At first glance, ATLANTA is a typical large American city and one that suffers particularly badly from urban sprawl: the population of the entire metropolitan area exceeds 5.5 million. It is also undeniably upbeat and progressive, with little interest in lamenting a lost Southern past, and since electing the nation’s first black mayor, the late Maynard Jackson, in 1974, it has remained the most conspicuously black-run city in the USA. As if to counterbalance the alienating sprawl, the city maintains plenty of active, prettily landscaped green spaces (most notably, the 22-mile BeltLine), and its neighbourhoods have distinct, recognizable identities; quaint Virginia Highlands is just a short drive away from trendy Inman Park and grungier, punky Little Five Points, for example, but the three have little in common. Once you accept the driving distances and the roaring freeways, dynamic Atlanta has plenty to offer, with must-see attractions from sites associated with Dr King to cultural institutions including the High Museum of Art and Atlanta History Center. At time of writing, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights () was gearing up to open in Centennial Park, between the aquarium and World of Coca-Cola.

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