How can we get a good feel of Atlanta neighborhoods to live in?
March 4, 2013 9:27 AM   Subscribe

I am interviewing for an assistant professor position at the Emory School of Medicine. My girlfriend and I are visiting Atlanta where we will have a rental car and most of a Saturday to look at various neighborhoods. We're less interested in seeing the inside of apartments and more interested in getting a feel for the neighborhood: what they look like and how people live outside their housing. Can you offer some suggestions on where to drive, walk, eat, drink, and visit to make the most of this day?

Based on our preliminary research we would like to focus on these neighborhoods, with the ones we're most interested in at the top:
  1. Downtown Decatur
  2. Midtown
  3. Virginia Highland
  4. Druid Hills
  5. Candler Park
  6. Inman Park
In an ideal world someone would just give us a tour itinerary that is something like: drive from Emory to neighborhood A, eat breakfast at place B, walk around streets C and D, visit farmer's market E, walk through park F, drive to neighborhood G, have lunch at place H, walk around street I, drive to neighborhood J, have coffee at place K, visit branch library L, have dinner at place M, drive to the airport to get there by 7. That is too much to ask but if you had individual suggestions for what places we should visit to give us a good feel of the neighborhoods above that would be most helpful.

In addition my partner will have the car and will probably have time to check out some other neighborhoods at times on Thursday and Friday, so any individual places to check out in some of the following neighborhoods might help too:
  1. Little Five Points
  2. Toco Hills
  3. Lake Claire
  4. Springdale Heights
  5. Oakhurst
  6. Morningside
  7. East Lake
  8. Brookhaven
  9. Ashford Park

We picked these neighborhoods by looking for places that tick as many of these boxes as possible: has multifamily housing options; walkable to MARTA station; accessible by non-car transportation mode (bus, bike, or walking) to Emory and downtown, can walk to grocery store, restaurants, library branch; close to parks; sidewalks have some tree cover. It's hard to pick a truly optimal neighborhood because we don't know where my girlfriend would be working yet.

I've read the previous questions tagged atlanta on neighborhood options: 1 2 3 4 5.

This is anonymous because I know that other potential employers are monitoring my online presence and knowing that I am seriously considering Emory could throw a wrench in the works. If you have any additional comments you can reach us at
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can help!

I will suggest that you hit Your Dekalb Farmer's Market at some point. They have an amazing food bar (cash only) and pastry area, great coffee too. It's a huge warehouse of a place that's constantly about 65 degrees. It's mega-crowded on the weekend, but it's the most amazing thing you'll ever see!

So I'd say, get there around lunch-time, queue up for the food line, eat some food, then walk around a bit. (pushing and shoving) Then grab a pastry and coffee, and hit the road.

Virginia Highlands is a funky neighborhood, with lots of shops and restaurants. Taco Mac is a local chain, but the original location is here. They have good wings and a wall of beer on tap. The original place is small, but hella fun! Family friendly.

I can't recommend Little Five Points. My girlfriend's daughter lived in East Atlanta with her husband and never felt 100% safe. It's a gentrifying neighborhood/area, and while funky and fun to hang out in, and The Vortex (no kids allowed) is an awesome burger joint, places get broken into on the regular. Drive through it by all means, (it's slow going) but don't live there.

If you go west on North Druid Hills road, turn south on Braircliff. That's a cute area, full of apartments, and more funky shops and restaurants and a Whole Foods. If you want, stop for a Hot Dog at HD1, Richard Blaise's hot dog joint. Yummy, and the fries are amazing.

Toco Hills is a question mark. You'll run through it on North Druid Hills between Claremont and I-85. That Kroger? It's Kosher and they have rabbi's on staff. Also a Kosher food court. Surreal is what it is. (And I'm Jewish.)

Brookhaven, Drive from Dresden on Peachtree, East. Haven is there, for upscale things. The area is sweet, with a lot of that mixed-use living, shopping, dining stuff going on. In season, there's an open air Farmer's Market on Saturdays. Gwen with Phoenix Gardens can talk to you about a CSA, Fresh Eggs and Poultry. (I'm now doing my shopping at YDFM, it's just more predictable and convenient.)

I live in Chamblee and commute to Norcross. We have 635 homes in our development, and there are homes for rent. Our elementary school is both traditional and Montessori, and considered one of the best schools in DeKalb County. We also have charter Middle and High Schools.

Chamblee is cute, although off of the Auto Row in north Dekalb, we're just barely inside the perimeter. Vintage Pizza is great, and worth a visit. Oriental Pearl is also good on Sunday Morning for Dim Sum.

We're a hop-skip-jump to Farm Burger in Dunwoody.

It's commendable that you want to not have to have a car while living here. You can try it if you like, but it will end in tears.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:50 AM on March 4, 2013

The main place I can think of that's easily accessible to Emory carfree and also leaves a lot of flexibility in terms of where your girlfriend might work is downtown Decatur. There's a shuttle to Emory, and MARTA rail is right there to take you "anywhere" (ahahahaha). A MARTA bus line runs through Emory and comes down through my area adjacent to Little Five Points, which is a great location, but traffic along that route is truly epic and thus timing is a bit unreliable (along with slow headways, which characterizes pretty much every form of transit here).

