Combining old Southern charm with metropolitan sophistication, Atlanta is the business and cultural centre of Georgia. Bustling with close to 500,000 people, the city has been chosen by numerous leading international companies as the home of their corporate or regional headquarters. The capital of the 'New South', Atlanta is also known for its dense tree coverage, resulting in its resident's nicknaming it, 'the City in a Forest.'
Atlanta attracts visitors both for holidays and business, with its plethora of entertainment, shopping, and cultural attractions as well as innumerable world-class convention and accommodation venues. The downtown pedestrianised Peachtree Center covers about 14 blocks of retail space, including plenty of museums, galleries and centres for performing arts, as well as the world's largest aquarium.
Tourist must be sure to visit the sites dedicated to the Atlantan born Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These include his childhood home and the church where he preached and the first leaders of the Civil Right Movement met.
Explore the 13 hectares (33 acres) of beautiful gardens, award-winning exhibitions, and interactive activities at the Atlanta History Center.
The main attractions are two historic homes, open to the public offering informative guided tours. The Tullie Smith House originally stood outside the city limits but has been relocated to the History Center. The house was built in the 1840s and survived the near-total destruction of Atlanta in 1864 when General William Sherman burned almost two thirds of the city during his infamous 'March to the Sea'. The farmhouse is typical of most in Georgia at the time, despite popular belief that not all Georgians owned large plantations and mansions.
The Swan House, built in 1928, is a grand Italianate mansion that is an Atlanta landmark, once the home of Edward and Emily Inman, heirs to a cotton brokerage fortune. The History Center also features several other historic buildings and exhibitions.
Venture through the Victorian house where Martin Luther King Jr. was born in 1929. Here visitors can see where America's Nobel prize-winning Civil Rights leader grew up and where the movement was birthed.
A half-mile stretch of Auburn Avenue, including King's birth home, the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he preached, and the memorial tomb at the King Center where he is buried has been made designated a historic site, drawing hundreds of visitors every day. The exhibits contained within provide insight into the life and times of this much-revered man. Tours are conducted every 30 minutes on a first-come first-serve basis.
In 1886 Jacob's Pharmacy, a small drugstore in Atlanta, began selling a new headache and hangover tonic called 'Coca-Cola'. In 1891, entrepreneur Asa Candler paid $2,300 to acquire the rights of what is now the world's most valuable brand. The following year he founded the Coca-Cola Company.
The new, environmentally-friendly construction houses more than just a museum dedicated to Coca-Cola; it is an entire soft-drink experience. Thousands of Coke objects, trivia and memorabilia are contained among the interactive exhibits, backed up by commercials, radio jingles, a 4-D theatre, tasting, and a Pop Culture Gallery.
Kennesaw Mountain was the scene of a bloody Civil War battle, where in 1864, General Sherman led his Union forces against the entrenched Confederate forces at the site. This resulted in the death of more than 67,000 soldiers.
The park now consists of several thousand acres of protected land, covered with more than 17 miles (27km) of interpretive walking trails. The trails contain historic earthworks and cannon placements, wuere markers and memorials have been placed to commemorate the event.
A small museum at the site displays Civil War artefacts, and a visitor's centre provides information about the battle on the site. This popular park is visited by more than a million people each year, many of whom come to picnic and enjoy the views that the mountain has over Atlanta.
Be sure to visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden while in the city. The Fuqua Conservatory in particular is worthing seeing, a giant greenhouse containing different climate-controlled eco-systems. A walk through the conservatory takes visitors from a desert into a steamy tropical jungle. Outdoors the gardens are criss-crossed with dedicated nature walks, bypassing many quiet spots designed for peaceful contemplation. The garden permanently features numerous sculptures and art pieces, as well as hosting art exhibitions on a regular basis.
As one of the South's pre-eminent museums, Fernbank Museum of Natural History is a gateway for discovery and exploration. It explores the story of the earth's history, the physical universe, the environment and human culture through exhibitions, programs and films in the IMAX Theatre. Opened in 1992, Fernbank is 'Atlanta's Home to Dinosaurs,' a reputation highlighted by , a distinctive permanent exhibition which features the world's largest dinosaurs.
