Atlanta occupies an interesting place in the American imagination. It brings to mind images of antebellum plantations, scenes from Gone With the Wind, and slow Southern drawls. The city was a major site of battles in the Civil Rights movement and continues to be an important center of African American history and contemporary culture. Atlanta has also been known for its struggles with crime and gentrification in the last decades, though these days it’s better known as a hub of commerce, culture, and arts.
Here are a few things to know as you prepare to move to Atlanta. Along with these tips, it’s important to remember that Atlanta is the center of a large metropolitan area — home to nearly 6 million people, and stretching across two counties. So a move to Atlanta for a job might actually mean to one of the suburbs, rather than downtown or anywhere in Atlanta proper. This can leave you with a long, frustrating commute through some of the nation’s most challenging traffic! Be sure to take a look at the map to see where you would be working and where it is in relation to where you want to live.
You have your choice of public and private schools in Atlanta. Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is run by the Atlanta Board of Education. It serves nearly 55,000 students and encompasses over 100 individual school sites. These include 50 elementary schools, 15 middle schools, and 21 high schools. APS also operates 4 single-gender academies and 13 charter schools, 2 alternative learning centers for middle and high school students, 1 adult learning center, and 2 community schools. Three of the elementary schools operate on a year-round calendar. For those who prefer private education, Atlanta offers a number of options, both religious and secular.
Atlanta and the surrounding area are also home to dozens of universities, colleges, community colleges, and technical schools. The city has the largest concentration of institutes of higher learning of any Southern city. There are both religiously-affiliated and secular colleges and universities to choose from. Atlanta is home to 2 of the best known Historically Black Colleges (HBCUs), Morehouse and Spelman, as well a campus of the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Atlanta has the 10th largest economy in the United States, largely driven by several Fortune 500 companies who are headquartered there. These include Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta Airlines, and UPS. Atlanta has the third-largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies of anywhere in the US, and nearly three-quarters of all Fortune 500 companies conduct some aspect of their business in the city. Along with large corporate headquarters, Atlanta also has thriving information technology, logistics, and media. Because it is also home to Hartsfield Airport, a major international hub, Atlanta also boasts many jobs in government and international relations, aircraft manufacturing, and other industries associated with travel and air traffic. In more recent years, Atlanta has been a popular site for filming movies and television, making the entertainment sector a growing part of the economy.
Atlanta has seen its unemployment rate steadily fall over the last year, from 5.0% in January 2018 to 3.6% in November 2018. This is lower than the overall Georgia unemployment rate of around 4%. Low unemployment often means that companies have to compete for candidates when trying to make a hire — this can work in your favor as you negotiate a new salary and benefits!
While Atlanta is still a distinctly Southern city in many respects, it has an increasingly multicultural feel as well. Influxes of immigrants from around the world, and transplants from around the US, have put their stamp on the culture of the city. Tourism is a central industry in Atlanta, and visiting historical sites from Civil War battle sites to historic homes is a popular activity. The city’s role in the development of several genres of music, from country to rap and hip hop, also makes it a hub for live music performed by both national and local acts.
Atlanta’s museums have received national recognition. The High Museum of Art may be the best known, but the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center and Michael C. Carlos museum (which contains the largest collection of ancient art in the American Southeast) are also star attractions. In addition to museums, Atlanta hosts a number of works of public art and street art. The city is also home to resident companies in all the major forms of theater art: opera, ballet, music, and theater. The Atlanta Opera and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra are considered among the best in the nation. The city also host a number of festivals featuring different kinds of arts and performances throughout the year and is host to DragonCon, one of the nation’s largest popular culture conventions.
Atlanta has four professional sports teams: the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball, the NFL Atlanta Hawks, the NBA Atlanta Falcons, and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United FC. The city has had a National Hockey League franchise in the past but does not have one currently.
You can’t say you’ve dined in Atlanta unless you’ve had a barbecue. (No, the hamburgers you made on the Weber in the backyard do not count. We’re talking slow-cooked, smoked meat here.) Atlanta has a lively barbecue, with dozens of restaurants to choose from. The ATL Insider Blog’s BBQ Smackdown is a great place to start if you’re not sure which BBQ joint to choose. Barbecue in Atlanta is mostly pork with some beef, and hickory is the smoking wood of choice. Pork ribs are a local favorite. No matter where you go, make sure to get mac and cheese on the side.
