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Atlanta, GA (Population: 5,478,667)

Atlanta is the capital of Georgia, as well as the most populous city in the state with a population of 486,411 (2006). Atlanta is the core city of the ninth largest metropolitan area in the country; the combined statistical area has an approximate population of 5,478,667 (2006). The city is commonly referred to as A-Town, A-T-L, andHotlanta . The National Arbor Day Foundation has considered Atlanta to be a "Tree City" and the Forest Service has called it the "most heavily forested urban area in the country."

Despite Atlanta's abundance of trees, the city has been recognized as a poster-child for urban sprawl associated with rapid growth and development. Citizens and officials alike have strategized about ways to combat the traffic congestion and poor air quality that has been the result of such growth. Atlanta's growth has been such that it is sometimes called the "capital of the New South," as it has made a recent transition from an area of regional commerce to a Southern city of international influence, like Miami, Houston, and Dallas.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Atlanta touted itself as "the city too busy to hate," setting itself apart from the Southern cities that supported segregation. Its progressive policy towards civil rights made Atlanta a popular relocation spot for African Americans. To this day, Atlanta's population is ruled by a black majority, and since 1974, all the mayors and most of the city's chiefs and officials have been black.

Remnants of Atlanta's history and culture can be found in many different venues throughout the city, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s boyhood home, the Atlanta History Center, the AtlantaCyclorama and Civil War Museum, the Carter Center and Presidential Library, Rhodes Hall, and the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum. Atlanta is also home to the world's largest aquarium, the Georgia Aquarium, which opened to the public in November of 2005. Another attraction is the World of Coca-Cola museum, which recently reopened and contains exhibits showcasing the history of the world famous beverage and its advertising campaigns over the decades.

Lovers of the arts will find much to do in Atlanta, which is home to the fabulous Fox Theatre, the Woodruff Arts Center, the Atlanta Symphony, the High Museum of Art, and the Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center. Children especially enjoy theFernbank Science Center, Six Flags Over Georgia theme park, and the Imagine It! Atlanta Children's Museum. Adjacent to the World of Coca-Cola is Underground Atlanta, a historic shopping district located below the streets of the city. Another prominent piece of Atlanta's history is The Varsity, which has been featured as the world's largest drive-in for many years.

Many concerts and performing arts events bring people into the Atlanta area year after year. Some annual cultural festivals hosted by the city include the Atlanta Dogwood Festival, Screen On the Green, Atlanta Pride (gay/lesbian event), the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Sweet Auburn Spring Fest, Georgia Renaissance Festival, theInman Park Festival, Dragon Con, and Greek Fest, to name a few. In addition to hosting a plethora of annual events and daily entertainment options, Atlanta is home to a thriving music scene and many famous hip-hop and R & B musicians. The Dirty South style of hip-hop emerged from Atlanta behind the faces of artists likeOutkast, Goodie Mob and Ludacris. LaFace and So So Def Records are headquartered in the city.

Whether you seek history or classic art museums, contemporary visual and performing arts, an array of dining and shopping opportunities, a thriving nightlife and music scene, sporting events (as represented by the Major League Baseball team the Atlanta Braves or Atlanta Falcons football), or just some good clean outdoor recreation, Atlanta has all of this to offer and so much more.