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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, is the capital 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.
Downtown (Five Points, Centennial Park, Sweet Auburn, Hotel District, Castleberry Hill)
The most central and commercial area in Georgia (economically and politically), downtown Atlanta includes the state capitol, city hall, the CNN Center, Georgia Aquarium and the New World of Coca-Cola
Midtown (Midtown, Atlantic Station)
Just North of Downtown, this is a major business and residential district with tall skyscrapers and a popular nightlife area. This district also includes Piedmont Park, the Woodruff Arts Center, and the Georgia Tech campus.
Located several miles North of Midtown, Buckhead is a popular business and nightlife district. Buckhead is surrounded by neighboring Brookwood Hills, as well as Peachtree Battle, Lindbergh Center, and the Governor's Mansion.
East Atlanta (Virginia-Highland, Little Five Points, Candler Park, Poncey-Highland, East Atlanta Village)
The alternative shopping district Little Five Points is bordered by the trendy Virginia Highland, Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, and Candler Park neighborhoods. Further south lie milltown communities and historic streetcar suburbs like Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown, Edgewood, and East Atlanta.
South Atlanta (Grant Park, Hapeville, Southeast Atlanta)
Home of the city's first park (Grant Park) and neighboring Victorian homes, as well as the busiest airport in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. South Atlanta also contains the neighborhoods of Mechanicsville, Peoplestown, and Lakewood.
West Atlanta (Upper Westside)
Working class neighborhoods that are seeing increased investment from the city. West Atlanta includes Vine City, Bankhead, Historic West End, Adair Park, Collier Heights, and the Upper Westside
The city of Decatur is only a few miles from downtown Atlanta, but has held on to its residential small-town charm. One of the most pedestrian-friendly areas in Atlanta, Decatur is home to many excellent restaurants, bars, and boutique shops.
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, winter 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.
Movies and Television
Atlanta’s southern culture, deep history, and bustling city have been the backdrop for numerous classic films.
Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939). Steeped in Confederate politics, a struggle for survival, and unavoidable love intrigues, this film has the rare distinction of being as good as if not better than the classic southern book it is based on.
Driving Miss Daisy (Bruce Beresford, 1989). This film tactfully explores the racial issues of the civil rights-era through the nuances of a relationship between a wealthy white woman and her black chauffer.
ATL (Chris Robinson, 2006). A coming of age drama set in the hip-hop culture of the modern city.
Atlanta is also the background for the popular television shows "The Walking Dead", "Real Housewives of Atlanta", "Single Ladies", "Drop Dead Diva" and "Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta".
Atlanta's principal airport is Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) ("Hartsfield–Jackson," "ATL," or just "the airport" to locals), located about 8 miles south of downtown. Hartsfield-Jackson has been the world's busiest airport since 1998, and is a major hub for Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines. However, its efficient layout means it is also easy to navigate and not as delay-prone as many other hub airports.
On the domestic side, Hartsfield–Jackson is one large building separated into South Terminal (Delta and its partners) and North Terminal (all other airlines), connected by a central Atrium with a smattering of restaurants. The security line is through the Atrium, and because it is centralized.
The gates are in 7 concourses; in order they are T, A, B, C, D, E, and F. To go between concourses, you take an escalator down to a long underground hallway, and take the fast Plane Train, or walk (it's about 1000 feet between each concourse). It's never necessary to leave and then re-enter security, and tight connections are very feasible, assuming you arrive on time.
Concourses E and F are the international concourses, and are where you will go through customs and immigration when arriving from abroad (unless you connected from another U.S. airport). You can be picked up by car directly from the international terminal, or take taxis or some shuttles. For all other ground transportation (rental cars, public transit, and more shuttles), take the free shuttle connector to the domestic terminal or car rental center. When departing on an international flight, you should likewise get dropped off or return to the international terminal to check in.
Hartsfield–Jackson is the terminus of the southern branch of MARTA, the city rail system (see Get around below). For travel to downtown, midtown, or northern Atlanta, this is a convenient and economical way of getting there, although usually one of the slowest. Most MARTA stations have taxi stands, and some hotels have free shuttles which will collect from the nearest MARTA station on telephone request.
Other ground transportation options include taxis, shuttle vans to certain hotels and conference centers, and a car rental center. Taxis are fixed-rate when going to/from the airport and major business areas (Downtown $30, Midtown $32, Buckhead $40; excluding fees); be sure to insist on this fare. The airport is easily accessible from the highways (I-85 for domestic terminals, I-75 for international terminal), and driving or being picked up is one of the fastest ways to or from the airport—just beware the surly police officers who will not let cars linger in the drop-off/pick-up zones.
Although the airport has all the conveniences you'd expect (several for-pay WiFi providers and free access to a few Atlanta web sites, an assortment of slow overpriced restaurants, etc.) there is not much else to see or do. If you find yourself with free time, go contemplate the Zimbabwean stone statues in the underground corridor between Concourses T and A, or check out the scenery in brand-new Concourse F. There are good restaurants scattered throughout the airport; but, if you have ample free time (and we do mean ample), go to Concourses E and F (the international ones) for a better selection of restaurants and nicer atmosphere.
Atlanta is served by Amtrak. Amtrak's Crescent train runs daily and serves New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Charlotte, Gainesville, Birmingham and New Orleans. Southbound, the train leaves New York just before 3PM, calls at Atlanta at around 9AM the next day and reaches New Orleans by 8PM. Northbound, the train leaves New Orleans at around 7AM, calls at Atlanta at around 8PM and reaches New York by 2PM the next day.
