1. Tans are hard to come by with all that shade.
Since 1985, the nonprofit Trees Atlanta has planted and distributed over 100,000 shade trees, creating a tree canopy over the city. Because of this, the National Forest Service has recognized Atlanta as “the most heavily forested urban area in the country.” And with all the magnolias, Southern pines, oaks, dogwoods, and other trees covering 47.9% of the city, it’s natural that Atlanta leads the nation with the title of “City in a Forest.”
Atlanta loves its trees so much, it’s hosted an annual Dogwood Festival in the spring for the past 80 years. The festival has recently commissioned a giant bronze sculpture of a dogwood limb for visitors to interact with and rest on in Piedmont Park.
2. There’s city food. And then there’s Atlanta food.
Make no mistake — Atlanta is definitely a city, coming in somewhere around tenth-largest metro area in the US. But just because Atlanta is a big city doesn’t mean it’s adopted a big city menu. There’s sticky plates of fried chicken and waffles from Gladys Knight; BBQ with sides of mac n’ cheese and Brunswick stew from Fox Brothers, or with pimento cheese wontons at Sweet Auburn Barbecue; grandmotherly collard greens from K&K Soul Food; old-fashioned fried chicken, black-eyed peas, and dressing from Paschal’s Restaurant; chitlins from Busy Bee; fluffy biscuits and creamed corn from Home Grown; and salty potlikker and cracklin’ corn muffins from Mary Mac’s Tea Room.
This list goes on, but you get the idea.
3. Biking or walking beats public transportation any day.
Public transportation systems don’t normally excite Atlantans, but one thing we’re universally psyched about is the environmentally friendly, sustainable, and expanding Atlanta BeltLine. One of the largest urban redevelopment programs in the country, the pedestrian-friendly BeltLine is a 21st-century reimagining of the historic railroad line that loops around the city, enhanced with local shops, art pieces, and glimpses of the skyline.
The BeltLine links 45 in-town neighborhoods with Metro Atlanta and includes 33 miles of multi-use trails that follow and spur off of the main path. Additionally, it’s projected to bring in $10-20 billion in economic development, 30,000 permanent jobs, 1,300 acres of parks, and 5,600 units of affordable housing.
4. There’s also an abundance of peachtrees.
In terms of road signs, that is. Atlanta is home to 71 streets with a variation of the word “Peachtree” in their names: Peachtree Avenue, Peachtree Plaza, Peachtree Drive, Peachtree Lane, Peachtree Parkway, Peachtree Walk, West Peachtree, and New Peachtree Road…
But here’s the catch — with a few exceptions, there are actually no peach trees in Atlanta, nor are peach trees native to the area. The name “peachtree” evolved from “pitch tree,” which is what the native pine trees were called because of their sticky sap. So take note for next time you listen to Sinatra’s “Peachtree Street” duet with Rosemary Clooney, or the album Peachtree Road by Sir Elton John.
5. Atlanta is one of only two cities in the world to be the home of two Nobel Peace Prize winners.
Both Jimmy Carter and Martin Luther King, Jr. called Atlanta home — President Carter received his Nobel in 2002 and MLK in 1964. That should tell you something about the folks you’ll meet on a visit here.
6. If you don’t already know our music, you’re gonna want to.
What do Outkast, Ludacris, Gucci Mane, Childish Gambino, Waka Flocka, and Killer Mike all have in common? Atlanta. But not only do some of the most famous rappers and hip hop artists call Atlanta home, other bands such as the Black Lips, Manchester Orchestra, and Deerhunter have gotten their start here. Not to mention, there’s a huge explosion of new and local artists stepping on the scene in smaller venues like The Earl, The Drunken Unicorn, and WonderRoot.
7. There’s a culture of festivals here.
Atlanta hosts the Festival Peachtree Latino, the largest multicultural festival in the Southeast, featuring hundreds of activities, arts and crafts, and concerts with a blend of international musicians and local artists. But that’s just scraping the surface of all the cultural events that take place in Atlanta — there’s also the National Black Arts Festival, Atlanta Caribbean Carnival, Atlanta Greek Festival, Japanfest, Atlanta Black Theatre Festival, Indian Festival and Pow-Wow, and Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.
Additionally, Atlanta is home to Atlanta Pride, one of the largest LGBT pride festivals in the US, as well as Atlanta Black Pride, which is the largest official African American LGBT pride celebration in the world.
And when it comes to music festivals, don’t get us started. The Atlanta music scene is absolutely exploding, and the list of these killer sound fests proves it: there’s Music Midtown, One MusicFest, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Shaky Knees, Shaky Beats, Wire and Wood Songwriters Festival, and the Dogwood Festival — just to name a few.
8. We survived a war.
Atlanta is the only city in North America to have been destroyed as an act of war, when General Sherman burnt it to the ground in November of 1864. Only 400 buildings survived the razing, but the city rebuilt itself from the ashes — which is why our city symbol is the phoenix.
9. Atlanta embraces its nerdism.
Dragon Con is a massive, multi-genre convention featuring badass costumes and thousands of hours of programming for 65,000 passionate fans of science fiction, fantasy, and comic books. Operated by a private corporation and a staff of 1,500 volunteers, it’s hosted the 1990 Origins Game Fair and the 1995 North American Science Fiction Convention, bringing in over $21 million annually to the Atlanta area.
Not to mention, you could just casually run into the actual cast of Game of Thrones. It’s that legit.
10. We have a restaurant that’s older than Gone with the Wind (which was also written and set in Atlanta).
The Varsity is the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, serving more Coca-Cola — another Atlanta creation — by volume than anywhere else in the world. Find it downtown, alongside I-85 at the corner of North Ave and Spring St.
11. The busiest airport in the world is in Atlanta.
The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has held the title of “world’s busiest airport” for 18 years now. Try to take our claim-to-fame all you want, O’Hare, but here our 101 million passengers trumps your 881,933 “total movements.” Wherever you’re coming from and wherever you’re going, ATL can get you there.
12. Our museums are groundbreaking and awesome.
The Museum of Design Atlanta, or MODA, is the only museum in the Southeast that exclusively pertains to the celebration and study of design. Additionally, the High Museum has become the leading art museum in the Southeast with its collections of classic and contemporary art and was the first and only museum anywhere to undertake a long-term partnership with Paris’s Musée du Louvre. And, of course, there’s the Center for Puppetry Arts, which is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to puppetry arts and one of the only puppet museums in the world.
13. It’s becoming the next Hollywood.
More television and movie producers are catching on that Atlanta, with its attractive tax policies, is the place to film. To name a few projects that have been shot in the city, there’s Anchorman 2, The Hunger Games, Zombieland, Driving Miss Daisy, The Walking Dead, Captain America: Civil War, Allegiant, The Vampire Diaries, Insurgent, Ant-Man, Furious 7, anything on Cartoon Network, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Selma, Taken 3, and an additional 140 films and TV shows since 2008.
Fact: Georgia now ranks third in the nation in US film production, and first in growth. Take that, Los Angeles and NYC.