Known as "the city too busy too hate," Atlanta is just that: a bustling, sprawling metropolis whose clogged interstates conceal a booming world of fun.
With three major-league sports teams, at least a dozen museums and the world's largest aquarium, Georgia's capital can be difficult to navigate, but fun to discover.
The transportation hub of the Southeast also hosts the nation's busiest airport, and many tourists hang out once they land - according to Forbes, 38 million people visited Atlanta in 2010.
- Compiled by Chris Carroll, firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6610.
Explore the World of Coca-Cola
• Perhaps best known for its Freestyle exhibit, where visitors can sample up to 64 different Coca-Cola beverages, the World of Coca-Cola (121 Baker St. NW) packs history, drinks and four-dimensional movies into one museum.
• Unless you work in Coke's scientific labs, you'll never know why the iconic soft drink tastes the way it does. But check out The Vault of the Secret Formula to explore the mysteries behind the recipe.
• The Pop Culture Gallery and wide collection of Coke memorabilia offers visitors insight into how Coke products have impacted movies, songs and American life.
Source: World of Coca-Cola
BEST PLACE TO EAT
Make The Varsity
• Known for its chili cheese dogs, french fries and chocolate shakes, The Varsity (61 North Ave.) offers a big meal fast for a small amount of cash.
• More than two miles of hot dogs, a ton of onion rings, 2,500 pounds of potatoes, 5,000 homemade fried pies and 300 gallons of chili are served daily at the downtown location.
• Be ready when the cashier utters the restaurant's catchphrase: "What'll ya have?" Lines are long at times - especially after a Braves game - but they move quickly and your food will be served in no time.
• If you're in a hurry, "The World's Largest Drive-In" offers car service.
• Not satisfied after just one meal? Buy The Varsity's world-famous "chili in a can" on your way out.
Source: The Varsity
ALL ABOUT ATLANTA
• Population: 420,003
• Biggest employers: Delta Airlines, AT&T, Emory University
• Number of miles from downtown Chattanooga: 117
• Landmarks or geographic features: Close to North Georgia's Appalachian foothills, Atlanta sits atop a ridge south of the Chattahoochee River.
• Date founded: 1837
• Historic info: Creek and Cherokee Indians lived in North Georgia and what later became Atlanta before the arrival of European settlers. In 1836, the Georgia Legislature voted to build a railroad to connect the port city of Savannah to the Midwest. Not long after that, engineers decided Atlanta would be a focal point of the railroad, first naming the settlement "Atlantica-Pacifica" before shortening it. After Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman led a four-month-siege of Atlanta during Civil War, the city was slowly rebuilt, and a century later, it was the center of the civil rights movement.
• Most famous residents: Gladys Knight, singer; Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader; Ted Turner, media mogul, founder of CNN and TBS, former Braves owner
• Fun fact: There are more than 65 Atlanta streets with the word "Peachtree." (Good luck.)
Food, art and music dominate downtown landscape year-round
• October's Taste of Atlanta brings together 80 local chefs for sustainable dining tutorials, live cooking stages and plenty of free sampling. Be on the lookout for microbrews and robust wines. Other foodie events include September's Midtown Restaurant Week and August's Atlanta Ice Cream Festival at Piedmont Park.
• Miss Bonnaroo this year? Satisfy your craving at Music Midtown, a September festival with two big stages. Headliners include Pearl Jam, T.I., Florence + the Machine and more.
• Check out one of the South's premier horticultural events at February's annual Southeastern Flower Show - artwork and bouquets aplenty.
Source: Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau
ATLANTA'S MOST HAPPENING NEIGHBORHOOD
Away from the skyscrapers and bustling with bars, concerts and boutiques, Little Five Points is Atlanta at its coolest.
• Known as Atlanta's center for alternative culture, Little Five Points is home to record stores, coffee shops, independent bookstores and more.
• For a wide beer selection and awesomely-named foods - the Cheesy Cheddar Balls, the Carnivorgasm and the Holy Guacamole Burger come to mind - visit The Vortex at 438 Moreland Ave.
• Located where Moreland Avenue, McLendon Avenue and Euclid Avenue meet, Little Five Points hosts a Halloween festival every year. Local artists sell crafts, bands play in the square and everybody wears a costume.
• If you're into indie rock or college rock, the Variety Playhouse (1099 Euclid Ave. NE) is your place.
