Life's a Beach 

Find your inner beach bunny in asphalt Atlanta

Let's all take a moment to mourn the shortsightedness of Atlanta's founding fathers. When they created Atlanta as the intersection of the Southeast's major railroads, they didn't put us anywhere near the beach. Thanks, guys. An actual beach trip requires at least four hours in the car.

It might appear daunting to embark on a beach adventure amid Atlanta's miles of asphalt. But we've made it easy for you. Here's CL's guide to some simulated beach action in our fair concrete jungle.

9 a.m.: Before you hit the beach, you must defuzz the body of hair. Buckhead's Institut' DERmed is known as the place where Jane Fonda freshens her face. But for the younger generation, it's the spot for a fab Brazilian wax ($55). Expect no robes, fluffy slippers or calming music. Do expect to have your legs splayed apart and to get on all fours. The gain for all that pain is baby-smooth skin and the constant feeling that you could pass for a porn star. DERmed also offers a basic bikini wax ($35) that removes errant hairs without going all the way.

10 a.m.: Bathing-suit shopping is best done in the morning, while your tummy is at its flattest (i.e., before lunch). Start at Atlanta Beach, a pint-sized shop with outposts in Buckhead and Norcross that are stocked with one-pieces, bikinis, flips-flops, sunglasses and cover-ups. Operating under the slogan "Love your body," this shop caters to women of all sizes. The selection includes designers Shoshana Swimwear, Juicy Beach and Pursuit. And no, prices aren't cheap. But seriously, ladies, you're nearly naked in a bathing suit. You owe it to yourself to know what you look like in a$100-plus suit.

1 p.m.: Though we certainly aren't the types to sneak behind gates, we've been told that the pool at the Fulton Cotton Mill Lofts is one of the city's finest, with unfinished brick walls that create a vibe of swimming among ruins. A long, hot summer is ahead of you - surely you can be resourceful and make a new friend or two. Another option: The rooftop swimming at the Westin Peachtree Plaza is the stuff of legends. The pool has a sparkling deck, comfy lounge chairs and shady umbrellas that make you feel like a spoiled sun princess. Yes, rooms here are pricey, so grab some friends to defray costs. Or, if you're feeling courageous, just stop in and ask the concierge about hanging at the pool. It's our experience that a girl in a bikini top is rarely denied access to much of anything.

Another option: Fake the beach experience by heading to one of the monstrous lakes in the OTP zone. Though Lake Lanier's beach tends to be the most popular, we suggest the Beach at Clayton County International Park. A child-friendly man-made beach alongside a spring-fed lake (translation: cold but clean), it also features slides, picnic areas and a plethora of activities that make you feel like you're on the boardwalk.

9 p.m.: Some say nothing goes better with a tan than a crisp, white tank top. We say nothing goes better with a tan than a cocktail. Put on your sassiest sundress and head to Shout, where white canvas-covered cabanas offer the perfect setting to pretend you've escaped to a beach hotel. Serving a wide range of specialty cocktails, the half-oval bar could sit alongside a swimming pool on the beach rather than a second-story lounge overlooking Peachtree Street.

10 p.m.: Miranda of "Sex and the City" said it best: "I'm on vacation. I want to get laid." Miranda's declaration can apply to your simulated beach vacation as well. Not only does Compound channel Miami with its Zen rock garden, stark white walls and outdoor setting, it also boasts a clientele of metrosexual men looking to meet women.

Next stop: Buckhead's Havana Club, which boasts the sultry vibe of a coastal town. Sign up for a salsa lesson and then swing into step with the club's bevy of attractive men who can actually dance.

Remember, a one-night stand is about fulfilling a fantasy, not a lifetime commitment. Get over it and let the dude in the stripey shirt buy you a drink. Then, take him home to explore those new tan lines more thoroughly.

JUST THE FACTS

ATLANTA BEACH 3145 Peachtree Road, Suite 153, 404-239-0612; 5161 Peachtree Parkway, The Forum, Norcross, 770-449-8600.

THE BEACH AT CLAYTON COUNTY INTERNATIONAL PARK I-75 South, exit 228. 770-473-5425. www.thebeachccip.com.

COMPOUND 1008 Brady Ave. 404-872-4621. www.compoundatl.com.

HAVANA CLUB 247 Buckhead Ave. 404-869-8484.

INSTITUT' DERMED Buckhead: 3726 Roswell Road, 404-261-5199; Dunwoody: 5505 Peachtree Dunwoody Road, Suite 635, 404-459-6825. www.idermed.com.

LAKE LANIER ISLANDS 7000 Holiday Road, Lake Lanier. 800-840-5253. www.lakelanierislands.com.

SHOUT 1197 Peachtree St., Colony Square. 404-846-2000. www.heretoserverestaurants.com.

WESTIN PEACHTREE PLAZA 210 Peachtree St. 404-659-1400. www.starwoodhotels.com.

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