It wasn't until after the Civil War (1868) that Atlanta became, once and for all, the state capital; its present capitol building, completed July 4, 1889, was hailed as a testament to the city's recovery. Modeled after the nation's Capitol, another neoclassical edifice atop a "crowning hill," its 75-foot dome, covered in gold leaf and topped by a Statue of Freedom, is a major Atlanta landmark. The building is fronted by a massive four-story portico with a pediment supported by six Corinthian columns set on large stone piers. In the rotunda, with its soaring 237-foot ceiling, are busts of famous Georgians, including signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. The governor's office is off the main hall. The capitol building's public spaces are currently being restored to their 1889 grandeur.

Grand staircases in both wings rise to the third floor, where you'll enter the House of Representatives and, across the hall, the Senate chambers. The legislature meets for 40 days, beginning the second Monday in January (it can also be called into special sessions); all of its sessions are open to the public. The fourth floor houses legislative galleries and the Georgia Capitol Museum, with exhibits on cotton, peach, and peanut growing; cases of mounted birds, fish, deer, insects, and other species native to Georgia; rocks and minerals; American Indian artifacts; and more. Note, too, the museum displays on the first floor.

Tours begin on the main floor and take about 25 minutes; allow at least another 30 minutes to browse around on your own afterward. Highlights of the grounds are detailed in a brochure available at the tour desk. Note: For security reasons, your bag will be searched when you enter.

If you're visiting in December or January, take note of two special treats: A beautifully decorated 40-foot tree adorns the rotunda at Christmas, and in January, for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, there's a memorial program featuring speeches by local dignitaries, including the governor.