Atlanta at a Glance
Under a canopy of pin oaks and loblolly pines, Atlanta is a city of trees in the foothills of Appalachia. But with its deep-rooted history, its thriving arts scene and its booming economy, Atlanta is also the Southeast’s most vibrant center for culture and commerce.
Atlanta got its start as a railway hub in the 19th century, but it transformed itself into the center of air traffic in the 20th century. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has long been the busiest (and one of the best) in the world, and it makes traveling nonstop from the city a breeze.
Companies from Coca-Cola to CNN helped solidify this crossroad city’s commercial prowess, but the power of the ATL’s creative steam has made it an unexpected leader in the film industry and a tech and design hub. Thanks to these diverse industries, coupled with its great museums, restaurants, pro sports (go Braves!) and natural wonders, this capital city’s growth has been unstoppable over the past four decades.
Nearly 500,000 people now reside in the city proper, but more than 5 million residents live in the greater Atlanta area, making Atlanta the most populous in the state and one of the largest metros in the entire nation. With over a million residents, Fulton County is still the city’s largest, but Gwinnett County is coming up fast on its heels with a highly diverse population of 975,000-plus residents and prominent Mexican, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese and El Salvadorian communities.
If you have Georgia on your mind and are looking for a city with a reasonable cost of living, amazing weather and an abundance of amenities, Atlanta could be a great place for your family to relocate. Learn more about this beloved destination in the Southeast below.
Cost of Living in Atlanta
The cost of living in this cool cosmopolis is steep compared to state standards but peachy by national ones. Excluding real estate, transportation and insurance — which only top national averages by a modest amount — the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that Atlanta’s prices are equal to or below national ones. And, compared to expenses in New York City and Chicago, Atlanta’s cost of living seems downright thrifty. But next to other prominent Southern metros, like Houston, Dallas, Austin, Nashville and Charlotte, Atlanta’s cost of living perhaps doesn’t seem so cut-rate.
So, let’s get down to brass tacks. The median home value in Atlanta is $395,600, which is more than $100,000 more than either state or national averages, and the median gross rent in the city is $1,512 per month — several hundred dollars more than elsewhere in Georgia.
Job Market in Atlanta
As the home base of some of the world’s most favorite brands, including Delta, UPS and Home Depot and as the birthplace of Coca-Cola, CNN and Chick-fil-A, it’s just hard imagining how the world could get by without Atlanta. With 17 Fortune 500 companies, international research centers like the CDC and a diverse array of industries from film to energy and finance, Atlanta’s job market is looking better than ever.
The metro Atlanta population has now crested the 5 million mark and shows no signs of slowing. According to experts, this is all thanks to the booming job market, which has given would-be transplants a good excuse to move to this cool Southern city. The unemployment rate in the metro Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta area was just 3.1% in November 2023 — a half point below the national average — and the nonfarm civilian labor force in the city exceeded 3.1 million. Additionally, 67.2% of the city’s population is employed in the civilian labor force — a rate nearly doubles the state or national average.
Atlanta’s workforce is also highly educated. 57% of the population has earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 92% have graduated from college, both higher than national and state averages.
Within the city proper, the largest single industry is the professional/scientific/management/administrative/waste management services sector, which employs 23% of the working population. Education/healthcare/social assistance is a close second, employing 20% of Atlantans living within city limits. In a virtual tie for third, finance/insurance/real estate, arts/entertainment/food services and retail trade each employs 8-9% of the city.
Atlanta’s Temperate Climate and Weather
Although Hotlanta’s reputation precedes it, Atlanta’s sweltering summer temps and high humidity are mitigated by the city’s extensive tree canopy. Those tall and shady oaks and pines provide an elegant and welcome escape from the heat-trapping asphalt, and you’ll be especially glad about them when July and August roll around. Bank on highs around 90 F and lows in the 70s F and public pools to be crowded from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The average annual temperature in Atlanta is a pleasant 65 F, but you can expect to experience all four seasons in the city. Springtime arrives early with a showy display of jonquils and perfect get-outside temperatures but be prepared for extreme weather — Atlanta is known for its powerful storms, so keep those shade trees trimmed back from your roofline.
Autumn in Atlanta is downright delightful, with crisp air and gorgeous changing leaves, especially the massive gingko trees on Peachtree Battle Avenue. Though Atlanta receives rain regularly throughout the year, October is historically one of the drier months, so it’s easier to plan for outdoor fun.
Winter mornings in Atlanta often start out nippy but usually warm up nicely by midday. You can expect to see freezing temperatures throughout the season, but snow is rare. And, yes, everyone is still scared from the 2014 Snowpocalypse, when plummeting temps turned roadways into icy thoroughfares that brought the capital city to its knees.
Commuting and Public Transportation in Atlanta
One area that Atlanta has fallen woefully behind its cosmopolitan compatriots is in public transportation. There has long been enormous opposition to expanding light rail in a meaningful way in the city, and no amount of traffic or smog seems to be able to persuade Atlanta residents that there might be a better way.
The U.S. Census reports that city residents have an average commute of 27.5 minutes — not bad by national standards, which are just a minute less. But those living further from the city (which most of the metro area does), spend an average of 39 exhausting minutes commuting and travel more than 19 miles to get to work one way, according to a 2019 study. The traffic in downtown Atlanta can get pretty hairy during rush hour, but the congestion along the 75/285 interchange north of the city and — worse — the southerly exits between Jonesboro and Macon are notoriously clogged to a standstill, even during non-peak hours.
The city has implemented paid express lanes on the highway, which can provide relief for drivers…as long as they’re traveling in the direction the lane is open at that hour.
MARTA (the Metropolitan Atlanta Transit Authority) provides the sprawling Atlanta area with bus, light rail and streetcar service. A single ride costs $2.50, a day pass is $9.00, and a monthly pass is $95. There are still only four main rail lines, and those provide only modest coverage, primarily along the north-south corridor. Bus service is extensive, but without express bus lanes, you’ll find yourself stuck in the same traffic you’d enjoy in your own car.
The newer streetcar service downtown is a fun way to hop through the city and costs only $1.00 (no transfers permitted, though). The single loop line runs from Centennial Olympic Park to Georgia State University and the King Historic District, and then back through Woodruff Park and Peachtree Center. This route connects university students and commuters with some of the best cultural attractions in the city, taking them through the heart of the business hub in Midtown Atlanta.
People do bike and walk to work in Atlanta, but their numbers are few — only about 2% of Atlantans commute on their own power. The winding, congested roads aren’t exactly designed to accommodate motorists and cyclists together, but additional infrastructure like the Beltline (a rails-to-trails project) and the PATH system (which parallels highways and major thoroughfares), along with newer bike lanes, are coaxing the cycle-curious to give it a spin. Check out these resources for bike commuting in Atlanta.
Atlanta’s Key Neighborhoods
The enormous footprint of metro Atlanta spans nearly a dozen counties, from Fulton (where Atlanta is the county seat) to Dekalb, Cobb, and fast-growing Gwinnett. Families have seemingly endless options to choose from, from swanky cul de sacs in suburban Sandy Springs to cool condos and bungalows in trendy Decatur, and gingerbread houses in Virginia Highlands.
If you’re looking to stick to the center of the action, Buckhead is a residential and retail haven located on Atlanta’s central artery. This elegant (and expensive) area has some of the city’s most astonishing homes, and you’ll find everything from two-bedroom cottages to 15-bedroom mega-mansions. Two of the city’s popular malls — Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza — are easy to get to from anyplace in Buckhead, as are the area’s boutique shopping and dining districts. Several popular private schools, like Westminster, Pace, and Lovett, are located near this area. One of the most popular districts in Buckhead is the historic Peachtree Park neighborhood, whose close-knit community and great walkability make it a top choice for families.
