Atlanta’s Best Places to Live
Discover the Metro Area’s Finest Communities
By Anna Bentley
When you’re relocating to a new city, the first choice you have tomake can seem like the hardest: Which neighborhood should you call home? The good news is that Atlanta’s diverse neighborhoods and cities offer something for everyone, including quality education, affordable housing, familyfriendly events, and tight-knit communities. Whatever you’re looking for, Atlanta has many perfect spots to choose from. Here we present 17 of Atlanta’s most popular communities, located all around the metro area, to serve as a starting point for your exploration.
INSIDE THE PERIMETER
The heart of Atlanta is Midtown, the city’s second-largest business district and a booming live-work-play community. Its network of walkable tree-lined streets puts the area’s shopping, dining, and employment just steps away, and access to the MARTA rail line, interstates 75 and 85, and AMTRAK put the rest of the city--and the world—within easy reach. It’s also home to city’s art district, including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art, the Alliance Theatre, the Fox Theatre, and more. And at its center are the Atlanta Botanical Garden and Piedmont Park: “Atlanta’s back yard” and the scene of numerous events and festivals throughout the year. midtownatl.com.
Old Fourth Ward
Spurred by the development of the Atlanta Beltline, the “O4W” has rapidly become one of the city’s most vibrant districts and a beacon for progressive but thoughtful revitalization. Attractions in this area just northeast of downtown include Ponce City Market, a mixed-use development with premier dining and shopping; the bustling Freedom Market and Sweet Auburn Curb Market; numerous restaurants and bars; several parks; and of course the Beltline itself, which connects the neighborhood to the rest of the city with a walkable scenic path that features dining, art, and community life along the way. Housing options range from historic bungalows to modern new townhomes, with plenty of starter options. fourthwardalliance.org.
Just east of Midtown is the vibrant neighborhood of Virginia-Highland (or “The Highlands”), named for the intersection of Virginia and Highland Avenues at its heart. This fun, funky neighborhood is filled with eclectic shopping and diverse dining and nightlife options, including some of Atlanta’s oldest bars and pubs. Its network of short blocks and residential streets lined with historic bungalows makes it one of Atlanta’s most walkable communities. It’s also right off the Atlanta Beltline: a 22-mile biking and walking trail, and a short walk from Piedmont Park, making it ideal for active young professionals. Its Summerfest arts and music festival is one of the largest in the Southeast. vahi.org.
The public face of this wealthy historic district is its Peachtree Street corridor, home to its business district and lined with high-rise offices and glitzy hotels, dining, and shopping. Its private life stretches away from Peachtree in a sprawling area made up of 43 distinct and unique neighborhoods, stretching from I-285 to I-85 and making up a fifth of the city. Notable neighborhoods include Tuxedo Park, with palatial mansions nestling on rolling manicured lawns; Chastain Park, home to one of the city’s largest parks, which includes a golf course, amphitheater, equestrian center, tennis courts, and a pool; and Garden Hills, with its winding, tree-lined streets. buckhead.com.
A vibrant city with a tight-knit community, Decatur is located just 15 minutes from Atlanta. The city puts a premium on walkability with its historic downtown, full of charming restaurants, pubs, boutique shops, and specialty stores. Events are held downtown throughout the year, including the popular Decatur Craft Beer Festival, the Decatur Arts Festival and the Decatur Book Festival. Decatur is also on the MARTA rail line, allowing for easy access to Atlanta’s top destinations and events. decaturga.com.
College Park truly presents the best of both worlds for the rising professional who enjoys a little quiet time. Its easy proximity to downtown Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport offer the convenience of big-city living balanced with a relaxing, small-town feel. The airport and the Georgia International Convention Center also make this an increasingly desirable destination for business travelers. There’s affordable housing in the historic College Park neighborhood, and there are numerous attractive dining options and a historic golf course built in the early 1900s. The main campus of Woodward Academy, the largest independent day school in the continental United States, is located here as well. collegeparkga.com.
This charming city boasts a small-town feel and is the home of the Dwarf House, the first Chick-fil-A restaurant. A designated Main Street city, Hapeville takes pride in its downtown that features historic sites like the Depot Museum, the Christ Church and Carriage House, a conference center, and numerous businesses. The Academy Theatre, which hosts plays, improv comedy and more, is the state’s longest-running professional theater. There’s also a picturesque downtown park and a unique public art program that has created a number of murals to beautify the city. Hapeville has experienced significant revitalization. Porsche Cars North America built its world headquarters and the Porsche Experience Center here in 2015. hapeville.org.
This unincorporated village is unique in being part of the city of Atlanta, but located in Cobb County. Situated on the northwest side of Buckhead, Vinings offers walkable charm, quality schools, great shopping and dining, and plentiful housing of every type. The Chattahoochee River provides gorgeous views and plenty of fishing, hiking and other recreational activities. Nearby attractions include the Silver Comet Trail, which starts in neighboring Smyrna and runs all the way to the Chief Ladiga Trail in Alabama, and the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, which hosts concerts, ballet, opera, and theatrical productions. Vinings provides easy access to the entire metro area. Generous property tax exemptions make it attractive to empty nesters and retirees. vinings.com.
