The Inside CNN Studio Tour in Atlanta, Georgia offers a behind the scenes look at the world’s largest news organization. The hour-long guided experience takes visitors on a walking tour of the CNN Center headquarters for CNN International, Headline News, and (of course) CNN itself. In this post, we’ll review whether the CNN tour is worth your time and money, and share some photos and thoughts about this behind-the-scenes look at the high-tech world the world’s preeminent 24-hour TV news network news. Before we get to that, a brief note…
In today’s politically-charged landscape, reader opinions might range from viewing CNN as a trusted news source to being so mad as hell about the mainstream media that they’re hosting their own versions of The Howard Beale Show from their basements. Such territory is so fraught with peril that I’d just rather not turn this into a conversation on the veracity of CNN’s reporting.
For the sake of this review, all we need to agree upon is the fact that CNN does, in fact, exist. (Well, we technically have to agree that they exist and offer tours.) With that as the backdrop, let’s take a look at whether the tour of CNN is worthwhile…
Price-wise, the Inside CNN Studio Tour costs $35/adult when we did it (click here for current pricing), and is also available as part of a few different combo tickets. If you have a few days to explore Atlanta, the Atlanta City Pass is the best option in terms of value, but we had less time. Instead, we purchased the combo-ticket that included the Georgia Aquarium and CNN Atlanta Studio Tour.
The Inside CNN Studio Tour begins in the main lobby of the CNN Center headquarters. There, you’ll find the tour desk at the base of what has to rank among the world’s longest escalators. There are a few things to do in the lobby, including several restaurants and numerous fast-food spots.
If you hang out here long enough, presumably you’ll see people come and go who presumably broadcast from CNN. However, we camped out from the time the building opened and didn’t see the Wolf once.
The Inside CNN tour begins with a walk through a small exhibit that covers the history and evolution of CNN and Turner Broadcasting, memorabilia from some of the world’s most newsworthy events, and an ethics in journalism display.
Following this, there’s a special-effects studio that provides a look at the technology that goes into the production of global news. Here, a kid from the tour was given the chance to put the tech through its paces from behind the anchor desk, while guests could see the blue-screen system in action, real-time, via monitors.
There’s an accompanying explanation of how on-air graphics are produced, how teleprompters work, and how CNN converts the same space into multiple different “studios” for different broadcasts via technology. CNN has never shied away from flashy (and sometimes superfluous) uses of technology, and the tour demonstrates a continuing fixation on technology–but at least it’s cool to see in action.
Continuing on, visitors see an aerial view of the main CNN newsroom from a glass-walled observation station, this is the nerve-center of CNN, and looking out into the newsroom as a variety of off-air staffers scrambled around to do…whatever it is they do…was fascinating to watch. This is the part of the tour that felt the most ‘real.’
Like any “good” tour, this one ends in the gift shop, Turner Store. This shop sells CNN-branded clothing and gifts, Atlanta Braves stuff, and probably more.
Overall, we found the Inside CNN Tour was reasonably good. Aside from the glimpse into the newsroom, it was mostly a tour that existed for the sake of the tour, meaning it showed guests examples of technology used by CNN, but in an artificial setting created for the tour. It was still neat to see, but I was expecting something that offered more of a behind-the-scenes look at CNN in action, and there wasn’t a whole lot of that. It was still an enjoyable way to spend time in Atlanta, and something I’d recommend.
If you’re visiting Atlanta, Georgia, our top recommendations is the Georgia Aquarium. We also really enjoyed the World of Coke–it’s fun even if you are not a Coca-Cola drinker! For other tips and advice for Georgia, we recommend reading 100 Things to Do in Atlanta Before You Die, which offers more of a local’s perspective on experiencing some of the city’s hidden gems.
If you’ve done the Inside CNN Studio Tour, how would you rate it? Was it worth the time and money to you? Was your tour experience different than ours? Any other tips or feedback from your CNN tour experience? Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments!