After growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and living in Cleveland, Ohio for 7 years, back in the early 2000’s, I visited Atlanta when I was searching for my next home. Atlanta made the short list because it was a warm-weather city and a cosmopolitan hub with opportunities for techies like me. I ended up choosing Austin instead, and I’ve been living there for about ten years, but these past two Octobers, the Atlanta Visitors Bureau invited me to their annual SITSum conference, so that I could deeply explore the city and post about it. These experiences made me realize that Atlanta is a confluence of all the things I love about all the cities I’ve lived.
The Fine Arts
The Street Arts
While many cities fight a constant battle against graffiti, Atlanta has nurtured the call for these visual artists to express themselves, with sanctioned (and even subsidized) murals throughout the city, painted by the very same artists who once tagged buildings with their names. Graffiti taggers respect the murals, and it keeps the city classy and vibrant. Also, the town is laden with sculptures throughout, reminding me of Rome, where statues and art have been a mainstay since ancient times. Visual art is a part of the culture, and it’s everywhere in Atlanta.
We all know that New York, Miami, and LA are the fashion capitals of the USA, but did you know that there are several shops in Atlanta with stuff you can only find in places like Milan and Paris? I’m not much of a fashion buff, but was blown away when I visited the Shops at Buckhead to find $30,000 coats and brand named stores I’d only witnessed in Milan.
Harmony in Diversity
While Georgia is not especially known for its tolerance of racial equality, Atlanta has been an oasis for those of us who wish to move beyond building walls based on skin color. Even back during the Civil War, slavery was less common in Atlanta than in the rest of the state. That didn’t help them much when the North burned the city to the ground, but after the war, Atlanta was chosen as the capitol partially because of its tolerance to diversity, and of course, who can forget that Martin Luther King, Jr was from Atlanta? Of course, it took a while to get where we are today, but progress has been made, and Atlanta is a prime reason for that.
After living in the racially-charged cities of Pittsburgh and Cleveland and moving to the racially-non-diverse city if Austin (and traveling with my bi-racial girlfriend throughout the country, seeing first hand the kinds of micro-aggressions people of color deal with on a daily basis), it was enlightening to be in a place where the vibe was one of equality. I could feel it in the city – it’s a place where people don’t care about your skin color – you are human like the rest of us, and it’s something you can experience just by being there.
The Food, Dude!
Besides being “the blockage of America’s artery” by playing home to Coca-Cola, Waffle House, Chick-fil-a, pecan pie, and Holeman & Finch, Atlanta has an endless slew of gourmet restaurateurs opening local businesses across town. From fine dining to southern comfort foods, Atlanta holds its own in a variety of cuisines.
In addition to having a subway (a luxury in car-centric America), Atlanta also plays host to the Beltline, a series of trails for bicyclists and walkers to avoid traffic and walk through a bit of nature. And if you’re too lazy to peddle, you can ride an electric bike from ATL-Cruzers, like I did.
It’s still a College Town
Actually, there are over 20 colleges & universities in the city limits, including Georgia State, DeVry, Emory, and Georgia Tech to name but a few. This keeps the mean age of Atlanta lower than the rest of Georgia at around 33 years, just one year older than Austin.
Layin' Down the Ley Lines
It’s no surprise that Atlanta falls on a huge ley line with other globally-historic-significant cities, which have experienced major events that have shaped human culture over the ages. There is a ‘great circle’ around the planet which passes through Mexico City, New Orleans, Atlanta, Washington DC, New York, Boston, Dublin, Stonehenge, London, Troy, Amman, Kosovo, and Saudi Arabia.
So, if you are considering where to move for your next city, I’d keep Atlanta on the short list. It’s still on mine.