Coke Museum Tells the Story of the World’s Largest Beverage Company
The history of Coke and its influence on pop culture is told in exhibits, three theaters and a tasting room for sampling Coca-Cola products served around the world.
Sip a Sparletta Sparberry from Zimbabwe? Taste a Vegitabeta from Japan, or why not try some Delaware Punch from Honduras? Watch out for the Beverly from Italy – it makes most folks grimace. The tasting room is a highlight of a visit to the World of Coca-Cola museum where spigots of Coke products most of us have never heard of are arranged by continent.
Visitors help themselves to about 60 of the more than 450 Coca-Cola brands served in 200 countries around the globe. They also can go back to the company’s roots and have a Coke only a few blocks from where it was first served in Atlanta in 1886.
Showcasing the History of the World’s Most Popular Soft Drinks
Pharmacist John S. Pemberton created the original Coca-Cola formula for customers to his soda fountain. When Coca-Cola purchased a 20-plus acre former industrial site in downtown Atlanta, it dubbed the location Pemberton Place in homage to the creator of Coke.
In a massive urban renewal project, nine acres of the site were donated for the Georgia Aquarium, which opened in 2005, and 2.5 acres were given for the Center for Civil and Human Rights, opening in 2010. World of Coca-Cola opened on the site in 2007 at roughly double the size of its former museum.
More than 1,000 artifacts are exhibited, including many never on public display. There’s an array of vintage Coke vending machines, a Coca-Cola can that made its way onboard the Space Shuttle, and a 1880’s-era soda fountain similar to one where Pemberton sold his “headache remedy” made of coca leaf extract and distilled water, charging 5 cents a glass.
The exhibit of the first contour glass Coke bottle explains that the shape was a mistake. The designer looked up “coca leaf” in an encyclopedia, but found “cocoa tree” instead. The distinctive bulbous shape – which became one of the best-known symbols in the world – resembles a cocoa tree seed pod. Problem is, cocoa is used to make chocolate, not Coca-Cola.
Coke in Advertising, Art and Pop Culture
More history unfolds in the Coca-Cola Loft area where Coke advertisements from around the world and through history are displayed, including a 1933 ad made with Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. Norman Rockwell’s “Barefoot Boy” painting, created for a Coke calendar in 1931, ranks as among the most valuable artifacts, worth about $2 million.
The Pop Culture gallery displays the work of renowned artists, including Andy Warhol, and the polar bear character made famous in Coke advertising stands in the center of the museum, inviting visitors to join him for a photo. Three films devoted to Coca-Cola TV advertising are shown in the Perfect Pauses Theater, while the Secret Formula 4D theater uses special effects, such as moveable seats, to give viewers a multi-sensory experience.
The global presence of Coca-Cola comes through it an artistic way in the museum lobby where huge Coke bottles are decorated in the folk art of many countries where the soft drink is served. The bottles were commissioned by the company and displayed during the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Take Home a Coke from the World’s Smallest Bottling Plant
Every visitor can leave the museum with a free souvenir – a collectors’-edition glass bottle filled with Coke at the museum’s Bottle Works. Viewers get an inside look at the bottling process while the display churns out 20 bottles a minute.
For those with money to spend on souvenirs, the Coca-Cola Store sells a wide range of merchandise, including collectibles and clothing made from recycled plastic bottles.
Setting an Example of Environmental Responsibility
The 92,000-square-foot World of Coca-Cola was built green according to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Ninety percent of its construction waste was reused or recycled. Inside, the floors are made of bamboo, which is quick growing, and carpet made from recycled PET plastic. Disposable cups in the tasting room look like plastic, but are actually made from corn starch and are biodegradable.
Waterless urinals and other efforts to conserve energy and water use are used throughout the building. Water conservation remains a major initiative of the company, which depends so heavily on clean water sources for its products. Every 12-ounce of Coke contains 10 ounces of water.
World of Coca-Cola Ticket Availability and Savings
A tour of the World of Coca-Cola averages about 90 minutes. To guarantee admission time, visitors can purchase tickets online at the museum’s Web site where current hours and admission prices can be found. Tickets can also be purchased by phone at (800) 676-COKE or, if available, at the main entrance ticket window.
World of Coca-Cola honors CityPass tickets, which makes an Atlanta vacation more affordable. CityPass also includes reduced-price admission to Atlanta area attractions, such as the Georgia Aquarium, CNN, and the Atlanta History Center, which operates the Margaret Mitchell House.