Sorry I don't have time to address your actual itinerary question, but I've lived here for two years sans car, so feel free to send me a MeMail or something!
posted by threeants at 10:29 AM on March 4, 2013

I live in Atlanta! Feel free to memail me any specific questions, but I'll take a stab.

(By multi-family you mean anything but single family houses right? If so, Druid Hills might be difficult.)

For Marta accessibility, I'd concentrate on Inman Park, Candler Park, Lake Claire, and Decatur. VA-Highland is great (I live there) but not walkable to Marta. My first choice neighborhoods were Inman Park and Candler Park because they are equidistant from midtown and Decatur (work=midtown, fun=Decatur, plus neighborhoods in between.) I just happened to find my perfect apt. in VA Highland first.

(Midtown is on Marta, but you will have to go south and transfer to get to anywhere east, which I don't like. However, if you're flying a lot, this line gets you to the airport faster. There are a lot of apartments/condos though, and Piedmont Park is the best park. I lived there before I lived here. )

Inman Park - the yuppiest and most "clean, new" feeling. Drive down Highland to Elizabeth, wind through little streets. It's a small area. There are a few newer apartment complexes.

Candler Park - some yuppies, some old hippies, families. A golf course. Some cute little shops. Beautiful old houses and a few apartments - not many. In between Inman and Candler is Little 5, which is full of young loud drunk hipsters and street musicians most of the time. Not my scene but YMMV. Your car will probably get broken into.

Lake Claire - lots of old hippies. Very quiet. Only a few apartments, most former old houses.

Decatur - has the feel of a little college town. Very small, but hip and cute, has lots of bars and little boutiques and such. Also the Dekalb Farmer's Market, which is really cool. The farthest from the highway, which can be inconvenient for working anywhere else in Atlanta metro, but probably most convenient to Emory (none are bad, though.)

Oakhurst would maybe not be walkable to Marta? But it's another favorite neighborhood of mine. Very similar to downtown Decatur, but a little more personal feeling.

For a tour I would probably just drive along the main roads for those areas, veering off to go up and down side streets whenever I felt like it. Peachtree, N Decatur, Briarcliff, Highland, McClendon, Oakdale, Dekalb, Ponce, East Lake, etc. These neighborhoods are all small - you'll quickly see which road has "the stuff" on it and get a good sense for how they feel. I don't think you'd be really unhappy in any of them!
posted by ohsnapdragon at 11:09 AM on March 4, 2013

Candler Park, Inman Park, Poncey-Highlands, Oakhurst, Decatur, and if you like funky, Cabbagetown.

Atlanta is fairly walkable, it's just that many people don't do that. (When my then-fiance, who relies on his own two feet, visited me the first time, my friends were stunned that he walked from C'town apartment to downtown, downtown to Midtown, Midtown to my job on Highland. Why? Because he wanted to.)

I miss Atlanta. Good luck!
posted by Kitteh at 1:56 PM on March 4, 2013

I'll add a plug for Midtown near Piedmont Park. Emory runs a regular shuttle service from Emory Midtown Hospital to the Clifton Road Campus.
posted by MelissaSimon at 2:06 PM on March 4, 2013

I have a great 2/1 condo in Toco Hills that is about to go on the market.
This a great location ... off NDruid between Briarcliff and LaVista.
Target to the left. Publix to the right.
Great restaurants in all directions -- Shorty's, La Parrilla, Thai Chili, Floataway Cafe.
Just to the left a few blocks - Lenox and Phipps.
Just to the right a few blocks - Decatur.
Just to the south a few blocks - Midtown, Atlantic Station, Downtown, Little 5 Points.
posted by tmharris65 at 5:39 PM on March 4, 2013

Might be a bit late in coming back to this thread, but I wanted to add that it would be helpful to know where you're coming from / have lived in the past. I think expectation management is important with Atlanta. There are a lot of areas here that out of folks coming from 80% of the US would prompt "yes, exciting urban vitality!" and out of folks coming from more urban cities would prompt "...that's it?"

Different areas have extremely different characters, too. For example, even though it's technically more urban, for me, coming from New England, Midtown feels kind of inorganic and built-up to me. Comparatively, I find lower-slung areas to the east like Inman Park, Little Five, Candler Park, Cabbagetown/Reynoldstown, East Atlanta Village, etc, to be much more recognizable.

It's hard to overstate the car culture here. Not having one is reserved for the poorest poor and the eccentric (speaking as someone who is both poor and eccentric). Drivers here are the most oblivious I have ever seen anywhere-- they literally don't seem to be aware that pedestrians are a thing. Biking is aight; I ultimately didn't really feel comfortable commuting by bike after making a good-faith effort for a few months, but there are a good number who do. Infrastructure is improving, but that kind of change is slow business. I would say that far and away the hardest part of being carfree here is not the daily commute-- once you have that down, it's not rocket science-- but the ability to go to random events that sound interesting, which are overwhelmingly hard to get to.

Anyway, I just realized I wrote a screed about carfree Atlanta livin' but it's not really apparent from your post that that's what you're trying to do; I think I was piggybacking off someone else's liberal interpretation. I'm definitely not trying to unsell you on Atlanta-- some really terrific, terrific people here-- just, expectation management expectation management expectation management.
posted by threeants at 6:10 PM on March 4, 2013

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