Atlanta is a city rich with history and culture, and is known as the “city not too busy to care.” It is often pointed to as an example of successful urban development and growth. Evidence of this can be seen everywhere from the skyscrapers that fill downtown to the many prosperous restaurants, shops and businesses spread throughout the city.
As in many cities, Atlanta's downtown serves as the center of business and government. It is not, however, the hub of the social or cultural scene, and other than fine dining or professional sports events, it pretty much shuts down after business hours.
The ever-changing skyline is dominated by sky-high hotels and office buildings. There is perhaps none more impressive than the Peachtree Center, which serves the business community in both capacities. Most major chain hotels are represented here, as well as many of the world's most well known corporations, such as the world headquarters of Coca-Cola. The Georgia World Congress Center plays host to a never-ending string of trade shows, while in the southern corner of downtown you'll find the golden-domed Georgia State Capitol Building.
Opened in 1989, the enclosed mall of shops and restaurants known as Underground Atlanta also houses the most comprehensive division of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. Standing near the entrance is the World of Coca-Cola, the soft-drink giant's interactive museum. For athletics, visit the 71,000-seat Georgia Dome, home of the Atlanta Falcons, or check out Philips Arena, featuring Hawks basketball and Thrashers hockey. Across the street, the massive CNN Center is home to cable television's first 24-hour news network.
Midtown's skyline is dominated by mighty hotels such as the Four Seasons and Sheraton Colony Square standing side-by-side with the regional headquarters of such giants as IBM and BellSouth. Midtown is home to the city's greatest concentration of cultural outlets, including the Fabulous Fox Theater, the High Museum of Art, and the Woodruff Arts Center, which hosts the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Known for its diversity, Midtown is home to much of Atlanta's gay community. You'll see plenty of rainbow flags fluttering from porches of the beautifully restored Victorians between Ponce and 10th Street. From the mansion dwellers in Ansley Park, to the seedier elements that haunt the liquor stores of Ponce de Leon and the grungy-cum-preppy types that wander around Georgia Tech, a broad cross-section of Atlanta natives will greet you on the sidewalk. Despite the neighborhood's reputation for glamorous clubs and fine dining, the unquestioned social center of Midtown is Piedmont Park, a 180-acre expanse of green where Atlantans turn out to walk their canine companions.
The legends of how Buckhead earned its unusual moniker are varied, but most center around the mounting of a slain deer over the door of a 19th century public house. Today, the wild tavern tradition is still in full swing. Despite the regular disorder brought on by the drinking crowd, Buckhead's downtown area remains safe, and is home to many fine shops, restaurants and spas. World-class hotels like the Ritz-Carlton and the Grand Hyatt Atlanta stand steps away from the city's most elegant shopping venues in Phipps Plaza and Lenox Square.
As you move away from central Buckhead, a growing battalion of high-rise luxury apartments and condos attract the city's prosperous up-and-comers, while the tree-lined neighborhoods west of Peachtree live on as exquisite enclaves of old Atlanta money. Just a mile down this awe-inspiring stretch of road from the rollicking, disco-themed Have A Nice Day Cafe sits the Georgia Governor's Mansion.
More commonly known as "the Highlands," this largely residential neighborhood centers on the intersection of the Virginia and North Highland avenues. Most points are within walking distance of the Jimmy Carter Center in Inman Park, Emory University in Druid Hills, and Piedmont Park in Midtown.
High rents have banished the starving artist crowd downtown, but in their place have come numerous galleries, representing the city's best mix of modern and folk art. Although not as glitzy as Buckhead, shopping is a casual pleasure, and quirky boutiques like Metropolitan Deluxe and Providence Antiques draw a large window-gazing crowd.
Young and middle-aged professionals mix easily with a mild influx of students from the nearby university in the Highlands' bars and restaurants. A vibrant nightlife thumps through the laid-back atmosphere at such pubs as the Dark Horse Tavern. Highbrow restaurants like Southern-influenced Harvest rub amicable shoulders with popular brazier joints such as Neighbors and Moe's & Joe's.
Little Five Points
This conglomeration of second-hand shops, piercing parlors, funky bars and music venues touches on the old neighborhoods of Inman Park and Candler Park, pricing much of the real estate well beyond the range of the young rebels that flock here. Many nicely-restored bungalows and post-Civil War era homes line the peaceful streets nearby, including a good number of respectable bed-and-breakfasts. Good eats are plentiful in Little Five Points, but fine dining has thus far eluded the rough-edged neighborhood. One notable exception is the Flying Biscuit Cafe, home of Atlanta's best breakfast.
Climbing out of a long period of steady decline, this is the latest addition to a growing list of gentrified Atlanta neighborhoods. As is the case elsewhere, the process in East Atlanta is a slow one, and even as a solid collection of shops and restaurants gains a foothold in the blocks around the intersection of Flat Shoals and Glenwood Avenues, most of the surrounding area continues to struggle. One notable out of the way spot is JavaVino, where you can sip wine to slow down and then coffee to speed you back up. Your shopping options represent an interesting mix, while most of the area's watering holes lean toward the local, blue collar crowd.
This trendy area has re-invented itself over past few years to become a rather enviable and affluent neighborhood. Sitting at the far northwest corner of the city, the Vinings is largely home to folks who want to live in the city but really don't. Following the money, great new restaurants like Canoe are gaining widespread praise as they take their place alongside such re-invented local favorites as the Vinings Inn. Shopping, however, still draws the majority of traffic, mostly to Cumberland Mall at I-75 and Windy Hill Road, but also to the Vinings Jubilee center, a collection of shops and boutiques developed to resemble a town square.