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Atlanta  is the vanguard of the New South, with the charm and elegance of the Old. It is a city that balances southern traditions with sleek modernism. According to the 2010 Census, Atlanta had 420,003 residents within the city limits and 5.3 million in the metro area. In Atlanta, the peach trees are plentiful and the tea is sweet, yet this city boasts three skylines and the world’s busiest airport. Atlanta has been burnt to the ground and built back up; it has seen the horrors of war and felt the pain of droughts and floods. Atlanta knows rebirth and endurance though, perhaps better than any other city. Atlanta was host to the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, gave birth to the greatest figure of the civil rights movement, is the beloved capital of the great state of Georgia, and has become the enduring leader of the American South.
The separated skyscrapers of Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead make Atlanta’s three skylines, and the size of any one of these districts could rival the center of any other city in the South. Atlanta is not all high rises though; each of the city’s urban neighborhoods offer unique atmospheres that are well adapted to living in the shadow of the city.
Located on the Piedmont Plateau in the Northern Georgia, Atlanta is located almost entirely in Fulton County, while a part of the city limits extends into DeKalb County. The area size of the city limits is only 132 sq mi (343 km²), but Metro Atlanta which includes 28 counties has an area of 8,376 sq mi (21,693.7 km²). The Chattahoochee River, which forms the Northwestern boundary of the city limits of Atlanta, is a major source of water throughout the metro area. Aside from the river, the topography of Atlanta is assorted with rolling hills, forests, lakes and ponds, and granite Stone Mountain to the east.
Atlanta is on the Piedmont Plateau, at an approximate elevation of 800 ft - 1900 ft (240 m - 580 m) above sea level. The city is thus somewhat cooler than other places in the US South, a fact that certainly helped the growth of the city before the introduction of air conditioning.
Atlanta experiences a very wide range of temperatures. Temperatures in winter are overall mild to warm, but cold-fronts can bring light accumulations of snow and lows occasionally plummet into the teens. However, days are usually in the 50's and nights in the low to mid 30's. Ice-storms are very rare, but not unheard of. Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures frequently reaching above 90°F (32°C), thus the city earning the nickname "Hotlanta". Rainfall is high in late winter and early spring, and afternoon thunderstorms are common in summer. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit. The region is often affected during hurricane season (June 1 to November 30) from remnants that spill out from the Gulf, bringing heavy rains and sometimes high winds.
Atlanta began taking substantive shape in 1837 when the Western & Atlantic Railroad selected the site as the Southern end of its tracks. The town was called Terminus until 1843 when it was renamed Marthasville after the daughter of Gov. Wilson Lumpkin. In 1847, the city was renamed Atlanta, supposedly a feminine form of "Atlantic" probably created by an engineer with the Western & Atlantic. The city was incorporated in 1847.
By the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Atlanta was a major railroad hub, manufacturing center, and supply depot. But, in 1864, in order to cripple transportation between the South and the North, Union General William T. Sherman's army burned all of the railroad facilities, almost every business and more than two-thirds of the city's homes to the ground during his infamous "March to the Sea." Atlanta lay in ruins, the only major American city ever destroyed by war.
Atlanta's first resurgence began soon after. Within four years of Sherman's attack, the Georgia capital was moved from Milledgeville to Atlanta and a drive to attract new business was underway. In the meantime, college and universities began to open, telephones were introduced, and trolleys began to roll. In 1895, the Cotton States and International Exposition in Piedmont Park showed 800,000 visitors and residents that Atlanta was headed in a new direction and braced for the 20th century.
By the late 1920s, a downtown business sector had taken shape, giving Atlanta much of the distinct pattern it maintains today. At the same time, Atlanta Alderman (and later Mayor) William B. Hartsfield campaigned long and hard to convince the city to turn a vacant racetrack into an airport. Today, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the world's busiest airport, with more than 80 million annual passengers.
