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It's one of the fastest growing cities in the Southeast and there's plenty of reasons why, besides the variety of industries here and affordable housing options. Oh, Atlanta!

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Atlanta is one of the most underrated major cities in the U.S., yet home to so much history and sites that you could spend a week in this Southern metropolis and yet still not capture its true character and liveliness.

In fact, you will need to pick your choices wisely - as well as when you want to go. Atlanta's climate is mild for the most part, but in the summer it's known as "Hotlanta" for its humidity. While the other seasons - spring, winter and fall - occasionally bring unseasonable weather, for the most part temperatures and conditions are mild and reasonable.

Georgia's largest city and its state capitol, Atlanta's most famous resident is the Cable News Network, the once brash idea of Ted Turner who envisioned a 24-hour cable network turning television on its head. And while Coca-Cola, Bell South and many other Fortune 100 companies call Atlanta home, its most famous resident is actually the late Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King's boyhood home at 501 Auburn Avenue still sits comfortably along a quiet residential street on the outskirts of downtown. A short walking distance from where it all started sits the MLK Historical Site, which is managed by the National Park Service. The site, in addition to the boyhood home, retraces the history of Dr. King's life and the obstacles he and others worked to overcome in the name of freedom for all people. The park tour ends with a view of Dr. King's tomb. Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King preached as a young man, is also close by both sites.

History can indeed be your guide in Metro Atlanta, whether its visiting the King sites or "Talkback Live," a town meeting program which airs weekdays from CNN Center to discuss the top worldwide issues of the day. Tickets to the program are free and available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

A short walking distance from CNN is Centennial Olympic Park, which was created for the 1996 summer games held here. The airy, open-park retraces the history of the games amongst waterfalls and lush landscape. On 21-acres, The Fountain of Rings, the world's largest fountain utilizing the Olympic symbol of five interconnecting rings with 25 water jets, is the park's feature attraction and shows take place daily.

When you're ready to take a "time out" from the walking history lesson for some good Southern cooking, head on over to The Varsity, an Atlanta dining institution since the late 1920s. As history tells it, The Varsity was fast food before fast food was cool! Its famous red and white colors, and old-fashioned, but slick interior design have never changed.

There are four Varsity locations in Metro Atlanta, but if you can, visit the one near Georgia Tech where it all began. Originally known as The Yellow Jacket, tech student Frank Gordy realized college wasn't his gig and launched a restaurant in 1928 serving fast food that the college crowd craved. Today, The Varsity's world-famous chilidogs, hamburgers, onion rings and french fries remain a college favorite and for everyone else in Atlanta too for that matter!

When you're done dusting off lunch, you have plenty of options left for your next adventure. Mid-town Atlanta features old, historic homes along tree-lined streets. Head to the state capitol grounds or tour world-famous Coca-Cola and take a stroll down memory lane as you witness collections of memorabilia and those Coke radio and television ads of yesteryear.

When its time for Happy Hour, there are no shortage of places to put your feet up - or down on the dance floor. Underground Atlanta is right next to Coca-Coca and is full of restaurants, specialty shops, street cart merchants and entertainment options. The Buckhead section of Metro Atlanta is also home to some of the city's best nighlife, too.

If sports are your fancy, no matter what season you visit, they'll be something on the docket. Atlanta has four major professional sports teams, in addition to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and all of the sports facilities are centrally located in and around the downtown area. If music or the arts are your cup of tea, there are no shortage of venues either.

Day Tripping: If you're going to venture out of Metro Atlanta, head to Stone Mountain Park, a 3,200-acre park that celebrates scenery as much as the history of the south. Choose from a skylift, riverboat, scenic railroad, two museums, and a plantation, among other attractions.

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Jun 22 2002, 03:30:41
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