Atlanta prides itself on its can-do attitude and its southern hospitality. Unless, of course, you're trying to get to a meeting during rush hour. Then you might as well be in New York. Relax, y'all. If you've got some downtime, here are a few easy-to-get-to diversions.
Ditch the Convention Center
For a true Atlanta dining experience, skip the warehouse chic of Baccanalia and opt for the drive-in chic of The Varsity. Long before there were fast-food drive-thrus, there were carhops slinging chili dogs and orange shakes at The Varsity, which opened in 1928 and now has four locations around town. Stick to the main event, just a mile from the Georgia World Congress Center and across the street from Georgia Tech. Dine in your car or take in the ambience inside, where the counter staff are famous for their hair nets and their Varsity cheer: "Whaddayahave, whaddayahave, whaddayahave!" 61 North Avenue; www.thevarsity.com; 404-881-1706
A popular picnic spot with locals, the Oakland Cemetery, right in downtown, is known for its ornamental mausoleums and magnificent magnolia trees. It's also the final resting place of Margaret Mitchell, golf legend Bobby Jones, and some 3,000 Confederate war dead. Take a self-guided tour (you can get a brochure for $1 at the visitor's center). 248 Oakland Avenue SE; 404-688-2107
Escape the Airport
If you're tired of the shopping-mall charm of Hartsfield International and need some unfiltered air, take a three-minute ride on the MARTA train — that's less than the time it takes to get to the baggage claim, for God's sake — to College Park, one of Atlanta's largest historic neighborhoods. Stroll down the oak tree-lined sidewalk on Main Street, past the 1920s-era post office and city hall, or pop into Sooky's Southern Kitchen for some fried green tomatoes, chicken and dumplings, and a slice of sweet-potato pie. www.collegeparkga.com
A version of this article appeared in the September 2001 issue of Fast Company magazine.