Originally built for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Turner Field was converted after the event to serve as the home of major league baseball team the Atlanta Braves. Affectionately known as 'The Ted', the open-air stadium is a great place to spend a hot summer night in Atlanta. The stadium is also home to the Ivan Allen Jr. Braves Museum and Hall of Fame, with exhibits on famous Braves players like Greg Maddux, Bobby Cox, and Hank Aaron, as well as Braves owner and stadium namesake, Ted Turner.
The Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in America, containing over 100,000 animals from 500 species. Creatures from all around the world are are displayed here, from whale sharks and manta rays, to sea lions and sea otters, penguins, sharks and a riot of colourful fish. The Aquarium also has a 4-D theatre that features an animated 3-D film, interactive seats and live actors, as well as a café and the Ocean Ballroom for special events. A popular attraction is the Dolphin Tales show, where features choreographed musical performances by the dolphin stars.
Located in deep in the city's art district, Atlantas's High Museum of Art is home to more than 15,000 pieces in its permanent collection. This includes 19th and 20th century American art, important and visiting European collections, as well as contemporary art and photography, and African art. The museum has an impressive collection of Civil Rights photography.
Atlanta's Fox Theatre, otherwise known as the Fabulous Fox, is a movie palaces built in the United States during the 1920s. The theatre's unique beginnings and Moorish design set it apart from other theatres of that period. Today it hosts an array of artistic and cultural events, including a summer film series, the Atlanta Ballet, and performances by national touring companies of Broadway shows.
The Imagine It! Children's Museum of Atlanta promised hours of exploring and learning. Aimed at children under the age of nine, the museum contains exciting interactive exhibits such as the Curious George Gallery or Healthyville. Children also get the opportunity to paint the walls, crawl through a playground, or even don a raincoat and play in a forest stream.
Zoo Atlanta features around 1,000 animals representing 250 species from around the world and sees over 1 million tourists every year. Founded in 1889, the zoo has become one of Atlanta's top family attractions. It houses exhibitions on the African rainforest, a free-flying parakeet enclosure, and a reptile house.
Children will absolutely love discovering all the animals, including the rare the giant pandas, Sumatran tigers, clouded leopards, and komodo dragons. The zoo also has the country's largest collection of gorillas and orangutans.
For smaller children there is a petting zoo where they can interact with goats, pigs, and sheep.
A great day out for kids of all ages, Six Flags Over Georgia is an amusement park filled with rides and thrills for every child to enjoy. Try the Acrophobia, the Superman, the Batman, or the Goliath for the really adventurous, while younger tots will enjoy the Thomas the Tank Engine ride, Up UP and Away, and the River Carousel.
Although it doesn't sound like much of a tourist attraction, a visit to the Monetary Musuem at the Federal Reserve Bank leaves visitors unexpectedly entertained.
Tour highlights include an extensive 'History of Money' exhibition, displaying antiquated currency from all over the world, and an interactive, multimedia displays that teach you how to spot counterfeit money. Tourist can try to lift a $450,000 gold bar, create their own currency, and take a free bag of shredded money to take home as a souvenir.
Whether part of a guided group tour, or just perusing the exhibitions on one's own, a visit to the Federal Reserve Bank is bound to instil in visitors a renewed appreciation for the rich history that informs present-day money use in America.
Though small, Ebenezer Baptist Church has played a large role in America's history. Founded in 1886, the church functioned as the epicentre of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr acted as co-pastor from 1960 to 1968, and worked toward equal rights for African-Americans during this time. The church has a new premises across the street, but visitors can still tour the old sanctuary where King preached, before walking around the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park just outside.
Annual events surrounding Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January typically draw large crowds. Past speakers have included US Presidents, national and local politicians, and civil rights leaders. Remembrances are also held during Black History Month (February), and the anniversary of King's assassination on April 4, 1968.
One of the most exciting cities in the United States, Atlanta is a great place for children on holiday to explore and enjoy. Steeped in a rich cultural and political history, kids can learn and discover while having a great time sightseeing.
Pack a picnic basket and blanket and head off to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens for a day of sunshine and fresh air. For a slightly more active day, take the kids to the Six Flags Over Georgia Theme Park where plenty of thrills can be had enjoying the rides on offer. The Fernbank Science Center is a must for all inquiring minds, with a wonderful outdoor trails to be enjoyed. Stone Mountain Park is must, where families can traspe along the mountain trails and in the evening, enjoy the laser light show.
