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Atlanta greets visitors with a warm "Hey, y'all!" Originally built as the terminus of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, Atlanta remains a hub for transport (with the world's busiest airport), industry (with the headquarters for Coca-Cola), art (with treasures from the Louvre on display at the High Museum of Art), and tourism (with the world's largest aquarium). The city's half million residents enjoy a mix of old-fashioned Southern charm, offbeat artistic funkiness, chic luxury shopping, superb dining, and major attractions.

In the past, many of the city's big draws—Stone Mountain Park, for example—were outside the city limits. Today there's plenty in town to keep you occupied. The Georgia Aquarium, the largest in the world, draws visitors who want to get up-close and personal with whale sharks. The Woodruff Arts Center is a cultural hub where you can catch a performance by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra or gaze on treasures from the Louvre on loan at the High Museum of Art. And the fizzy World of Coca-Cola is dedicated to the hometown beverage.

Atlanta continues to experience explosive growth. A good measure of the city's expansion is the ever-changing skyline; condominium developments appear to spring up overnight, while run-down properties seem to disappear in a flash. In Buckhead—once home to a noisy, raucous bar district—most of the taverns have been razed and work is underway on what developers are hoping will become the Rodeo Drive of the South. Office and residential towers have risen throughout the Midtown, Downtown, and outer perimeter (fringing Interstate 285, especially to the north) business districts. Residents, however, are less likely to measure the city's growth by skyscrapers than by the increase in traffic jams and crowds, higher prices, and the ever-burgeoning subdivisions that continue to push urban sprawl farther and farther into surrounding rural areas.

"The city too busy to hate," Atlanta has become the best example of the New South, a fast-paced modern city proud of its heritage. Transplanted Northerners and those from elsewhere account for more than half the population and have undeniably affected the mood of the city, as well as the mix of accents of its people. Irish immigrants played a major role in the city's early history, along with Germans and Austrians. Since the 1980s, Atlanta has seen spirited growth in its Asian and Latin-American communities. The newcomers' restaurants, shops, and institutions have become part of the city's texture.