Backstage Pass: Victoria Henley takes a look at the ‘Real Thing’



Invented in the late 19th century by Atlanta pharmacist, John Stith Pemberton, Coca-Cola was originally marketed as a temperance drink and initially intended as patent medicine.

The ambitious marketing tactics of businessman, Asa Griggs- Candler led to the carbonated beverage’s dominance of the world’s soft drink marketplace throughout the 20th century.

Today, Coca-Cola has evolved from merely a soft drink, into a global force owning hundreds of additional beverage brands around the world. It has given birth to truck loads of merchandise such as t-shirts and plush toys in the likeness of the brand’s universally recognized mascot, a polar bear (which was originally introduced by Coca-Cola as a brand ambassador in 1922). It also launched a creative and unflappable approach to marketing.

And Coca-Cola offers a massive museum to celebrate all things “Coke” related, The World of Coca-Cola.

I recently was offered an exclusive tour of the World of Coca-Cola in beautiful downtown Atlanta, Ga to give you the inside scoop on what to expect during your visit.



The World of Coca-Cola is a grand museum filled with interactive exhibits, historical artifacts and a renowned tasting station, which first opened on Aug. 3, 1990, at Underground Atlanta, before expanding into the current location at Pemberton Place.

The World of Coca-Cola has welcomed over 24 million guests and counting throughout its 25 year history in Atlanta. A visit to the museum has been a “Must See” for tourists and locals alike, over the past two decades.

Upon arrival, visitors are treated to a complimentary Coca-Cola beverage of choice (Coke Original, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, and Sprite were available at the time of this article), before making their way to The Loft, where nearly 200 historical and international artifacts representing over 125 years of Coca-Cola memories are on display.



A pair of retro Coca-Cola beach pants, a poster advertisement featuring supermodel, Raquel Welch, and a syrup urn are just a few of the wide array of items on display. You can browse and take snapshots at your own leisure as an expertly trained Coca-Cola ambassador speaks about the vast and fascinating history of the artifacts in the Loft, as well as their significance to the timeline of Coca-Cola’s evolution as a global brand.



Milestones of Refreshment tells the fascinating story of Coca-Cola’s journey from inception at an Atlanta pharmacy to a beverage that touched billions of consumers. The galleries feature various audio/visual displays offering a plethora of informative reading materials. There also is plenty of memorabilia, including a 1880s soda fountain, a 1939 delivery truck from Argentina and a Coca-Cola contour bottle.



Bottle works provides a behind the scenes look at the Coca-Cola bottling process, showcasing some of the same equipment and processes that can be found at a full-sized bottling plant. You can learn interesting stories regarding the Coca-Cola bottling process throughout history while taking in the “Bottler’s Wall” that spotlighting real life Coca-Cola bottling plant workers who represent the hard work and hustle behind the company.



The Coca-Cola Polar bear first debuted in a French Coca-Cola advertisement in 1922, before appearing periodically in various print, film, and television mediums throughout the next 70 years. Now, you can have your photo made with the iconic Coca-Cola polar bear against a beautiful North Pole themed backdrop in the massive Coca-Cola atrium. (Be sure to use the hashtag #worldofcocacola when you share on social media.)



Don a pair of Coca-Cola themed 3-D glasses (which you can keep as a souvenir) and settle in to the comfy theater seats as you take a journey around the world with an eccentric professor, his no nonsense assistant and his mischievous ferret for an adrenaline-pumping multi-sensory adventure, “In Search of the Secret Formula.”



Many factors have contributed to Coca-Cola’s meteoric rise to becoming one of the most dominating and globally recognized brands in history, but the key ingredient to the company’s popularity: the fans.

“It’s the Real Thing” tells the story of the iconic and universally celebrated “Hilltop” commercial that inspired the world to sing in perfect harmony. Many ads and stories are on display that are sure to have you reminiscing back to the days of Coca-Cola’s 50th anniversary celebration. A shocking, and at times, hilarious, video showing the protests and public outcry surrounding the release of “New Coke” is on repeat play, and you can also take an up close and personal look at the actual couch used on “American Idol,” season 4 to interview the season’s contestants. (The couch highlights a graphic element featured on Coca-Cola’s dynamic ribbon).

The Pop Culture Gallery even features a “My Coke Art” gallery in which visitors can design their own customized art work based upon the iconic Coca-Cola bottle, and the customized designs will also be shared via email and displayed on large monitors in the gallery for others to enjoy.



The Taste It! exhibit serves 10 beverages from around the world (in non-pandemic times, that number is exponentially larger) including TAB, one of Coca Cola’s original diet beverages, fruity red soda from Costa Rica, a distinctive ginger beer, the Beverly from Italy.

Currently, the Tasting Room is the only portion of the World of Coca-Cola where masks may be removed by guests, and you may taste just as many beverages as you like (including the Original Coke that started it all) until you have had your fill.



Do you prefer fruity, spicy, or sweet? The Scent Discovery Center at the World of Coca-Cola encourages you to let your nose be your guide as you navigate scent stations featuring aromas of lime, ginger, cinnamon, coffee, vanilla, and more savory smells featured in your favorite Coca-Cola beverages.

Taste is a multi sensory experience, so close your eyes, take a whiff, and discover elements of your palette you didn’t even know existed in this one of a kind experience.


The Coca-Cola store offers an extensive variety of merchandise including collectors bottles, apparel, accessories, decorative items, one of a kind art pieces, and more.

Take home part of Coca-Cola’s history with souvenirs representing all the special memories you made at the World of Coca-Cola at the Coca-Cola Store.


Number : (404) 676-5151

Address: 121 Baker Street, Atlanta, Ga.

Victoria Henley is the host of Backstage Pass on FCB/IHeart Radio. She is also a former contestant on “America’s Next Top Model.”

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