On quieter, days visitors can go to museums such as the Imagine It! Children's Museum of Atlanta where kids can crawl, paint, and enjoy all the fascinating exhibits on display. Most of the shopping malls in Atlanta feature indoor playgrounds, but one of the favourite has to be HippoHopp Indoor Playground, where kids will have fun jumping, climbing, and playing on inflatable equipment.
Atlanta has four distinct seasons, and a humid subtropical climate. Winters (December to February) are cold with temperatures below freezing for much of the time, but the daytime weather is mild enough to sit outdoors, with only an occasional snowfall. Summers (June to August) can be hot and humid with heat wave spells lasting days at a time. In mid-summer the average high temperature is 88°F (31°C), and in mid-winter the average low temperature is 32°F (0°C). Atlanta receives abundant rainfall, which is evenly distributed throughout the year.
Eating out in Atlanta is a sensory explosion, where visitors with a taste for excitement and variety won't be disappointed. One of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States and the third largest city in the country, Atlanta caters to the tastes of the its sophisticated patrons.
From traditional Southern cooking like fried chicken, shrimp, fish, and okra to the legendary peaches, pecans, peanuts, and Vidalia onions that Georgia is known for, the food in Atlanta is second to none. Be sure to sample some peach cobbler and a slice of pecan nut pie for good measure.
You can't beat the hospitality of the south and the quality of the food isn't far behind. Head to Buckhead for trendy eateries and good home-cooked food, while Decatur, Midtown, and Virginia-Highland can't be beat when it comes to international cuisine. Most of Atlanta's finest restaurants require reservations and it is customary to tip waiters about 15 percent, while in expensive restaurants, tipping anything up to 20 percent is the norm.
One of the trendiest diners in Atlanta, Haven lives up to its name with lively atmosphere and seasonal American fare made in front of your eyes in the performance kitchen. The upscale urban eatery combines traditional American classics with local Georgian ingredients to maintain the friendly neighbourhood feel. Reservations should be made for daily lunch and dinner.
Burger aficionados will literally have their hands full on Ann's famous Ghetto Burger, a monstrous pile of ingredients culminating in the award winning 'Hood" Burger. Consistently chosen as the best burgers in all of America, Ann's Snack Bar churns out delicious fast food treats to locals and the lucky few out-of-towners who catch wind of her fryer. This small establishment is well worth a visit. Monday through Saturday 11am to 7pm.
For nearly a decade, Mary Mac's has provided Atlanta with unpretentious, hearty meals that taste like the South. It is a classic not to be missed institution of southern dining and a litany of celebrity patrons and their pictures on the wall would attest to it. Hearty southern meals like fried chicken and barbecue are big pieces of evidence that cooking doesn't need to be fancy to be downright delicious. Open seven days a week 11am to 9pm.
Bone's is Atlanta's most famous steakhouse, having become the key venue for America's movers and shakers. Bone's serves the best prime-aged Iowa beef, prepared to each patron's exact specifications. The lamb chops are another delicious option, as is the Maine lobster. Desserts include the decadent Mountain-high Pie (layers of chocolate chip, rum raisin, and vanilla ice cream). The wine gallery has hundreds of excellent wines, specialising in French and Californian bottles. Lighter entrees are optional for lunch and Bone's is open daily for lunch (except Saturday and Sunday) and dinner.
At ('hush hush' in Italian), the noise is incredible; with happy patrons delighting over their seafood risotto. The wood-roasted fish is Sotto Sotto's specialty. But the rich chocolate soup with dark Belgian chocolate, hazelnut whipped cream and sugar croutons is a close second. The bartender makes an excellent martini and the all-Italian wine list is extensive. Sotto Sotto is open all week from 5.30pm till late.
Murphy's was a wine-and-cheese shop that evolved into a cozy restaurant and bakery; one of the most popular venues in Atlanta for brunch. The bakery and wine shop has display cases overflowing with pastries, crusty fresh-baked breads, and luscious desserts. For dinner, Murphy's offers a variety of entrees, including sautéed rainbow trout with sweet-potato hash with a large selection of pastas, salads, waffles, and pancakes. Murphy's is open all week till late.
