|Visitors to Atlanta expecting a sleepy Confederate
capital with Old South charm may be in for a bit of a surprise.
For while Atlanta has held onto much of the charm and character of
her past, she has also grown into her new role as a modern,
cosmopolitan city. Whether you're looking for high culture,
top-notch sporting events, or world-class music, Atlanta is known
for putting on a great show.
Few professional teams have dominated their sport as totally as baseball's
Atlanta Braves of the 1990s. Riding a string of consecutive division
titles that spanned most of the decade, the Braves appeared in five
World Series, winning it all in 1995. Their home is Turner Field,
built as a multi-purpose stadium for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.
It is one of Major League Baseball's most modern and entertaining
facilities. With interactive games, museums, and diverse restaurants,
"The Ted" is almost as much an amusement park as sports
stadium. There's no excuse for even a short-time visitor not to catch
the most exciting game in town, as there are always a good number
of standing room tickets at the unheard-of price of $1.
Football took center stage in 1998, as the National Football League's
Atlanta Falcons won the NFC Championship and represented their conference
in the 1999 Super Bowl. Home games are played at the brand new, state-of-the-art
Georgia Dome. Located downtown, the Dome was selected as the site
for both the 2000 Super Bowl and the 2001 NCAA Final Four college
men's basketball championship.
Just across from the Dome, you'll find Phillips Arena, built in 1999
as the new home of the Atlanta Hawks. Perennial contenders for the
basketball playoffs, the Hawks are headed by legendary shot-blocking
menace Dikembe Mutombo, and, until his recent retirement, were coached
by future Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens, the winningest coach in NBA
Sharing this exciting new arena with the Hawks is the newest franchise
of the National Hockey League, the Atlanta Thrashers. Despite struggling
through their inaugural 1999 season, the speed and cold steel of Thrasher
games is quickly transforming Atlanta into a hockey town.
For exciting college action, step over to the Georgia Tech campus
to watch their athletes compete in over two dozen varsity sports.
George O'Leary and Bobby Cremins have built Tech's football and
basketball programs into annual contenders for their respective
Atlantic Coast Conference crowns. The football team boasts several
National Championships, the latest coming in 1991, and recently
graduated Heisman Trophy finalist and dramatic playmaker Joe
Hamilton, as well as Atlanta's own home-grown favorite linebacker
Keith Brookings, now starring across town for the Falcons.
Visitors to Atlanta rarely fail to notice the pervasive green of
the city, particularly during the spring, summer, and fall. Even
through the manic expansion of the last two decades, city planners
have gone to great lengths to preserve the natural beauty so
resplendent in Atlanta's trees, and nowhere is this more true than
in the city's many parks and recreation areas.
Acquired by the city in the 1890s, the land that is now Piedmont Park
once played host to state fairs and international exhibitions, and
today stands as the crowning gem of Atlanta's parks system. With over
180 acres of lakes, playing fields, tennis courts and bike paths,
the perfect Midtown location at 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue makes
this beautiful setting one of the nation's most accessible and enjoyable
urban parks. Piedmont still hosts its share of spectacular events,
including concerts, arts and crafts shows, and the annual Atlanta
Dogwood Festival, which attracts a wide range of artists and performers.
Just a few miles to the west sits Centennial Olympic Park, the newest
addition to Atlanta's park scene. Designed as a gathering place for
the 1996 Olympics, it was re-vamped and re-opened in 1998. It now
hosts festivals and classical music concerts, as well as droves of
lunch-hour sun-seekers. Don't miss the spectacular fountain at the
park's center, which shoots water in five concentric rings to represent
the spirit of the Olympic games. This is also a good place to start
a tour of the city, as the Visitors' Center houses a wealth of information
on local tours and activities.
A bit more bucolic and relaxed is luxurious Chastain Park, a few
miles farther north, just to the west of the center of the
Buckhead neighborhood. Enjoy the leisurely two-and-a-half-mile
walking trail, or bring a picnic for a summer concert at the
For the lover of history or natural wonders, take a short drive east
of the city to Stone Mountain State Park. About a 20-minute trip,
this 3,000-acre expanse of forests and lakes centers around the park's
namesake, a chunk of solid granite that rises 1,683 feet above the
easy-rolling foothills. One of the top-10 paid attractions in the
United States, the face of Stone Mountain is adorned with the world's
largest bas-relief sculpture, a carving of three of the South's Civil
War heros, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson.
