Image: W Los Angeles Westwood
Tanino
The W Los Angeles Westwood, just off campus, is a great place to lodge in proper Angeleno fashion (we recommend the poolside cabanas for pre-game cocktails).
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updated 4/1/2007 2:17:37 AM ET 2007-04-01T06:17:37

And then there were four. This Saturday, Florida will square off against UCLA, and Georgetown will take on Ohio State, with the championship game to be played Monday night. And it's all happening in Atlanta, a city under siege.

“The college basketball tournament atmosphere is really something special. It’s electric,” said Jon Hartmere, an attorney who lives near Boston, Mass. and has plans to visit Atlanta with his son this year for the NCAA men’s championships.

Hartmere says many of his colleagues at the courthouse are envious of his impending trip: “Not too many people have tickets,” he said. In fact, by mid-March, seats for the big games had sold on eBay for $1,000-plus. Pretty impressive — especially considering that the Georgia Dome seats more than 50,000.

“This is a very highly anticipated event,” said Clay Williams, assistant general manager at Chops/Lobster Bar, a dark wood-paneled steakhouse and seafood destination that, said Williams, will host large parties of media and sports execs.

Williams says the big games happen to coincide this year with a major dental convention in town. Asked whether Atlantans are more excited about the Final Four or the dental convention, Williams pauses to consider: “Probably the basketball tournament. The fans tend to have a slightly more festive energy.”

Like Chops, a member of the upscale Buckhead Life restaurant group, other luxury destinations around the city are gearing up to accommodate that giddiness with glitz and indulgent offerings. According to Rebecca Burns, editor-in-chief of Atlanta Magazine, Georgia’s largest city has a certain flashiness to it, with its mix of music-industry moguls and sports celebrities and a “see-and-be-seen” ethos. But the old guard provides another dimension to the luxury scene. “Atlanta is a mix of old and new money,” said Burns. “And the Final Four is more of a new-money event.”

“Usher is bouncing between here and New York,” said Jeff Pendleton, Vice President and Director of Operations for The Grape, a popular wine bar with several Atlanta locations. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he dropped in for Final Four weekend.” The R&B star joined the wine-bar chain as a business partner last year, and Pendleton said the Inman Park location of The Grape is Usher’s “home base.” It’s also five minutes from the Georgia Dome, where the men’s hoops action will take place.

Image: Hay-Adams Hotel
Hay-Adams Hotel
The historic Hay-Adams Hotel features marble bathtubs, carved plaster ceilings and select rooms with French doors that open on to balconies with views of the White House.
For the Final Four pilgrim who’s traveling comfortably, plenty of other indulgent opportunities abound, from the $350 glass of Pierre Ferrand 1806 available at XO, the Intercontinental Hotel’s luxury cognac bar, to the Jezebel Penthouse Suite at the posh Glenn Hotel. We also recommend two hotels from the Forbes Traveler 400: the Greek Revival Four Seasons, located squarely in the center of Midtown, and the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, where you'll be able to see all manner of local upper-crusters (as well as visiting high-rollers) on display in the Lobby Lounge.

But the real riches this weekend will be on the court at the Georgia Dome. As John Hartmere said of the tournament, the NCAA’s crown jewel, “There’s nothing like it, even in professional sports. I’d go to this before I’d go to the Super Bowl.”

Though all the basketball action this weekend is in Atlanta, there's nothing like traveling for a home game. We compiled a list of 12 storied college basketball programs (including the current final four), and asked the locals for suggestions on where to stay, where to eat and where to celebrate. Read on to find out how to follow your favorite legendary college basketball team in style.

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