Discover What Makes the City a Great Place to Live
By Kevin Forest Moreau
If you’re looking for a new city to call home, there are many reasonswhy Atlanta should be at the top of your list. And if you’ve already made the move, congratulations! Either way, there’s a lot to learn about this great city and its surrounding metropolitan area. In this article, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about this capital city of the Southeast, from its top-flight arts scene to its stellar attractions, entertainment options and rising status as the Hollywood of the South.
Atlanta serves as global headquarters to one of the nation’s highest concentrations of Fortune 500 companies, among them Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, Aflac, The Southern Company and UPS. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s also a hotbed for tech startups: MailChimp, Kabbage, and Scoutmob all started here. The Atlanta Tech Village in Buckhead is the nation’s fourth largest tech hub, with more than 300 companies. Atlanta also enjoys a robust media industry: Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN, TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network and other properties, is headquartered here, as is The Weather Channel.
Vestiges of Atlanta’s dramatic history can be found all over the city. The Atlanta History Center traces the city’s past on 33 acres containing two museums, six gardens and two historic plantations. It also runs the Margaret Mitchell House in Midtown, where the author once lived and where she wrote much of “Gone With the Wind.” The Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum features an impressive collection of memorabilia related to the book and movie. You can take a walk into history at Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, a 2900-acre Civil War site in Cobb County. Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site are civil rights landmarks, and you can learn more at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. The Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville showcases art and artifacts from and about the American West.
The city is home to a wealth of notable independent schools, including Holy Spirit Preparatory School, High Meadows School, The SAE School and Woodward Academy, the largest private school in the continental United States. In addition, several public school systems boast magnet schools and innovative charter schools.
The area is also home to more than 40 colleges and universities, including such nationally recognized institutions as Agnes Scott College, Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University and Oglethorpe University. The Savannah College of Art and Design and Macon-based Mercer University both maintain campuses in Atlanta. The city is also the location of several distinguished historically Black colleges, including Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Morris Brown College and Spelman College.
Originally founded as a railroad stop called Terminus, Atlanta is still a major rail center. But its modern status as a major transportation hub is largely due to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, consistently ranked as the world’s busiest. On the ground, four major interstates (285, 20, 75 and 85) conduct drivers in all directions. Of course, that also results in traffic congestion—a reality for any metropolis of Atlanta’s size—but the city also boasts a number of public-transportation options, including MARTA, the area’s main rail and bus service; CobbLinc; Gwinnett County Transit; and Xpress, a commuter bus service. The Atlanta BeltLine, a multi-use trail and park space encircling the city, provides a scenic option for pedestrians, cyclists and inline skaters.
Atlanta is a magical place for children. The Center for Puppetry Arts displays hundreds of fascinating puppets from around the world, with an entire wing dedicated to the work of Jim Henson. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta offers fun, informative exhibits for youngsters and preteens. The LEGOLAND Discovery Center is an interactive playground filled with the world-famous building blocks, designed to delight and inspire children ages 3 through 10. Six Flags Over Georgia offers roller coasters, water rides and other thrills. Interactive Neighborhood for Kids in Gainesville lets children role-play as they climb aboard a real vintage fire truck and airplane. The Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville makes learning about science fun with hands-on exhibits and galleries as well as a planetarium and observatory.
Hollywood of the South
If you’ve seen a movie lately, chances are it was filmed right here: Last year more than 300 productions were shot in the area, making Atlanta the Number One filming location for motion pictures in the world. Television shows, including “The Walking Dead” and “Stranger Things,” are part of the action as well. Several major production studios are located in the metro area, including Tyler Perry Studios and EUE/Screen Gems, Pinewood Studios Atlanta in Fayetteville, and Three Rings Studios in Covington, a $100 million development for the production of music and video games as well as movies and TV.