While the city continued its economic surge, it also became known as the "City Too Busy to Hate." Atlanta and Georgia preempted much of the strife associated with the 1950s and '60s by taking the lead in the Southeast in strengthening minority rights. The city's strongest identification with the movement was through its native son, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Much has been accomplished in the last 25 years to elevate Atlanta to a higher stage in the nation. An efficient public transportation system, MARTA, was put in place, Underground Atlanta was added, the Georgia Dome was built in 1992, and Philips Arena was built in 1999.
From July 20 through August 4, 1996, all eyes were on Atlanta as it hosted the Centennial Olympic Games. The city successfully hosted the biggest Olympic Games ever, showcasing itself to 2 million people in person and 3.5 billion people through global broadcast.
Most recently, Atlanta has become a major conference and convention destination, due mostly to the enormous airport and being the financial hub of the South. Most of the conference venues are located around the Peachtree Center MARTA station in downtown, and when there is a large show in town.
Movies and Television
Atlanta’s southern culture, deep history, and bustling city have been the backdrop for numerous classic films.
Atlanta is also the background for the popular television show "The Walking Dead", "Real Housewives of Atlanta", "Single Ladies", "Drop Dead Diva".
Bus Bank , 866 428-7226, charters buses and can help plan an itinerary for you or your group when visiting Atlanta. Bus Bank can take you to a number of Atlanta attractions including Olympic Centennial Park, Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Site, Civil War Museum, Georgia Aquarium, and more locations including university visits.
Atlanta is linked to the rest of the US by the Interstate Highway System. The principal interstates serving the city are I-75 (serving traffic from Detroit to Florida), I-85 (connecting the Mid-Atlantic to New Orleans) and I-20 (connecting Texas to South Carolina), all of which cross through Downtown.
I-285 (commonly called the Perimeter by Atlantans, and the Atlanta Bypass on overhead signs) circles the city at a distance of about 10 miles out, crossing and connecting with all the above freeways as well as the airport.
Free real-time traffic information is available by dialing 511 anywhere in the state of Georgia.
Although most locals rely on their cars for day-to-day transportation, walking and public transit are well suited for visitors. The major downtown neighborhoods are quite walkable, and many attractions are easily accessible from public transit.
If you'll have a car anyway, driving is often the fastest means of getting around. It also opens up destinations that are difficult or impossible to access by public transit. However, having a car in Downtown is often a hindrance where parking is scarce, and the lengthy rush hour is an exercise in frustration.
Visitors will find today's Atlanta very walkable, with many improvements made in the last decade. Most of the in-town neighborhoods are individually easy to walk around, with dense collections of bars, restaurants, and shops. In particular, getting around within Midtown, Downtown, Decatur, Buckhead, or the areas around the North Highland Avenue corridor in East Atlanta (including Virginia-Highland, Poncey Highland, and Little Five Points) is usually quite easy; walking times rarely exceed 10–20 minutes, and buses or trains provide some relief for longer trips. Getting between those neighborhoods solely by foot is more difficult; for example, expect a 30–45 minute walk between Midtown and Virginia-Highland. Inter-neighborhood transportation is best done by car or public transit.
Atlanta is served by MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority), +1 404-848-4711, , which operates both rapid rail and bus networks in the city of Atlanta and the counties of Fulton and Dekalb.
A single ride on MARTA costs $2.50; the fare includes transfers. MARTA uses wireless Breeze Cards to store your fare; a new card costs $1.00 but is reloadable and never expires. Breeze Cards are sold in vending machines at all rail stations or at RideStores at Airport, Lindbergh Center, and Five Points Stations. When starting the journey by bus, tap the card at the fare post next to the driver. When starting the journey by train, tap the card at the fare gate; your cash-depleted card will now act as your transfer. When transferring to a bus or train, simply tap your card again. (The card uses RFID technology, so you can leave it in your wallet and just tap your whole wallet on the sensor.)
Buses accept fares in cash, but cannot issue transfers on fares paid in cash — you must have a Breeze Card to obtain the transfer. If you plan to make a connection from bus to train, make sure to get one.
Unlimited passes are available ($9 for 1 day, $19 for 4 days, $23.75 for 7 days). These will easily save you money if you plan on making more than one or two trips per day.
