ATLANTA - At the new World of Coca-Cola, Joan Crawford and Clark Gable greet visitors from a 74-year-old advertisement. A 3-D movie ride takes audiences on a journey to find the secret recipe of one of the world's most popular drinks. A nearby bottling line fills keepsake bottles before visitors' eyes.
The nearly $100 million museum, which opened May 24, is the latest attraction in the tourism and development boom of Georgia's capital city, following the September birth of Zoo Atlanta's new panda, the High Museum of Art's unique exhibit of works from the Louvre and the late 2005 opening of the world's largest aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium, next door to the new World of Coca-Cola. Also nearby are CNN's headquarters and the Georgia Dome.
"It's making a new epicenter for tourism in Atlanta," said Jeff Swanagan, executive director of the aquarium. "Maybe we're not yet Orlando or Las Vegas, but we've certainly moved things up several notches."
What's getting Atlanta tourism officials excited is that the new Coke museum is expected to draw about 1.2 million visitors in its first year and businesses have been working with the museum on packages to link attractions and services together.
"Atlanta just continues to have a lot of momentum and is growing as a tourist destination," said Spurgeon Richardson, president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We've got an awful lot of product here. We need to do a better job of telling our story of all the things we have to see and do in this city."
The Omni Hotel at CNN Center is preparing hotel packages with the new museum, which is only a short walk away, based on the hotel's success with packages related to the Georgia Aquarium.
"We really anticipate that the new World of Coca-Cola is going to be incredibly successful," hotel spokeswoman Kimberly Murdock said. "When people think of Atlanta, they may think of civil rights or the Atlanta Braves, but the one thing everyone thinks of Atlanta is Coca-Cola."
The new museum is about twice the size of the beverage company's former museum, which was built in 1990 and located about a mile away, next to the Georgia Capitol building. That museum closed April 17 and drew a total of about 13 million visitors in 17 years.
It's also more expensive (adult tickets are $15, compared to $9 at the original museum. (Tickets are now $13 and $9 respectively for seniors and children, although there's a $1 discount for online purchases).
Yet Coke officials say the cost reflects more to see and do at the new museum, including more than 1,100 Coke artifacts never exhibited before. Only about 60 artifacts in the new museum were brought over from the old museum. Among the new items to see are an 1890s marble-and-onyx Coca-Cola soda fountain recovered from a shop in Toomsboro, Ga., a 1939 distributor's truck from Argentina, and the Coca-Cola couch from the popular TV show "American Idol."
The museum also has the "Secret Formula 4-D Theater," a movie ride in which the audience dons 3-D glasses and gets bumped, blown with air and sprayed with mist during the show.
Some of the old favorites that will again be on display are one of the company's original prototype contour bottles (only two exist), and a soft-drink dispenser used in 1985 on the space shuttle Challenger.
A section of the museum highlights Coke television commercials and there's also the popular tasting room that was part of the original museum, where visitors can try 70 of the company's 400 worldwide beverage brands, including exotic tastes such as Beverly, a bitter, ginger-ale colored soda offered in Italy, and Bibo Candy and Pine Nut, which is sold in Africa.
Another part of the museum features rotating exhibits - the first will feature about 30 Andy Warhol renderings of Coca-Cola's curvy trademark bottle, on loan for a year from The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
"It's a multi-sensory experiences for guests, about celebrating our past, our present and our future, helping guests to get to know Coca-Cola a little bit more," museum spokeswoman Karen Brunke said. "There is an incredible energy in Atlanta as part of the revitalization. It's exciting to be a part of it."
If you go…
WORLD OF COCA-COLA: 121 Baker St.; http://www.woccatlanta.com/ or 800-676-2653. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (8 a.m.-6 p.m. June-August). Adults, $15; children 5-12, $9; over age 55, $13. (Discount of $1 for tickets purchased online.)
ATLANTA TOURISM: http://atlanta.net/ or 404-521-6600.