Henry Greene Cole, a prosperous New York transplant, was a Civil War-era Yankee spy who gathered much of his intel from free blacks and slaves. His house (Stop No. 13) had a secret tunnel leading out to woods on what’s now Marietta National Cemetery (Stop No. 12); the house was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Extra steps: Also at the Visitors Bureau, pick up the brochure/map for another good self-guided tour. The “Historic Walking & Driving Tour” has 57 stops and overlaps some areas of the Black Heritage Tour.

> Atlanta Beltline Arboretum Walking Tour

10 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays (tours start at 9 a.m. June-September). Behind Parish restaurant, 240 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta. Free (donations accepted at signup time). Advance registration required. 404-681-4897, beltline.org.

Walking the Walk: Moderately paced walk of approximately 2 miles along the Beltline’s paved Eastside Trail led by docents from Trees Atlanta, the 30-year-old nonprofit that works to protect and improve Atlanta’s urban forest. Takes approximately 90 minutes (or longer, depending on questions) and ends near Monroe Drive.

Talking the Walk: Technically, an intro to the Arboretum, a 22-mile “horticultural collection” of trees and plants being built alongside the Beltline. But the knowledgeable docents also cover the Beltline’s history and future, the neighborhoods it passes through and fascinating facts about nearby sites like the railway platform behind the old Sears Roebuck building (now Ponce City Market) and the road formerly named for the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Tour tidbit: The Arboretum is divided into “rooms,” based on what grows there. The tour starts in the Elm Room and passes through the Oak Room into the Magnolia Room.

Extra steps: Trees Atlanta is developing two additional Beltline walking tours: On July 9, a second Arboretum walking tour on the Westside/West End Trail begins. And the next date for the new Family Friendly Walking Tour of the Eastside Trail is June 21, Father’s Day.

RELATED: AJC Guide to the Atlanta Beltline

> Suwanee SculpTour

May 2015-March 2017 (officially opens May 16). Free. Town Center, 330 Town Center Ave., Suwanee (intersection of Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road and Buford Highway). 770-945-8996, www.suwanee.com.

Walking the Walk: A self-guided, stroll-at-your-own-pace tour of nearly 20 sculptures located in and around Town Center Park, a 10-acre green space with an interactive fountain, surrounded by shops and restaurants. Brochure/map available at nearby City Hall (open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays); or check out the SculpTour page online or on mobile at suwanee.com.

Talking the Walk: The fourth — and biggest yet — version of the walkable exhibit that lets visitors vote for favorite pieces and typically culminates with the city purchasing at least one of the sculptures (using privately donated funds). The 17 sculptures by 15 artists (six from Georgia) address diverse themes and range in subject from a “herd” of grazing goats to a provocatively colorful take on a military tank.

Tour tidbit: At 2,700 pounds, “Dancer XX” by Jack Howard-Potter is the heaviest SculpTour piece ever, but the 20-foot-tall steel man is light on his feet: The sculpture rotates with the wind, thanks to a long piece of fabric in its hands.

Extra steps: Other public art in Suwanee’s permanent collection includes “In Remembrance of 9-11” (it features a damaged, twisted piece from the World Trade Center) at Town Center Park, and the whimsical “Audubon Watcher” and three other pieces from previous SculpTours at Sims Lake Park.

> Fox Theatre Tour

Monday, Thursday and Saturday mornings (first tour starts at 10 a.m.). 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. $18, $15 military and seniors, $5 age 10 and under. Tickets go on sale two weeks in advance. 404-881-2100, foxtheatre.org.

Walking the Walk: An easy one-hour tour that stops at 10 noteworthy locations at the 85-year-old landmark building whose design was heavily influenced by ancient temples of the Far East — right down to its use of domes, minarets and intricate textiles and tiles.

Talking the Walk: Starts with an entertaining history of the Fox’s somewhat rocky start (local Shriners built it, then ran short of dough and leased a portion to movie mogul William Fox) and the scrappy Atlantans who saved it from the wrecking ball 40 years ago. Moves on to give closeup, inside-detailed looks at the stage/orchestra area; the Mighty Mo organ; balcony (including the section where black patrons had to sit during segregation); the fabulous starry-sky ceiling, even where the popcorn gets made.

Tour tidbit: The tour stops in the ornate men’s room upstairs, where presidential candidate Jimmy Carter once gave an impromptu campaign speech. Said tour guide Myra Crawford: “So you can run for president anywhere in the United States, but you can definitely run here at the Fox Theatre.”

Extra steps: Beginning next month, the Fox also will offer a “backstage” tour, which visits various dressing rooms and ends onstage. More details to come, Fox folks say.

RELATED: AJC Guide to the historic Fox Theatre

RELATED: New rooftop lounge at Fox Theatre



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