Moving to Atlanta, GA? Read Our Ultimate Moving Guide
If you’re planning a move to Atlanta, you’ll be living in one of the most interesting and dynamic cities in the region. It’s diverse, from its population to its neighborhoods, and there’s always something new to explore. And yes, it’s in the South, but it’s an international city first. Read our guide to find out why moving to Atlanta is probably a great choice, and how Suddath®‘s Atlanta moving services can take the hassle out of getting there.
Get to Know Your Acronyms
There’s some important shorthand you’ll need to know to understand the locals, particularly when you’re looking for a home to buy or a place to rent or want to sound smart as you’re discussing neighborhood with insiders. ITP and OTP are acronyms for “inside the perimeter” and “outside the perimeter,” respectively. The perimeter is defined as the loop that Interstate 285 makes around Atlanta and there are quite a few differences (both real and perceived) between being on the inside or the outside of it.
ITP neighborhoods are generally thought of as being more hip, and certainly more urban, than OTP neighborhoods. Inside the I-285 loop, life can be a bit more upscale, with its hot restaurant and shopping spots, plenty of cultural events and activities within easy walking distance, and top-notch private schools. The desirability of ITP addresses nearly always translates into higher real estate and rental prices, an important point if your job is ITP and you want little or no commute to the office.
OTP neighborhoods are known for having a more laid-back pace and family-friendly vibe. Some of the nation’s best public schools are in the Atlanta suburbs, making them just as desirable for people who want a great quality of life without sky-high home prices.
The bottom line? Both sides of the perimeter have their plusses and minuses and offer something for anyone who’s making a residential move to Atlanta, GA.
The Land of (Business) Giants
Several companies that achieved household-name status long ago have their world headquarters in the metro Atlanta area, including 15 companies that made the 2018 Fortune 500 list and 26 on the 2018 Fortune 1000 list. Some of the most notable brand names in town are The Home Depot, UPS, Coca-Cola, Equifax, Georgia-Pacific, SunTrust Banks, and Delta Airlines, which is the city’s largest employer and operates the world’s largest airline hub at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Even if you’re not working for one of the big names, Atlanta is a very business-friendly place. According to Forbes, the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) ranks #11 on the list of Best Places for Business and Careers.
Employers continue to relocate to the Atlanta metropolitan area, where more than 5.5 million people now live and contribute to the 10th-largest economy in the U.S. As for industries, the Atlanta area has become well-known for more than air transportation—it has a booming high-tech sector, including biotechnology; a staff of 15,000 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; a strong financial sector; and is a major cable TV center. The film and television industry has also become well established in and around Atlanta.
Getting from Here to There in Atlanta
Atlanta rightfully earns its high marks on some important lists that compare cities to each other. There is, however, one list on which the city consistently ranks highly that local business and tourism leaders would rather not boast about: Atlanta is one of the worst cities in the country for traffic congestion. The problem is so well known that if you took an informal poll at any rest stop in the region, you’d probably find travelers in two camps: Those who knew to avoid Atlanta at all costs, and those who had just barely survived their first trip through town.
One particularly notorious spot is “Spaghetti Junction,” where Interstate 85 North and Interstate 285 intersect—it regularly tops the annual list of the slowest interchanges in the country published by the American Transportation Research Institute.
So, what should a new resident know about getting in, around, and out of this city? Here are a few ways to go:
- Leave the driving to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) with your choice of bus or rail. It focuses on the area within the Interstate 285 loop and passes are available to help you save money for a day’s or a month’s worth of rides. Even if you’re not a regular commuter, MARTA is a good choice if you’re headed for big events at venues like Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where parking can be challenging.
- Go ahead and download the apps for ridesharing with Uber and Lyft so that you’ll always have those options when you want to avoid driving and finding parking.
- Like most of America’s largest cities, Atlanta offers scooter rentals, bike rentals, and bike shares, including electric bikes. If you’re riding your own bike, be sure to check out the Atlanta BeltLine, which will ultimately convert 22 miles of reclaimed railroad tracks into a green space that’s made for biking and walking.
