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The largest state east of the Mississippi River is a labyrinth of geographic and cultural extremes: right-leaning Republican politics in the countryside rubs against liberal idealism in Atlanta and Savannah; small, conservative towns merge with sprawling, progressive, financially flush cities; northern mountains rise to the clouds and produce roaring rivers; and coastal marshlands teem with fiddler crabs and swaying cordgrass. Georgia's southern beaches and islands are a treat, and so are its kitchens, bars and yes, its contradictions.

Atlanta, Georgia's culturally rich and multifaceted capital, best illustrates the paradox: on one side it's a bastion of African American enlightenment, a hip-hop hotbed, a film and tech industry upstart and LGBTQ epicenter, on the other, Old South wealth and Fortune 500 investment marry in a city that is an international financial workhorse steeped in conservative Southern values. Together, a sexy metropolis emerges – it's way past Gone with the Wind.

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