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 and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
The party's over: Paul Higgins and Stella Gonet in 'Hope' at the Royal Court

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special

Broadcaster unveils Christmas schedule

Arts and Entertainment
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Bell in the new BBC series Posh People: Inside Tatler

Review: Posh journalists just can't get enough of each other

Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tvThe two new contestants will join the 'I'm A Celebrity' camp after Gemma Collins' surprise exit
The late Jimmy Ruffin, pictured in 1974
Northern Uproar, pictured in 1996

Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the new Paddington bear review

Review: Paddingtonfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Tony stares at the 'Daddy Big Ears' drawing his abducted son Oliver drew for him in The Missing
tvReview: But we're no closer to the truth in 'The Missing'
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
    Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

    24-Hour party person

    Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
    Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

    A taste for rebellion

    US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
    Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

    Colouring books for adults

    How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
    Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

    Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
    Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

    Call me Ed Mozart

    Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
    10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

    From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
    'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

    'I am a paedophile'

    Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

    Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
    Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

    From a lost deposit to victory

    Green Party on the march in Bristol
    Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

    Winter blunderlands

    Putting the grot into grotto
    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

    'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

    London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
    In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

    Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

    Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran