The first seeds of modern-day Atlanta were planted after General William T. Sherman set the city ablaze in 1864 during the Civil War. The population at the time was largely blue-collar; a conglomeration of coal, construction and railroad workers drawn by the city’s position as the terminating point of five railroad lines. After the devastating Battle of Atlanta, these rough-and-tumble types promptly picked themselves up by the bootstraps and began building their city anew—the “New South,” as they called it. The era wasn’t progressive, but the vision for a new Southern city that valued enterprise over outdated tradition was. That entrepreneurial mindset, tenacity for survival, willingness to restart and drive to create characterize Atlanta to this day.
“The jewel of the South” is considered by many to be the most welcoming city in the world and the birthplace of the civil rights movement. An eclectic, creative and bustling metropolis, Atlanta welcomed a whopping 50-plus million visitors in 2015. This extraordinary influx of visitors is no surprise—with a perfect combination of esteemed cultural institutions, world-renowned attractions and acclaimed restaurants, Atlanta is an ideal destination for every kind of traveler. Families enjoy the city’s diverse attractions, ranging from historic to high-tech. Business travelers pamper themselves between meetings at some of the nation’s best eateries, golf courses and hotels. Couples lose themselves in Atlanta’s lush landscapes while floating down the Chattahoochee River or having a picnic at the city’s beloved Piedmont Park.
Most visitors, especially families, start their Atlanta experience downtown. Within a one-mile radius, visitors can choose from nearly a dozen downtown attractions, including Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta and the College Football Hall of Fame—all of which surround Centennial Olympic Park. Shopaholics beeline to Buckhead, where luxury and couture reign supreme. Within just a mile of one another sit luxurious Phipps Plaza, mid-priced Lenox Square Mall and the haute Shops Buckhead Atlanta. The cultural heart of Atlanta beats the strongest in Midtown—home to the High Museum of Art, The Fox Theatre, Atlanta Ballet, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Alliance Theatre, Margaret Mitchell House and Piedmont Park, to name only a few attractions.
By far the best way to get a sense of Atlanta’s uber-charming intown neighborhoods is on the Atlanta Beltline. The Beltline was born from a graduate thesis that envisioned transforming 22 miles of decaying railroad lines into a ring of multiuse trails and public transit. Today, only a few sections of the massive project are open to the public. Perhaps the most popular of these completed sections is the Eastside Trail. Stroll, run, bike or blade this popular intown path, stopping on the way to view public art installations and visit Ponce City Market. Plenty of fabulous restaurants and shops line these 2.25 miles, which wind through Piedmont Park, Historic Fourth Ward Park and the Freedom Park trail.