The system is quite safe regardless of the time of day, although there have been a handful of incidents of violent crime in the last decade. Like in any other city or transit system, use common sense, keep aware of your surroundings during low ridership periods, and avoid train cars with no other riders or with only a couple of other riders.
The rail network is comprised of four lines: Red, Gold, Blue, and Green. The Red and Gold lines run north-south, while the Blue and Green lines run east-west, forming a cross with Five Points Station in the center.
The Red and Gold lines run on the same rails from a southern terminus at Hartsfield-Jackson airport through Downtown and Midtown Atlanta, before splitting into two branches: the Red line runs to north metro Atlanta at North Springs Station, and the Gold line runs northeast and terminates at Doraville Station. The Blue line runs from a western terminal at Hamilton E. Holmes to an eastern terminal at Indian Creek. The Green line runs east-west along with the Blue line, but has a small spur to Bankhead station and only goes as far east as Edgewood/Candler Park station. The Five Points station in downtown Atlanta is the only station where passengers may change trains between the Red-Gold and Blue-Green lines. Trains run from 5AM until 1AM Monday-Friday, and from 5AM until 12:30AM on weekends and holidays. Trains run on all lines every 12 minutes during peak periods, and every 20 minutes at night and on weekends. Note that the wait is often shorter than this for trips in the center of the city, as you will not have to wait for any specific train; you could take either the Red line or the Gold line to get from Downtown to Midtown, for example.
The bus network comprises over one hundred different bus routes, with many routes operating approximately every 20 minutes. Bus service on some lines (generally including the most popular tourist areas) runs from 5AM until 1:30AM Monday-Friday and from 5AM until 1AM on the weekends and holidays.
In addition to the train network, there are a few buses which are particularly useful for getting around some of the in-town neighborhoods:
Note for weekend travel: MARTA runs slower on the weekends. Typical wait times are 20 minutes for trains and up to an hour for buses. Be sure to accommodate for this.
It is usually possible to flag taxicabs down near tourist attractions and bars in Midtown and Downtown. However, calling ahead is recommended.
24-Hour Taxicab Services:
Flat rates to and from the airport are listed on Hartfield-Jackson International Airport's website . Be sure to insist on the flat rate, even if the driver claims no knowledge of it.
Cars are the most popular form of transport to get around the sprawling city, and usually the fastest during non-peak hours. Many destinations outside the urban centers are only accessible by car. Rush hour peaks around 6:30 AM-9:30 AM and 3:30 PM-6:30 PM on weekdays and often results in congestion when traveling inbound in the mornings and outbound in the afternoons. Downtown/Midtown and major shopping districts such as Buckhead can also get crowded on weekends. In the most urban areas, many restaurants and shops in the area offer complimentary or low-cost valet services ($1-3 tip expected) and on the rare occasion where parking is scarce, public lots are usually nearby for a fee. In most of the city, though, parking is free and plentiful. Free road maps are available at . Real-time traffic information is available from the Georgia DOT at  or by dialing 511 from any phone.
Street names in Atlanta are very confusing. There are more than 70 streets that have "Peachtree" in their name, and they are often difficult to distinguish (Peachtree Street, Peachtree Lane, Peachtree Circle, etc.). When someone says "Peachtree" without clarifying, they mean Peachtree Street, a major north-south thoroughfare through Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead. They do not mean West Peachtree Street, which parallels Peachtree Street a block away.
Making matters worse, Atlanta puts cardinal suffixes on every road, and they are necessary; the same number is sometimes a valid address on two streets that differ only by their suffix. In practice, this isn't usually a problem, and most of the time locals don't bother listing the suffix, but if you see one listed on an address, assume it might be necessary.
Atlanta's top attractions form an eclectic mix that is sure to have something that appeals to everyone, and enough variety to keep the adventurous traveler busy. The highest concentration of exhibits can be found in Pemberton Place, where Atlanta's three biggest attractions are located within two blocks of one another: World of Coca-Cola  tells the history of the world’s most iconic brand, with plenty of samples to ensure understanding; across the street is the Georgia Aquarium , the world’s largest by volume of water, where you can swim with the biggest fish of them all, the whale shark; and the CNN Center and Studio Tour, which offers a behind the scenes look at what it takes to run one of the nation’s leading news sources.