- Believe it or not, you can actually explore downtown and midtown by foot pretty easily. Restaurants, entertainment, shops and attractions are mostly clustered together, so once you arrive, you can quickly get from one spot to the next.
- Lastly, there’s the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL). It’s the world’s busiest airport, and according to the airport’s fact sheet, it’s held that title since 1998. With 150 U.S. destinations and more than 75 international destinations, it’s safe to say that the ATL can get you where you want to go and you’re bound to pass through it on a leg of your journey if you travel a lot.
A Fine Place for Families to Move
Atlanta can be a best-of-both-worlds home for families that appreciate what city life offers but still want some wide-open natural spaces and plenty of kid-friendly activities. You can live in the more affordable suburbs and have a large yard, or live closer to the city’s center without giving up green space, since Atlanta has more than 300 preserves, parks, gardens and more. Not far from downtown is the 190-acre Piedmont Park that offers playgrounds, basketball courts, jogging paths, dog parks, an aquatic center and pool, a splash pad, running track, soccer and softball fields, and much more.
Educational choices include a number of high-rated schools among the Atlanta Public School System’s and Fulton County School District’s 132 schools. (The former serves the area within the city limits and the latter serves the remainder of the county.) There are currently more than 15 charter schools that offer college preparatory classes, special enrichment programs, and much more.
Things to Do and See in Atlanta
There’s so much to do in and around Atlanta that it’s worth an in-depth guide of its own. For now, these are just a very few places to go and things to do here, and there truly is something for everyone:
- Centennial Olympic Park: Built as a gathering place when the city hosted the 1996 summer Olympic Games, the park is a great base from which to explore several of Atlanta’s most popular downtown attractions, including the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the College Football Hall of Fame, and the World of Coca-Cola.
- The Georgia Aquarium: Although it’s also adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park, the aquarium warrants its own entry on this list. Ten million gallons of water are home to tens of thousands of animals that you can closely observe throughout the facility. It’s worth standing in line for the dolphin presentation and sea lion presentation, and you can even pay a little extra to get a “Behind the Seas” tour for a look at the aquarium’s most popular exhibits.
- The Atlanta Botanical Garden: As of 2019, the garden can boast its spot on Architectural Digest’s “8 Most Beautifully Designed Botanical Gardens in America.” Situated in the heart of Midtown, the garden offers events, exhibitions, and classes, or you can simply stroll through its 30 acres of changing plant collections and displays. If you have kids between the ages of 4 and 10, look into the Garden Summer Camp programs.
- The King Center: Founded by Mrs. Coretta Scott King, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change houses important archives, hosts conference series and produces programs that further Dr. King’s work.
- Stone Mountain Park: This scenic park is the most visited attraction in the state. More than 3,200 acres are the site of an incredible array of activities, including special events such as the Independence Day celebration and fall festival, a railroad, farmyard, museum, 4-D theater and much more.
- Zoo Atlanta: Experience close encounters with more than 1,000 animals, including one of the nation’s largest populations of great apes. The zoo is also known around the world for its care and study of vanishing amphibians and reptiles. Be sure to take the family on a ride on the Zoo Train and the Endangered Species Carousel.
- Six Flags Amusement Park: The region’s largest and Georgia’s best-known amusement park sits just west of Atlanta. The theme here is all things Warner Bros, so expect to run into Batman or Wonder Woman as you make your way through the park’s nearly 300 acres. There are more than 40 rides and attractions to explore, include one dozen roller coasters.
Sports Fans, Rejoice
There’s no true off season in Atlanta, since at least one of these professional sports teams is playing somewhere on any given day:
- Atlanta Braves (MLB)
- Atlanta Falcons (NFL)
- Atlanta Hawks (NBA)
- Atlanta United FC (MLS)
- Atlanta Dream (WNBA)
Atlanta also has some of the newest and best sports venues in the country, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the Falcons and United play; State Farm Arena, home to the Hawks and the Dream; and SunTrust Park, where the Braves play.
Higher Education in Atlanta
There are more than 60 universities and colleges in the Atlanta area. According to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, metro Atlanta is home to some of the nation’s best universities and technical colleges and leads in diversity and degrees awarded.
