Get to Know Atlanta
Discover What Makes Atlanta a Great Place to Live
By Kevin Forest Moreau
As a new or future Atlanta resident, you’ve picked a great city to call,home. But undoubtedly you are likely experiencing some stress and anxiety as a result of preparing for your new life in an unfamiliar place. A new job, a new school for your children, new people, new places. But rest assured: Atlanta is a great place for everyone, and no matter your situation, Atlanta is sure to feel like home. There’s a lot to learn about this impressive city and its surrounding metropolitan area. On the pages that follow, 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 boasts one of the highest concentrations of Fortune 500 companies in the country, serving as the global headquarters to 20 corporations including Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, Aflac, The Southern Company and UPS.
Atlanta also enjoys a robust media industry. Turner Broadcasting, which includes CNN, TBS, TNT, the Cartoon Network and other properties, is headquartered here. The Weather Channel makes its home right here in the metro Atlanta area, as well.
he metro area offers many links to Atlanta’s historic past. The 33-acre Atlanta History Center in Buckhead explores the city’s rich past with 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. The Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville showcases art and artifacts from and exploring the American West.
For hiking, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, stretching over more than 2,900 acres in Cobb County, commemorates an historic Civil War battleground. To the east, Stone Mountain Park, said to be Georgia’s most popular attraction, boasts 3,200 acres of beautiful scenery, amusement rides, hiking trails, golf and much more, all of it surrounding Stone Mountain and its historic portrait of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis.
Atlanta 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 across the metro area boast magnet schools for students with special abilities, as well as charter schools, which are given more freedom in how they educate children.
The area is also home to more than 40 colleges and universities of different sizes, including such nationally recognized higher-learning schools as Agnes Scott College, Emory University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Oglethorpe University, Georgia State University and Kennesaw State University. The Savannah College of Art and Design maintains a presence in Atlanta, as does Macon-based Mercer University. The city is also home to several distinguished historically black colleges including Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Morris Brown College and Spelman College.
Atlanta is well known for its hospitals and medically related entities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), located near Emory University, 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 for having 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.
Atlanta was conceived as a railroad town and is a major railroad spot. But its status as a major transportation hub is thanks largely these days to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Consistently ranked as the world’s busiest airport, it recently added a new international terminal that should keep it atop such lists for years to come. Three major interstates—20, 75 and 85—converge here, adding to the city’s convenience factor.
Of course, that also results in traffic congestion—a reality for any metropolis with as many millions of residents as Atlanta—but the city boasts a number of public-transportation alternatives to automobile traffic, including MARTA, the area’s premier rail and bus service, as well as Cobb Community Transit, Gwinnett County Transit, and Xpress, a commuter bus service. The Atlanta BeltLine, a multi-use trail encircling the city and providing park space, provides yet another option.
The city also offers many attractions of special interest to children. The Center for Puppetry Arts traces the history of this unique art form and houses exclusive exhibits spotlighting the work of Jim Henson. The newly renovated Children’s Museum of Atlanta offers fun, informative exhibits for young children and preteens. Interactive Neighborhood for Kids is an interactive museum in Gainesville where children can role-play and climb aboard a real 1927 fire truck.
The LEGO Discovery Center is an interactive playground filled with the world-famous building blocks, designed to delight and inspire children ages 3 through 10. The Six Flags Over Georgia theme park offers roller coasters, water rides and other thrills. The Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville makes learning about science fun, with engaging hands-on exhibits and galleries as well as a planetarium and observatory.
Hollywood Of the South
In the past decade, a booming TV and film industry has grown throughout the state. In 2010, Georgia’s was the fourth-largest film industry in the nation. Lured by tax incentives, motion pictures and television shows, including “The Walking Dead” and “The Vampire Diaries,” are constantly filming here. Two large production studios, Tyler Perry Studios and EUE/Screen Gems, are located in the metro area, and there are plans to expand existing studios and build new facilities in Fayette County and Covington.
Arts and Entertainment
Atlanta is a hub of the arts. The Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre stages thought-provoking and crowd-pleasing works and has premiered shows that went on to the Broadway stage. The thriving theater scene also includes such acclaimed companies as Theatrical Outfit, 7 Stages and True Colors. The High Museum of Art, the Southeast’s leading art museum, houses permanent and rotating exhibits throughout the year.
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. And last but not least, the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Hawks professional sports teams draw thousands of fans each year.
Atlanta offers much for locals and visitors to see and do year-round. The Atlanta Botanical Garden is home to 30 gorgeous acres of themed gardens, including a Japanese garden and a rose garden, and often hosts events and outdoor art exhibits. Centennial Olympic Park is an oasis in the heart of downtown that hosts concerts and events and is popular with children for its Fountain of Rings. The Fernbank Museum of Natural History spotlights the natural world with informative exhibits, IMAX films and giant dinosaur skeletons in its atrium. The Center for Civil and Human Rights features exhibits and educational programs that aim to show visitors how the American civil rights movement and modern civil rights issues around the world are linked—and empower visitors to enact change in their own communities.
As befits a metro area of Atlanta’s size, there are a great many shopping options to satisfy your every need. Super-sized shopping malls Cumberland Mall, Discover Mills, Lenox Square Mall, Mall of Georgia and Phipps Plaza offer hundreds of shops, as well as food courts, movie theaters and more. Atlantic Station, a Midtown mixed-use development, is home to such retailers as H&M, Target and Dillard’s. North Georgia Premium Outlets and Tanger Outlets, both a little outside the city, sport great brands and bargain prices. Meanwhile, the Buckhead neighborhood is your spot for high-end retail, while Little Five Points buzzes with record shops and thrift stores and Virginia-Highland is stuffed with artsy clothing and home-décor boutiques.
Know the Lingo
Big Chicken: An Atlanta landmark, this 56-foot metal rooster icon, that soars above a KFC in Marietta, has been in existence since the 1960’s.
The Connector (or Downtown Connector): The stretch of highway where interstates 85 and 75 overlap.
The Hooch: The Chattahoochee River serves as a source of power, drinking water and recreation.
ITP/OTP: Inside the Perimeter/Outside the Perimeter—meaning inside the I-285 loop (the more urban areas) or outside (suburbia).
King and Queen Buildings: Located at the I-285/Ga. 400 merge, the designs of the two towers resemble chess pieces.
The Perimeter: I-285, which circles the city of Atlanta and is meant to be used as a bypass.
Spaghetti Junction: Complicated intertwining of I-85 and I-285 loops and bridges.
Tech: Georgia Institute of Technology, or Georgia Tech, one of the oldest, most respected polytechnic universities in the country.
The Ted: Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves baseball.