Visiting Atlanta, or just recently moved? Here are 10 things you need to know about the city

Automobiles travel along the I-75 / I-85 connector shown from the 17th street bridge Thursday, June 16, 2022, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz /

There’s plenty to love about Atlanta. It’s the capital of Georgia with just over 500,000 residents in the city proper and is the eighth-largest metropolitan area in the United States. It’s a beautiful city in a forest with lots of nature surrounding it, and it’s a quirky city full of history, culture and tradition. In many ways, the city feels like a small town disguised as a big city. Recently, many companies have either relocated to Atlanta or opened regional offices, and the city has been exploding in popularity amongst both tourists and new residents.

Below are 10 of the foundational characteristics about Atlanta you’ll need to know before you visit.

Bless your heart if you say “Hotlanta”

Atlanta may be extremely hot and humid, but nobody (and I repeat, nobody) in this city calls it Hotlanta. We call it ATL, Atlan-uh, or, if you really want to sound local, Alan-uh. And while in some ways, we have turned “Don’t call it Hotlanta” into its own tagline, we would rather not have to deal with saying it at all. So please, let that nickname evaporate into the humid abyss.

Be specific about which Peachtree street you’re referring to

Runners approach Peachtree Street North Bridge in Midtown during the 53rd Atlanta Journal Constitution Peachtree Road Race near Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta on Monday, July 4, 2022. (Hyosub Shin /

The name Peachtree is synonymous with Atlanta. The Muscogee (Creek) people called the original land where Atlanta lies “Pakanahuili,” which stands for Standing Peach Tree (or Standing Pitch Tree - up for debate) and the name Peachtree has stuck ever since. To date, there are more than 70 streets with the name Peachtree, including Peachtree Street, West Peachtree Street, Peachtree Battle Avenue, Peachtree Circle, Peachtree Walk… *clears throat* … Peachtree Dunwoody Road, Old Peachtree Road, Peachtree Parkway… *deep breath* … Peachtree Valley, Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, Peachtree Memorial… well, you get the picture. Make sure you have Google Maps at the ready.

Learn the difference between ITP and OTP

Aerial photo shows I-285 (L-eastbound, R-westbound) on Thursday, July 22, 2021. (Hyosub Shin /

The Perimeter is the heavily trafficked I-285 loop that encircles Atlanta. ITP stands for “Inside the Perimeter” and OTP stands for “Outside the Perimeter,” and these phrases are used in daily Atlanta life. Some neighborhoods that are ITP include Midtown, Virginia-Highland, and Buckhead. Even some standalone metro Atlanta cities are ITP, such as Brookhaven and Decatur. Places that are OTP include Smyrna, Dunwoody, Marietta, Roswell and more. If you’re in a conversation trying to locate where something is, the phrase that is typically used is “Is that OTP or ITP?” and there’s usually a hint of snobbery that comes along with that.

Shoot the ‘Hooch during the summertime

Stephanie Ward “shoots the hooch” on The Chattahoochee River with her son and his friends on their last day of summer break on Tuesday, August 2, 2022. (Natrice Miller/
Natrice Miller/, AJC Freelancer

The Chattahoochee River flows from the Blue Ridge Mountains through Atlanta; the word “Chattahoochee” allegedly comes from the Muskogee (Creek) word “chatohuchi,” which means “painted with rocks.” During summertime, you may hear someone ask if you want to “shoot the ‘Hooch.” It may sound slightly bewildering, but this local lingo is a rite of passage for Atlantans and involves floating down the Chattahoochee River on a tube, sipping beers and hanging out with friends.

READ MORE: 7 must-see spots along the Chattahoochee River

If there is any chance of snow, just stay home

Atlanta: Traffic inches along the Connector as snow blankets the Metro on Tuesday afternoon January 28, 2014 as seen from the Pryor Street overpass. BEN GRAY / BGRAY@AJC.COM
Ben Gray, Access Atlanta

Atlantans are still reeling from the collective trauma that was Snowpocalypse (also called Snowmageddon) on January 28, 2014, when just a few inches of snow basically shut down the entire city. There were many reasons for this: Atlanta does not get snow often and it was unexpected, meaning the roads were not salted; everyone took to the streets at the same time to go home or pick up their kid; roads in Atlanta are long and windy and have no clear grid system; and the city is massively hilly. Together, it was a recipe for disaster. But be gentle with us – it wasn’t really about the snow. Even the most experienced driver from the North would have experienced the same fate. Needless to say, we don’t want to experience that again, so if the forecast calls for snow, we’re all staying home, thank you very much.