Atlanta is well known for its hospitals and healthcare institutions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) heads a list of locally based organizations and research facilities that includes the American Cancer Society, the Emory University School of Medicine and Morehouse School of Medicine. Grady Memorial Hospital is renowned as one of the best trauma and burn centers in the nation, while Northside Hospital delivers more babies per year than any other community hospital in the country.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is regarded as one of the nation’s premier pediatric hospitals. The Shepherd Center, one of the nation’s leading catastrophic care hospitals for patients with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries and degenerative disorders, is headquartered here. Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, part of Piedmont Healthcare, has been recognized on U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Hospitals” list.
Arts And Entertainment
Atlanta is the arts capital of the Southeast. The Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre stages thought-provoking and crowd-pleasing works, some of which have gone on to the Broadway stage. The thriving theater scene also includes such acclaimed companies as Theatrical Outfit, 7 Stages and True Colors. The Atlanta Ballet, Atlanta Opera and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra are all world-class performing arts institutions. Venues including Chastain Park Amphitheatre, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, the Fox Theatre, the Ferst Center for the Arts, the Rialto Performing Arts Center, Spivey Hall and Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, among others, host big-name concert tours and high-caliber national theatrical productions. The High Museum of Art, the Southeast’s leading art museum, hosts high-profile permanent and rotating exhibits year round.
Atlanta is chock-full of exciting things to see and do. The Georgia Aquarium is the world’s largest, with hundreds of species on display, including dolphins and sea lions. The World of Coca-Cola is a colorful interactive shrine to America’s favorite beverage, and Centennial Olympic Park with its dancing Fountain of Rings commemorates the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Atlanta Botanical Garden in Midtown is home to 30 gorgeous acres of themed gardens and an elevated walkway that lets visitors stroll amongst the treetops. Jaw-dropping dinosaur skeletons greet visitors to The Fernbank Museum of Natural History, which spotlights the natural world with engaging exhibits and IMAX films. Stone Mountain Park boasts 3,200 scenic acres of golf, hiking trails, rides and more, with colossal Stone Mountain as the centerpiece.
If you’re a sports fanatic, you’re in the right place. The Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks and the new Major League Soccer franchise Atlanta United FC draw thousands of fans each year. Minor league sports include baseball, hockey, lacrosse and arena football, and the city hosts the PGA Tour Championship and the BB&T Open tennis tournament. The South loves college football, and the city is home to that sport’s new Hall of Fame. And we don’t just watch sports here, we play: The Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association (ALTA) is the world’s largest recreational tennis league, and 60,000 runners trek down Peachtree every July 4 in the world’s largest 10K, the AJC Peachtree Road Race.
For shopaholics, Atlanta offers options to satisfy every desire. Cumberland Mall, Sugarloaf Mills, Lenox Square Mall, Mall of Georgia and Phipps Plaza offer hundreds of shops, food courts, movie theaters and more. Buckhead is the destination for high-end retail, with glitzy new outposts from Hermes, Canali, Christian Louboutin and more. Atlantic Station, a mixed-use development in Midtown, is home to such retailers as H&M, Target and Dillard’s. The nearby Virginia-Highland neighborhood is stuffed with artsy clothing and home-décor boutiques, while Little Five Points buzzes with funky record shops and thrift stores. In Alpharetta, shoppers at Avalon browse stores like Free People and West Elm, while outside the city, North Georgia Premium Outlets and Tanger Outlets present name brands at bargain prices.
From hot dogs to haute cuisine, Atlanta is a foodie’s dream. The Varsity is the world’s largest drive-in, famous for chili dogs and onion rings since 1928. Paschal’s is world famous for authentic soul food, while Fatt Matt’s Rib Shack is the place for mouthwatering BBQ. Pittypat’s Porch serves upscale Southern fare in an ambiance reminiscent of Tara, and Mary Mac’s Tearoom has been officially designated “Atlanta’s Dining Room” for dishes like fried green tomatoes and chicken and dumplings. The city is also a mecca for trendsetting cuisine, led by restaurants like Bacchanalia and Aria.