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Home » Destinations » USA » Atlanta » Atlanta Overview

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. 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 state of Georgia, and has become the enduring leader of the American South.


Atlanta has one of the top 10 retail markets in the country, 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.

Looking for antiques and art? The Miami Circle, Street, and The Galleries of Peachtree Hills offer some of the best merchandise in Atlanta.

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. A line of stores similar to Los Angeles' Rodeo Drive will open in 2010 at Streets of Buckhead. 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. For those not able to visit the actual stores, the retailer also sells online.

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.


  • Festivals

    • In January and February, look for the city-wide celebration of visual arts with ATLart and enjoy an early spring at the Southeastern Flower Show held at the Cobb Galleria Centre.
    • In March, Atlanta celebrates Irish Heritage with Downtown Atlanta's St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival, followed, in April, by the Atlanta Dogwood Festival staged at Piedmont Park with children's activities, an artist market, and more.
    • The Georgia Renaissance Festival allows people to experience merry olde England during the days of King Arthur.
    • Each May celebrates jazz in Atlanta, the Atlanta Jazz Festival is presented at the Woodruff Arts Center and other venues.
    • In June, visitors can experience the Atlanta Film Festival. The Georgia Shakespeare Festival presents plays from June through October at the Conant Performing Arts Center at Oglethorpe University.
    • The National Black Arts Festival is held during the third week in July and is the world's largest cultural celebration of African-American art.
    • The Atlanta Pride Festival is an October three-day celebration held in Piedmont Park.
    • Atlanta Celebrates Photography promotes photography exhibitions and events citywide every October.

  • Itineraries

    • One day in Atlanta — This busy one-day tour will show you the many sides of Atlanta.
    • Old South and New South — This tour takes you through the old historical sides of Atlanta and the new rapidly growing areas with postmodern architecture and technology, as well as unique culture.
    • Atlanta shopping spree

  • Parks

    • 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 Atlanta author Margaret Mitchell, golfing legend Bobby Jones, six Georgia governors and 25 Atlanta mayors.


  • Architecture

    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 (it's vier is becoming obscured by the growing walls of glass around it), and there is also Nikolai's Roof on top of the Hilton.

  • Museums

    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 the Centennial Park Area, 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 to 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 & 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. 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 the Atlanta City Pass, a discount package allowing access to many of the top sights for one reduced price. The pass is valid for 9 days and includes expedited entry in some cases.

  • Sports

    • Atlanta Braves and Turner Field — The Atlanta Braves' regular season takes place April through September at Turner Field in South Atlanta. Check out the Ivan Allen Jr. Baseball Museum and Hall of Fame at Turner Field, both open year-round.
    • Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome — The 1998 NFC Champions, the Atlanta Falcons, gear up each September to kick off the official season in Downtown. The Georgia Dome has hosted numberous events including parts of the 1996 Summer Olympics, Super Bowl XXXIV, the 2006 Sugar Bowl and the annual Chic-fil-A Bowl.
    • Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Thrashers, and Atlanta Dream at Philips Arena — Covering 4.4 acres, Philips Arena is Atlanta's state-of-the-art multi purpose sports and entertainment complex located in Downtown. The arena is home to the NBA Atlanta Hawks, the NHL Atlanta Thrashers and the new WNBA Atlanta Dream.

  • Theater

    All types of cultural experiences 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 fabulous Fox Theatre, including the holiday season favorite "The Nutcracker." 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. How about orchestra fans? 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: 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, Fox Theatre and Theatre in the Square.

Stay safe

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. In the past, Atlanta was ranked in the top three for U.S. cities with the highest crime rates repeatedly for many consecutive years but, since 2005, the city's ranking has been off the top ten.

Still, precautions should still be taken as in any other major city, such as not traveling alone at night, and being aware of which neighborhoods and areas are more prone to crime. In Atlanta, the Southwest and Southeast area have reported the most incidents of crime. Also, statistics indicate that 2006 and 2007 were two consecutive years of an increase in overall number of crimes citywide, although there was a decrease in per capita crimes both years.

It should be noted that much of the crime is drug-related and out of sight so long as you are not in low-income areas. Outside of the perimeter, the crime rates are significantly lower (except perhaps in Dekalb County). Muggings are rare, even at night, and as a tourist/visitor to the city, you should be safe.

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