As a frequent traveler, I have connected through Atlanta many more times than I have been able to visit.

However, once past the sliding glass doors of Hartsfield-Jackson, the world's busiest airport, I discovered a city rich in history but with a fresh eye toward the future; a place with immeasurable Southern charm, yet not stuck in its ways.

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It's as if Atlanta, when burned to the ground more than 148 years ago, vowed not only to rebuild but to reinvent itself again and again. Here are the places I recommend you see.

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1. The Varsity Drive-In

Brush off your saddle shoes and penny loafers. We Americans are so busy that we regularly drive through our favorite fast-food restaurants, but we've lost the charm of the drive-in, a relic of another era, where burgers and fries were served on a tray hanging off your car window. Opened in 1928, the Varsity is a huge Atlanta icon, figuratively and literally: Its downtown location can accommodate 600 cars! And, yes, there still are carhops, some who still sing the menu. A word of caution: If Georgia Tech is playing a home game, avoid the Varsity at all costs, as 30,000 Yellow Jackets head to get their share of their beloved fast food. Luckily, there's a Varsity location in the Atlanta airport that you can hit on the way home.

2. Virginia Highland

Of course you need more stuff! Atlantans have a reputation for being shopaholics with very expensive tastes, and their shopping malls offer impressive amenities, such as valet car service to get you into Saks Fifth Avenue or Tiffany's as quickly as possible. If, however, you like your shopping experience to have a little more personality (though less air conditioning), head to the Virginia Highland area, just outside downtown. Cafes and small storefronts mingle with charming bungalow homes in several winsome and walkable neighborhoods. This is browsing at its best, and the spoils range from classic Southern goods to hodgepodge kitsch.