Atlanta is also a soul food city. From the famous fried chicken at Paschal’s to collards and grits at any of a number of soul food institutions, the traditional flavor of the South is found everywhere in the city. There are even vegetarian soul food options available!
An influx of new immigrants has also left its stamp on Atlanta’s culinary scene. You can find Ethiopian, Iranian, Spanish, Indonesian, West African, and Bangladeshi food all within a few blocks of each other.
The Atlanta housing market is one of the top three hottest markets in the United States and is expected to outperform the national market overall in 2019. Housing prices in Atlanta rose by 13% in 2018 and are expected to continue to rise. With many workers transferring to the city to work at corporate headquarters and in the booming entertainment industry, it’s a seller’s market in Atlanta as it is in so many other hot markets. It is not usual for a house to go for more than the original asking price, and houses sell fast. The median listing price for a house in Atlanta is just over $345,000, though the median price at which houses actually sold is around $236,000. Housing price per square foot, on average, is $228. New construction continues and older neighborhoods are undergoing gentrification, and you can get quite a bit of house for your money in Atlanta. If you choose to rent, the average rental price per square foot in Atlanta is around $1.25.
As always, prices vary greatly by neighborhood and suburb. You can get more apartment or house for your money in some areas than others. Just factor in your commute time as you choose where to rent or buy your home in Atlanta.
Atlanta has an extensive freeway system, and it is very much a car-centered city. Most people drive on their daily commute. This often means that Atlanta traffic is heavy, and rain or snow can severely impact freeway commuters. Be prepared to spend a lot of time in your car in Atlanta, especially if you live on one side of the Beltway (Interstate 285) and work on the other. The commute, traffic, and air pollution are ranked among the worst in the country.
Atlanta’s public transportation system, the Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Authority (MARTA), operate heavy rail and bus systems. The city also boasts the eighth-busiest subway system in the United States and a light rail system. Streetcars and shuttles are also common ways to get around, with shuttles operated by Emory University and other businesses and institutions of higher education. In spite of being a “driving” city, Atlanta also ranks among the top 100 cities for transit accessibility. MARTA does not run 24 hours a day, which may make getting places early in the morning or late at night challenging if you rely on public transit.
Uber, Lyft, and taxis are all available in Atlanta. Unlike many cities, you cannot hail a cab from the street. You will need to book your taxi by calling the cab company, booking through their website, or using their smartphone app. You can also find car services that will pick you up in a Town Car or limo if you want a little luxury.
Atlanta’s climate is humid subtropical, so sultry is the word most often used to describe it. There are four distinct seasons, with mild winters and hot, humid summers. Atlanta averages about 50 inches of rainfall each year.
Winter: Winters are mild in Atlanta. Occasional Arctic bursts can bring cold temperatures to the area, but these never last long. Snowstorms hit the area periodically as well, and since the city is not prepared for this kind of severe weather, they can create chaos. Fortunately, such storms are infrequent. Winter stretches from December to March, with average highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s and 40s.
Spring: Spring in Atlanta is rainy and mild. The season can start as early as late February, though sometimes winter will return with a vengeance for a few days. Atlanta’s botanical gardens and outdoor spaces are something to behold in spring. Temperatures range from highs in the 60s and low 70s and lows in the 50s and 60s from March till July. Tornadoes are possible during spring and summer.
Summer: As they say, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. Summer in Atlanta runs from June or July through early September. High temperatures hover in the high 80s and low 90s for the most part, though the heat island effect raises the temperature considerably in the inner city. Even when the temperatures aren’t that high, however, high humidity can make for a sweaty time. Lows in the summer are in the 70s, making summer evenings pleasant. Very occasionally, extreme heat can be brought on via warm air from the Gulf of Mexico. July, in particular, is rainy and humid.
Fall: Fall is pleasant in Atlanta, especially after the hot, humid summers. High temperatures dip back down into the 70s and low 80s, with lows in the 50s and 60s. Atlanta’s tree canopy offers pretty fall foliage you might not expect in the South. During the fall hurricane season, Atlanta may see a tropical depression or two.
There’s a lot to consider when you’re planning a move to Atlanta! When you’re ready to make this vibrant city your home, please view our Atlanta storage locations.