Those more inclined to history can visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Sweet Auburn, which includes this inspiring leader’s birthplace home, his final resting place, the church where he once gave sermons, as well as a museum and memorial dedicated to his colossal achievements. Civil War buffs will enjoy the 100-year old Atlanta Cyclorama in nearby Grant Park, which tells the story of the Battle of Atlanta through a massive, continuous, circular painting. The largest collection of Civil War memorabilia in the nation can be found at the Atlanta History Center in Buckhead, along side a large exhibit memorializing the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.
Exhibits of both ancient and modern history can be found near Little Five Points at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, featuring a humbling display of the largest dinosaur ever unearthed, and the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, which is the permanent home of the former president’s Nobel Peace Prize. The Michael C. Carlos Museum , located on the campus of Emory University is an excellent attraction for those interested in the Greek and Egyptian cultures. The museum houses the largest collection of Greek, Egyptian and Near East artifacts in the southeast. Those with more refined tastes can enjoy the High Museum of Art in Midtown, which displays fine art from the last two centuries, as well as modern and contemporary pieces. In Midtown, the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)  features rotating design exhibits and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center  offers rotating contemporary art exhibitions. The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA)  between Midtown and Buckhead features a permanent collection as well as temporary exhibitions of contemporary art, focusing on Georgia artists. Georgia State University's Rialto Center for the Arts  in Downtown has a free exhibition of visual art as well. The Atlanta Monetary Museum  at the Federal Reserve Bank and the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum  on the Georgia Tech campus, are both rather intriguing free exhibits on their respective themes. And finally, Gone with the Wind aficionados can’t miss the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum, which preserves the Tudor Revival mansion in Midtown where the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel was written.
Travelers planning to visit multiple attractions may benefit from Atlanta CityPASS , which grants admission to 5 Atlanta attractions within 9 days of first use for a much reduced rate and includes expedited entry in some cases. The included attractions are: Georgia Aquarium; World of Coca-Cola; Inside CNN Studio Tour; either High Museum of Art or Fernbank Museum of Natural History; and either Zoo Atlanta or Atlanta History Center.
All types of performing arts can be found in Atlanta, such as the Atlanta Ballet . Founded in 1929, it is the oldest professional dance company in America, the largest self-supported arts organization in Georgia and the official Ballet of Georgia. The company's performances combine contemporary and traditional styles with classic ballets and new choreography. Its annual season is presented at the historic Fox Theatre , including the holiday season favorite "The Nutcracker." The Fabulous Fox is worth a visit just to see its grandiose interior, and hosts many plays and concerts throughout the year.
Opera fans can enjoy the Atlanta Opera . Atlanta's love affair with opera has spanned over 125 years of the city's history. Founded in 1979, the Atlanta Opera has won numerous awards both nationally and locally.
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra  is recognized for its creativity and innovation internationally. It is also known as a wonderful training ground for musicians who go on to stellar careers with other orchestras. Regular orchestral performances can also be caught at the new Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. .
Atlanta has one of the most impressive theater communities in the United States with more than 65 active performance groups. Metro theaters present a variety of new and old works. The New American Shakespeare Tavern  is one highlight; this leading playhouse is the first troupe in America to complete the production of all 38 of Shakespeare's plays. Other highlights include Broadway musicals through Broadway in Atlanta  and Theater of the Stars , improvisation, southern themes, political and human issues, contemporary, classic and, of course, Shakespeare. Check out Alliance Theatre , Dad's Garage , Georgia Shakespeare Theatre , and Theatre in the Square .
Explore the cityscape and enjoy the many pieces of architecture built all around Atlanta, from the skyscrapers of Midtown, to the Downtown skyline, to the houses on Highland Avenue, to the mansions of Buckhead. Inman Park, Atlanta's showcases the city's old Victorian architecture. Other notable architectural attractions include the High Museum of Art and The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.
