As Atlanta has grown (thanks in large part to its ever-expanding airport and reputation as a business-friendly town), its identity has evolved in different ways, depending on whom you ask. For some, it’s the quintessential Southern city where you can find sweet tea, peach trees, and traditional porch-and-shutter homes. For others, it’s the nation’s hip-hop capital and center of black enterprise. For faith-based event planners, it’s a regular on the meetings destination rotation because of its location, variety of accommodations and cultural offerings. Major capital projects and urban developments continue to inflate the city’s already-expansive tourism offerings. Atlanta is a city of constant renewal and reinvention, and that can be a major bonus for planners who want to show attendees something new, even if they had an event in the city in recent years. Here’s a snapshot of what’s new in the ATL.
In May 2012, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport debuted the Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal, also known as Concourse F. It added 12 gates to the airport, creating a 40-gate complex for international flights (together with concourse E), making it easier for those travelers to get in and out of the city. It’s a gateway to nearly 80 destinations in more than 50 countries.
Major meetings hotels underwent upgrades in 2012. The Hyatt Regency Atlanta received a $65 million renovation, which updated its lobby, 1,260 guest rooms and 180,000 square feet of meeting space. Other renovations include the Westin Peachtree Plaza, Hyatt Atlanta Midtown (formerly Hotel Midtown), Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta in Midtown, the Omni Hotel at CNN Center downtown, Meliá Atlanta Hotel downtown and Midtown’s historic Georgia Terrace Hotel.
Atlanta has quickly become a rising star in the field of culinary urban giants. Southern Living named it one of the top 10 tastiest towns in the South. The past few years have seen the debut of a few sophisticated Southern dining spots, including Cakes and Ale, Miller Union and Empire State South (the latter by Hugh Acheson, who has two famed restaurants in Atlanta’s neighbor Athens, and gained notoriety after appearances on “Top Chef”). Fellow “TC” star Richard Blais opened The Spence in 2012 in Midtown, intended as a classic American eatery with communal dining tables and access to the chefs preparing your meals.
In the Works
Soon, Atlanta will add two high-profile additions to its attractions stock. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights will open in 2014 adjacent to the World of Coca-Cola and Georgia Aquarium. It will have exhibits about famous Atlantans and the roles they played in the larger national rights movement. It will also become home to a gallery for the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. collection. Another anticipated opening is the College Football Hall of Fame, which will be ready for guests by the 2014 football season. Both facilities will have space for special events. Another major addition in the works in the capital city is a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons and other conferences and events.