City Guide - The Best of Atlanta
Although Atlanta prides itself on its history, it's very much focused on the future. Call it Southern with an international flair. Don't let the relaxed atmosphere, polite culture, and historical landmarks fool you. A special energy exists in this premier city of the South. Whatever your interests, they're likely to be satisfied in Atlanta.
While most people visiting Atlanta are directed to Buckhead for shopping and nightlife, downtown has become a big draw following the 1996 Olympics. But don't stop there. You'll find interesting neighborhoods throughout the city -- each with its own distinct personality. As a whole, they give Atlanta its unique character.
The Braves, who play baseball at Turner Field, are one of Atlanta's many sports attractions.
©2006 Atlanta CVB
The Best of Atlanta
On the surface, Atlanta seems very laid back. But while people visit historic sites and new attractions, there's a hum of business in the background. The international headquarters for Coca Cola, CNN, Home Depot, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UPS, and Delta Airlines are housed in this city.
Despite this high-powered business atmosphere, Atlanta takes great care to maintain its Southern charm. It's a big city without the big-city attitude. Newcomers and visitors often note how friendly and helpful the citizens are. And unlike Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles, it's easy to take in Atlanta's sights without feeling closed in by crowds.
The 1996 Olympics were a turning point for Atlanta, triggering an overhaul of many buildings and a much-needed cleanup of some blighted areas. The Olympics also ignited an influx of tourism, and the city continues to grow as a vacation destination, thanks to an array of attractions, happenings, and sporting events.
Atlanta's charm is that visitors can be as relaxed or busy as they choose to be. And anyone who decides to veer off the beaten path will not be disappointed by the city's culture, history, and architecture.
Geography and landscape: Atlanta is nicknamed "Hotlanta," in part due to its warm climate. Temperatures regularly climb into the 90s throughout the summer. The warm climate does have advantages. Visitors may be surprised to find a city that's lush and green, with small parks dotting the neighborhoods. Atlanta's answer to Central Park -- the 180-acre Piedmont Park in Midtown -- draws runners and those who want to enjoy the outdoors. It's little wonder Atlanta is called a "city among the trees."Crisscrossed by Peachtree and Nancy Creeks, the city is dissected by the Chattahoochee River, which runs northwest and serves as a geographical marker for getting around town.
Atlanta is actually the second-most elevated city in the United States, behind Denver. Atlanta borders the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and its neighborhoods become more rolling the farther north you travel. The city also lays claim to two small mountains -- Kennesaw to the north and Stone Mountain to the east. Stone Mountain is the largest outcropping of granite in the world.
General orientation: To find your bearings in Atlanta, picture a big (peach) pie. Interstate 285, known as the Perimeter, circles the city, while north-south Interstates 75 and 85 and the east-west Interstate 20 split it into sections. All three interstates cross paths in downtown, often creating traffic bottlenecks.
No grid system exists for streets and no apparent rhyme or reason explains street placement, so traveling around the city can be confusing. There are 26 streets named Peachtree in Atlanta, but the main Peachtree artery winds from downtown to the north. Most directions are given in conjunction to Peachtree Road or Piedmont Avenue, which both start at the City Center.
Most of the attractions that draw visitors are located within the Perimeter and north of Interstate 20, but a good portion of the 4.7 million residents of Metro-Atlanta live in the sprawling communities to the north and east of the Perimeter.
Safety: Atlanta has taken great care in recent years to make visitors feel secure. Generally, it has succeeded -- most areas are safe during the daylight hours. Police on bicycles patrol parks and the downtown area to make their presence known. But as in any other large city, you need to remain aware of your surroundings, especially after dark.
Once shunned, downtown has become a more popular and safer place for tourists, thanks to Centennial Park and the Georgia Aquarium. Neighborhoods north of downtown -- such as Decatur, Virginia-Highlands, Midtown, and Vinings -- don't have large crowds and can be good alternatives for exploring. Buckhead is hopping at any hour, but take special care in the bar area near Peachtree and Roswell Road. It has developed a reputation for being rowdy late at night.
Climate/weather: Atlanta's climate is considered temperate. Summers are hot and humid with temperatures in the 80s to low 90s, but mild autumns, winters, and springs make up for the heat.
Atlanta is known for its lush vegetation, and the city's beauty is on full display at the 180-acre Piedmont Park.
©2006 Atlanta CVB
The winter mercury hovers mostly in the 40s and 50s, and while snow is not out of the question, it is extremely rare. The city is at its best in late March to early April, when the dogwood trees and azaleas are in full bloom and the temperatures are in the 60s and 70s. Getting in and around Atlanta sometimes can be tricky, so you'll want to look at the next section of this guide. There, we'll provide helpful hints for touring the city.
- McDonald, Janice. "How Atlanta Works: Atlanta City Guide." HowStuffWorks.com. 08 October 2012.