Can you give me directions to Peachtree? This may be a perfectly legitimate question when you arrive in Atlanta for WasteExpo May 15-18. But if you're trying to make your way to your hotel, you'll have to be a little more specific.
In this booming Southern city, there's Peachtree Street NE and NW, Peachtree Avenue, Peachtree Road. "Everything here is Peachtree, honey!" a rental car representative told me during my first trip to Atlanta.
Despite the transportation challenges, there is much to see and do in Atlanta. As the capital of the New South, Atlanta is fast-paced, international and progressive - although it retains a healthy amount of that renowned Southern charm. In fact, from natives to New England transplants, Atlantans all say y'all.
Atlanta offers every entertainment opportunity imaginable: historical sites, top-notch restaurants, art galleries, professional sports teams and nightclubs featuring virtually every type of music. If that's not enough, magnolias, azaleas and other flora will be blooming in May - before the summer humidity stifles the city.
While you're in town, MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) can help you avoid any Peachtree confusion, and it often is the best way to get to some of the city's hot spots. Rides cost $1.50 per trip including train transfers, and will take you almost anywhere you want to go. Of course, if you prefer, taxis are available.
Playing Around It may seem as though Ted Turner owns more of Atlanta than General Sherman did during the Civil War. This is particularly true of the city's professional sports offerings. The media mogul owns the Braves baseball team, the Hawks basketball team and Atlanta's new pro-hockey team, the Thrashers. Only the Falcons football team is not part of Turner's empire.
Although the Hawks, Falcons and Thrashers won't be playing during WasteExpo, you can catch the 1999 National League-champion Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, also called "The Ted."
While you're at the ball game, don't forget to tour the museum and hall of fame honoring home-run king Hank Aaron.
Of course, Turner also owns Turner Broadcasting System and CNN, the global news network based in Atlanta. Visit CNN Center in downtown Atlanta, take a studio tour (reservations required) and see what it takes to report the day's sports or news.
Eat lunch at one of the fast-food restaurants in the atrium. Then feel free to express yourself to the world in front of a live, national audience on "Talk Back Live."
After a busy day behind the scenes, relax in front of CNN Center at Centennial Olympic Park, built to celebrate the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta. The red brick park offers dancing fountains, benches to rest your feet, and at noon each day, jets of water burst from the six rings of an Olympic logo. If you get too hot, run through the sprays in your bare feet. It's OK; all the kids - and some adults - are doing it.
Also downtown, the World of Coca-Cola pavilion and interactive museum documents the history of the world's most famous soft drink, invented in an Atlanta drugstore more than 100 years ago. See hundreds of artifacts, exhibits and videos, watch how Coke is bottled and taste samples from around the world.
Midtown houses Atlanta's world-class High Museum of Art, offering an impressive assortment of modern art, 19th century landscapes, five centuries of European paintings and sculpture, and a wonderful collection of African masks.
Family Fun If you're bringing the family to Atlanta, peek at the pandas - Zoo Atlanta's newest residents. Yang Yang and Lun Lun arrived from China in November. The zoo, one of the 10 oldest in continuous operation in the United States, also is home to more than 1,000 other animals. Twelve miles west of Atlanta is another family attraction, Six Flags Over Georgia, which features more than 100 rides, attractions and shows, including Gotham City and Bugs Bunny Land.
The SciTrek Science and Technology Museum, a popular stop for kids of all ages, is science you can handle. The interactive museum offers more than 150 exhibits to explore and touch. For example, you can close an electric circuit around your body or take a cyber safari.
Looking for outdoor activities? Stone Mountain Park, 20 minutes outside of Atlanta, features 3,200 acres of lakes, wildlife, hiking possibilities and plum picnic spots. Tour the restored antebellum plantation or ride the lift to the top of the mountain. You can't miss the monumental three-acre sculpture of Confederate leaders etched into the side of the granite mountain. The night-time laser show also is well worth the drive.
If flowers are more your speed, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens provides tropical, desert and endangered plants and flowers.
Shopping also is a big attraction in Atlanta. The Buckhead area, centered at the intersection of Peachtree, Roswell and Paces Ferry roads, is the city's premier shopping, dining and entertainment district. Just a couple of minutes north (up Peachtree, of course) are two large, upscale malls, Lenox and Phipps. Additionally, just 30 miles northeast of Atlanta near Buford is the new 1.5 million-plus square foot Mall of Georgia complete with indoor and outdoor shops.
Hot-lanta History If you're more of a history buff, Atlanta offers many options. One must-see area is the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site and Sweet Auburn District, the birthplace of King and the 1960s civil rights movement. This area, just east of downtown, is the center of Atlanta's African-American heritage. It includes King's birth home and grave, Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he worshiped and preached, and the King Center, site of MLKs white-marble memorial tomb and eternal flame.