Nearly 300,000 students are enrolled in the area’s colleges and universities, including these notable public and private schools:
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Morehouse College
- Spelman College
- Emory University
- Georgia State University
- Mercer University
- Savannah College of Art and Design (Atlanta campus)
Atlanta Neighborhoods and Districts
You can’t sound like you’re in the know when talking about Atlanta neighborhoods without referencing the above-mentioned “inside the perimeter” (ITP) and “outside the perimeter” (OTP) distinctions. Here’s a look at a few of the most popular neighborhoods, suburbs and cities in both categories.
Atlanta’s a big city, so suburban living can take you pretty far away from the city’s center. The tradeoff, though, is a greater likelihood of having a more affordable home with a larger lot or more manageable monthly rent. OTP areas have their own character and advantages, and there are plenty to choose from.
- Alpharetta: This somewhat far-flung town (as far as its OTP location goes) is 27 square miles that was named one of the friendliest places to live by Forbes in 2012. One of the most recent additions is Avalon, an 86-acre development that’s been designed as a walkable community where residences, workplaces, entertainment, dining and shopping make staying close to home easier.
- Peachtree Corners: This Atlanta suburb was developed as a planned community and became Gwinnett County’s largest city in 2012. Great Gwinnett County Public Schools make this a popular spot for families.
- Roswell: Another place that draws families is Roswell, where you’ll find 18 public parks, a border that runs along the Chattahoochee River, and plenty of festivals, nightlife, a cool historic district, and a happening dining scene.
We’ve already been clear about the traffic in Atlanta: It’s bad. That is reason enough for many newcomers who are going to be working in the heart of the city to choose an ITP home address. Beyond that, nothing compares to living in a world-class city.
- Buckhead: In a word? Luxury. Beautiful tree-lined streets, manicured landscaping and expansive homes, some with eight-figure price tags, are what Buckhead is known for. The good news is that even if you can’t afford to live there, it’s free to visit and take advantage of all of the shopping, dining and cultural options it offers.
- Decatur: This is a great spot if you want to live in what feels like a small town but be a short drive from the city. Decatur has an enviable reputation—highly rated schools, a busy restaurant/bar/shopping scene, and a lower crime rate.
- Midtown: At little more than one square mile, Midtown has an outsized impact on Atlanta. It’s where you’ll find high-rise buildings (offices, apartments and condos), the renowned High Museum of Art, lots of nightlife, great restaurants, all in a walkable and more-bikeable-than-most neighborhood.
The Atlanta Restaurant Scene
Dining expectations are high for large, international cities, but Atlanta lives up to them. In fact, Zagat dubbed Atlanta #9 on its list of the “most exciting” food cities in America in 2017. Whether you’re into sustainability, celebrity chefs, serious food and wine events and festivals, farm-to-table restaurants, food trucks, or straight-up Southern fare, it’s all here.
Atlanta magazine’s Best of Atlanta 2018 list includes these popular spots:
- Tiny Lou’s for French cuisine
- Golden Eagle for a retro-vibe date night
- Chai Yo for high-end Thai
- Garden & Gun Club for fine Southern food
- Zunzi’s Takeout and Catering for sandwiches and vegan options
- Anh’s Kitchen for Vietnamese dishes
- Arnette’s Chop Shop for steak
- Watchman’s Seafood and Spirits for sustainable seafood sourced from the South
- Momonoki for fast-casual Japanese food
Shopping: Malls, Circles and More
It’s natural to wonder why the popular Buckhead shopping corridor known as Miami Circle is neither circular nor connected to Miami, but that doesn’t stop Atlanta shoppers in search of the eclectic from spending the day at The Shops of Miami Circle. Home furnishings and interior design are the main attractions, and there are nearly 100 merchants and showrooms where you can browse clothing, artwork, rugs, furniture, jewelry, lighting and much more.
Additional Atlanta-area shopping options include:
Important Atlanta Links
If you’ve decided to move to Atlanta, here are a few links that can help you get set up as a new resident:
Driver’s licenses: You have 30 days to get your new Georgia driver’s license if you’re moving here from out of state. The Georgia Department of Driver Services allows you to transfer your out-of-state license at any of its Customer Service Centers.