Hidden on a secluded industrial neighbourhood in a renovated warehouse, the Floataway Café is a foodie's paradise. The menu changes daily, with fresh and local organic produce and unusual ingredients being the order of the day. Enjoy succulent wood-grilled meats and seafood, or homemade pastas, or order the house speciality, grilled steak with pommes frites and red-wine shallot butter. The wine list is international and complements the food beautifully. Floataway Café is open Tuesday to Saturday, from 5.30pm to 10pm.
Explore some of America's oldest neighbourhoods during the best spring street party east of the the Mississippi, the Inman Park Festival. The neighbourhood, located just to the east of downtown Atlanta, was one of first garden suburbs in America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Every year, the locals enthusiastically host a festival during the last weekend in April where visitors can enjoy a parade of floats, marching bands, street performers, and art exhibitions. The festival also includes a huge street market and the 'Tour of Homes', when locals open up their Victorian homes to the public. There is also live entertainment in all its forms, from ballet dancers to rock bands, and a host of activities like pony rides, miniature golf, and rock climbing.
Celebrate the advent of fall at the October Scarecrow Festival, which is held annually at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. A perfect family activity, this fall festival will see the streets of Alpharetta lined with over 100 unique scarecrows created by the locals. The special event held every weekend in October include games, storytelling, hay rides, crow cornhole, and scarecrow crafts. The festival culminates in a children's costume party, with lots of Halloween treats and entertainment.
The annual Atlanta Jazz Festival is on one of the country's largest, entirely free jazz events. For the past forty years during the month of May, jazz burst out of the doors of restaurants, clubs, museums, parks, and churches all around the city. The event all culminates in the three-day festival of performances in Woodruff Park at the end of the month over the Memorial Day weekend. Musicians at the festival join the company of intenationally celebrated jazz artists such as Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Hugh Masekela, and Dr. John, all of whom have performed there.
The US Masters is one of golf's four major championships. Unlike the other three majors, the Open, the US Open, and the PGA Championship, this tournament is held at the same venue each year: the Augusta National Golf Club.
The Masters was begun in 1934 by Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts, two amateur golfers who designed the course out of a nursery. Those invited to this prestigious sporting event can try their luck at winning the coveted green jacket of champions.
Since 1989, New Year's Eve in Atlanta has been marked by a giant peach dropping at the first stroke of midnight. The all-day event in Underground Atlanta features fireworks, food, activities, and live performances from famous musicians and artists.
Exlpore some of Georgia's best nightlife in this flashy city. Buckhead is a good place to start. The area has a festive night scene with a line of nightclubs, dance clubs, and pubs. But most venues close at 3am. Downtown has some chic lounges and cocktail bars, especially in the large hotels. The Virginia Highlands in particularly hosts young professionals in a stylish clubs.
Smaller venues scattered around the city are perfect for some southern baritone blues. Others prefer one of four huge concert venues, part of any major band's American tour. Of course, Atlanta hip-hop features many clubs with line-ups of rising and returning stars.
Shopping in Atlanta is more of an activity than a pastime and with so much on offer, Atlanta's shopping malls, boutiques and markets are more than enough to meet every shopaholic's needs.
Head to Buckhead for some first class shopping opportunities or discover the trendiest boutiques, which can be found in Decatur, Virginia-Highland and Little Five Points. Some of Atlanta's best buys can be found at Lenox Square which is anchored by Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus and Macy's and features almost 250 specialty stores and a number of restaurants for weary shoppers to rest their legs.
For budget buys head to the North Georgia Outlets where just about anything under the sun can be found for a bargain. Most people won't leave without buying something. In addition to countless shopping malls, Atlanta also has some wonderful flea markets where antiques are a popular buy. Don't be afraid to haggle with the sellers as you are guaranteed to find some steals!
Most shops in Atlanta are open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 9pm and on Sundays from 12pm to 6pm. The sales tax varies by city and state in the US and ranges from 4 percent to 15 percent. This is added to the price of goods at the point of purchase.
There is no system for refunding non-US visitors in Atlanta but large and expensive purchases are often tax-exempt if they are shipped from outside the state they are bought in.
