Sometimes called Hotlanta because of its soaring temperatures, Atlanta has a well-deserved reputation as the cultural capital of the USA’s southeast. Not only is Atlanta the birthplace of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., but also a vibrant city that is synonymous with hip-hop music and contemporary artists including Usher, Kelly Rowland, Outkast and Young Jeezy. About half of the city’s 5 million-strong population has relocated to Atlanta from somewhere else and the sprawl of this ever-growing city has, in recent years, been almost unstoppable.
For a captivating day out for the young and young at heart, take a trip to the Georgia Aquarium, the world’s largest aquarium. This huge structure houses more than 100,000 marine animals representing 500 different species, all living in a whopping 8 million gallons of fresh and seawater.
Fans of Coca-Cola should make a beeline for the World of Coca-Cola. Located next to the aquarium on Baker Street, this fascinating interactive museum tells the story of the world’s most famous soft drink. Taste Coke products from around the globe, see Andy Warhol’s Coke art and watch thousands of Coke advertisements.
Complete your itinerary with a stop at Margaret Mitchell House and Museum, the former home of US literary legend Margaret Mitchell, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gone With The Wind. Located in midtown, this turn-of-the-century Tudor Revival building is as beautiful as it is historic.
Eat and Drink
You simply can’t visit Atlanta and not try its famous southern fried chicken. Fried dill pickles, fried okra and fried eggplant all make excellent side dishes, while barbecued meats and grits (a thick polenta-style porridge) are staples.
The preferred non-alcoholic beverage in this part of the world is iced tea. Grab a long refreshing glass and cool off after a long day. Those with a sweet tooth aren’t left out either. Georgia is known as the peach state, so expect to see traditional peach cobbler on a lot of menus around town
Where to Stay
Visitors to Atlanta are spoilt for choice when it comes to top-notch hotels. If you prefer to stay in midtown, check into one of the premium hotels on Peachtree Street, which offer easy access to Piedmont Park and are set within walking distance of Lennox Square and cultural attractions, including the Museum of Art and Margaret Mitchell House. If family-friendly tourist attractions are more to your liking, book accommodation in the downtown area, where you’ll find the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola.
Wallets at the ready? There’s no doubt that the big two shopping hubs in Atlanta are Lennox Square and Phipps Plaza. You’ll find every brand name known to shopping here, as well as some you’ve probably never heard of before.
If you prefer your goods with a little more character, visit Buckhead’s Bennett Street District for antiques and art galleries, and Little Five Points for vintage fashion. Head to the Westside Provisions District to discover high-end boutiques and innovative jewellery makers, or make your way to North Georgia Premium Outlets to snap up a bargain.
Atlanta Like a Local
Atlanta’s most authentic blues bar, Blind Willie’s, is a local-standing institution and must-visit for tourists. The music isn’t the only reason to visit though – the excellent Cajun cuisine has equal pulling power. If you’re in Atlanta during baseball season (March to October) take a ride out to the ball game at Turner Field and join the locals in cheering on the Braves.
Want to get out of the city? Do as the Atlantans do and pack up a picnic (sweet tea and pecan pie are staples), hike up Kennesaw Mountain and discover some Civil War history. Finally, attend a service at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, something almost every local does at some stage to pay their respects to Martin Luther King Jr. This is where the civil rights leader was baptised and later gave his first sermon. Sunday church services are held at 8am and 11am.