Take a gondola ride or hike to the top of this dome-shaped natural
wonder for a commanding view of the hills of Georgia, and take in
a one-of-a-kind perspective of Atlanta in the distance.
The diversity of Atlanta's people, business, and interests is well
represented in her impressive array of museums. Whatever direction
your taste for knowledge and enlightenment may run, you're sure to
find something to nurture your curiosity. The baseball displays and
museum at Turner Field are some of the finest outside of the Hall
of Fame in Cooperstown, tours of the CNN Center offer a comprehensive
view of the world of broadcasting, and those with a mind for history
will certainly enjoy the Civil War exhibits at Stone Mountain State
Park. Take some time to explore Atlanta's museums, and don't worry:
the phenomenal weather will still be outside when you're through.
Learn the history behind the planet's most famous soft drink at the
World of Coca-Cola Museum at 55 Martin Luther King Drive. Located
downtown at Underground Atlanta, the museum tells the story of this
homegrown favorite, and features an old-time soda fountain, exhibits,
and photographs of Coke's growth through the years, as well as a gift
shop that boasts more cola-themed products than probably should exist.
The most popular stop on the tour is the final one, a large cafeteria
where you can sample the many Coca-Cola blends as they are marketed
throughout the world.
If all that caffeine puts you in the mood to get outdoors, walk to
Midtown and stop by the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Located in the
northwest corner of Piedmont Park, this in-town oasis houses floral
specimens from the four corners of the globe, several gardens and
woods, and a brand-new, family-friendly children's garden. Tours are
available for a small fee. If your green thumb is in need of a little
help, don't miss the garden shop for handy hints and a few souvenirs
you can really use.
Flora is fine, but it can't roar like fauna, which can be found in
abundance at Zoo Atlanta, located at 800 Cherokee within the grounds
of beautiful Grant Park. Local legend tells that the zoo was founded
in 1889 when a visiting circus owner was forced to sell off some animals
to pay his debts. The zoo has come a long way in the last 100 years,
and now maintains a wide range of specimens in meticulously recreated
natural habitats, as well as a full-scale children's area complete
with a petting zoo and train ride. Among the zoo's favorites are the
gorilla habitat, the nationally-acclaimed Reptile House, and the newly-arrived
The story of the South and Georgia takes center stage at the Atlanta
History Museum at the Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry
Road in Buckhead. In addition to interactive displays, videos, and
a complete rundown of regional history from Native American origins
to modern day expansion, the museum also provides a thorough background
of Atlanta's most impressive architecture and residential treasures.
Of course, no event played a more prominent role in the history
and growth of Atlanta than the Civil War. The Battle of Kennesaw
Mountain was perhaps the South's most vital, albeit ultimately
fruitless, victory in the fighting for Atlanta in the Summer of
1864, and this slice of history is handsomely immortalized at
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in nearby Kennesaw.
Surrounded by almost 3,000 acres of rolling hills and forests, the
Visitors' Center and museum tells the story of the struggle
against Sherman's advancing Union forces, and recreates the scene
of some of the most bloody fighting of our nation's most tragic
While you're up in Kennesaw, travel a few miles down the road to the
site of one of the war's most legendary events. The Kennesaw Civil
War Museum sits on the spot where the Great Locomotive Chase began
in 1862. A troop of daring Union spies led Confederate pursuers on
a chase through the hills of Georgia, destroying track and supplies
on their way before being overtaken and executed. The locomotive engine
The General, their doomed means of escape, is housed on the grounds,
still in full functioning condition, along with other noteworthy war
Lovers of high culture will discover a world of spiraling wonder at
the High Museum of Art at 1280 Peachtree Street in Midtown. This architectural
marvel is home to over 10,000 works, including many significant 19th
and 20th Century American paintings, along with solid collections
of the French impressionists and German expressionists. The High also
boasts the most comprehensive collections of African art, regional
folk art, and photography in the Southeast. Always included on the
itinerary of important traveling collections, the High has recently
hosted the works of such notables as Pablo Picasso and Norman Rockwell.
For all-out wonder and fascination, few attractions can hold a candle
to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Just off Ponce de Leon
Avenue at 767 Clifton Road, this unconventional building houses a
world of discovery for people of all ages. An interactive "Spectrum
of the Senses" display offers kids and parents the chance to
"get in touch" with their bodies and the world that surrounds
them, while the "Walk Through Time in Georgia" exhibit takes
visitors step-by-step through the natural history that led up to present
day Atlanta. Call ahead for tickets to the I-MAX theater, a five-story
screen that brings the natural world to life, and, in many cases,
The legacy of Atlanta's past is given its due not only in her museums,
but also in the many historical sites, districts, and exhibits throughout
the city. The most comprehensive coverage of the topic can be found
at the Atlanta History Center, just down West Paces Ferry Road from
the Governor's Mansion in Buckhead. In addition to its excellent museum,
the history center maintains an expansive property of gardens and
trails, complete with an authentic working plantation from antebellum
days, meticulously removed from its original location and moved piece-by-piece
to the center grounds. The Swan Coach House restaurant is also on
site for fine dining or to fuel you up for another history lesson.
For more on Atlanta's role in the Civil War, pay a visit to the Cyclorama
at 880 Cherokee Avenue in Grant Park. The Cyclorama is a 365-degree
mural that depicts the Battle of Atlanta, and at 42 feet high stands
as the world's largest painting. The accompanying museum contains
relics and artifacts from the era, as well as the locomotive engine
the Texas, which was used in pursuit of fleeing Union spies during
the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862.
And of course, no view of Atlanta and Civil War history would be complete
without a glance at it through the eyes of Margaret Mitchell. At the
corner of Tenth and Peachtree in Midtown stands the house where she
lived for seven years and wrote most of the legendary epic "Gone
With the Wind." Recently restored and now open as the Margaret
Mitchell House and Museum, the structure was not quite to Mitchell's
liking when she occupied one of its small apartments with her husband,
as they habitually referred to it as "the Dump."
A bit more of the history of contemporary Atlanta can be found at
the Jimmy Carter Center just East of downtown. Celebrating one of
Georgia's favorite sons, the Carter Presidential Museum and Library
occupies a 30-acre compound of gardens and pools, and commands an
impressive view of the city to the west. It was from this hilltop
in 1864 that General William T. Sherman observed the Battle of Atlanta.
Over 27 million pages of documents are archived within the library,
and the museum features a model of Carter's Oval Office and an interactive
display that allows visitors to ask questions of the president.
Just down the road, another of Atlanta's favorite sons is honored
and remembered at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site.
This area occupies several city blocks in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood
just Southeast of downtown, and incorporates King's boyhood home as
well as the Ebeneezer Baptist Church, the longtime headquarters of
King's civil rights crusade. Visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center
for Nonviolent Social Change at 449 Auburn Avenue, where rests the
crypt of the fallen leader, a reflecting pool that is a favorite gathering
place for locals and tourists, and a large museum honoring the legacy
and history of this great man. The Visitors' Center at 450 Auburn
across the street is a great place to start your tour of this important
historic district, and will give you a good overview of what not to
miss during your visit.
Perhaps the most fascinating opportunity for a glance into Atlanta's
past is one that is frequently overlooked. The old Oakland Cemetery
at 248 Oakland Avenue houses a veritable Who's Who of Atlanta history,
literature, politics and society. Dating back to 1850, the graveyard
contains the remains of soldiers from both sides of the Civil War,
including over 2,500 Confederate troops and five Confederate generals,
as well as such notable Atlantans as author Margaret Mitchell and
PGA legend Bobby Jones. Enter through the main gate at Oakland Avenue
and Martin Luther King Drive, and inquire about guided tours, or just
bring a picnic lunch, as long as you're not afraid of ghosts.
Atlanta's premier venue for stage events is also one of her most beloved
and storied landmarks. The Fabulous Fox Theater was built as in 1916
at the corner of Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon, as a temple for
the Shriners fraternal organization. The Moorish-cum-Egyptian design
was a marvel of local architecture, and in 1927 was sold for use as
a theater. Various owners of the Fox experienced on-again off-again
profitability over the years, with intermittent bankruptcies offset
by such highlights as the world premiere of "Gone With the Wind"
Defunct once again, the building was slated for demolition in 1978,
but was spared the wrecking ball by concerned citizens, who raised
nearly $2 million dollars to preserve and restore the building. Today,
the Fabulous Fox plays host to myriad social and cultural events,
including rock concerts, Broadway musicals, opera, ballet, and regular
performances by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
A few blocks down Peachtree at the corner of 15th Street, the Woodruff
Performing Arts Center is the home turf of the Alliance Theatre Company,
which puts on numerous performances each season. In addition to plays
and musicals, the Woodruff also sponsors a full schedule of ballet
and children's shows from its stunning facility adjacent to the High
Museum of Art.
