**Atlanta: The Magic City
Atlanta, the capital and most populous city in the state of Georgia, is known to many visitors as the city within a forest due to it being surrounded by rolling hills and thick tree canopy. For history buffs, it is known as having been a major centre in the organisation of the civil rights movement. It is also a popular destination for those wanting to know more about American history, art and music and enjoy unique landscapes and warm hospitality.
Historically the home of Creek Indian inhabitants, the town became a hub for workers planning the Western and Atlantic railroad in 1836. During the Civil War, Atlanta became a base for military distribution thanks to its rail connections to major cities. After damage was inflicted during the conflict, the town was rebuilt and became the new state capital of Georgia. During the next century, the city experienced a lot of urban growth and in the 1960's became a major centre of the civil rights movement. In the 1980s, it became a roaring country, gospel and soul music hotspot. Today it is a vibrant and varied city, with a major art and culture scene and a lot of history.
Visitors come to enjoy the diverse music scene, consisting of major companies offering Opera, ballet, orchestra and theatre productions. It is also a centre for some of the best gospel, soul, neo-gothic and jazz music stars. In addition to music, Atlanta is the 7th most visited city in the USA because if it's wide variety of exciting activities on offer. The Children's Museum and World of Coca-Cola are major draws for families. Also popular are the museums depicting the history of the civil rights movement and the college football hall of fame. If visiting in April, be sure to visit the famous Dogwood Festival -- an art and craft festival held when the dogwood trees are in bloom -- or make time to attend the largest multi-cultural event in the Southeast: The Festival Peachtree Latino, that's held each August.
Things to do
There are many things that attract people to Atlanta, and thanks to its rich cultural history and vibrant cultural scene, visitors will always find something to capture their interest.
For those who enjoy educating themselves about the past, this is the perfect place to learn about the Civil Rights Movement's history. The Center for Civil and Human Rights is a museum dedicated to the history of the movement in Atlanta and the struggle for human rights across the world. The exhibits tell both the historical and the contemporary story of the battle for human rights through interactive art pieces, a Martin Luther King collection and galleries showing the dangers of dictatorship. It's an emotional experience but a must-see for everyone who visits Atlanta.
Museums are a huge draw for visitors to the city. The Children's Museum is a great way for children to learn and explore. This "museum without walls" is aimed at children up to age nine and includes exhibits that teach visitors about the process of cultivating food, its delivery to a store and consumption at home. There is also an arts area and a place to explore the use of tools. The Coca-Cola Museum is another great place to take the family. Telling the story of Coke, it also includes exhibits on the secret recipe as well as giving visitors the opportunity to taste 60 different flavours of Coke from around the world.
In addition to its many museums, Atlanta is also known for its many natural areas, reserves and parks. The most popular of these is Piedmont Park, containing picnic areas, bike paths, a playground for kids, sports areas and a swimming pool. Perfect for a relaxing day, just make sure to pack a lunch as there are no food vendors allowed inside unless there's a festival.
Stone Mountain rises above the city and is etched with the faces of three famous civil rights leaders. Take the cable car to the top and enjoy the restaurant, beach and golf course at the top as well as the stunning view. A great way to get away from the bustling city below and take in some of the nature the city is famous for.
Atlanta has a thriving music industry, and hip-hop, country, gospel and soul acts rate among the city's most popular musical exports. For those wanting to explore the popular music scene, be sure to check out the clubs and nightlife in the central city. Hit up The Fox, where huge acts draw the crowds for everything from Broadway to Horror Night. Another popular spot, The Tabernacle was originally a Baptist church, but now it hosts guests such as Conan O'Brien and Ludacris.
Events in Atlanta
No matter when you visit, there will be something exciting to keep you entertained. These are some of the more popular events that occur in the city throughout the year:
The Festival Peachtree Latino. This festival represents the large Hispanic population of Atlanta and is the largest multi-cultural events in the Southeast. It is held annually in Piedmont Park in August. Currently in its 17th year, the festival features a parade, sports, art and craft, music and performances from acts from all over the Americas.
Atlanta Pride. The city is home to one of the largest pride celebration as well as the world's largest Black Pride celebration occurring in June and August/September respectively.
The Atlanta Dogwood Festival. This event takes place in the city across two weekends and the intervening weekdays in early April, offering festival-goers the chance to see the flowering Dogwood trees while enjoying an arts and craft market. A great place to spend a day with friends and family enjoying the park and festivities on offer.
The Atlanta Film Festival. This is an Academy-Award-qualifying, international festival. Occurring annually since 1976, the screened films are a diverse array of independent, experimental and art films. If you're in town in March/April, be sure to check out some of the showings.