Orientation and brief history
Atlanta has come a long way from its founding in 1837 to its current cosmopolitan status, while maintaining its southern charm. It is the capital of Georgia, located slightly northwest of the state's center.
Interstate 285 circles Atlanta; it is often referred to as the Perimeter. Much of the city's activity takes place inside the Perimeter. Four other interstate highways provide routes in and around Atlanta and to outside points.
Peachtree Street is Atlanta's main north-south route. However, be aware that many roadways are named Peachtree. When looking for an address or following directions, be sure to note whether your destination is on Peachtree Street, Lane, Road, Avenue, Circle, Drive, Plaza, or Way.
A good map is essential to the newcomer. Navigating the city can be confusing, because of the way the city grew without benefit of a planned grid. Many downtown streets are one-way; others change names. Many end at the interstate or the Chattahoochee River. Fortunately, native Atlantans are very friendly and helpful to lost newcomers.
Not only are the natives friendly, but they are also proud of the city's history. Atlanta holds a special place in U.S. history as the site of one of the climactic battles of the Civil War. General Sherman's northern army left the city a burned ruin in 1864, a disaster that inspired the most widely read literary work concerning the war, Atlanta-native Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind.
The metropolitan area covers over 9,600 sq. km/6,000 sq. mi and has a population of over four million. At least half of Atlanta's residents were born outside of the southern United States. Even with its growing diversity, the city exudes an easy, polished hospitality.
The unofficial capital of the new South, it is one of the top U.S. cities for investment by global companies. Leading manufactures include aerospace products, automobiles, chemicals, textiles, and - increasingly - technology. It is the corporate headquarters of Coca-Cola and Cable News Network (CNN), Ted Turner's worldwide television service.
Atlanta's business center is dominated by the towers of the Peachtree Center complex and neighboring skyscrapers. However, the essence of an earlier and more leisurely era survives in residential suburbs that surround the center of the city, with tree-lined streets, turn-of-the-century homes and community parks. The area is especially beautiful in spring when dogwood trees and multi-hued azaleas burst into bloom.
With its increasing physical growth and international importance, Atlanta offers plenty to make it a livable city for newcomers.