Numerous other private companies compete to produce a crowded theater
schedule each year in Atlanta. Most shows are put on at various venues
in Midtown and downtown such as the Shakespeare Tavern, Seven Stages
Theatre, and the Neighborhood Playhouse. The Theatre in the Square
company in nearby Marietta also maintains a regular schedule of performances
up in Cobb County.
Music lovers will feel at home in Atlanta, which has become a
regular tour stop for most major musical acts. Big names such as
Pearl Jam, the Rolling Stones, and U2 fill the seats at the larger
venues, while a full slate of local talent and classical musicians
round out the music scene in numerous smaller facilities. For the
ultimate Atlanta music experience, be sure to investigate some of
the out-of-the-way theaters and small clubs to catch a taste of
regional music in an intimate setting.
For top-notch classical entertainment, nothing beats the summer classics
series at Chastain Park Amphitheatre. Located at 449 Stella Drive
in Buckhead, this 6,000-seat pavilion plays host to the Atlanta Symphony
Orchestra from June through August, as some of the biggest names in
show business perform to the accompaniment of the ASO. While reserved
seating can be hard to come by, the best seats in the house are on
the lawn. Pack some wine and a nice picnic dinner and listen to your
favorite performers under the warm summer stars.
If you like your music a bit louder, head down I-85 to the
Coca-Cola Lakewood Amphitheatre. Just a few miles South of
downtown, this outdoor venue features 7,000 covered seats and an
expansive, sloping lawn to accommodate up to 12,000 more people.
Recent bookings at Lakewood have included such powerhouses as the
Dave Matthews Band and the Lilith Fair.
When part-time Atlanta resident Elton John christened the Phillips
Arena in 1999, he opened the door for still more world-class
entertainment on the Atlanta music scene. Also the home of the
Atlanta Hawks and Thrashers, Phillips showcased the talents of
such hard hitters as U2 and Ricky Martin in its inaugural season.
Tops among smaller venues is Blind Willie's, a tiny dive of a place
on North Highland Avenue in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood. The
small bar and limited seating provide an intimate setting for some
of the best local talent and legendary stars working in blues today.
A few blocks away in Midtown, the Cotton Club plays to a somewhat
rowdier bunch. On any given night, the busy dance floor is crowded
with hard rock and alternative fans, and provides a great atmosphere
for getting to know the best in up-and-coming bands. Since a good
number of relatively big names play the Cotton Club on a regular basis,
it's a good idea to call Ticketmaster well in advance, or stop by
the box office on Peachtree Street.
The Masquerade is perhaps the most far-out of Atlanta's alternative
music clubs, harbored in a somewhat shady neighborhood just east of
downtown at 695 North Avenue near City Hall East. Housed in an old
factory, this no-nonsense venue is the prime spot to catch loud bands
in an atmosphere of reckless abandon. There are separate bars and
billiard rooms, but the main action goes on upstairs, where mostly
smaller bands hold court, but larger names such as Everclear and the
Specials have had their day as well.
For true variety, head over to the Variety Playhouse in Little Five
Points. This elaborate theater was built in the 1930s as a neighborhood
movie house, but now is the scene for a little bit of everything under
the musical sun. A night of hard-charging rock is often followed by
a mellow evening of folk music, which might in turn be followed up
with a CD-release party by a local jazz artist. Whatever's on the
menu for the evening, this is a great place to get up close and personal
with a broad range of local music.
Harmony and soft strings are the keys to what makes Eddie's Attic
tick. A 15-minute trip from downtown, you'll find this oasis of mellow
tunes across from the old County Courthouse in Decatur. Names small
and large come to ply their trade at Eddie's, including occasional
appearances by homegrown favorites the Indigo Girls. Come early for
a good seat, but don't come to socialize: talking during performances
is strictly forbidden.
All around town, a great variety of small venues and music-minded
clubs make Atlanta a music-lover's paradise. Check out the Roxy in
Buckhead for occasional rock concerts, as well as Friday night boxing.
A former Baptist church, the Tabernacle downtown is the frequent site
of special events and music for all appetites. Clubs such as Johnny's
Hideaway and Otto's play to the diversity of multiple tastes, offering
separate rooms for separate styles, and many special bookings.