Until you've lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was," wrote Atlanta's own Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind. These days Mitchell's hometown doesn't worry much about its formerly bland, conservative rep. The city has become a genuine cultural and culinary destination—witness the buzzworthy restaurant scene, incorporating everything from grits to foie gras, and dozens of art galleries and antiques markets. It's not just the new that draws attention in Atlanta, however. Only here will you find the world's largest diorama (the Cyclorama, a huge circular painting depicting the Civil War's Battle of Atlanta), its busiest airport, and the birthplace of its most popular soft drink (Coca-Cola, cheekily known as the house wine of the South). And there's no time like April to experience Atlanta's pleasures: this is the beginning of dogwood season, when the trees dotting the entire city proudly unfurl their pink and white blossoms. Pop open a Coke, kick back, and rest awhile.
BEYOND TARA: WHERE TO STAY Cigars, martinis, mahogany—there's definitely a gentleman's-club feeling to the 553-room Ritz-Carlton Buckhead (3434 Peachtree Rd. N.E.; 800/241-3333 or 404/237-2700; www.ritzcarlton.com; doubles from $265). By night, its intimate bar attracts a hip young financial set in their best Brooks Brothers; by day, it serves an exceptional afternoon tea (reservations are a must). In the Dining Room, chef Bruno Ménard puts a Japanese spin on traditional French cuisine. The hotel's location, uptown near two posh shopping centers, Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, couldn't be more convenient. • Straddling midtown and downtown—and across the street from the Fox Theatre, where the premiere of the 50th-anniversary edition of Gone with the Wind was held in 1989—the Georgian Terrace (659 Peachtree St.; 404/897-1991; www.thegeorgianterrace.com; doubles from $179) is in a 1911 Flatiron-style building with dramatic details: turreted corners, floor-to-ceiling Palladian-style windows, wraparound terraces, elliptical staircases. But it's not entirely a period piece: the sleek lobby and rooftop pool with its views of downtown skyscrapers remind you that you're in the 21st century. • The Sugar Magnolia Bed & Breakfast (804 Edgewood Ave. N.E.; 404/222-0226; www.sugarmagnoliabb.com; doubles from $95) has four cozy suites in an 1892 Victorian house, some with a private balcony or porch. It's located in historic Inman Park, once the city's first garden suburb and now close to a burgeoning bar scene and the High Museum of Art.
UPSCALE AND DOWN-HOME: ATLANTA'S BEST RESTAURANTS The Floataway Café (1123 Zonolite Rd.; 404/892-1414; dinner for two $90), housed in an industrial loft, serves Mediterranean-Southern fusion—fried Georgia white shrimp with green tomatoes and rich bouillabaisse made with red snapper. • The bistro Toulouse (2293 Peachtree Rd. N.E.; 404/351-9533; dinner for two $60) has colorful oversized murals, more than 50 wines available by the glass, and a menu of dressed-up comfort food such as buffalo meat loaf with mashed potatoes and wild mushrooms, and swordfish with tarragon beurre blanc. • Seeger's (111 W. Paces Ferry Rd.; 404/846-9779; five-course dinner for two $220, eight-course dinner for two $300), a Modernist space run by former Ritz-Carlton chef Guenter Seeger, offers guests two nightly tasting menus. Each is made up of dainty, jewel-like dishes that highlight a single ingredient such as stone crab, foie gras, or caviar.