Moving to Midtown

The line between Downtown and Midtown has never been distinctly drawn, but a safe choice for the demarcation is busy Ponce de Leon Avenue. This vibrant and diverse neighborhood stretches from the Georgia Tech campus on its western edge, north several miles toward Buckhead, and dissipates slowly to the east into the Virginia-Highland area.

Midtowns skyline rivals downtown. Mighty hotels such as the Four Seasons and Sheraton Midtown Atlanta Hotel at Colony Square stand side-by-side with the regional headquarters of such giants as IBM and BellSouth. The Georgian Terrace Hotel, which hosted the cast party for the premiere of Gone With the Wind in 1939, still stands proudly on Peachtree Road in the heart of Midtown.

Across the street from the hotel is the theater where the premiere took place: the recently restored Fabulous Fox Theater, which now features Broadway plays, opera, rock concerts, and movies. And just a few steps down Peachtree is the Margaret Mitchell Home and Museum, dedicated to the woman who wrote the Civil War epic.

Also on Peachtree, you'll find the Woodruff Arts Center, home to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, as well as the High Museum of Art, which recently featured the traveling exhibits of such notables as Pablo Picasso and Norman Rockwell.

Known for its diversity, Midtown has long been home to a large segment of Atlanta's gay community. You'll see plenty of rainbow flags fluttering from porches of the beautifully restored Victorians between Ponce and 10th Street. Gay-owned and oriented businesses abound and flourish, such as the Outwrite Bookstore near Piedmont Park, and such infamous gay bars as Burkharts and My Sisters Room. If you're game, buy a one-night membership to Backstreet, the gender-bending, all-nighter, gay/straight/other club where Americas favorite drag queen, RuPaul, first strutted her stuff.

Clubbing is the word that best fits the nightlife in Midtown, and dress codes are often strictly enforced. Now and again, you'll even spot a velvet cordon snaking its conspicuous way onto the sidewalk, evidence of certain clubs' propensity to emulate the chic nightspots of New York. High profile spots like the Crescent Room and Innuendo play to the 20- and 30-something rave-techno crowd, while lower-key joints like the fashionably retro Leopard Lounge offer a break from such image-conscious posturing. A nice smattering of smaller and casual neighborhood bars are spread throughout the area, and most of the big hotel bars keep up a respectable pace.

The economic range of Midtown denizens runs the full gamut. From the mansion dwellers in Ansley Park along the northern reaches of the district to the seedy elements that haunt the liquor stores and fast-food joints of Ponce de Leon to the grungy-cum-preppy types that prevail around the campus of Georgia Tech, a broad cross-section of Atlanta natives will greet you on the sidewalk. You'll find yuppies from all over the city taking their lunch on benches across from Piedmont Park, watched at a casual distance by a small group of the homeless being passed by a highly-coifed septuagenarian on her way to the exclusive Piedmont Driving Club. Notched into a northeast corner of Piedmont Park, membership in this exclusive group is said to be among the most coveted and elusive in the New South. It is said, though not confirmed, that Margaret Mitchell was once denied a membership, a bit too nouvelle for their taste.

Stuck in among the many churches, restored and condo-ized warehouses, and pleasant tree-lined residential neighborhoods you'll find some of the best dining that Atlanta has to offer. South American fusion is the new rave at Loca Luna, while distinctly different Southern American is the specialty of South City Kitchen on Crescent Avenue. Running parallel to Peachtree, quieter Juniper Street is host to a long string of casual, open-air restaurants that draw big numbers for both dinner and happy hour.

The unquestioned social center of Midtown is Piedmont Park, a 180-acre expanse of green bordered by Monroe, 10th, and Piedmont Avenues. Featuring lakes, tennis courts, and numerous athletic fields, this is also where a great majority of in-town Atlantan turn out to walk their canine companions. Any given day will find literally hundreds of dogs and their fashionable leash-mates patrolling the grounds, and this is a great opportunity to see a wonderful cross-section of the areas population and the admirable harmony in which they generally co-exist. While you're there, stop by the Atlanta Botanical Gardens on the north side of the park; its forests and greenhouses provide even further haven for plant- and nature-lovers.