PopulationMetro: 5,325,000
Affluent, charming and dripping with American history, this giant of the American South is creating the future on its own terms.

Affluent, charming and dripping with American history, this giant of the American South is creating the future on its own terms.

The thumping heart of the American South can be heard across the country these days.
Long a progressive, diverse beacon in conservative Georgia, Atlanta’s rich legacy of American civil rights, punctuated with being the birthplace of Martin Luther King, is particularly poignant today. The city embraces and shares its rich, living history—from the must-see Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, including access to the house in which the civil rights leader was raised and the church at which he was a pastor.

Then there’s lesser known experiences, like strolling the Sweet Auburn Historic District, once the wealthiest black community in America.

Atlanta has always been a crossroads—open to new arrivals and ideas who came to this lush, hot, rolling land when the city rose as a railroad terminus. Today, it is a transportation hub still, with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport the busiest airport in the world, with 80% of the U.S. population residing within a two-hour flight. It’s why the city topped Airport Connectivity among all U.S. cities and comes in at #13 globally. Atlanta, like most optimized hubs, also boasts efficient, inexpensive, direct public transit links to the city from its airport.

CITY PERFORMACE
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Atlanta is also a long-time business titan and ranks #24 globally for most Global 500 companies based in town.

There are odes to the companies that have built the city for visitors to explore—from the World of Coca Cola to the CNN Center. The city’s deep corporate pockets also help fund some of the American south’s top attractions, including the High Museum of Art and the massive Georgia Aquarium (the largest in the hemisphere).

Always a proud sports town—having hosted the 1996 Olympic Summer Games with the Centennial Olympic Park downtown as verdant reminder—the past year raised the bar significantly. The opening of SunTrust Park as the new home of the Major League Baseball Atlanta Braves led things off, and the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Stadium, for of the National Football League Atlanta Falcons brought fans to their feet. The $1.5 billion, 71,000-seat marvel is not only an instant architectural classic, it sets the bar globally as a live sports venue—from its retractable roof to its Window to the City (a 16-storey wall of floor-to-ceiling glass with a view of downtown Atlanta. It also boasts a 600,000-gallon cistern to gather rainwater and reuse it and utilizes 4,000 solar panels.

But perhaps its most daring innovation is its stadium food and drink pricing: hotdogs, nachos and 40 different kinds of beer (much of it local and craft-brewed), costing $5 or less.