If you're planning to tour the eastern USA, Atlanta, Georgia provides a great starting point. This modern metropolis, near the south Atlantic seacoast, offers a variety of sights, shopping, nightlife, sports and entertainment. Atlanta's proximity to Florida, the Georgia coast, and the Appalachian Mountains position it perfectly for the start of a driving tour of the eastern or southern USA.
Sixteen miles east of downtown Atlanta is Stone Mountain State Park, home of the world's largest granite monolith. It is best known for the great equistrian sculpture of three Civil War Confederate Generals carved into its side.
Hartsville International Airport receives direct service from many European capitals and offers domestic flights to most US cities. It is located five miles south of downtown Atlanta. You can take a taxi from the airport to downtown for $20, or a shuttle bus for $8, or the train for $1.50. MARTA, Atlanta's mass transit system, can transport you around the city very efficiently and very economically. The International Information Counter at Hartsville Airport has MARTA maps and information.
Metropolitan business center of the southeast
During the American Civil War, Atlanta was burned to the ground by the advancing Union army. The city rebuilt around 140 years ago and hasn't stopped growing since. Atlanta is a business center and home to hundreds of corporate headquarters including Coke Cola, United Parcel Service and many more. It's a great hub of business activity. It is also a regional center for nightlife, entertainment and sports attractions. It has a temperate climate that makes club hopping, late night shopping and outdoor activities a pleasure all year round.
Buckhead is considered the center of Atlanta nightlife. Its history dates back to the 1800's when a tavern owner mounted a "buck's head" in his establishment near the corner of West Paces Ferry Road and Roswell Road. Whether you're seeking Latin music, a coffee house, a cigar bar, a romantic nook, a gay bar, or a disco, you will find it here. It is worth a walk through this affluent neighborhood simply to see the palatial homes, to sample the unique restaurants, and to browse in the luxury shops. You'll find currency exchanges and other services for international tourists and businesses in this area. Lennox Square Mall in Buckhead is the largest shopping mall in the southern USA. Art galleries, boutiques and small shops are plentiful, making it a perfect place to browse during the day.
© Georgia Dept. of Tourism
Atlanta is home to outstanding jazz clubs.
In the heart of the old south
In almost every part of Atlanta, you can find interesting neighborhood nightclubs and bars featuring a wide variety of entertainments. The Grant Park area has a range of venues catering to crowds from country and western fans to rockers. Zoo Atlanta and the Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War Museum are also located in the Grant Park area. The Cyclorama, a 42 feet-high 360-degree painting of the battle of Atlanta, has been on public display since 1898. The Museum is next to the zoo and opens daily from 9:30 AM until 4:30 PM, with admission prices of $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for children and $4.00 for seniors.
For a glimpse of the Old South, visit the Atlanta History Center at 130 West Paces Ferry Road. You'll find fascinating exhibits on everything from antebellum arts to Coke Cola, plus information about touring some of Atlanta's stately homes and gardens. The Southeastern Railway Museum in nearby Duluth, Georgia has over 80 pieces of rolling stock and is a must-visit for folks who like trains. If you're a Gone With the Wind fan, you can visit the house where author, Margaret Mitchell, lived in at 999 Peachtree Road. Tours are given continuously from 9:30 AM until 5:00 PM for an admission fee of $12. Literary tourists will also enjoy the Wren's Nest House Museum, home of J. C. Harris who authored the Uncle Remus tales.
Home of Martin Luther King
If you like modern history, visit the museum at the Carter Center or The Martin Luther King National Historic Site. The long anticipated reopening of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King preached, is scheduled for December 2001. If you prefer modern culture, visit the World of Coke Cola for memorabilia and exhibits related to this distinctive US beverage. Underground Atlanta is one of the most popular attractions in the city spanning six blocks, twelve acres, and three levels with entertainment, shopping, and restaurants It is in the center of downtown near the Braves Baseball stadium, the CNN center, and the Georgia State Capital.
For shopping, Atlanta is a great place to end your tour of the USA. You will find a variety of retailers including upscale and funky as well as discount outlets. Bargain hunters seeking toiletries, blue jeans, and other American goods should head for the suburbs and explore Wal-Mart, or another discount store for good buys. For serious bargain hunters, there is a Tanger Mall 30 miles south of Atlanta in Forest Grove.
Taste the southern cooking
For a real Southern culinary experience, have breakfast at a Waffle House restaurant and try some grits (a hot corn meal cereal) with your eggs and bacon. Grits are eaten with bunches of butter, salt and pepper as a breakfast side dish. Other specialties of the Southeast are southern bar-b-cue and "soul food". "Soul food" is African-American cooking and uses a lot of chicken and pork as well as interesting ways of preparing familiar vegetables. Corn bread and biscuits both accompany most soul food, which is often served with an ample coating of gravy.
Sixteen miles east of downtown Atlanta you'll find Stone Mountain State Park, home of the world's largest granite monolith. It is best known for the great equistrian sculpture of three Civil War Confederate Generals carved into its side. The park is open year round from 6AM until midnight. Stone Mountain's attractions include a laser show, an antebellum plantation, a railroad, a riverboat complex, a beach and waterslide complex as well as a sky lift and numerous areas of natural beauty. Camping and lodging are available on site.
Sports, culture and entertainment
West of Atlanta theme park fanciers will discover Six Flags Over Georgia, a mere twenty miles down Interstate 20. With over 100 rides, special areas for tiny tots, and a water park, Six Flags is a great day trip. It's open from late February until the end of October.
Sports fans will appreciate the variety of major league events in Atlanta. The NFL Atlanta Falcons play football, the National League Atlanta Braves play baseball and the NBA Atlanta Hawks play basketball in the city. NASCAR racing is featured at the Atlanta Speedway 20 miles south of the city. For cultural events, Atlanta offers a symphony, a ballet and a variety of theater companies.
Atlanta has enough tourist attractions and entertainment options to keep you busy for quite a few days --- but it is also a great place to see a slice of the "real America" to see how we work and play every day.
Written by: Diane Goldberg
Top Photo Credit: © Gennady Stetsenko
Photo Description: The skyline of downtown Atlanta at dusk