Midtown has long had a hold on the imaginations of Atlanta residents, and its appeal has only deepened in the past two decades. There are stunning historic homes on tree-lined streets, and there are also cool condos and lofts, for those who’d rather not deal with the hassle of maintaining a yard or garden. Midtowners can easily walk to the city’s major cultural attractions, like the Woodruff Arts Center, where you can see the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra perform, watch a play at the Alliance Theatre or see an exhibition at the High Museum of Art. Great restaurants and shops (and maybe even your office) will be right outside your door. It will be tempting to grab lunch at the Varsity everyday — the fastest fast-food restaurant around (founded in 1928!) — but spread your love around and try one of the vendors at the Politan Row food hall in Colony Square or the upscale Southern fare at the South City Kitchen. Try their famous pimento cheese starter and the exceptional shrimp and grits.
Downtown Atlanta has plenty of hotspots of its own to recommend it. Although people may think of it primarily as a commercial district, this area has amazing apartments, condos, lofts and single-family homes all its own. The Atlanta Botanic Garden and the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center are both located downtown, along with landmark buildings like the Fox Theatre, legendary music venues like the Masquerade (we still miss its original North Ave. building!), and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park. One of the newest draws to the area is the ah-mazing Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home to the Atlanta United FC, the city’s MLS team.
Note: If you’re planning to move to Atlanta, it’s important to thoroughly research the neighborhoods and areas in the city you might be interested in living. Before you decide where you are going to reside, make sure you understand the neighborhood’s cost of living, commute time, tax rates, safety statistics and schooling information.
There are Plenty of Exciting Experiences for Everyone
The vast metropolitan area in this deeply historic city is ripe for exploration, whether you are looking for cultural connection or outdoor adventure.
Atlanta may have put itself on the map as a major railroad hub in the 1800s, but some of its now unused railways have been reimagined as pedestrian and bike paths. The most notable of these rails-to-trails systems is the Atlanta Beltline, which will create a 22-mile continuous loop around the city when it’s complete. The trails are dotted with public art and already connect residents to major parks, restaurants and cultural destinations through Atlanta’s shady canopy. But eventually, the Beltline will also intersect the Silver Comet Trail in Smyrna (a northwest suburb), which runs more than 60 miles to the Alabama border, promising even greater expeditions throughout the region.
Atlanta has many urban thoroughfares, but one of the most popular isn’t paved — the Chattahoochee. If you love fishing, kayaking, tubing or hiking, you’ll find lots to do on this waterway. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is a wild and wondrous place, home to native predators, like bobcats, foxes, copperheads and osprey, but also ruby-throated hummingbirds, green tree frogs and painted turtles.
For more aquatic excitement, head downtown to the Georgia Aquarium, where you can dive headfirst into the area’s native marine life and the creatures that swim the deep far beyond the coast of Georgia. And we mean that literally. You can sign up for a scuba diving experience with the aquarium’s manta rays and massive whale shark. Don’t worry, though — the whale shark may have a four-foot-wide mouth, but its throat is only the width of a quarter — designed for swallowing krill, not people. Unless you’re anchovy flavored.
Just down the street from the Aquarium, Centennial Olympic Park is a downtown Atlanta oasis — a 22-acre green space commemorating the 1996 Olympic Games and adjacent to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights and the World of Coca-Cola.
Atlanta-area art lovers will want to visit the High Museum, whose buildings were designed by Richard Meier and Renzo Piano, and check out smaller venues like MOCA GA and the Atlanta Contemporary, to see works being created by exciting artists living in the Atlanta area and beyond.
Natural history buffs will want to visit the Fernbank Museum and Science Center in the Druid Hills neighborhood, where you can see fossils and scientific marvels and hike through the surrounding forest.
One of the most popular and meaningful destinations in the entire city, though, is the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, located in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. The park encompasses several sites: the visionary leader’s birth home; the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached; and the King Center, where he is buried; and the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, which honors legends like Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, John Lewis, Maya Angelou and many others.
Tips for Moving to Atlanta
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Planning a cross-country move to Atlanta? Mayflower is licensed for interstate moves, and you can our nationwide network of long-distance movers to help you move to Atlanta from anywhere in the U.S. Mayflower provides full-service moving solutions and custom moving packages to help you with packing, unpacking, storage services, debris removal or car shipping, we can help.
Looking for ways to help your family adjust to your new place? Follow our tips for settling into a new home.