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Atlanta is a lively , thriving city, the capital of Georgia, and a center of commerce and the arts. Many fortune 500 companies have corporate or regional headquarters in Atlanta, and young professionals are moving there in ever increasing numbers.
Many visitors come to Atlanta looking for the Old South stereotypes: white columned mansions surrounded by magnolias and owned by languidly moving, elegantly dressed ladies wearing white gloves and hoop skirts, and speaking in a southern drawl.. What they find is much more cosmopolitan and a lot more interesting, though it is still possible to relax with a glass of lemonade under a peach tree. Atlanta has spent the last 135 years building what has been described as the Capital of the New South and the Next Great International City.
Atlanta is the city of Martin Luther King, Jr., father of one of the country's most important social revolutions, and of Ted Turner, who brought the world a revolution of another sort. The dramatic downtown skyline, with its gleaming skyscrapers, is testimony to Atlanta's inability to sit still, even for a minute. And its role as host for the Centennial Olympic Games in 1996 (it had already hosted Super Bowl XXVIII in 1994 and the Democratic National Convention in 1988) finally convinced the rest of the world that Atlanta is a force to be reckoned with as well as a great place to visit.
Consistently ranked as one of the best cities in the world in which to do business, Atlanta is headquarters for hundreds of corporations, including Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, UPS, Holiday Inn, Georgia-Pacific, Home Depot, and BellSouth and Cox Communications. A major convention city and a crossroads where three interstate highways converge, it's home to the country's second busiest airport and is the shopping capital of the Southeast. Although the city limits are only 131 square miles, the metro area is vast and sprawling. With 3.5 million in population and still counting, there seems to be no limit to its growth.
There are major art, science, nature, and archaeology museums, a vibrant theater community, an outstanding symphony, a well-regarded ballet company, opera, blues, jazz, Broadway musicals, a presidential library, Confederate and African-American heritage sites, and dozens of art galleries.
Add to that entertainment attractions such as Georgia's Stone Mountain Park, a regional theme park, a botanical garden, and major league sports teams, and you have the ingredients for a family friendly city. The culinary spectrum ranges from grits and biscuits to caviar and sushi. Fried chicken and barbecue are available, but Atlanta also serves up Thai, Ethiopian, and Russian cuisine.
The 1960's saw the beginning of downtown development with the rise of the million-square-foot Merchandise Mart, designed by an innovative young Atlanta architect named John Portman. It became the nucleus for the nationally renowned Peachtree Center complex. Portman's futuristic design for the downtown Hyatt Regency in 1967 introduced a towering atrium-lobby concept that at the time was considered to be quite revolutionary. Today, Peachtree Center, a 14-city-block "pedestrian village," contains three Portman designed megahotels as well as the Atlanta Market Center, 200,000 square feet of retail space, many restaurants, and six massive office towers. Its various elements are connected by covered walkways and bridges.
MARTA rapid-transit trains began running in 1979, and today most of Atlanta: city center and vast suburbs, is accessible by bus or subway.
In 1980, a revitalized black neighborhood called Sweet Auburn became a National Historic District, its 10 blocks of notable sites including Martin Luther King, Jr.'s boyhood home, the church where he preached, a museum, and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change. It is probably the major black history attraction in the country, and in the last several years, has undergone a major revitalization and restoration.
Media mogul Ted Turner inaugurated CNN in Atlanta in 1980, following with Superstation TBS, Headline News, and TNT. The High Museum of Art opened its doors in 1983. In 1989, Underground Atlanta, a retail/restaurant/entertainment complex with a historical theme, came into being.
The city prepared for the 1996 Olympic Games with new parks, hotels, and sports venues. In the center of downtown is Woodruff Park, which recently underwent a $5 million renovation. The Olympic Village, erected just north of the central business district, now provides housing for Georgia State University students. South of the Olympic Village and stretching to CNN Center is the 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park: a major gathering place during the Olympics, with its dramatic Olympic Ring fountain, lawns, and gardens. Reopened in 1998, it regularly hosts concerts, street festivals and other cultural events and anchors the city's efforts to revitalize commercial and residential development in a once neglected corner of downtown. The Olympic Stadium, the site of the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the track and field events, has been reincarnated as Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team.
Currently the spotlight in Atlanta is not on growth and how to encourage it, but on growth and how to manage it. This has resulted in major improvements in transportation and in restoration of the historic and downtown areas.
Atlanta's arts community has deep roots. The Atlanta Ballet is the oldest Ballet Company in America. Visitors come to Atlanta for a taste of the South and find they have discovered an international flavor. Atlanta's position as the cultural capital of the South affords patrons an array of options. The presence of both traditional and experimental arts organizations means that neither the classics nor avant-garde works are neglected. A typical year's offerings include traditional Shakespeare, symphony and grand opera as well as child and adult-oriented puppet theater, post-modern psychological drama and alternative productions of well-known works.
There are a wide selection of offerings in the visual arts too. Besides the architecturally renowned High Museum of Art, Emory University's Michael C. Carlos Museum and The High Museum of Art Folk Art and Photography Galleries, the city has many private and public galleries that sponsor a variety of artists and styles. Traditional, primitive and modern painting, sculpture, studio crafts, drawing, and photography are part of the wealth of artistic offerings on view at any given time.
Atlanta enjoys four definite seasons. Warm summers and mild winters allow nearly year round golfing, fishing and outdoor living. The Stone Mountain nightly laser show and the park's many recreational opportunities keep millions of visitors coming back. Nightlife is hopping at Buckhead where young sophisticates gather for dancing to great music until 4:00AM. Families keep a lively pace visiting the bounty of fun -filled and educational offerings from the Atlanta zoo to Cyclorama and SciTrek. There is no limit that can be placed on the possibilities of an Atlanta vacation!