Welcome to Atlanta
Atlanta has the beguiling combination of Southern charm and urban savvy that you might expect from the biggest city in the South. It's slower than New York but livelier than Savannah, and there's all the Civil War and civil rights history you could want, but with a thriving cosmopolitan culture to remind you that it's not a city stuck in the past. In fact, it keeps on growing and growing.
Since hosting the 1996 Summer Olympics, Atlanta has been more on the radar for visitors and transplants. Of particular attraction is its robust arts and culture scene, flourishing throughout the city with young crowds, museums, cafes and bars. The abundance may be overwhelming, but the city's distinct neighborhoods with their own personalities offer a small-town vibe even as they make up a part of this dynamic city. For upscale glam, tour Buckhead by car; for historic homes and boutique shops, walk around Virginia-Highland; and for industrial chic, check out the cool happenings on the Westside.
Still, despite the metropolitan gleam, the city feels particularly green and lush, with magnolias, dogwoods, and oak trees swaddling bungalows and modern skyscrapers alike. And the Southern cliché of hospitality is apparent at every corner. Noticeably friendly, Atlanta is a big, busy city, but one in which people smile when they pass you on the sidewalk, hold open doors for those behind them, and say 'excuse me' when you brush shoulders--Southern charm that welcomes visitors and makes them feel like neighbors.
Atlanta is a driving city, filled with strip malls and shopping centers. Wherever possible, this guide will point you to quaint, walkable shopping rows (like North Highland Avenue) and little sub-neighborhoods with great stores (like the intersection of Little Five Points). It also identifies some of the stand-out shops of these areas.
But this guide also includes the big malls, Lenox and Phipps, and shopping centers like Westside Urban Market and Peachtree Battle. They have the most upscale items and designer labels, and you're not likely to escape Atlanta shopping without setting foot in something that resembles a mall.
Atlanta has a surprisingly robust dining scene that has seen a significant uptick in recent years. It is safe to say that this Southern city has earned a rightful place on the foodie map with high-profile chefs like Hugh Acheson (Empire State South) and Ann Quatrano (Bacchanalia).
But people don't come to Atlanta in search of barbecue (although there is some good stuff) or even fried chicken (also some tasty samples to be found). The best food in Atlanta is the well-represented upscale farm-to-table fare with a subtly Southern nod (a pecan glaze here, fried okra there). Other examples of this style can be found at Cakes & Ale, Miller Union, and Restaurant Eugene.
Atlanta locals are mellow when it comes to nightlife, typically preferring bars with good brews to clubs with sleek decor. Southerners like to be able to converse over their drinks. But there are many places to get a sophisticated cocktail, including Ormsby's on the Westside, or the bar at Cakes & Ale.
There is a great diversity of watering holes, from blues joints (Blind Willie's) and quirky artsy spots (Sister Louisa's) to places that feature stellar local bands (The Earl) or luxurious surroundings (the bar at the St. Regis Hotel). If you want to dance, try Vanquish or Reign, but know that many of the patrons may be visitors to the city themselves.
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