There are a few things I must have when I travel. A Clean bed, hot shower, Wi-Fi and most importantly, Diet Coke are all necessary components of the travel experience for me. I’ve been an ardent fan of Diet Coke for at least twenty years, and probably longer. I don’t overindulge in this yummy elixir, but a can or two a day are staples of my life. Given my intense love of and respect for Coca-Cola and its various iterations, one of the highlights of my trip to Atlanta was spending the afternoon at the World of Coke.
Cynics may call the World of Coke a $16 advertisement, but I call it pure magic. The current World of Coke museum is located next to Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta and opened in 2007 after relocating from a smaller facility that originally opened in 1991. Even if you’re not a huge fan of Coca-Cola and its products, the museum is a great look at what has been one of the most important aspects of American social and pop culture for more than 100 years.
The tour starts with a mandatory viewing of a short cartoon film that is really just a five-minute commercial. Yeah, it’s cute, but it’s a commercial and I was ready to get out and start exploring the museum. As I left the forced advert though, I noticed it had put a smile on my face and I was excited to learn more about Coke. Well done huge corporate marketing types, well done.
The rest of the exhibition space is self-guided and the presentations are high-tech, well portrayed and interesting. The newest addition to the museum is the vault containing the secret formula of Coca-Cola. The original recipe is still one of the best-kept culinary secrets in the world and amazingly enough, no one has been able to accurately recreate the unique combination of flavors that construe Coke. The exhibit that leads to the vault itself is an interesting look at the very early history of the company, from the creation of the original drink to the many twists and turns the company has taken over the years. At the end of the space is the dramatic climax, the massive vault itself. Given the fact that it contains the secret formula, they’re pretty serious about the security surrounding it, but it’s still interesting to see.
The rest of the museum features a look at the pop culture associated with Coca-Cola over the years, with an amazing array of memorabilia from the past hundred years, an active bottling line, Coke inspired art and a 4-D movie theater. The most popular exhibit though is an interactive one, the Taste It! Exhibit. Here you can try more than 60 Coca-Cola products from around the world and it is one of the coolest things I’ve seen at any museum. Organized by continent, guests are invited to serve themselves as they discover strange new sodas from places as diverse as Mauritius, Thailand and Italy. (Beware the Beverly drink from Italy, it’s awful) There’s also a separate tasting room with Coca-Cola only, giving users their fix of the original product. Believe me, after spending an hour learning about Coke I was desperate for a taste of the original product. Once again, well done marketing types, well done.
The tour concludes with a stop at the retail shop, how convenient. Even though a more jaded person may see the World of Coke as a marketing effort that millions actually pay to experience, I have a more positive outlook on it. I appreciated it because I love their products, but also because the company has indeed had a profound impact on world culture, whether you like it or not. It was fascinating to learn about this impact through the decades and to see the simple joy a sip of soda can give everyone from the richest of moguls, to the most humble everyman.
So regardless of your thoughts about Coca-Cola, the World of Coke is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Atlanta.
Have you been to the World of Coke? What did you think?