America's Best Cities: Atlanta, Georgia

No. 3

Jul 20, 2009
Outside Magazine
Atlanta Skyline

5.3 million: Population (metro)
$115,000: Median home price
B-: Multisport grade
0:Net carbon emissions generated by the Corner, a part of Virginia Highland, the city's iconic nightlife district

Don't call it "Hotlanta." Locals will sigh and tell you there's much more to this southern metropolis than sultry summer nights. The Chattahoochee River home to some of the best trout fishing in the South flows through the city, offering everything from boating (the Class II Devil's Racecourse) to cliff jumping (the Palisades area). Atlanta is also less than 90 minutes from the beginning of the Appalachian Trail, in north Georgia, and half an hour from Con­yers's famous singletrack. (Mountain biking debuted here as an Olympic sport in 1996.) Local blue chips like Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and Delta anchor a strong economy that as evidenced by recently LEED-certified Phillips Arena, the first sports stadium of its kind in North America is investing in sustainability. The Brick Store, a classic gastro-pub, and the Porter, a new beer bar, offer some of the best brew lists in the country, while nearby music venues like the Earl debut major indie-rock and hip-hop acts. Home prices remain affordable throughout much of the city, especially in the up-and-coming Eastside neighborhoods. While commuting by car is a legitimate gripe, the recently launched Beltline Initiative will help ease some congestion: A 22-mile-long "live-work-play" corridor including parks, trails, and green space it's one of the most progressive urban-planning projects in the country. Until it's finished, there's 189-acre Piedmont Park. Just a short walk from downtown, it's the big city's green jewel.