For a sprawling city with the nation’s ninth-largest metro area, Atlanta is surprisingly lush with trees—magnolias, dogwoods, Southern pines, and magnificent oaks. Its mix of antebellum architecture and sexy glass high-rises reflects the paradox of the place; Atlanta is an ever-evolving city, honing her identity as she grows. Though steeped in Civil War history and a devotion to Southern hospitality, Atlanta is also a hotbed of upscale shopping, creative cuisine, and an exploding arts scene. Locals are passionate about college and professional sports, but also about foie gras, collard greens, and pecan pie. Neighborhoods like trendy Virginia-Highland and upscale Buckhead share cultural space with alternative Little Five Points and East Atlanta Village. The heart of the southeast has a captivating intersection of liberals and conservatives, blacks and whites. New attractions—the Georgia Aquarium, Atlantic Station, Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, and the recently redeveloped World of Coca-Cola—show that Atlanta, ever re-defining itself, has no plans to rest on its laurels.

 

Westin Peachtree Plaza

PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRISTIAN HEEB/AURORA PHOTOS

PHOTOGRAPH BY CHRISTIAN HEEB/AURORA PHOTOS

With its revolving restaurant and lounge, the Sun Dial Restaurant, atop Atlanta’s 73-story Westin Peachtree Plaza, provides all-encompassing views of the city.

 

Little Five Points

PHOTOGRAPH BY RONSHERMAN.COM

PHOTOGRAPH BY RONSHERMAN.COM

Musicians take a break in the Little Five Points area of Inman Park after performing at the historic community’s annual spring festival.

 

The Georgia Dome

PHOTOGRAPH BY RONSHERMAN.COM

PHOTOGRAPH BY RONSHERMAN.COM

Seating up to 71,000 screaming fans, the Georgia Dome is home to the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons and other events, such as the Peach Bowl.

 

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Silver Moon Barber Shop

PHOTOGRAPH BY QT LUONG/TERRAGALLERIA.COM

PHOTOGRAPH BY QT LUONG/TERRAGALLERIA.COM

A fixture from when it opened in 1915, the Silver Moon Barber Shop on Auburn Avenue claims to be the oldest African-American owned shop in Atlanta.

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Underground Atlanta

PHOTOGRAPH BY QT LUONG/TERRAGALLERIA.COM

PHOTOGRAPH BY QT LUONG/TERRAGALLERIA.COM

Shoppers stroll past stores in Underground Atlanta, a six-block historic area beneath the city streets.

 

Peachtree Road Race

PHOTOGRAPH BY RONSHERMAN.COM

PHOTOGRAPH BY RONSHERMAN.COM

Each Fourth of July 55,000 runners participate in the Peachtree Road Race, the largest such ten-kilometer race in the world.

 

High Museum of Art

PHOTOGRAPH BY ANN STATES

PHOTOGRAPH BY ANN STATES

Founded in 1905, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art has a permanent collection of more than 11,000 works of art.

 

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Marriott Marguis Hotel

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PHOTOGRAPH BY RONSHERMAN.COM

A dizzying array of shapes and colors spiral downward from the top floors of the atrium in the Marriott Marquis hotel in downtown Atlanta.

 

Inman Park Neighborhood

PHOTOGRAPH BY RONSHERMAN.COM

PHOTOGRAPH BY RONSHERMAN.COM

Each spring the Inman Park neighborhood holds a festival where artists sell their creations, and locals open their historic homes for tours.

 

Café Tu Tu Tango

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PHOTOGRAPH BY RONSHERMAN.COM

Patrons enjoy outside dining at Café Tu Tu Tango, a tapas bar that offers free tarot readings and spontaneous entertainment by a range of performers, from tango dancers to fire eaters.

 

This feature originally appeared in National Geographic.

 

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