It took considerable persuasion to convince me the most exciting way to tour the great city of Atlanta was on a Segway, one of those new self-balancing two-wheel transportation devices. I ultimately agreed to give it a try with City Segway Tours, a company unique to Georgia’s capital city and one of the newest additions to the local entertainment scene. Offered is a variety of guided excursions that provide participants with drive-by visits to some of Atlanta’s most significant sites.

No special skills are required and following a brief orientation, groups like the one I joined are off and rolling in single file along city sidewalks on one- to three-hour outings. Tours typically take in places such as the CNN Center world headquarters, Centennial Olympic Park, the Martin Luther King Historical Area, the State Capital building, the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola. In effect, these tours are designed to provide an overview of the city and, for me, an opportunity to determine which of the sites I wanted to explore in greater depth.

To begin with, Atlanta is a city steeped in history. Burned to the ground during the American Civil War, it rose from the ashes like the phoenix to eventually become the exciting metropolis it is today. However, there are many who never think about Atlanta without associating it with Gone With The Wind, one of the best selling novels of all time penned in 1936 by hometown writer, Margaret Mitchell. Although the Pulitzer Prize winning book about the Civil War period in Atlanta–romanticized by lead characters Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler–is totally fictional, the epic novel that was followed by a movie of the same name remains a powerful presence. Over the years, plenty of fans of the book and movie have arrived in Atlanta for the express purpose of visiting Tara Plantation (Scarlett’s fictional home) only to discover it was merely Mitchell’s literary creation and never really existed.

While some may be disappointed there’s no Tara, this is a city that has oodles to offer without the presence of the famous fictional plantation. In terms of attracting visitors, what gave Atlanta a huge shot in the arm was its selection to host the 1996 Olympic Games which led to a host of new hotels, restaurants, sports venues and a state-of-the-art transportation system.

For instance, tourists arriving at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport can board high speed rail cars for the 10 mile ride to the downtown core for a mere $2.15 fare. Also a legacy of the Games is Centennial Olympic Park, a 21-acre multi-purpose jewel built in the heart of downtown, plus Olympic Stadium which is now Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves professional baseball team.

Out and about

While the city is rife with interesting things to see and do there are certain ones that make a must-see list. Among the top attractions is the awesome Georgia Aquarium, the largest water exhibit in the world. This venue has more aquatic life (over 100,000 sea creatures) than any other facility and includes species many visitors have never seen before.

For instance, this aquarium is the only one outside of Asia to possess whale sharks. Also in the must-see category is the CNN Centre where visitors can do behind the scenes tours of CNN’s world headquarters that include witnessing actual newsroom activities and news anchors live on camera.

Another key attraction is Atlanta’s World of Coca-Cola, a facility that celebrates the past and present of the most popular soft drink on the planet. Previously housed in a downtown building, the new site that opened in May 2007 offers a multi sensory experience, a 4-D theatre and more than 1,200 never-before-seen Coca-Cola artefacts from around the world. This is a fun place to visit for adults and children alike with plenty of hands-on exhibits.

For many, a trip to Atlanta would not be complete without attending a theatrical or musical performance at the famous Fox Theatre, the grand facility that hosted the very first screening of the Gone With The Wind movie.

Dining out

Greater Atlanta has thousands of restaurants and a reputation not just for Southern cuisine but a vast selection of ethnic eateries representing cultures around the world. Among highly reputed dining spots is Bacchanalia voted Atlanta’s top restaurant for the last 10 years. Housed in a former factory that has been done up to the nines, this place oozes sophistication and the cuisine is outstanding. Rathbun’s is another good choice. Almost every significant food magazine names this restaurant owned by Chef Kevin Rathbun one of the hottest in the country.

Chops Lobster Bar is an Atlanta icon ranked among the top ten steakhouses in the U.S. Fresh seafood and prime aged beef are served daily. Peasant Bistro is an up market two-story restaurant with windows overlooking Centennial Olympic Park and the Atlanta skyline. The focus here is traditional bistro favourites with French and Mediterranean influences.

Atlanta’s Grand Dame

Anyone who knows Atlanta knows The Georgian Terrace, the iconic queen of city hotels that turns a century old in 2011.

While metropolitan Atlanta has at least 772 properties (5th largest supply in the U.S.) only The Georgian Terrace can claim a long history of hosting presidents and celebrities such as Charles Lindbergh, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Clark Gable and others from around the globe.

Situated across the street from the Fox Theatre and dubbed “The Grande Dame of Atlanta,” this hotel on the National Register of Historic Places also hosted the 1939 world premiere reception for the Gone With The Wind movie. Designed as a Southern interpretation of a Parisian hotel, The Georgian Terrace isn’t just a hotel, its part of the city’s history and a must-see property. It’s also one of the South’s great places to stay.

TRAVEL PLANNER

Information: Call 1-800-ATLANTA (285-2682) or go online at www.atlanta.net.