Atlanta is cosmopolitan with a smile. Northerners, Californians, the third-largest gay population in the US, and a host of ethnic groups have diversified this unofficial capital of the South, tempering its distinctly Dixie feel. An economic powerhouse, Atlanta houses offices from 400 of the Fortune 500 companies and 19 colleges. The city is equally blessed with hidden gems; touring Atlanta’s streets reveals an endless number of delightful restaurants and beautiful old houses.
Atlanta sprawls across 10 counties in the northwest quadrant of the state at the junctures of I-75, I-85 (the city “thruway”), and I-20. I-285 (the “perimeter”) circumscribes the city. Maneuvering around Atlanta’s main thoroughfares, which are arranged much like the spokes of a wheel, challenges even the most experienced native. Peachtree Street (one of over 100 streets bearing that name in Atlanta) is a major north-south road; Spring Street, which runs only south, and Piedmont Avenue, which runs only north, are parallel to Peachtree St. On the eastern edge, Moreland Avenue traverses the length of the city, through Virginia Highland, Little Five Points (L5P), and East Atlanta. Ponce de Leon Avenue is the primary east-west road and takes travelers to most major destinations (or intersects with a street that does). To the south of Ponce runs North Avenue, another major east-west thoroughfare.
Downtown is home to Centennial Olympic Park as well as Atlanta’s major sports and concert venues. Directly southwest of downtown, the West End is the city’s oldest historic quarter. From Five Points, head northeast to Midtown, from Ponce de Leon Ave. to 17th St., for museums and Piedmont Park. East of Five Points at Euclid and Moreland Ave., the L5P district is a local haven for artists and youth subculture. North of L5P, Virginia Highland, a trendy neighborhood east of Midtown and Piedmont Park, attracts yuppies and college kids. The Buckhead area, north of Midtown on Peachtree St., greets both Atlanta’s professionals and rappers, housing designer shops and dance clubs.
The most moving sights in the city run along Auburn Ave. in Sweet Auburn. The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthplace, church, and grave are all part of the 23-acre Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site. Two blocks from the capitol, the World of Coca-Cola educates tourists on the rise of “the real thing” from its humble beginnings in Atlanta to its current position of world domination. On the corner of Washington and Mitchell St. is the Georgia State Capitol building, a Neoclassical structure built in 1889 with Georgia’s own natural resources: Cherokee marble, Georgian oak, and gold mined in Lumpkin County. Finally, located between the 10th St. district and Midtown is the apartment where Mitchell wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gone with the Wind. Tour the house to view her typewriter and autographed copies of the book.
Atlanta has an activity or sight for anyone and everyone! Click the links to explore and book tours and local guides.
From Vietnamese to Italian, fried to fricasseed, Atlanta cooks options for any craving, but soul food nourishes the city. Head to “Chicken and Waffles” restaurants for the terrific combination.
Two blocks from the capitol, the World of Coca-Cola educates tourists on the rise of “the real thing” from its humble beginnings in Atlanta to its current position of world domination. Uncap the secrets of Coke as you walk through two floors of Coca-Cola history and memorabilia, complete with a “soda jerk” demonstration and TVs that loop old advertisements. The psychological barrage is so intense that even those with the strongest of willpowers will soon be craving a Coke. Luckily, visitors get to sample 64 flavors of Coke from around the world at the tour’s end, from the long-lost “Tab” to Mozambique’s “Krest.”
Atlanta’s rich nightlife lacks a clear focal point. Fortunately, however, it also lacks limits; young people can be found partying until the wee hours and beyond. Scores of bars and clubs along Peachtree Rd. and Buckhead Ave., in Buckhead, cater to a younger crowd. Pricier Midtown greets glamorous hipsters. Alternative L5P plays host to bikers and goths, while Virginia Highland and up-and-coming East Atlanta feature an eclectic mix. Atlanta is the gay capital of the South, making Midtown the mecca of Southern gay culture.
In the US, good table manners means quiet eating. Loud chewing, talking with food in your mouth, or slurping are seen as rude, and burping or flatulence is not seen as complementary to the chef. Servers at sitdown restaurants usually expect to be tipped 15-20%.
Dress in the US tends to be more modest than in Europe. Toplessness, particularly in women, should be avoided. Many establishments will require a customer to wear a shirt and shoes. The most acceptable forms of public affection are hugging and holding hands; kissing in public will usually draw some glances. Although most cities are tolerant of homosexuality, gay or lesbian couples should be aware that they may receive unwanted attention for public displays of affection, especially in rural areas. Also, note that many American will say “see you later” without really intending to make future plans.
One of the most offensive gestures in the US is extending your middle finger at someone. Known as “giving someone the finger,” this gesture is considered not only rude, but obscene. On the other hand, a “thumbs up” gesture is a sign of approval and a widely recognized signal for hitchhiking, which Let’s Go does not recommend.