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The Description of Atlanta

Updated on September 2, 2013
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Atlanta is the capital of Georgia. The heart of the city is located at an elevation of about 1,000 feet (300 meters), 6 miles (10 km) southeast of the Chattahoochee River. Its metropolitan area spreads out over the rolling wooded hills of the Piedmont Plateau at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in northwestern Georgia. Atlanta's elevation and southern location combine to make its climate quite mild. Snow is a rarity in winters, when the average mean temperature in January is 45° F (7° C), and cooling breezes can be felt on summer evenings when, even in August, the mean temperature is 78° F (26° C).

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Atlanta grew from an end-of-the-line construction point of the Western and Atlantic Railroad in the 1840s, when it was known appropriately as "the Terminus," into the hub of a railroad network that linked the Southeast with other regions. In the late 19th century a compact city evolved around the web of tracks of the 14 lines that were built to link with this vital transfer point. The commercial center of town grew around the railroad terminals near the Zero Mile Post of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. The city has developed in a sprawling, dispersed fashion, and its low population density levels contrast sharply with those of older, more densely packed northern cities.

From this beginning, Peachtree Street, which runs north of the rail terminus point along a prominent ridge line, was an important commercial and residential spine in the city. Today this avenue links downtown Atlanta with the affluent suburbs north of the city. Peachtree Street, N.E., begins at Five Points, an intersection in the center of the city, and runs north through office tower districts in Peachtree Center, Midtown, and Buckhead. From Midtown north, historical suburbs can be found a block or two off Peachtree.

The Georgia State Capitol (1884–1889) is located three blocks southeast of Five Points and is the anchor of a complex of state, county, and city office buildings.

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Within the city on the near north side, Piedmont Park is the site of an annual arts festival in September; the weeklong affair has numerous activities involving the visual and performing arts; more than 2 million people attend the festivities. Also in the park is the Atlanta Botanical Garden, with herb, vegetable, rose, and oriental plants; a children's garden; and a conservatory highlighting rare and endangered plants from rainforests and deserts. On the near south side, Grant Park is the home of the Cyclorama, a large, circular painting of the Battle of Atlanta; it features a revolving platform with lights and sounds.

Zoo Atlanta also is located in Grant Park. The Georgia Aquarium was considered the largest of its kind in the world when it opened in 2005; it played a major role in revitalizing the downtown area. Beyond the city limits on the east side, Stone Mountain Park features a carving of Confederate leaders on the face of a dramatic granite outcropping. Some 20 miles (30 km) north of Atlanta is Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, which combines history and recreation; the area has a museum as well as hiking trails and picnic grounds. Fernbank Science Center has trails, natural history exhibits, and a large planetarium; the Museum of Natural History there provides dinosaur and wildlife exhibits. In the city's center is an underground mall called Underground Atlanta. Its storefronts depict what Atlanta looked like in pre–Civil War times.

One of the most famous attractions in the city is the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site, located downtown along Auburn Avenue. There, on Atlanta's street of black enterprise, the King birthplace and grave site, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change stand as testimony to the accomplishments of the city's Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Just east of downtown, off North Highland Avenue, is the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center, with a library and museum, dedicated in 1986. Also located in the downtown area is the Science and Technology Museum of Atlanta (SciTrek), an interactive science museum for children and adults. Divided into five sections, the museum examines topics such as simple machines, mathematics, electricity, and light and perception. Kidspace, an interactive science playground for children ages two to seven, also is housed in the museum.

Some of the attractions of the Atlanta History Center are the Swan House, a former private residence that exemplifies the style of living of the wealthy during the 1930s; the Tullie Smith House, a restored 1835 farmhouse pointing out the living and working quarters of the typical Georgian farmer; and several gardens. Also of note are the Wren's Nest, a Victorian mansion that was home to Joel Chandler Harris, creator of the Uncle Remus stories; the Margaret Mitchell house in Midtown; the Governor's Mansion, a modern structure built in Greek Revival style showcasing 19th-century furnishings; and the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, with exhibits dating to 1733, when Jews first settled in Georgia.

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