You may think you know Georgia's capital city, but think again. No place in the South has grown faster and changed more, and it just keeps getting better. You'll want to visit our five favorites; they offer world-class fun for every member of the family. Come take a bite out of the Big Peach, and enjoy its freshness.
1. Georgia Aquarium
The sheer size of the new Georgia Aquarium has earned it the nickname "eighth ocean of the world." Walk through the front door, and you'll begin to feel like one of the fish. Schools of jacks swim determinedly ahead, leading the way into one of the best aquariums anywhere. Five galleries--each exploring an individual ecosystem--attract your attention with scores of big tanks full of slippery creatures. Touch tanks put you up close with rays, shrimp, and urchins. Longnose gars fin through thick tubes overhead in the rivers area. The big ocean tank, home to whale sharks, monstrous groupers, and cool-looking largetooth sawfish, draws crowds. Take time to explore the coral exhibit with waves crashing overhead as neon-colored fish dart in and out of the bubbles. In another gallery, oohs and aahs surround the playful seals, otters, penguins, and beluga whales. Even 18 months after opening, the aquarium is still best viewed in the early and late hours of weekdays.
2. Piedmont Park
Sure, Atlanta has traffic. Yet it also claims one of the largest city parks in the nation where you can revel in the grass and shaded splendor. One of the biggest crowds congregates in Piedmont Park for the free Bark in the Park concert on July 23. Music and animal lovers bring their pooches to spread blankets on the ground for a night of music by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The doggies instinctively seem to know to stop barking as the orchestra plays. The 185-acre Piedmont Park, which sits adjacent to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, sports trails and sidewalks, lakes, a weekend farmers market, open-air concerts, and one of the best views of the skyline. It gets better every year. Plan to visit the garden on Thursday, when it stays open till 9 p.m. with kiosks offering cocktails. During your stroll, seek out the two permanent art glass works by Dale Chihuly, created for the site in 2004. One adorns the Parterre Garden Fountain outside (it looks like a wig of glass curls standing on end), while the second hangs like a chandelier in the conservatory.
3. High Museum of Art
Few cities can match Atlanta's array of cultural events. Some of the most exciting emanate from the recently expanded High Museum of Art. Perched along Peachtree Street in Midtown, three new buildings double its size and create a plaza, which includes Table 1280 restaurant. The original architecture and the Italian design by Renzo Piano blend seamlessly. The resulting arts village is a light-filled space, inside and out. Now the High has room to show off its considerable collection of 19th- and 20th-century American works. A blockbuster three-year show accompanies the new digs. Curators from the High Museum handpicked European masterpieces from the Louvre to tell the story of the French museum's collections. This year's segment, "Decorative Arts of the Kings," lets you pull back the curtain and glimpse household items cherished by former Versailles residents. The High continues to celebrate contemporary culture with its permanent exhibit of modern and postmodern works. This summer's show, "Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005," opens May 12. The photographer's images of celebrities include her professional and personal favorites.