If you like ancient history, visit the Fernbank Museum of Natural History to view the creation and development of life on earth through interactive exhibits. Stop at the IMAX theater to see "A Walk in Time Through Georgia." And don't miss "Life and Death Under the Pharaohs," an exclusive exhibit featuring Egyptian art, statues, jewelry, a life-sized model of a tomb chamber and papyrus pages from the Book of the Dead. The exhibit is on loan from the Netherlands through September, and Atlanta is the only U.S. stop.
If you want a keen understanding of this city, don't miss the Atlanta History Center. It features three parts: the history museum, which boasts the largest U.S. collection of Civil War maps, the Tullie Smith Farm, an 1845 plantation, and the late-1920s grand Italianate Swan House.
The Atlanta Cyclorama, in Grant Park next to the zoo, is a history lover's dream come true. A painting in the round commissioned in 1883 by a U.S. major general, it will give you a panoramic view of the 1864 Battle of Atlanta. The world's largest painting, it measures 42 feet high, 358 feet in circumference and 9,334 pounds. Music, sound effects and narration accompany your trip through time as you watch the battle unfold while sitting on a moving platform.
For more recent history, tour the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, where you'll view memorabilia from the former president's administration and life on displays, video and film.
Southern Specialties After sightseeing, you'll be ready for some great food - Southern style. For true Southern cooking downtown, stop by Mary Mac's Tea Room and enjoy fried chicken, cornbread dressing and gravy, sweet potato souffle and peach cobbler. Plus, you'll never know what local celeb or politician you might run into in this 50-year-old-plus fixture.
The Abbey, established in 1968, is housed downtown in a former church that still has its beautiful stained-glass windows. A harpist plays dinner music from the former choir loft while patrons sample divine dishes such as lobster claw salad, grilled elk chop and white chocolate and roasted banana napoleon.
Want greasy grub? Stop at The Varsity, a drive-in hamburger joint founded in 1928. Every day, the restaurant serves 16,000 customers more than 2 miles of dogs, a ton of onions and 2,500 pounds of potatoes. You probably won't eat that much, but don't forget the Frosted Orange drink with your "naked dog."
If you're into eclectic eats, step aboard Dante's Down the Hatch. This restaurant and tourist attraction is like a trip aboard an old pirate ship. Here, you'll feast on fondue and drinks while listening to live jazz.
If breakfast is your bag, don't miss The Flying Biscuit Cafe, where the a.m. fare is served all day amidst sky-blue ceilings and sunflower-decked walls. Don't miss the smoked salmon scrambler or the organic oatmeal pancakes topped with peaches. The lunch and dinner fare is just as good for non-breakfast fans.
Veni Vidi Vici in Midtown is far fancier, and serves up northern Italian cuisine. Dine indoors or out at the boccie court, but be sure to try the veal meatballs, herbed goat cheese in marinara sauce, gnocchi with Gorgonzola cheese, and the rotisserie-grilled duck, salmon, lamb, port or chicken.
If you've got a car, Canoe, located in northwest Atlanta's Vinings area, dishes up scrumptious scenery with its specialties. On the banks of the Chattahoochee river, this restaurant offers a wonderful view along with its nationally known African squash soup with rock crab and lime cream, whole roasted lobster with pumpkin risotto and chocolate hazelnut praline cake.
Back in Buckhead, Bones is a restaurant you really can sink your teeth into. It's a brash, New York-style steak house, but don't let that keep you away from the succulent prime beef, lobster bisque and wonderful wine list offering more than 500 selections.
The Horseradish Grill in Buckhead may be noisier than most restaurants, but it offers upscale, authentic Southern fare. The former horse barn was renovated in 1994 and serves up quail on grits, Carolina-style barbecue with coleslaw, rabbit pot pie and pecan pie tart.
While you're in Buckhead, don't miss the colossal fish outside of the Atlanta Fish Market. Though it's always busy (a sure sign of a restaurant worth waiting for), the Fish Market offers a dining atmosphere inspired by a 1920s Savannah train station, including a mural depicting famous Georgians, down-home hospitality and, of course, superb seafood.
Atlanta After Hours The city isn't called Hot-lanta just because of the humidity. After a tough day at WasteExpo, perhaps you'll need a brewsky, a band or a boogie. You can do it all in Atlanta.
Complete with bars, clubs and restaurants, Atlanta's Buckhead area is the place to see and be seen. Tongue & Groove, Buckhead's swank club for beautiful people, is rumored to be a Michael Jordan favorite when he's in town. If you feel a little Saturday night fever coming on, boogie to Bell Bottoms or Have a Nice Day Cafe. There you can disco the night away and you also will get enough Village People to last all year.
Fado Irish Pub will be crowded, but you can always squeeze in to pick up a pint. There won't be green beer, but this authentic pub's corned beef and cabbage scent, fish and chips, and live Irish music is inviting.