The Atlanta Amtrak station is located at 1688 Peachtree St. N.W., which is several miles north of downtown and the airport. To connect from MARTA, take bus #110 or walk about 20 minutes from the Arts Center Station. Arriving Amtrak passengers can pay $2.50 in exact cash to get on the bus. The stop on the same side of the street goes south to the Arts Center, or cross the street to connect with a northbound bus to the Buckhead Station. There is no on-site parking at the Amtrak station, but Elite Parking has a surface lot nearby and offers longterm parking at reasonable rates.
Greyhound Bus Lines, provides bus service to Atlanta from many locations throughout the United States. Buses arrive at and depart from the Greyhound terminal at 232 Forsyth Street, located in a less affluent neighborhood on the southern edge of the downtown area and directly beneath MARTA's Garnett Station (see 'Get around' below).
megabus.com. Express bus service to/from Athens, Birmingham, Charlotte, Chicago, Chattanooga, Christiansburg, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbia, Columbus, Durham, Fayetteville, Gainesville, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Knoxville, Lexington, Louisville, Memphis, Mobile, Montgomery, Nashville, New Orleans, Orlando, Richmond and Washington, DC. Double Deck Coaches with WiFi, Restrooms.
Bus Bank, 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 Montgomery) 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, biking, and public transit are well suited for visitors. The major intown 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 or Midtown is often a hindrance where parking is scarce, and the lengthy rush hour is an exercise in frustration.
By foot and bicycle
Visitors will find today's Atlanta very walkable, with many improvements made in the last decade. Most of the intown 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 Eastern Atlanta (including Virginia-Highland, Poncey Highland, Inman Park, 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.
The Atlanta BeltLine, a former 22-mile railroad loop around the city, is in the process of being converted to pedestrian-friendly trails, parks, and public transit. The loop of Atlanta Beltline trails provide a quick and convenient walking or biking connection between many neighborhoods. Beltline trails currently exist on the east, west, and north side of the city. Be sure to check on the Atlanta BeltLine website about completed bicycle/pedestrian trails.
The PATH Foundation has built over 180 miles of trails in Georgia, many of which are in the Atlanta area. PATH Foundation trails include a connection between Centennial Olympic Park and Stone Mountain, 19 miles away. Other local trails include the Trolley Line Trail in Kirkwood/Edgewood, and PATH 400/Chastain Park Trails in Buckhead.
Bicycling inside the City of Atlanta can be easy or difficult, depending on the neighborhood and route. The city is slowly making progress on building a comprehensive network of bicycle paths, however Atlanta's bike infrastructure pales in comparison to some other US cities like Minneapolis and Portland. Bike rentals exist in the core of the city through Relay Bike Share. The eastern side of Atlanta is the most bike-friendly part of the city, with many bike lanes, parks, and trails.
Atlanta is served by MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority), which operates both rapid rail and bus networks in the city of Atlanta and the counties of Fulton and DeKalb, and bus service only in Clayton county.
MARTA requires a Breeze Card to store your fare (cash is only accepted on buses); a new card costs $1.00 but is reloadable. 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; a free transfer to bus or rail is added to the card automatically. 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.
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-7:30 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.
What to see
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 many of Atlanta's 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. A short ride on the Atlanta Streetcar will take visitors to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, which focuses on Atlanta's pivotal role in the civil rights movement. Civil War buffs will enjoy the 100-year old Atlanta Cyclorama in Buckhead, 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.
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.
What to do
Visit Centennial Olympic Park in Downtown and relax by the man-made river, splash in the Fountain of Rings on a hot summer day or go ice skating at the ice rink in the wintertime, attend a concert, and pay respects to the victims of the 1996 Olympics bombing.
Walk through Piedmont Park in Midtown, the largest park in Atlanta. Attend the Dogwood Festival in the spring time or one of the many musical events.
Grant Park is the oldest city park in Atlanta and is home to Zoo Atlanta. Historic Oakland Cemetery, also located here, serves as the final resting place for more than 3,900 Confederate soldiers, famous author Margaret Mitchell, golfing legend Bobby Jones, six Georgia governors, and 25 Atlanta mayors.
Stroll down the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail, which has become the de facto boardwalk for the city, with restaurants, bars, shops, and a skate park adjacent to the trail.
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 a 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.
For the more alternative/hipster crowd, East Atlanta Village (EAV) is the place to go for live music and inexpensive drinks. However, EAV can be difficult to get to for visitors without access to a car. The Sweet Auburn district, just East of Downtown and easily accessible via the Atlanta Streetcar, has become a very popular nightlife area in recent years. Edgewood Avenue hosts a diverse and eclectic set of bars and clubs. Sister Louisa's Church of the Living Room and Ping-Pong Emporium is a must-see for visitors to the district. The street's bars and clubs are frequented by a diverse clientele from all walks of life.
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.
Downtown has a few options for nightlife as well. The Fairlie-Poplar district has a few neighborhood bars, and the Luckie-Marietta district is usually lively with a variety of restaurants and bars clustered around Centennial Olympic Park. 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.
All nightlife parts of the city are gay- and lesbian-friendly. However Midtown has the largest concentration of gay/lesbian nightlife establishments.
If you like country line-dancing, you can head out of the city and into the suburbs and check out Wild Bills in Duluth.