Sources: The Vortex, Variety Playhouse
THE TENNESSEE AQUARIUM IS GREAT, BUT ...
Check out the world's largest aquarium in Atlanta!
• With more than 10 million gallons of water - fresh and salt - the Georgia Aquarium (225 Baker St. NW) features more animals (120,000 of 500 different species) than any other aquarium.
• The aquarium's "Swim with Gentle Giants" program allows divers and snorkelers to swim with whale sharks.
• Organizers recently started a dolphins exhibit featuring musical theater, human actors and "a performance highlighting the strong emotional bond between dolphins and humans," according to the aquarium's website.
• See the underwater world from a fish's point of view in the aquarium's 4-D theater, where "Deepo's Undersea Wondershow" is routinely screened.
Source: Georgia Aquarium
GET YOUR SHOPPING SHOES ON
Creep down into Underground Atlanta
• Underground Atlanta (50 Upper Alabama St.) offers retail options, a guided history tour and other options if you need to kill some time on an idle afternoon.
• For the kids, Atlanta's unofficial shopping and entertainment district features more than 100 street vendors who specialize in fortune telling, magic tricks, homemade candy, balloon animals and face painting.
• For the adults, it's basically like a giant mall, plus nightclubs - a five-block mecca of clothing, shoes, bars and restaurants.
• For $10, book a Guided History Tour to hear stories of how Atlanta began and what the retail property was used for in the 1800s.
Source: Underground Atlanta
HOW DOES A BIG-LEAGUE NEWSROOM WORK?
Find out at the CNN Center
• Located at 190 Marietta St. NW, the international headquarters of the Cable News Network - the largest of 48 worldwide bureaus - offers tours showing how a newscast is produced and beamed all over the world.
• Check out demonstrations of television technologies such as the Chroma key - otherwise known as the green screen.
• Tour galleries that show a clear view of anchors and producers for CNN, CNN International, HLN, In Session and CNN en Espanol.
• Get your picture taken behind a CNN anchor desk.
GET READY TO RIDE
Hit the roller coasters at Six Flags Over Georgia
• Located just outside Atlanta in Austell, Six Flags (275 Riverside Parkway SW) often promotes its many roller coasters, many of which - including "Goliath" and "Mind Bender" - rank among the top roller coasters as listed by the magazine Amusement Today.
• If you've got a stomach made of steel, try "Acrophobia." When it opened in 2001, it was the world's first "floorless freefall tower ride."
• Gentler adventures include "The Carrot Patch," a Looney Tunes outpost featuring Bugs Bunny, and "Splash Water Falls."
• When the sun sets and you're tired of rides, check out "iLuminate," a light show introduced this year featuring light-up costumes and special choreography.
Sources: Amusement Today, Six Flags Over Georgia
ART, SCIENCE AND MORE
Museums all over Atlanta
• The High Museum of Art (1280 Peachtree Street NE) is Atlanta's flagship art museum and one of the most well-attended art museums in the world. Featuring works by Andy Warhol, photographs by Annie Leibovitz and much more, the High Museum includes more than 12,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection.
• Into animals more than art? Check out the Fernbank Museum of Natural History (767 Clifton Road NE) where you'll find scientific IMAX films, interactive exhibits and the largest dinosaurs ever discovered.
• Atlanta is dotted with museums. Others include the Museum of Design Atlanta (1315 Peachtree Street NE) and the Atlanta History Center (130 West Paces Ferry Road NW). If you want information on one of Georgia's most famous sons, seek out former President Jimmy Carter's Presidential Library and Museum (441 Freedom Parkway NE).
Source: High Museum of Art, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau
Unique venues offer sounds for all
• A color-changing sky, moving clouds and Middle Eastern decor make the Fox Theatre (660 Peachtree St. NE) one of Atlanta's best indoor concert venues. The Fox hosts touring Broadway shows, popular bands and comedians. The Tabernacle (152 Luckie St.) is another historic, popular concert venue.
• For outdoor shows, visit the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta and take in some music at the scenic Chastain Park Amphitheatre (4469 Stella Dr.)
• No discussion of the Atlanta music scene would be complete without a mention of the Masquerade. Featuring an outdoor park, three stories and three stages -- named Heaven, Purgatory and Hell -- the Masquerade is the perfect place for a crazy concert experience.
Sources: Chastain Park Amphitheatre, Fox Theatre, Tabernacle, Masquerade