Atlanta has a rich assortment of skyscrapers, notable for their modern aesthetic and the abundance of spires. The Bank of america building in midtown rises to a height of 1023 feet making it the tallest office building in the country outside of New York or Chicago. A recent building boom has left Atlanta glittering with dazzling glass skyscrapers, many of which contain some of the most expensive condominiums in the country. That said, the city owes a sizeable portion of its modern cityscape to home-grown architect John Portman. The construction of the icon Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel helped steer Atlanta in a more urban direction. Portman, famous for the development of the hotel atrium also designed numerous other buildings in Atlanta, including the Hyatt Regency, the Marriot Marquis, and AmericasMart.
Atlanta also has a few view points where you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the city in Downtown. One of them is the Sundial atop the Westin Peachtree. Another is the Polaris atop the Hyatt Regency Atlanta (its view is becoming obscured by the growing walls of glass around it), and there is also Nikolai's Roof  on top of the Hilton.
Atlanta has one of the top 10 retail markets in the US, and the city's neighborhoods are a great place to find antiques, art galleries, arts and crafts stores, thrift stores and boutiques. The city's eclectic shopping neighborhoods include downtown Atlanta, Little Five Points, Virginia-Highland, Buckhead and Midtown.
Buckhead is home to more than 1,400 retail stores. Lenox Square  and Phipps Plaza  offer the most concentrated collection of upscale stores available anywhere in the city including Barneys CO-OP, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany & Co., Jil Sander, Gucci, Cartier, Burberry, Jimmy Choo and Louis Vuitton. The Midtown Mile  is a stretch of Peachtree Street in Midtown that offers street level retail shopping. It's on schedule to be complete in 2009, but many shops are currently open. Atlantic Station  also offers plenty of retail options.
If your interest lies in smaller, specialty, boutique or vintage stores, try Little Five Points, Virginia-Highland, and East Atlanta Village. Wax 'N Facts is a popular store in Little Five Points that actually still sells vinyl records. Bill Hallman Boutiques are also a neighborhood staple, providing fashion forward clothing for Atlanta's social set.
Underground Atlanta  is six city blocks in the heart of downtown Atlanta transformed into a spirited marketplace that offers historic guided tours and features restaurants, specialty stores, entertainment emporiums, and street-cart merchants.
Street vendors are common in Downtown, especially in the Five Points neighborhood. You can also find large assortment of trade retailers at AmericasMart.
During the past few years, several celebrity chefs have traveled south to call Atlanta home. Drawn to the quickly growing culinary scene, these chefs have been welcomed with open arms and some true southern hospitality.
Contemporary Southern Cuisine
What better place to travel than to the heart of Atlanta to experience Southern cuisine at its finest?
Atlanta Dining Landmarks
Be sure to check out these classic Atlanta icons.
Fast Food Chains
The dominant local grocery chains in Atlanta are Kroger and Publix. The city is also dotted with dozens of ethnic groceries, especially Hispanic, Korean, Indian and Vietnamese. For organic and or specialty grocery stores both Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's, and Fresh Market also have locations throughout the city.
In much of the South, and particularly in Atlanta, all soft drinks are referred to as "Coke." Due to the ubiquitous advertisements and broad popularity of the product, Coca-Cola has transformed the modern southern colloquial for anything carbonated into simple "Coke." If you sit down and order a "Coke," expect to be asked "what kind?" This cultural practice is maintained even to the extreme of ordering a Pepsi by saying "I'll have a Coke...a Pepsi please." The epicenter of this peculiar practice is Atlanta of course, because the world headquarters for Coca-Cola are downtown.
A true staple of southern culture, sweet tea can be found at almost any restaurant in Atlanta. In most places an order for "tea" will be assumed to mean "sweet tea"; hot or unsweetened tea need to asked for specifically. A popular variant to a glass of sweet tea is an arnold-palmer, a half and half mix of iced tea (either sweetened or unsweetened) and lemonade, named after the famous golfer who popularized it. "Arnold-palmer" is a bit of a tongue twister, so ordering a "half iced tea and lemonade" is common.
