Going Out: Worldwide; 48 hours in ... Atlanta

The sprawling city of Atlanta is a tantalising mixture of old and new, its Deep South history a vivid backdrop to the new skycraper skyline.

Why go now?

Atlanta is a dynamic city in the throes of re-inventing itself. Don't expect the Old South portrayed in the film Gone With the Wind: the city is trying to shrug off its "Confederate and plantation" past. Look instead for hints of life as it will be in the new millennium and marvel at the futuristic buildings.

Beam down

British Airways and Delta Airlines fly non-stop from Gatwick every day; Delta also flies from Manchester. Half a dozen other airlines will get you there via other points in the US. Expect to pay pounds 250 for indirect flights and about pounds 50-pounds 80 more for non-stop travel, so long as you book through a discount agent - and book after the Christmas rush.

Get your bearings

From the air, Atlanta sprawls untethered into the horizon (it encompasses 6,150 square miles) and its size can be overwhelming. But acquaint yourself with public transport (taxis are almost non-existent) and Atlanta will feel do-able.

Areas to focus on include Downtown/Midtown Atlanta (can be covered on foot), Buckhead (glitzy hotels and shopping malls), Virginia Highlands (eclectic) and Little Five Points (alternative).

Check in

Unlike its cavernous, anonymous neighbours in the Downtown district, the Ritz-Carlton (00 1 404 659 0400) seduces with its muffled luxury. Rooms are spacious and the service is subdued (always a plus in America).

Ansley Inn (00 1 404 872 9000) is a handsome brick Tudor mansion now used as an affordable bed and breakfast. It features oversized bedrooms furnished with Chinese porcelains and antiques.

Barclay Hotel (00 1 404 524 7991) is cheap and central; its Celebrity Cafe is known for its tasty waffles and fried chicken.

Take a ride

Atlanta is home to the world's longest escalator - at Ted Turner's CNN Centre, headquarters of the international Cable News Network and Headline News. The escalator ride marks the start of a 45-minute tour of this broadcasting empire.

For a more dramatic look at Atlanta, catch an elevator: the lift at the downtown Hilton Hotel will whip you up to its elegant roof-top restaurant on the 30th floor.

Take a hike

Once a popular meeting place for the Klu Klux Klan, Stone Mountain park now attracts anyone fancying a stroll or a cappucino at the top of its 825 feet-high "mountain". This 3,200 acre area houses a reassembled plantation, a museum, Civil War exhibits, two golf courses, a beach, a lake, a zoo, a paddle-wheel riverboat, a skylift and endless shops and cafes.

Lunch on the run

Mary Mac's Tea Room at 224 Ponce de Leon Ave serves traditional Southern home-cooking to a mixed clientele of business folk, manual workers and lunching ladies. A basket of biscuits, corn-bread, rolls and whipped butter is offered to anyone who sits down. Specialties include fried catfish and banana pudding. A pianist wanders in at whim to play songs harking back to old Southern times. Service is kindly but eccentric: guests write down their orders with a blunt pencil. Located downtown.

Cultural afternoon

The Centre of Puppetry Arts houses a collection of more than 200 hand, string, rod and shadow puppets from around the world, as well as characters from the Muppet Show (Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy). PuppetWorks, a hands-on exhibit, allows visitors to have a go. Shows are held twice-daily. "Stories" range from Shakespearian drama to "adult-theme" productions. Closed Sunday.

For an alternative dose of culture, visit the Road to Tara Museum for a trip back to the days of slavery, 19-inch waists and civil war. This is the place where Margaret Mitchell first presented the completed manuscript of Gone With the Wind to her publisher. The house has had a checkered history; several years ago it was the target of an arson attack when Mitchell's book was deemed "racist". Mitchell's defenders rubbish such claims.

An aperitif

Theme bars are unavoidable in Atlanta. Dante's Down the Hatch, in Buckhead, follows the shipwreck theme: descend into the lower decks of a "ship" to find a muggy underworld with a wharf front, live crocodiles and hideously expensive beer.

Trader Vic's in the Hilton offers a trip into a Polynesian mystery world, where cocktails can be served hot, and "lovers' drinks" the size of a washing-up tub give any early-evening "sundowner" a festive air. Stuffed turtles on the wall and fish carcasses complete the effect.

Demure dinner

Nestled in between skyscrapers and on the edge of a "difficult" district, Mumbo Jumbo (00 1 212 404 523 0330), a restaurant serving contemporary American food, has a vibrant, sexy atmosphere. The bar is loud and rude, with deep red chairs and plenty of discreet corners. The restaurant itself flickers with flames from the giant grate. Food is exquisite and boldly presented (we enjoyed the rabbit, venison and chocolate souffle). The wine list is excellent. Dress for the evening - and dress hot!

Early hours

Slip into the Ritz for a late-night Martini and live jazz. The drinks are artworks: blue with a slice of yellow in a skin-thin glass, or a perfect white ball suspended in nothingness. Voices are low and belong to an older, richer set, apt to leave large tips.

Sunday morning: go to church

Atlanta's Auburn Avenue was an exciting place to be during the heady days of the 1960s. Its churches and meeting halls gave Civil Rights leaders a venue from which to make speeches. When Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, 200,000 people marched down Auburn Ave. King's body is there now, encased in a raised white-marble tomb in the middle of a "meditation pool" with the inscription "Free at last".

Next door to this courtyard at the Centre for Non-Violent Social Change is the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Three generations of Kings have preached from its pulpit. Every Sunday morning a service is held to which visitors are made especially welcome. The Gospel singing and the sermons are rousing but long - expect to be there for up to three hours. The service starts at 10.30am.

Bracing brunch

There is no better place to sample carrot pancakes with apple sauce and maple syrup, or eggs, bacon and hash browns, than the Flying Biscuit Cafe (00 1 212 404 687 8888), a lively neighbourhood meeting place in Little Five Points. People-watch to while away the half-hour wait for a table (unavoidable at any Sunday brunch venue in Atlanta): there will be families and clusters of elderly "frats" enjoying a re-union, alongside heavily tattooed, dreadlocked locals.

A walk in the park

Swamp your senses with the heady scent of orchids or the lulling humidity of a conservatory in Atlanta's botanical garden. Even in winter, the gardens have a bleak, empty charm: there is a Japanese garden with a bridge and goldfish pond, a fragrance garden for the blind, and a dwarf- and rare-conifer garden. Scattered across paths and lawns are an eccentric selection of sculptures, ranging from a giant turquoise frog sitting on a bench, to the more traditional fairy-fountain figures.

The icing on the cake

To enter a madcap dream which somehow evolved into reality, make a point of going to see a show at the glamorous Fox Theatre, still used for Broadway shows, rock concerts and dance performances. This hair-raising building was originally built in 1929 for Atlanta's Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (a Masonic order), but was purchased by movie mogul William Fox when the Order ran into financial difficulties.

The interior is reminiscent of a Moroccan fortress: there are minarets and chandeliers, copper-clad onion domes, watchtowers, lancet arches, and a huge bronze marquee over the entrance. Most spectacular is the "sky" ceiling - a midnight-blue dome with soft floating clouds and twinkling stars.

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
art

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'
film

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film

VIDEO
Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'
TV

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
film

Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
art

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp
art

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day
film

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London
TV

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek
TV

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Arts & Entertainment
TV
Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on The Crimson Field
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
    Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

    Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

    The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
    Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

    Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

    This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
    Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

    Education: Secret of Taunton's success

    Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
    10 best smartphones

    10 best smartphones

    With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal