Atlanta, GA. Largely considered the capital of the South, it is the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the U.S. (ajc.com). Atlanta is amazing, not only because of its traffic, which is truly horrific (which is really saying something, coming from people that have grown up in the D.C. suburbs), but also because of how it has embraced its role as the central business area for the Southeast U.S. Coming from Charlotte, the area is really like a big Charlotte (or rather, Charlotte is like a small Atlanta).
Atlanta is really focused on promoting a business-friendly image. Everywhere I went in the city, the city has industry; from banks, to large office areas, to light industrial complexes, the city is pocked with industry in all its forms. This focus on business provides a tremendous amount of resources for nice living areas. The city has beautiful single-family homes to see, along with gorgeous architecture, great night life, and great daytime sights.
The weather in Atlanta is moderate to hot. Winters are mild, with average temperatures in the mid-40s, while summers are hot, frequently breaking into the 100s, with 90s being the norm.
Where to Stay:
When picking a hotel, it’s really all about what you’re there for. The city has a great public transportation system, the MARTA, which includes both buses and light rail. If you’re a weekend traveler, looking for a price break between downtown living and convenience, we would recommend staying in the Perimeter area, which is north of the city. Perimeter has a nice mall, access to the MARTA, plenty of nice restaurants (see Chequers, for example), and plenty of hotels to meet your needs, ranging from a Westin to the Comfort Suites.
If you’re there to experience all that Downtown has to offer, there are certainly plenty of hotels right in Downtown, and there is plenty to see and do Downtown (see below), and it’s a reasonable walk to midtown to enjoy the University district.
Otherwise, the Buckhead area is an up-and-coming (or already there?) area of Atlanta. Aside from some great architecture, Buckhead is mostly filled with nice hotels, swanky shopping plazas, and fancy restaurants. I’m sure you could even find a nice spa or two, if that’s what you’re looking for. We would probably opt to find somewhere in Buckhead if we were looking for a nice romantic weekend in Atlanta.
A warning on staying Downtown: Downtown has a lot going for it, but the moderate-hot climate has left a large resident population of homeless in the Downtown area (proper). It’s not that I ever felt unsafe, per se, but I did feel uncomfortable with the perpetual barrage of handout requests, which were generally localized to small, dense pockets. At night, this might be amplified after dark. I can’t say for sure, as I was never in the Downtown after dark, however.
What to Do:
Centennial Park – A rennovated area during the preparation for the 1996 Olympics, the Park now serves as a gathering point in the Downtown area, and is a must see for any Atlanta visitor.
World of Coke – Yes, it’s a perpetual commercial for Coca-Cola, but it’s novel and interesting, and at the end you get to try all sorts of different kinds of Coke (over 60 kinds, according to the site).
Stone Mountain – Located East of Atlanta, the Stone Mountain Park has plenty of outdoor activities for any kind of enthusiast. From hiking to a cable car ride to a Mount Rushmore like carving on the mountain face, it’s got plenty to entertain you, and should be on the list of must-dos for any extended trip to Atlanta.