City Life: Finger-lickin' good
This balmy southern belle is Georgia's first city, a place serenaded with the sounds of jazz and washed down with the city's favourite invention - Coca-Cola…
Atlanta has a few claims to fame: its contributions to the modern society span Coke, Gone with the Wind and Martin Luther King Jr. Despite its rapid expansion over the last 20 years, it's a pretty city covered in greenery within the Perimeter, the circular freeway enclosing it. The population grows and the city spreads, but the new builds sit comfortably alongside the elegant old homes of 19th century. Cars are pretty much obligatory for hopping around the varied and vibrant neighbourhoods. For Martin Luther memory-hunting, hit Sweet Auburn; for boutique browsing and café lingering, Virginia Highland's series of villages will do the trick; luxury awaits in Buckhead, and Downtown is a hub of commercial activity by day, if a little shadier by night. Atlanta's lively gay scene centres on the picnickers' paradise of Piedmont Park in Midtown. Oh, and there are probably more streets named after the peach tree than anywhere else in the world - which doesn't help navigation.
Apart from some of the smaller neighbourhoods, such as Virginia Highland, you'll need a car to get around. Avis (www.avis.com) has outlets at the airport (+1 (404) 530 2700) and across the city.
Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport receives flights from most major US hubs, courtesy of Delta (www.delta.com), including New York, Los Angeles and Washington DC, as well as international flights, such as British Airways' service from London Gatwick (www.ba.com).
The city's small overground rail system, Marta (www.itsmarta.com) criss-crosses the city and links to the bus network. The Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) station is on the Northeast Expressway, with trains coming in and out of other US cities, including New York and Washington DC.
US country code: +1; area codes for Atlanta: 404, 678 and 770.
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell; The Color Purple by Alice Walker.
Do go / Don't Go
Atlanta is a southern city and has the climate to match. Summers (May to September) are air-con-demandingly hot and humid; the rest of the year is mild, though it does get nippy in December, January and February. March is when it's most likely to rain.
This is a place where anything that can be is fried, notably chicken, which comes coated in breadcrumbs and the Colonel's favourite herbs. Collard greens add vitamin content to the cuisine, often served with bacon or hog jowl, or in pot liquor soup. Cornbread is another Southern classic, sometimes crumbled into cold buttermilk. Peach cobbler, a fruity, dough-based pie, is a predictably popular pudding.
Taxis aren't easily flagged and pre-booked cabs have a reputation for showing up late. Try your luck with Atlanta Checker Cab (+1 404 351 1111).
Around 20 per cent is standard for restaurants; a dollar extra won't go amiss in bars, and don't forget a little something for housekeeping.
US Dollar ($).
A map to navigate the endless roads which suddenly switch names; in-line skates to wear while whizzing around the parks.
The High Museum of Art (+1 (404) 733 4400; www.high.org) is a collection of classic, contemporary and everything in between, housed in buildings designed by architects Richard Meier and Renzo Piano. To see where Margaret Mitchell penned the book version of cinema's all-time favourite film, visit her Peachtree Street house (+1 (404) 249 7015; www.margaretmitchellhouse.com). Take in a live performance at the Fox Theatre (+1 (404) 881 2100; www.foxtheatre.org). This former mosque now hosts regular Broadway shows, as well as ballet and concerts.
Downtown Atlanta is where CNN has its headquarters, a tornado-surviving building once home to an indoor ice rink, theme park and multi-screen cinema showing repeats of Gone with the Wind because it was founder Ted Turner's favourite film.
There's no main shopping street, but there are two malls - Lenox Square, which has a Bloomingdale's and a Macy's, and Phipps Plaza, home to Saks and Jimmy Choo, both on Peachtree Street. Little Five Points (or L5P to locals) is where to head for vintage and alternative finds. Antique art and furniture can be uncovered in the many boutiques of Virginia Highland.
A clamber through Stone Mountain Park is worth it for the views at the top. The 825ft-high hunk of exposed granite is 16 miles east of Downtown. There's also a huge carving of Jefferson Davies, 'Stonewall' Jackson and Robert E Lee to eyeball on the way up.
Visit the Centennial Olympic Park and run like a champion through the Olympic Ring Fountain.
April The Dogwood Festival celebrates Piedmont Park's favourite trees with children's activities, an art contest and discounts at local restaurants (www.dogwood.org). May A month-long tribute to jazz takes place in Piedmont Park (www.atlantafestivals.com). June Screen on the Green camps out every Thursday in Piedmont Park, showing Hollywood classics for free at dusk. September Another event stakes out the city's most popular festival venue: the Atlanta Arts Festival comes to Piedmont Park (www.atlantaartsfestival.com). October The city parties in honour of its gay community at the Atlanta Pride Festival (atlantapride.org).