Voter registration and voting locations: Georgia offers an online voter registration system or you can manually submit a paper registration. You can find your poll location and early voting locations on the state’s My Voter page.
Vehicle registration: You’ll need your temporary Georgia driver’s license in order to register and title your vehicle at your local county tag office.
Utility companies: There are several utilities, both city-managed and non-city, including:
Call on Our Expert Atlanta Movers
If a move to Atlanta is on your calendar, Suddath has everything you need to get there. We have a complete suite of moving services and offer free, no-obligation moving estimates. Take a look at the reviews from our Atlanta customers, then get in touch for your quote today!
Moving to Atlanta, GA: FAQ
It depends, of course, on what you’re looking for, but Atlanta has a lot to offer retirees. If you’re looking to escape northern blizzards, Atlanta has a whopping two snow days each year. Unlike points farther south (think most of Florida), the city has distinct seasons, but temperature extremes aren’t all that, well, extreme. The average high in the middle of summer is 89 degrees and the average low is 34 in January. There’s a downside, though—Atlanta summers are humid and buggy, so expect to be indoors with the air conditioner running during the worst of it.
Tax breaks are a plus: Georgia has a state income tax exemption on up to $65,000 in retirement income for those aged 65 and up. Seniors also have a number of property tax exemptions based on age and income. Overall, Kiplinger ranks Georgia among its top 10 most tax-friendly states for retirees.
If you’re on the fence about relocating to Atlanta, here are a few of the plusses and minuses to consider.
• Cosmopolitan life: Big-city living means more choices than you’ll ever need in art, culture, restaurants, and shopping.
• Mild winters: Although the occasional snow flurry causes some excitement, you won’t need to shovel your driveway to get your car out of the garage.
• Things to do: Professional sports, lakes and parks, festivals, museums, and hiking and camping in nearby mountains … it’s all here.
• Transportation: There are pockets of walkable neighborhoods, but you’ll need a car to get around most parts of this sprawling metro area.
• Traffic: Speaking of cars, be prepared to spend a lot of time in yours. Atlanta is famous for its bottlenecks, and the morning and evening rush hours both last about four hours.
• Summers: They’re hot. They’re humid. You’ll want to stay inside.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there’s good news on the Atlanta job front:
• An analysis on the finance website WalletHub ranked Atlanta 18th on its list of top U.S. cities for job seekers.
• Glassdoor ranked Atlanta in the top 20 of the best job cities among the most populated U.S. cities.
See up-to-date employment numbers on the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website, including a breakdown by industry.
With a short drive, it’s easy to completely change your scenery when you live in Atlanta. Day or weekend trip choices abound, and even the drive itself can be an enjoyable, scenic journey. These are some of the best day trips from Atlanta:
• Chattanooga, TN: Less than two hours away are waterfront museums and parks along the Riverwalk and a revitalized downtown.
• Tallulah Falls, GA: Waterfalls, hiking trails and a 200-foot-long suspension bridge over Tallulah Gorge make this a don’t-miss destination for those who love the outdoors.
• Athens, GA: In just 90 minutes, you’ll be in this popular small town that’s famous for its food and music.
• Pine Mountain, GA: Eighty-five miles southwest of Atlanta, Pine Mountain is home to the famous 2,500-acre Callaway Resort & Gardens. Hike, bike, relax on the beach at Robin Lake, or just enjoy the spectacular gardens.
• Brasstown Bald Recreation Area: Stand atop the highest point in Georgia (4,784 feet above sea level) in autumn for the state’s best view of fall colors. It’s a popular destination in summer, too, as an escape from Atlanta’s humidity.
• Macon, GA: From mid-March to April, Macon is the site of the International Cherry Blossom Festival. It’s touted as the Cherry Blossom Capital of the World.
• Lake Lanier, GA: The lake’s 59 square miles of water draws millions of visitors each year for boating, jet skiing, camping and more.
• Rome, GA: Tucked into Georgia’s northwest corner, Rome is a great small-town getaway. Shop and dine in the downtown area or bike or walk the Downtown Heritage Trail System’s 13 miles.