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  1. Capital of the South

    Atlanta was chosen as the state capital in 1868 and served as the headquarters of the Reconstruction administration. (Joseph Sohm / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Atlanta-ic ocean

    A whale shark swims in the Ocean Quest exhibit at the Georgia Aquarium, the world's largest. (Barry Williams / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. 'Until justice rolls down like waters'

    The tomb of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., is reflected in the pool surrounding it. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site -- which includes King's birthplace, grave and the Ebenezer Baptist Church -- draws visitors from around the world. (John Bazemore / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. CNN city

    Pedestrians enter CNN Center, headquarters of the cable-news network. (Ric Feld / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Horse with no name

    A visitor looks at Deborah Butterfield's piece "untitled" in the High Museum of Art. (Ric Feld / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Sweet Georgia brown

    Visitors enter the "World of Coca-Cola," a museum dedicated to the ubiquitous beverage. (Ric Feld / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Home of the Braves

    The Atlanta Braves take the field against the New York Mets. (Matthew Stockman / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Eats shoots and stays

    Yang Yang, a male giant panda, munches on a piece of bamboo in his habitat at Zoo Atlanta. (Ric Feld / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. It rose again

    Atlanta at dusk. (James Randklev / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
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updated 5/30/2006 12:43:23 PM ET 2006-05-30T16:43:23

You never really understand a city until you walk around it a bit, and Atlanta's climate makes walking tours an option just about year-round.

In addition to the tour below, consider taking one of the guided walking tours. Also, note that certain attractions are walking tours in and of themselves: Georgia's Stone Mountain Park, Kennesaw Mountain/National Battlefield Park, Oakland Cemetery, and the Atlanta Historical Society in Buckhead.

Sweet Auburn, the focus of the following walking tour, includes the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site, which comprises about 2 blocks along Auburn Avenue, plus the surrounding preservation district, about 10 more blocks. A neighborhood that nurtured scores of 20th-century black businesspeople and professionals, it contains the birthplace, church, and gravesite of Martin Luther King, Jr. The area was a vibrant commercial and entertainment district for black Atlantans from the late 1800s until the 1930s, when it went into a steep decline. In the 1980s, the area where Martin Luther King, Jr., was born and raised was declared a National Historic Site, and now, under the auspices of the National Park Service, portions of Auburn Avenue are in an ongoing process of restoration. Although parts of the area are still in sad disrepair, new landscaping has beautified some of the street, and several homes on the "Birth Home" block have been restored to their 1920s appearance. (For more information about the National Historic Site, contact the National Park Service at tel. 404/331-6922 or visit the website at http://www.nps.gov/.) This walking tour provides insight into black history, the civil rights movement, and black urban culture in the South. If you're traveling with children, it's a wonderful opportunity to teach them about a great American.

Start: The corner of Howell and Irwin streets. To get to this intersection, take I-75/85 south, then exit at Freedom Parkway/Carter Center. Turn right at the first stoplight onto International Boulevard. Follow signs to Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site: You can park in a lot on the north side of Irwin Street between Boulevard and Jackson Street. By MARTA: King Memorial Station is about 8 blocks away; or take bus no. 3 east from the Five Points Station.

Finish: Auburn Avenue and Courtland Street.

Time: Allow about half a day to explore this area thoroughly. If you want to include a tour of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birth Home (stop no. 3) -- and a visit to this area would not be complete without it -- start out early in the day and obtain your tickets at the National Parks Service Visitor Center at 450 Auburn Ave. Only a limited number are available each day.

Begin your stroll at:

1. Howell and Irwin Streets

Walk south along Howell Street, where renovated historic homes and recently built housing (designed to harmonize with the architecture of the neighborhood) provide testimony to the area's continuing renaissance. Note no. 102 Howell, built between 1890 and 1895, which was the home of Alexander Hamilton, Jr., Atlanta's leading turn-of-the-century black contractor. Its architectural details include Corinthian columns and a Palladian window.

Turn right on Auburn Avenue. As you proceed, look for interpretive markers indicating historic homes (mostly Victorian and Queen Anne) and other points of interest en route to 499 Auburn Ave., the:

2. The King Center

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The organization here (tel. 404/524-1956; http://www.thekingcenter.com/) continues the work to which King was dedicated -- reducing violence within individual communities and among nations. Freedom Plaza, on the premises, is King's final resting place. Stop in to take a self-guided tour of exhibits on King's life and the Civil Rights Movement. Admission is free, and the center is open every day from 9am to 5pm.

Now double back a few blocks east to 501 Auburn Ave.:

3. The Birth Home of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Free half-hour guided tours are given on a continual basis from 9am to 5pm at King's birthplace. On weekends, especially, arrive early, since demand for tickets often exceeds supply. Tickets are obtained at the National Parks Service Visitor Center, 450 Auburn Ave.

Walk back toward stop 2, noting the turn-of-the-century homes in the area, such as:

4. The Double "Shotgun" Row Houses

Standing at 472-488 Auburn Ave., these two-family dwellings with separate hip roofs were built in 1905 to house workers for the Empire Textile Company. They were called "shotgun" because rooms were lined up in a row, and one could (theoretically) fire a shotgun straight through the whole house.