Atlanta's trains and buses reach most parts of the city, but they are not always the most convenient way to get around, and services are limited outside of the immediate city limits. The MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) network is inexpensive, safe, and well-integrated, but travel can be slow. A one-way MARTA pass, good for travel anywhere on the system, costs around $2.50. There are weekly, weekend, and visitor's passes available for various rates.
Atlanta is a car-dominated city, so there is plenty of parking, especially at tourist sights. But traffic on the freeways and in the city centre can be very busy, particularly during rush hours. During conventions and big sporting and entertainment events, it is easier to use public transport to get around. 'The Buc' is operated by BATMA; it is a free shuttle service connecting the two MARTA rail stations with many hotels, shopping areas and businesses in the city.
Taxis are available, but it is easier to order one by phone than to find one on the street; they can also be found in taxi stands around the city. Visitors should be cautious of unlicensed taxis, and women travelling alone at night should order taxis by phone.
Home and birthplace of the iconic Martin Luther King Jr, Atlanta is fill of history and culture. Visitors need look no further for exciting stories of the American South and for some of the United States' finest cultural exports, such as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
History buffs will love the countless museums this city has to offer. From the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site and the Atlanta History Center, to the Atlanta Cyclorama, Civil War Museum and the Carter Center. A trip to the World of Coca-Cola is a must for lovers of the world's best known brand, while kids of all ages will love the Georgia Aquarium and Zoo Atlanta. Wander through the Botanical Gardens or wonder at the magnificent artwork in the High Museum of Art. The choices in Atlanta are endless!
An Atlanta CityPass can be bought for approximately $76 for adults and $61 for children and is valid for nine days. The pass allows the bearer free admission to six of the city's top attractions. The CityPass booklet provides attraction information, transport directions and best times to visit as well as coupons and other special features.
Stone Mountain is situated about 20 minutes from Atlanta and features man-made and natural attractions. The best of these is the huge relief carving of the three Southern heroes of the Civil War, which has been etched into the mountainside. The images of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Generals Robert E. Lee, and Thomas J. 'Stonewall' Jackson cover an area larger than a football field and are part of the largest relief sculpture in the world. Three sculptors worked in succession on the carving, beginning with Gutzon Borglum in 1915. He later became famed for his carvings at Mount Rushmore. Subsequently two other artists pursued the work that was completed finally in 1972. Visitors can either walk up the mountain or take the Skylift to the top to see the breathtaking view over Atlanta and the Appalachian Mountains. Stone Mountain also features a restored Antebellum Plantation featuring a colonial mansion, slave cabins, coach houses, and barns. The park contains several lakes and hiking trails, a wildlife reserve, and petting zoo.
About 15 miles (24km) south of Atlanta in Clayton County is the town of Jonesboro, a not-to-be-missed destination for movie fans and those hankering for a taste of the real 'Deep South'.
Jonesboro was the setting for Margaret Mitchell's acclaimed novel, and later film, Gone with the Wind. Devotees come to see the local historic plantation houses and learn about the real people whose lives inspired the fictional characters of the novel. In Main Street, the Road to Tara Museum is housed in the Jonesboro Depot Welcome Centre, containing original props, costume reproductions, doll collections, and an extensive photo gallery associated with the making of the movie.
The Welcome Depot is also the departure point for daily tours, starting at 1pm (except on Sundays). The tours offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the true life stories on which the book was based.
In Carriage Drive, a beautiful Greek Revival plantation home dating from 1839 is open to the public along with its authentic outbuildings.
Northern Georgia predominantly mountainous, dotted with numerous small towns, fascinating historic sites, and national parks and forests.
Among the highlights of this region are the New Echota State Historic Site (the last capital of the Cherokee nation), Chickamauga at Fort Oglethorpe, and Jasper, where the marble quarries produced the marble used in Washington, DC. Also worth seeing is the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, at the end of the Appalachian Highway, and the spectacular Tallulah Gorge near the town of Clayton.
The northwestern Georgia region offers hundreds of wooded hiking trails, sparkling trout streams, scenic lakes, and camp sites. Most of the towns and attractions are within an hour's drive of Atlanta, making them perfect day trips or weekend breaks from the city.