Celebrate the fact that the city’s sports curse is finally broken

Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Tyler Matzek (68) wears his World Series ring before a game against Cincinnati Reds at Truist Park on Saturday, April 9, 2022, in Atlanta. Branden Camp/For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Branden Camp, AJC Freelancer

For three long decades, Atlantans have grieved being afflicted with a sports curse – we would cheer our sports teams as they made it to the final rounds, only to be gloriously let down. This curse was at its strongest in the infamous Super Bowl LI where the Atlanta Falcons were in the lead for most of the game, only to be overtaken in the last few minutes by the Patriots. Then there are the Atlanta Hawks, who have made it to the NBA playoffs multiple times but have never won a championship. Thankfully, the Sports Curse was finally broken in 2021, when the Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros and won the World Series. We were so elated that our celebratory parade on Peachtree lasted a whopping 7 minutes - the buses and floats just couldn’t handle their excitement and zoomed at an alarming speed.

Don’t pronounce “Ponce” the way it’s supposed to be pronounced

Ponce City Market in Old Fourth Ward on May 2, 2022
Katrina Merto, Access Atlanta

Ponce de Leon Avenue is one of the city’s major thoroughfares, home to many quirky attractions that make Atlanta unique, such as the Clermont Lounge, Plaza Theatre, Ponce City Market, and Shaq’s Krispy Kreme (RIP). It’s also a street undergoing rapid development due to its proximity to the Atlanta BeltLine. If you pronounce the street “pon-say” and not “ponss”, then we’ll know you are new to the city. Yes, we know. You are pronouncing it correctly, and we are not. Legend goes that name originated from a couple of cold springs that were in use in the mid 1800′s where Ponce City Market currently stands. These springs tasted sulphurous yet allegedly had healing powers, an ode to the Fountain of Youth. The spirit of the fountain still exists, as Ponce is a perfect amalgam of the city’s past, present and future.

Make the pilgrimage to WaHo late at night to get your hashbrowns scattered, smothered and covered

Facts about Waffle House

Atlantans feel a special way about the yellow and black sign that lights up at night. Waffle House (or known locally as “WaHo”) is currently located in 25 states, but opened in Avondale Estates and is a very specific type of cultural icon in Atlanta. Grab a booth after a late night at the club and order the waffles with chocolate chips, patty melt, and of course, hash browns “scattered, smothered and covered” (you’ll thank us) and watch them cook in the beautifully chaotic open kitchen as you bite into a consummate taste of Atlanta.

Become a patron/customer of well-known brands that originated in Atlanta

Margaret Mitchell Square. Photo: Louie Favorite. Coke Sign. Jan. 8, 1981 (oldest Date).

What do Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, and Chick-Fil-A have in common? These brands were all started in Atlanta. John Pemberton invented Coca-Cola as a medicinal beverage which was later marketed by Asa Candler; Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus started The Home Depot to build a home improvement super-store, and Chick-Fil-A was started by S. Truett Cathy as a way to specialize in fast-food chicken sandwiches. In Atlanta, these names are all well-known, and there is a lot of pride associated with the brands (you won’t find a Pepsi here). Other well-known brands have corporate headquarters in Atlanta, including UPS, Delta, Papa John’s, and the U.S. subsidiaries of Porsche and Mercedes-Benz.

Celebrate African-American culture and history

Visitors walk around the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta on Dec. 22, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Hyosub Shin, Access Atlanta

The latest U.S. Census ranks African Americans as making up 49.8% of Atlanta, and the city has historically been known as being a center for black wealth in the United States. The city is the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and there is an entire section of the city preserved under the National Park Service that is dedicated to him and his legacy. Rap and hip-hop also have a prominent legacy here, led by Outkast, Usher, T.I., Ludacris, TLC, Lil Jon, 2Chainz, CeeLo, Childish Gambino, and too many more to name. And the Atlanta University Consortium has some of the country’s most prominent HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), including Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University.

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