With fun and unique attractions, renowned restaurants and top-of-the-line hotel experiences, Atlanta keeps the party going from day to night. With chic style in Buckhead, alternative scene in Little Five Points, a casual atmosphere in Virginia-Highland and a trendy vibe in Midtown, Atlanta nightlife suits every style of letting loose. Since each district has so many options, you will want to visit each discrict article for a more detailed listing.
Buckhead is still the most popular nightlife district for locals and out-of-towners alike. Andrews cafe  are among the most popular dance clubs in Buckhead among 20's and 30's singles, while an older crowd can be seen at the Beluga Martini Bar. The Buckhead clientele is mostly of an upscale crowd, so be sure to dress to impress.
Midtown is the spot if you're looking for the urban vibe with diverse a crowd of 20's and 30's, many of them are college students, locals, transplants from out of state and foreign countries. This is also a gay and lesbian friendly area.
Downtown has a few options for nightlife as well. Many of the Downtown watering holes can be found in Kenny's Alley  in Underground. The Fairlie-Poplar district has a few neighborhood bars as well. Stats  is an ideal sports bar to watch a game located near Centennial Olympic Park.
Other popular clubs throughout the city include The Masquerade  and MJQ Concourse. All areas of the city also have plenty of pubs and taverns, such as Fado Irish Pub Fado  in Buckhead, Shakespeare Tavern  in Midtown, and Highland Tap  in Virginia-Highland.
See the Districts articles for more listings.
Most of Atlanta's major hotels are located downtown between Five Points and Midtown in area with a name that is easy to remember: the Hotel District. The district is in the heart of Atlanta's economic and political center and is within walking distance to many of the major tourist attractions, including the Centennial Olympic Park, the World of Coca-Cola, the Georgia Aquarium, and the CNN Center.
Rapidly growing Midtown, the center of Atlanta's business district as well as many high-rise luxury condos is nearby many museums and theaters. If you're looking for boutique hotels that are near a thriving urban setting, Midtown may be the area for you.
Once the heart of Atlanta's nightlife, Buckhead is still home to several upscale hotels, which are close to the area's shopping and dining districts.
If you're staying in Atlanta without a car, you'll have the best time if you stay around Midtown or Downtown, which offer central, easy access to MARTA. Both areas have many excellent bars, restaurants, and cultural attractions accessible by foot. The big-name hotels in these parts of town are close to train stations and bus routes, making access to most interesting parts of town quick and hassle-free. Buckhead and Decatur Buckhead are other options with good access to transit, but not as many tourist attractions in the area (and in the case of Decatur, not many hotels to choose from).
If you plan on renting an apartment, good places to look include Midtown a few blocks from Peachtree Street between the Arts Center and North Avenue MARTA stations, and around North Highland Avenue south of Virginia Avenue (including Little Five Points).
Despite Atlanta's reputation, the city is not as dangerous as many perceive it to be. The crime rate has dropped during the late 1990s and 2000s and reached a near forty-year low in 2005. While violent crime levels are still high compared to most American cities, most of the violence is related to the drug trade, and takes place in parts of the city visitors seldom see.
Usual precautions should be taken, as in any other major city, such as not traveling alone at night and being aware of which neighborhoods are more prone to crime. In Atlanta, the southwest and southeast areas have reported the most incidents of crime; the triangle created by I-285, I-75, and I-20 in particular is a dangerous neighborhood. Car theft is exceptionally high by national standards. Outside of the perimeter, crime rates are significantly lower (except Dekalb County).
Atlanta area codes are 404, 770, 678, and 470. All 10 digits of the phone number are required when making local calls.
Inside the Perimeter
In Atlanta vernacular, "ITP" refers to everything inside I-285 which makes a loop around the city's far edges. A few cities, which are distinct from Atlanta proper, also reside ITP.
Outside the Perimeter
Many towns in the greater Atlanta area reside "OTP" but remain closely associated with the city.