The Coca-Cola Factory
Iraq invades Kuwait, starting the Gulf War. NC-17 replaces the X-rating in cinema. Bette Midler deafens all with her record “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Dr. Jack Kevorkian defies the Hippocratic oath for the first time. Roseanne Bar grabs her crotch, spits on the field, and wails out the National Anthem at a San Diego Padres game. That’s right, it’s 1990 and you’ve probably already spotted the missing event from this list: Atlanta gives birth to the carbonation loaded Coca-Cola Factory.
Ya, It’s Still Cool
After eighteen years of liquid gold success, the Coca-Cola Factory remains a flourishing tourist attraction today (although it was reconstructed and relocated in Pemberton Place in 2007). I get it, you’re twenty-something years old, you may have visited when you were nine and loved it, but now you’d rather mix coke with rum and tear down goal posts at the football stadium. But with at least two cars full of friends, no agenda, and the mentality that hide-and-seek is better when you’re older and unsupervised, it can be quite a caffeinating experience. Lesson Number 1: Arrive with an empty stomach.
Learn About The Company
From the moment you walk into the lobby, kids yelling and running around like nuns in a night club, you’re reassured of your decision to forego parasailing over the Atlantic for an afternoon in the coke zoo. Sure, it has the over-priced gift store and stuffed polar bears and every other cliché tourist stop that all quasi-historical venues have, but there is so much more. From the Coca-Cola Loft to the Pop Culture Gallery to the Happiness Factory Theater, there is plenty of fascinating, useless material to waste away on.
You will learn while there that the Coca-Cola Company has a global mission: to place a coke in the hands of every living individual on Earth. They’ve left clean water, health care, and democracy to the pros so they could bottle up and ship out the heavy load of cokifying the world. No easy task. With this in mind, it’s imperative to pay your respects and create an experience worthy of the mission (in my case, hide-and-seek). Lesson Number 2: Drink responsibly and make sure to assign a Designated Driver.
Tasting Coke From Around The World
After bathing in the cola documentary and learning key ingredients from the Secret 4-D theater, it’s time to walk upstairs to the main event: the Tasting Station. Sixty different beverages, one very overwhelmed palette. While making your rounds with a dry mouth and open throat, drinking sodas from Mexico to Australia, you’ll notice that each cola culture has it’s own spin on the original. Most of them you’ll want to bottle up, stick in your fanny pack, and bring home with you. There is one exception, however, and you can blame it on the Germans.
God knows they have a market for brewing dark, stout beers, but seriously, this is over the rainbow. Their beverage “Beverly” is like mixing mustard and grapefruit into a thick molasses, then asking you to enjoy it. I’d choose mashed up worms over it any day. No question. But if and when you go, it’s a must try. (This is why the product works: it’s so awful that it’s the only drink you distinctly remember, thus a successful way of advertising and making its way into this memoir.) Lesson Number 3: Carry a toothbrush with you (for obvious reasons), and prepare for about 11 pit stops on the drive home – Coke is like a urinary laxative.
Put It On Your To Do List
It may not be the first destination you think of when planning a road trip, but if you’re in Georgia or headed that way, it’s worth the visit. There’s history to be learned, games to be played, and bladders to be filled. If you’ve ever wanted to play Charlie and enter the Chocolate Factory, this is the closest you’ll come to meeting Willy Wonka and regaining your youth. There may be no blueberry gum or chocolate-egg laying geese, but there’s enough carbonation to send you floating through the roof. So kick on your gravity boots and head to Atlanta where the player’s play.
By Phillip Shaefer