The New South is one of the fastest-growing and most rapidly changing regions of America. Here's a preview of some recent developments.
Athens's most atmospheric place to stay, the Colonels on Angel Oaks Farm, 3890 Barnett Shoals Rd. (tel. 706/559-9595), is on an estate that is a 15-minute drive from the center of the historic university town. Your hosts, Beth and Marc, are both retired lieutenant colonels -- hence the mansion's name.
New hotels continue to open, including Hilton Garden Inn, 275 Baker St. (tel. 404/577-2001), near the Georgia Aquarium. The hotel, with its first-rate guest rooms, draws a lot of patronage from visitors checking out the neighboring Centennial Olympic Park.
An all-suite luxury boutique hotel, Twelve Hotel, 361 17th St. (tel. 404/961-1212), draws discerning visitors to its location at Atlantic Station. One of the most high-tech hotels in Atlanta, it offers accommodations that evoke a deluxe condo.
On the site of the legendary 1913 hotel, the Winecoff, which burned down, the Ellis Hotel, 176 Peachtree St. (tel. 866/841-8822 or 404/523-5155), has risen from the ashes. State-of-the-art technology has been combined with sleekly designed guest rooms and first-rate comfort. The location is across from the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Atlanta.
The skyline of Buckhead has been altered by the opening of the 42-story Mansion on Peachtree, a 127-room hotel at 3376 Peachtree Rd. (tel. 404/995-7500). This is an ultraluxurious -- and expensive -- hotel filled with plush furnishings, marble-clad bathrooms, and French doors opening onto private balconies. Its spa is arguably the most luxurious of any hotel in Atlanta.
Dining in Atlanta seems to get better every year, especially with the opening of such restaurants as Quinones, 1198 Howell Mill Rd. (tel. 404/365-0410), which offers the most superb fixed-price, 10-course meal in town. Against an elegant backdrop, new twists are given to old Southern standbys. For example, instead of trout being pan-fried, as it is in most Southern restaurants, at Quinones it's fashioned into a mousse.
Part of the Woodruff Arts Center, Table 1280, 1280 Peachtree St., NE (tel. 404/897-1280), is a chic new place for culture vultures seeking a sublime international cuisine. The menu bursts with freshness and originality, with market-fresh ingredients used.
A popular chain now operates the renovated Doubletree Hotel Augusta, 2651 Perimeter Pkwy. (tel. 706/855-8100), which has a dramatic atrium lobby. The luxurious six-floor hotel rises at a point about 2 miles from the Augusta Mall, and its facilities are the best in Augusta, including a heated indoor pool.
St. Simons Island
At the Sea Island Golf Club, Colt & Alison, 100 Retreat Ave. (tel. 800/732-4752, ext. 4353), is drawing the serious foodie with its take on international cuisine served in an elegant atmosphere with panoramic views of a first-class golf course and complex tableside preparations.
A newcomer, Four Points by Sheraton Historic Savannah, 520 W. Bryan St. (tel. 912/790-1000), is the newest hotel to open in the Historic District, featuring 127 deluxe rooms. The five-story, brick-fronted hotel is more like a small, personally run inn than a chain hotel.
A change of management and many improvements have brought renewed life to the President's Quarters at 225 E. President St. (tel. 800/233-1776 or 912/233-1600), where each guest room is named after a U.S. president. The coziness of a B&B is offered in a first-class hotel in a series of 19th-century brick town houses.
The most talked about upscale restaurant in Savannah is the Bull Street Chophouse at 44 Bull St. (tel. 912/232-2728), serving the best steaks in town, one whopper weighing in at 4 pounds. Chefs also manage to secure some of the best and freshest shellfish in Savannah, including lobster and tuna steaks.