Next week marks the national holiday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. An important historical site to visit with your family is the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Georgia. Located just east of downtown, this site preserves Dr. King’s birthplace, home church, and burial site. The site and its virtual events are great places to explore on this long weekend to help your children understand more about the life and legacy of Dr. King.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in a house in the “Sweet Auburn” section of Atlanta on January 15, 1929. His father was pastor of the nearby Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King would one day become pastor as well. He spent his formative years in this area, and it has many sites preserved from his childhood. Learn more about its preservation story here. We all know of his work on Civil Rights and his famous accomplishments, from the “I Have A Dream” speech to his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” I’ve listed some great books for children and teens below where they can learn more about his legacy.
I visited the site in 2018 and highly encourage all families to visit. The site encompasses several different buildings (all buildings currently closed due to COVID restrictions but the park space remains open).
Start your tour at the visitor’s center by learning about Dr. King’s life and work in Civil Rights through interactive exhibits and a short film. There are several exhibits to visit with the Freedom Road walkway in the “Courage to Lead” exhibit being my favorite. Your children will be interested in learning about the various ways kids were involved in the Civil Rights movement in the “Children of Courage” exhibit. You can also sign up for birth home tours here (once reopened).
After leaving the visitor’s center, you’ll walk through the World Peace Rose Garden and cross Auburn Avenue to the Freedom Plaza.
Take a right to head to Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King and his father were both lead pastors. You can walk through the historic sanctuary and see the very spot where Dr. King spoke many of his inspiring and courageous words.
After leaving the church, head back east on Auburn Avenue to the solemn burial crypt of Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
The King Center, located adjacent to the burial site, has a museum for your family to explore to learn more about the legacy of Dr. King’s work. Be sure to look at its many virtual events for the upcoming holiday. A walkway from the museum will take you into Freedom Hall, which contains many mementos from Dr. King.
Continue walking east on Auburn Avenue passing the historic fire station 6 to the site of Dr. King’s birth home. Currently closed due to the COVID pandemic, the home is usually open for tours through the NPS. Tour times go fast so it can be difficult to get a ticket! Even if you can’t go in, I found it interesting to look at its exterior and read the placards.
The site is easily accessible and can be explored in 2-3 hours. While the interiors of the buildings are currently closed, you can request a live virtual tour for a group. Put together a group of friends or a learning pod and virtually tour this important historical site!
If you’re flying through Atlanta’s airport, keep an eye out for a display on Dr. King. It contains several of his personal items and his awards received, including his Nobel Peace Prize. It was nice to learn about history while waiting on a flight!
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park is an important site to visit with your family to learn more about one of the most admired and important people from 20th century history. Definitely put it on your list next time you’re in Atlanta!
- Cost: free
- Recommended: all ages
- Tour time: 2-3 hours (when buildings are open)
- Gift shops located in Visitor’s Center and Birth Home
- Transportation: The site is most easily accessible by car and has plenty of onsite parking. See this page for more details on public transportation.
- Dining options: There are numerous restaurants located just south of the site along Edgewood Avenue. While in Atlanta, I never miss a chance to visit The Varsity drive-in (just a short drive away).
- Nearby hotels: Downtown Atlanta with its plethora of hotels is a short drive away. Check out Discover Atlanta for ideas. Great locations are near the Georgia Aquarium or CNN Center.
- Nearby attractions include: Georgia Aquarium, Children’s Museum of Atlanta, Skyview Atlanta, World of Coca-Cola, CNN Studio Tours (currently closed), College Football Hall of Fame, Centennial Olympic Park (currently closed), Zoo Atlanta, and Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum (currently closed)
Books to Read:
All links are Amazon affiliate links.
- 14 and up:
- 10 and up:
- 6 and up: