Atlanta Travel Guide
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Atlanta is the capital and largest city of Georgia, a state of the United States of America. It is the county seat of Fulton County, although a portion of the city (the 1909 annex) is located in DeKalb County, and most of the airport, which is within the city limits, is in Clayton County. According to the latest census estimates (as of December, 2004), the city had a population of 425,000 and the fast-growing Atlanta metropolitan area totaled 4,708,297, making it the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. Atlanta is arguably a poster-child for cities worldwide experiencing rapid urban sprawl, population growth, and commercial development. As a result, Atlanta is a common case study for college students who study Urban Geography around the globe.

Atlanta's development began in the early 19th century as a railroad hub. It was largely destroyed by Union forces during the Civil War, but recovered in time to be chosen the state capital shortly thereafter. In the 20th century, Atlanta was a center for the American Civil Rights Movement and served as the host city for the Centennial 1996 Summer Olympics. One of the city's nicknames, "The Phoenix City", relates to its rise after the Civil War. The phoenix appears in many of Atlanta's symbols, including its seal and flag. During much of the 20th century, Atlanta billed itself as "The City Too Busy to Hate". In addition, it has also been called the "New York of the South" in response to one of Georgia's own nicknames, "The Empire State of the South."

Atlanta is circled by Interstate 285, which has come to delineate the interior of the city from the surrounding suburbs. This has given rise to calling residents inside the "Perimeter" (local parlance for I-285) as ITP (Inside the Perimeter) and those in the suburbs OTP (Outside the Perimeter).

Despite romantic associations, Atlanta has always been more a commercial city than an ante-bellum monument. It is the major center of regional commerce, and boasts an especially strong convention and trade show business.

The city is a hub for several interstate highways. I-20 runs east-west through the city, while I-75 and I-85 run roughly north-south and join near the center of the city as the Downtown Connector before splitting off again. The city of Atlanta operates the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of two airports considered the busiest in the world, and providing air service to and from many national and international destinations. It is situated 10 miles south of downtown.

Atlanta boasts a variety of museums on subjects ranging from history to fine arts, natural history, and beverages. Prominent among them are sites honoring Atlanta's participation in the civil rights movement. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in the city, and his boyhood home on Auburn Avenue in the Sweet Auburn district is preserved as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Meetings with other civil rights leaders, including Hosea Williams and current Congressman John Lewis, often happened at Paschal's, a diner and motor inn which was a favorite for "colored" people, banned from "white" restaurants in an era of racial segregation and intolerance. King's final resting place is in the tomb at the center of the reflecting pool at the King Center.

Other history museums and attractions include the Atlanta History Center; the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum (a huge painting and diorama in-the-round, with a rotating central audience platform, that depicts the Battle of Atlanta in the Civil War); the Carter Center and Presidential Library; and the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum.

The arts are represented by several theaters and museums, including the Fox Theatre. The Woodruff Arts Center is home to the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Symphony, High Museum of Art, and Atlanta College of Art. Museums geared specifically towards children include the Fernbank Science Center and Imagine It! Atlanta's Children's Museum. The High Museum of Art is the city's major fine/visual arts venue, with a significant permanent collection and an assortment of traveling exhibitions.

A unique museum is the World of Coca-Cola featuring the history of the world famous soft drink brand and its well-known advertising. Adjacent is Underground Atlanta, a historic shopping and entertainment complex situated under the streets of downtown Atlanta. While not a museum per se, The Varsity is the main branch of the long-lived fast food chain, featured as the world's largest drive-in restaurant.

The heart of the city's festivals is Piedmont Park. In 1887, a group of prominent Atlantans purchased 189 acres (0.76 km²) of farmland to build a horse racing track, later developed into the site of the Cotton States International Exposition of 1895. In 1904, the city council purchased the land for $99,000, and today it is the largest park in metro Atlanta, with more than 2.5 million visitors each year. The grounds were part of the Battle of Peachtree Creek – a Confederate division occupied the northern edge on July 20, 1864 as part of the outer defense line against Sherman's approach. Next to the park is the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Zoo Atlanta, home to its own panda exhibit, is located in Grant Park. Scheduled to open in 2005 is the Georgia Aquarium and the first Atlanta Beach Volleyball tournament, which will be held at Woodruff Park.

Jermaine Dupri's 2001 hip hop single "Welcome to Atlanta" declares Atlanta the "new Motown", referencing the city of Detroit, Michigan, which was known for its contributions to popular music. A significant number of Atlantans have become successful musicians, including artists such as Jerry Reed, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Kelly Rowland, Blaque, Ludacris, T.I., and Lil Jon, to name a few. Others, such as Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston, have moved to the city and made it their home.

Producers L.A. Reid and Babyface founded LaFace Records in Atlanta in the late-1980s; the label has eventually become the home to multi-platinum selling artists such as Toni Braxton, TLC, OutKast, Goodie Mob, Usher and Ciara, many of whom are Atlantans themselves. It is also the home of So So Def Records, a label founded by Jermaine Dupri in the mid-1990s, that signed acts such as Da Brat, Jagged Edge, Xscape, and Lil Bow Wow. The success of LaFace and SoSo Def led to Atlanta as an established scene for record labels such as LaFace parent company Arista to set up satillite offices.

Despite producing numerous famous musicians, however, Atlanta's live music scene has suffered in recent years. Due in part to harsher new laws dictating the closing times of bars and nightclubs, many small to medium sized venues have closed down, including the somewhat infamous Masquerade nightclub. As a result, fewer and fewer touring acts are stopping by Atlanta, putting further financial strain on the remaining clubs and venues.

In the early 1980s, Atlanta was the home of a thriving new wave music scene featuring such bands as The Brains and The Producers, closely linked to the new wave scenes in Athens, Georgia and other college towns in the southeast.

Just east of the city, Stone Mountain is the largest piece of exposed granite in the world. On its face are giant carvings of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. It is also the site of impressive laser shows in the summer.

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