As one of the country’s hottest cities to live – both figuratively and probably literally – moving to Atlanta has been on the minds of many looking for a great community to call home.
Atlanta is a city with a deep sense of history that refuses to be trapped by its past. A hundred years after it was burned to the ground during the Civil War, it gave the nation Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.
Today, the city is an economic engine that is making its cultural debut on the world stage.
If you’re moving to Atlanta, you have a great adventure ahead of you. We have some great tips to help you get to know the city and prepare you for some southern hospitality.
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Moving in Atlanta: What to Know Before You Go
The City of Atlanta stretches over 134 square miles. Beyond its borders, suburbs extend across 29 counties. Unlike big cities out West — Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles — Atlanta is not laid bare against a desert floor. Instead, it is tucked away in foothills and nestled in trees, so it doesn’t feel as overwhelmingly big as you drive or fly in.
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Don’t be fooled! With more than 5.8 million inhabitants, Atlanta is the ninth-largest metro area in the nation, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
Atlanta Suburbs and City Neighborhoods
You can track Atlanta’s growth just by looking at its skyline. The skyscrapers of Downtown, Midtown, Buckhead and the Perimeter grow outward like rings on a 50-mile-diameter tree. Somewhere in between them (and beyond) are more than 240 neighborhoods. One of them will have the right balance of commute, rent, and people for you.Here’s a very short list of Atlanta’s neighborhoods:
Midtown: Practically a second downtown, Midtown combines high-rise office buildings and apartments with historic residential streets, museums and major nightlife. Piedmont Park — one of Atlanta’s true gems — is a 189-acre paradise of meadows and trails that hosts classes and festivals year-round.
Image by Ken Lund
Buckhead: This is the Beverly Hills of Atlanta and it’s the place to be for chic, upscale shopping, dining and high rent. If you like quaint neighborhoods, check out Buckhead Forest, an island of older homes tucked away in the woods.
Old Fourth Ward (nicknamed O4W): Martin Luther King Jr. grew up here, and it still has its historic charm. O4W is heating up and gentrifying, so experience it’s old-time charm while you still can. The Beltline project, Krog Street Market and Ponce City Market have revitalized the neighborhood and are drawing new movers to the area.
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Little Five Points: Engineers created Atlanta after they drove the zero milepost for the Western and Atlantic Railroad near Five Points in 1837. Today, the neighborhood is home to ALT (as in ALTernative) Atlanta. If you feel at home with hipsters and retro punks, coffee shops and street art — this is the place for you.
Atlantic Station: Built on the grounds of a shuttered steel mill, Atlantic Station is all about eco-friendly living in a dense, urban setting. LEED-certified office towers, apartments and townhomes rise around a central park and shopping area. If you want Atlanta without the traffic, live and work here.
Morningside/Lenox: Bordered by the Botanical Garden on the west and the Morningside Nature Preserve, this is an older neighborhood of shady, winding lanes. Ground zero for the freeway revolt of the 1960s and 1970s, the area still has a strong, active neighborhood association.
Castleberry Hill: Built around Atlanta’s original railroads, this neighborhood of 19th-century warehouses and industrial spaces is home to galleries, studios and work/live lofts. Clark Atlanta, Spelman and Morehouse colleges are next door.
Atlanta Public Transportation Isn’t the Best
Life in Atlanta demands a car, preferably one with really good air-conditioning, because traffic is bad and the humidity gets brutal in the summer. Atlanta’s post-World War II growth was built on cars, which means it’s in the same bind as places like Los Angeles. Atlanta freeways suffer from gridlock long after rush hour, and commutes between suburbs can be as challenging as travelling into town.
Atlanta’s Traffic May Improve with the BeltLine
Atlanta started life as a railroad intersection and rails defined the city’s landscape for generations. As the railroads faded, the interstates took over and the old tracks became a blighted relic. In 2005, the city began a massive re-development that is turning the old railroad rights-of-way into 2,000 acres of parkland, 33 miles of trails and 22 miles of light rail. The project is already transforming the city, and it’s just getting started. Stick around Atlanta until this project is complete in 2030 and you may not need a car anymore.
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Find the Best Jobs in Atlanta
Atlanta is home to the corporate headquarters of Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Aflac, Mercedes and CNN. In all, 16 Fortune 500 businesses are in Atlanta. If you’re an engineer, programmer or pilot, Atlanta might have jobs waiting for you when you arrive. But you don’t have to be established to make it in Atlanta. As one of the first cities to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour, it could be a good place for a first job or a fresh start.
Cost of Living in Atlanta
Having room to grow has kept Atlanta’s housing prices low, especially for a city that has experienced rapid, sustained growth. The overall cost of living is below the national average and the median housing price is within reach for salaries in the area. It’s one of the few growing, prosperous cities in the country where a family can expect to afford a home. Renting is also affordable if buying a home isn’t a priority when you move to town.
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Things to Do in Atlanta
Atlanta seems to be constantly remaking itself. Historic neighborhoods in the inner city are being reborn, old industrial areas are being redeveloped into live/work/entertainment destinations and the suburbs have scenes all their own.
Atlanta: Hollywood of the South
Some days it feels like the town is a movie set. “The Walking Dead” shoots here (yes, you can take a zombie tour!), Tyler Perry turned the old Fort McPherson Army base into a 330-acre lot, and of course the FX Series “Atlanta” films here. Moviemaking is late to the creative game in Atlanta, which has given the world more singers, rappers, actors and general talent than we could possibly list. If you’re an artist/writer/rapper/film-maker, Atlanta could be the place for you.
Atlanta cuisine is world class (the town snagged a spot on Zagat’s most exciting food cities list). The club scene ranges from ultra-lounges to dive bars, and live music is everywhere.
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Long known as a mecca for African-American art, music, religion and culture, the City of Atlanta has become a magnet for people of all types, from all over the world. The cradle of the African-American civil rights movement and home of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta prides itself on being an open, tolerant city.
Southern Hospitality is Real in Atlanta
Don’t leave all your preconceptions about the South behind you. Southern hospitality and graciousness is alive and well in Atlanta. This was Martin Luther King Jr.’s home, and his call for brotherly love is a driving spirit of the place.