Originally built as the terminus of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, Atlanta remains a hub for transportation (with the world's busiest airport), industry (with the headquarters for Coca-Cola), art (with treasures on display at the High Museum of Art), and natural wonders (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 draws visitors who want to get up-close and personal with whale sharks. At the Woodruff Arts Center, you can catch a performance by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra or watch films projected onto the exterior of the High Museum of Art. The fizzy World of Coca-Cola is dedicated to the hometown beverage. And the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is a beacon for justice and equality everywhere.
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 as developers hope to bring a Rodeo Drive of the South into being. Office and residential towers have risen throughout Midtown, Downtown, and the outer perimeter (fringing Interstate 285, especially to the north). Residents, however, are less likely to measure the city's growth by skyscrapers than by the increase in the already bad traffic, the crowds, higher prices, and the ever-burgeoning subdivisions that continue to push urban sprawl farther and farther into surrounding rural areas.
Known as "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 they 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.