“Go west!” is the new watchword in Atlanta for young professionals seeking an affordable community with access to the city. Longtime residents of this community on the National Register of Historic Places are welcoming newcomers who are finding good values on existing homes with vintage charm, while trendy lofts and townhomes are springing up rapidly. An artists’ mecca, Adair Park’s location on the Beltline has spurred the growth of small businesses and the creation of parks, with playgrounds and sports facilities as well. The neighborhood comes together to host the annual Porches and Pies Festival and the Tour de SWAT cycling event for a unique sense of local pride. adairpark.com.
OUTSIDE THE PERIMETER
Directly north of Atlanta, Sandy Springs is one of Atlanta’s biggest employment and high-end shopping destinations. Recently, Sandy Springs developed a new city center called City Springs to serve as the heart of the community. Officially completed in 2018, City Springs offers office space, green space, residential and retail space, and a performing arts center. The city hosts the Sandy Springs Artsapalooza fine arts festival each spring, and the popular Sandy Springs Festival, with its beloved pet parade, in the fall. sandyspringsga.gov.
Voted one of Georgia’s best affordable suburbs by Businessweek magazine, Duluth sports a small-town feel thanks to its family-friendly town green and historic downtown district, filled with charming specialty shops. The Town Green, with its amphitheater and fountain, hosts community events throughout the year, such as the annual Duluth Fall Festival each September. Duluth is also home to the Atlanta Gladiators (a minor league ice hockey team) and the Infinite Energy Center, which hosts major festivals, concerts, and events. The Hudgens Center for the Arts presents exhibits by well-known masters and local artists, with classes in pottery, drawing, painting, and more for both adults and children. duluthga.net.
Gainesville is a top pick for active families and nature lovers alike. Lake Lanier, on the western and northern edges of town, offers swimming, fishing, and camping options, while the Blue Ridge Mountains just north of town are another perfect option for hiking or camping. The city’s Interactive Neighborhood for Kids and Quinlan Visual Arts Center are just two of its many familyfriendly attractions. Gainesville has also been recognized by the AARP as one of its top 10 affordable places to retire. Retirees can tee up at the Chattahoochee Golf Club, take a swim at the Frances Meadows Aquatic Center, and enjoy an abundance of recreational opportunities. gainesville.org.
Just a neighborhood a decade ago, Johns Creek officially became its own municipality in 2006—and it hasn’t stopped growing since. The young, affluent city boasts some of metro Atlanta’s top schools and the award-winning Technology Park mixed-use development, which hosts several Fortune 500 companies. And with the Chattahoochee River forming a large part of the city’s southern and eastern boundaries, Johns Creek offers plenty of options for outdoor recreation—including miles of recreational trails like the Johns Creek Greenway, a 4-mile (and growing!) trail system, and the Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center, which sits on 46 acres of woodlands. Johns Creek was twice ranked No. 4 on 24/7 Wall Street’s list of the 50 best cities to live in. johnscreekga.gov.
With an estimated population of around 13,000, this Gwinnett County city is one of the smaller ones on this list, but that makes a big difference when it comes to its sense of smalltown community. Top attractions include the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, the largest traditional Hindu temple of its kind in the world outside of India; the sprawling, 51-acre Lions Club Park; Lilburn City Park; the city’s tree-lined Main Street; Old Town Lilburn, a dining and shopping district; and the Camp Creek Greenway, a 4.2- mile paved and gravel trail. Lilburn has experienced substantial growth in recent years, and has recently completed a new city hall and library complex and revitalized its downtown corridors. cityoflilburn.com.
Attractive neighborhoods, a thriving downtown, and plentiful green space are highlights of this Cobb County city, which in the 1980s was one of the area’s first to complete a master plan for revitalization. Its Williamsburg-style Village Green is now the scene of many annual concerts and festivals, and a vibrant town center hosting the city hall, library, and community center, along with shopping, office space, and residential options. Residents also have access to more than 33 additional acres of parks and green space, all located within one mile of downtown. With immediate access to I-75 and I-285, Smyrna is minutes away from virtually everywhere in Atlanta. smyrnaga.gov.
Woodstock calls itself “a city unexpected,” and this community of almost 32,000 offers amenities you might not imagine in a city of its size. More than 2,500 businesses are located here, and residents have a wide choice of housing options, many accessible from downtown on foot or via the free downtown trolley service and bike-share program. The city boasts hiking and biking trails, concerts, festivals, and other special events. It’s easy to see why Woodstock has been steadily racking up accolades from national media outlets and was the only Georgia city to make Money magazine’s 2015 list of “Top 50 Best Places to Live in the U.S.” visitwoodstockga.com.
This master-planned community has the feel of a vacation resort. Golf carts are a primary means of transportation here, zipping along 100 miles of multi-use paths that are also great for strolling and bicycling. The area’s lake, golf courses, playgrounds, nature areas, and sports fields offer numerous recreational opportunities, and the Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater hosts a number of outdoor concerts. The city is also a magnet for film and television productions and boasts a Southern Hollywood film tour that visits popular filming locations. peachtree-city.org.