Continue west on Auburn Avenue. At the corner of Auburn and Boulevard is:

5. Fire Station no. 6

This is one of Atlanta's eight original firehouses, completed in 1894. The two-story Romanesque-revival building was situated to protect the eastern section of the city. The station houses a museum, open daily from 9am to 5pm, where exhibits include restored fire engines and vintage fire-fighting paraphernalia. Admission is free. Note the Italianate arched windows on the second story.

Continuing west on Auburn Avenue, a notable stop on your tour is at 407 Auburn Ave., where you'll find the:

6. Ebenezer Baptist Church

This church (tel. 404/688-7263), founded in 1886, is where Martin Luther King, Jr., served as co-pastor from 1960 to 1968. Short but informative tours are given Monday to Friday 9am to 4pm, Saturday 9am to 2pm, and Sunday 2 to 4pm. The church has built a new sanctuary across the street, but the original building remains as a historic site under the auspices of the State Department of Parks & Recreation. The church is open Monday through Saturday 9am to 5pm.

One block west at 365 Auburn Ave. is the:

7. Wheat Street Baptist Church

This church has served a congregation since the late 1800s. Auburn Avenue was originally called Wheat Street in honor of Augustus W. Wheat, one of Atlanta's early merchants. The name was changed in 1893.

Farther west, on Auburn between Hilliard and Fort streets, is:

8. The Prince Hall Masonic Building

This was an influential black lodge led for several decades by John Wesley Dobbs. Today, it houses the national headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

On the other side of the expressway, at 228-250 Auburn Ave., note:

9. The Odd Fellows Building and Auditorium

This is another black fraternal lodge, which originated in Atlanta in 1870. Completed in 1914, the building later became headquarters for an insurance company.

Across the street, at 231-245 Auburn Ave., is:

10. The Herndon Building

This building, erected in 1924, is named for Alonzo Herndon, an ex-slave who went on to found the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. By 1930, the Auburn business district supported 121 black-owned businesses and 39 black professionals.

Make a left on Butler Street and you'll see:

11. The Butler Street YMCA

Built in the early 1900s, this was a popular meeting place for civil rights leaders. Today, the building is augmented by a modern YMCA across the street.

Continue south along Butler Street to the:

12. Sweet Auburn Curb Market

The market is located just below Edgewood Avenue. Formerly called the Municipal Market, this historic market dates to 1924, when Atlanta was still a segregated city. Whites shopped within, while blacks were only permitted to patronize stalls lining the curb. The market's current name reflects that era. Today, it sells groceries and fresh produce -- including many regional and ethnic items such as ham hocks and chitlins ("We sell every part of the pig here but the oink," says the owner). Fully cooked ethnic meals are available here, and there is seating so you can dig in right away. Open Monday through Thursday from 8am to 6pm, Friday and Saturday from 8am to 7pm.

Take a Break -- The Sweet Auburn Curb Market, 209 Edgewood Ave. (tel. 404/659-1665), is a delightful mix of scents and sights. Seating is scattered throughout in case you just can't wait to get home to eat your purchases. Variety abounds with fresh fish, meats, veggies, salads and flowers to take home, plus fully cooked foods from every corner of the earth -- everything from specialty cheesecakes to chitlins. Open Monday to Thursday from 8am to 6pm, Friday and Saturday from 8am to 7pm.

Walk back to Auburn Avenue on Butler Street and turn left. To your right, at 220 Auburn Ave., is:

13. The Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church

This church was originally built in the 1890s, destroyed by fire, and then rebuilt in 1924. In the 1920s, John Wesley Dobbs called the Bethel "a towering edifice to black freedom."

Farther along, at 186 Auburn Ave., is:

14. The Royal Peacock Club

This music club's walls are painted from floor to ceiling with peacocks. Closed for years, it presented top black entertainers such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Dizzy Gillespie in its heyday.

At 135 Auburn Ave., the corner of Auburn Avenue and Courtland Street, is:

15. The APEX (African-American Panoramic Experience) Museum

This museum features exhibits on the history of Sweet Auburn and the African-American experience, including a children's gallery with interactive displays. You can call tel. 404/521-2739 to see if there's anything special happening at the museum while you're in town.

Cross the street to:

16. Herndon Plaza

Here, you can see exhibits on the high-powered Herndon family, including patriarch Alonzo Herndon, a former slave who started the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.

If you'd like to do further research on the history of Auburn Avenue -- or on any aspect of African-American history and culture -- continue on to 101 Auburn Ave.:

17. The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture and History

This is the place to go for answers about African-American history. Operated by the Atlanta-Fulton County Library System, the library's collection includes literature, documents, rare records, and more. A Heritage Center on the premises features special exhibits, workshops, seminars, lectures, and events. Open Monday to Thursday 10am to 8pm, and Friday to Sunday noon to 6pm.

For more on what to see and do in Atlanta, visit our complete guide online at www.frommers.com/destinations/atlanta.

Frommer’s is America’s bestselling travel guide series. Visit Frommers.com to find great deals, get information on over 3,500 destinations, and book your trip. © 2006 Wiley Publishing, Inc. Republication or redistribution of Frommer's content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Wiley.

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