Ask for a soda or Pepsi in Atlanta, and you might as well be speaking a different language, because this town is Coca-Cola to its core. The drink was originally formulated only a few hundred yards from what is now The World of Coca-Cola – an interactive museum that for the last 20 years has been one of the biggest tourism draws in city.
It’s hard to argue that ANY other brand has had the societal impact of Coke. They defined soda fountains, they created lifestyle branding, are the drink of choice for American Idol and most importantly they invented Santa Claus. Maybe “invent” is a strong word, but not until Haddon Sundblom was commissioned to design a Santa Claus for Coca-Cola advertising, and designed his chubby grandfatherly figure in red and white (hmmm…. Looks like the Coke logo right?) did we have a clear visual brand for St. Nick.
We were excited, but had to park a couple of blocks away in a pay lot. Unfortunately, by the time we entered the building we had been soaked by a freak December slush storm that had us pledging our allegiance to Pepsi. After struggling around the building we slopped over to the ticket booth, purchased our tickets in the pouring rain and hurried inside. It took a few restroom paper towels to dry out, but we were soon in better shape and the lobby raised our spirits with its oversized coke bottles made by some great international artists.
The first doorway leads you into Coke’s Red Room featuring the company’s most valued memorabilia from the turn of the century and international Coke advertising in dozens of languages. Inside the theater we watched an introductory video that gets your blood pumpin’, makes you happy and you can’t help but sing along. The rest of the museum features a few great interactive displays, but is mostly just the standard museum fair – the history, the bottling line and key moments in Coca-Cola advertising like “I’d like to buy the World a Coke.”
The last stop, and the main draw before the gift store, was the Taste It! tasting room with sixty different sodas from distinct regions. From standard “American-style” sodas, carbonated fruit drinks (like pineapple, mango and kiwi) and bitter flavors, they had something to fit nearly any palette. We liked most of them but a European drink called Beverly, somewhat similar to tonic water, should’ve come with a warning. Many have described its flavor as “battery acid”, though Victoria suggested that it tasted like bad cough syrup and rushed to the sweet refreshment of Classic Coca-Cola to rinse her mouth.
It was fun place, but we can’t say we’ve decided to switch alliances from Pepsi – not just yet, but maybe after a few more weeks in the South.