If you'd rather watch the playoffs (any sport), stick around after dinner at the ESPN Zone. Virtually every game you want to see will be on television while you drink your favorite brew or play the latest sports game.
Smith's Olde Bar offers pool tables, dart boards, a foosball table, a jukebox, and a collection of video games and pinball machines. Upstairs, Smith's Attic has been voted one of Atlanta's best small music venues.
If you need a blues fix, look no further than Blind Willie's in Virginia Highlands. Named after legendary Georgia bluesman Blind Willie McTell, it features the best live blues acts in town, perhaps in the country.
Also recommended and in the neighborhood (below street level) is Highland Tap, a favorite haunt that's half steak house, half bar. Eddie's Attic's Sunday night jam sessions draw big crowds, but you can visit any night of the week. It's one of Atlanta's best stops for live local and national music.
Downtown, the Stein Club has drawn urban dwellers since 1961. If the odd decor, including a chunk of the century-old banister from the Guinness family home, doesn't charm you, the black-and-white pictures of past patrons and the beer will.
Ready for a few laughs? Try Dad's Garage Theatre Co., specializing in improv comedy Thursdays through Saturdays. Located in a converted warehouse, Dad's has received rave reviews from local comedy connoisseurs. Also highly recommended for superb improv comedy is Whole World Theatre located in Midtown. Relax on comfy couches while the actors create scenes from audience suggestions. Reservations are encouraged.
If you want to two-step and don't mind driving out to the country a bit (Smyrna, actually), then boot scoot to the Buckboard Country Music Showcase. This is where Atlantans go for great country music and dancing.
Whatever you do, make a point to stop in and have a drink at Atlanta's sparkling skyline at night from the top of the Westin Peachtree Plaza, the tallest hotel in North America, located on Peachtree Street.
And don't worry about trying to tell the difference between Peachtree Street NW and Peachtree Road NE. Even long-time residents have trouble with that, so just say y'all now and again, and you'll blend right in.
Atlanta Botanical Gardens 1345 Piedmont Ave. NE (404) 876-5859
Atlanta Braves 755 Hank Aaron Dr. SE (800) 326-4000 www.atlantabraves.com
Atlanta History Center 3101 Andrews Dr. (Buckhead) (404) 814-4000
CNN Studio Tours 1 CNN Center (404) 827-2300
Dad's Garage Theatre Company 280 Elizabeth St. (404) 523-3141
The Fernbank Museum of Natural History 767 Clifton Road (404) 370-0906
High Museum of Art 1280 Peachtree St. (404) 892-3600
Jimmy Carter Library and Museum 1 Copenhill (404) 331-0296
Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site 450 Auburn Ave. NE (404) 331-6922
SciTrek Science and Technology Museum 395 Piedmont Ave. NE (404) 522-5500
Six Flags Over Georgia 7561 Six Flags Parkway Austell (770) 948-9290
Stone Mountain Park U.S. Hwy 78 to Stone Mountain Exit (770) 498-5690
Whole World Theatre 1214 Spring Street NW (404) 817-PLAY
The World of Coca-Cola 55 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. (404) 370-0906
Zoo Atlanta 800 Cherokee Ave. (404) 624-5600
Bell Bottoms 225 Pharr Road NE (404) 816-9669
Blind Willie's 828 N. Highland Ave. (404) 873-2583
Buckboard Country Music Showcase 2080 Cobb Pkwy., Windy Hill Plaza Shopping Center Smyma (770) 955-7340
Eddie's Attic 515-B N. McDonough St. Decatur (404) 377-4976
ESPN Zone 3030 Peachtree Td. NE (404) 682-3776
Fado Irish Pub 3035 Peachtree Road NE (404) 841-0066
Have a Nice Day Cafe 3095 Peachtree Road NE (404) 261-8898
Highland Tap 1026 N. Highland Ave. NE (404) 875-3673
Smith's Olde Bar 1580 Piedmont Ave. NE (404) 875-1522
The Stein Club 929 Peachtree St. NE (404) 876-3707
Tongue & Groove 3055 Peachtree Road NE (404) 261-2325
The Abbey 163 Ponce de Leon Ave. (404) 876-8532
Atlanta Fish Market 265 Pharr Road (404) 262-3165
Bones 3130 Piedmont Road (404) 237-2663
Canoe 4199 Paces Ferry Road NE (404) 266-1600
The Flying Biscuit Cafe 1655 McLendon Ave. (404) 687-8888
Horseradish Grill 4320 Powers Ferry Road (404) 255-7277
Mary Mac's Tea Room 224 Ponce de Leon Ave. (404) 876-1800
The Varsity 61 North Ave. (404) 881-1706
Veni Vidi Vici 41 14th St. (404) 875-8424
Westin Peachtree Plaza 210 Peachtree St. at International Blvd. (404) 659-1400 or (800) 937-8461