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Atlanta rose like a Phoenix from the ashes after being burned to the ground in the Civil War to become the capital of the New South in the 20th century. In the 21st century, it's a dynamic hub of world commerce and fully cosmopolitan but with the best of its Old South charm intact. Sure, traffic can be a nightmare, but once you've found a part of town that suits you, park the car and head out on a romantic excursion. General Sherman's ghost may curse you, but modern romantics won't lack for things to do once they know where they're headed in this sprawling metropolitan area.
The Great Outdoors
Modern nicknames for Atlanta include "the ATL" and the unfortunate "Hotlanta," but one of its oldest is "The City in a Forest." While that moniker isn't used as often as it once was, it still rings true when you're standing on top of Stone Mountain. This scenic spot provides panoramic views of Atlanta's famous tree canopy and the skyscrapers of the downtown skyline. Hike the walk-up trail or take the aerial tramway to the summit at sunset and find your own out-of-the-way stone perch to cuddle up on and watch the sun sink below the horizon. In the heart of Midtown, Piedmont Park is Atlanta's version of Central Park. It's the city's major public green space, filled with shady walking paths around a lake and large open fields where you can spread out a picnic blanket. The best time to go is spring when the dogwoods are in bloom.
Arts and Entertainment
The High Museum of Art is Atlanta's major art museum and a center of culture in the city. It contains a world-class permanent collection, as well as major temporary and traveling exhibitions, in a modern building that's an eye-pleasing work of art itself. Chastain Park Amphitheater is an intimate open-air concert venue that lets you bring in your own food and drink for most concerts. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performs here, as do top rock and pop acts. Many shows have a table seating arrangement in certain sections, so you can spread out a tablecloth, light some candles and enjoy dinner at the show, rather than before or afterward.
Neighborhood Hot Spots
Five miles east of downtown and easily accessible on the MARTA east/west line, the courthouse square in downtown Decatur will delight couples in search of a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood filled with restaurants, pubs and boutiques. The square is a place made for hand-in-hand strolling and lined with so many hot spots it's hard to choose where to go. Do stop in at the legendary Brick Store Pub, if only for a drink, and request a table in the cozy environs of the Belgium beer bar upstairs. Skyscraper-filled Midtown is much larger than Decatur but still walkable and filled with similarly trendy culinary destinations that foodies will love. For couples in search of after-hours entertainment, Midtown is also a hub of Atlanta's nightlife.
A first date needs to be impressive. Nothing does the trick better in Atlanta than a dinner at either Nikolai’s Roof or Apres Diem. Nikolai’s Roof has been perched on top of the downtown Hilton since 1976. This legendary fine-dining establishment has won the AAA Four Diamond award more times than you can count on your fingers and toes. Part of the allure at Nikolai's are the floor-to-ceiling windows that provide spectacular close-up views of the downtown skyline. If Nikolai's is too fancy and/or pricey, head to the more funky candlelit environs of Apres Diem. This European-style bistro provides a first-date trifecta: dinner, live music and a location next door to one of Atlanta's best movie houses. Parking is free, and you won't have to get back in the car until it's time to head home.
Quirky and Old School
Sleepovers aren't just for kids at the Georgia Aquarium in Centennial Olympic Park. The aquarium hosts adults-only spend-the-night parties for couples looking for a special social experience with other couples. You get to stay overnight at the world's largest aquarium, where the group has the facilities to themselves after normal business hours. You also get a behind-the-scenes tour and other perks, including dinner, breakfast and mats to lay your sleeping bags on next to the exhibits. What could be more romantic than an old-school drive-in theater? The problem is, those kind of drive-ins are hard to find anymore, but Atlanta has one: the Starlight Six Drive-In. It's everything you want in a drive-in, right down to the snack bar and screenings of current hit movies.
Blake Guthrie covers travel, entertainment and outdoor recreation for many outlets, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he is a regular contributor. With years of experience as a professional cook, Guthrie also relishes writing about food and beverage topics. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications from Auburn University.
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