Atlanta or Philadelphia?

Coming to Philadelphia from Atlanta three years ago, there was a lot to be excited about. A “bigger” city, with decent public transportation, that is pedestrian and bike friendly. And they recycle, WHAT? A dream come true. Except, I soon discovered it wasn’t all roses and rainbows in the city of brotherly love (and sisterly affection). This is sort of a practical guide to the pros and cons of both cities. I’ll let you be the judge.

Transportation

Philadelphia wins big in this department. Not only is SEPTA much smarter and reliable than MARTA, at this moment it is cheaper and easier to use (tokens, and cash versus breeze cards). I mean, how far can you get on a system that goes in 2.5 directions anyway? SEPTA is all around larger and more accessible. It is also convenient for us who are tired of the PPA and their antics. Parking Wars is a real thing here…take it from someone who will have paid the Philadelphia Parking Authority close to 700 in tickets and fines this year alone. Damn the man.

Another thing, the traffic in Atlanta is horrendous. The highway system makes no real sense (who thought I285 and combining I75/I85 was a good idea?). Anyone who lives in Atlanta knows not to travel on 75/85 between the hours of 2 and 7 p.m. on a Friday. You just don’t do it. I’ve never been in traffic more than an hour even during a Friday rush hour in Philadelphia.  And because ATL is such a sprawling metropolis, and MARTA is largely ineffective, you’re almost immobile without a car. I don’t know about you, but I can certainly live without getting in my car everyday and the constant reminder of the pillaging of mother earth. It literally makes me sick….

speaking of pillaging mother earth…

Environmental Issues

It is SO hard to recycle in Atlanta, and I’m not even sure why at this point. How incredible is it that many of the apartment complexes do not offer recycling to their residents. I literally had to take my recycling to Whole Foods and once got yelled at for storing it on my porch. It’s 2013, get with the program Atlanta. I will never understand this.

Another thing I will never understand is why people in Philadelphia litter so much. It is a travesty. There is a reason it’s called Filthadelphia, and this can make being a pedestrian uber unpleasant. A barrage of smells and trash accumulating at your feet on a daily basis. It’s just not right. Never have I seen people slow their cars to deposit trash on the street, until moving to Philadelphia of course. While I’m all for littering natural things that decompose or could have some other use in our eco system, I will never in a million years be okay with throwing down a styrofoam cup, or an aluminum can. It’s beyond trashy, and an epidemic for my brothers and sisters in Philadelphia.

Which would you choose?

Economy

For the same job, you’ll get less money in Philadelphia. There also seems to be a lot more underemployment in Philly, versus what I feel is over employment in Atlanta. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics both cities have a virtually identical unemployment rate. Both are too high if you ask me, but that’s coming from an “unemployed” person, ha.

Arts and Recreation

Here is one area where the cities might tie although I have one major grudge against the Philadelphia Summer…the lack of swimming pools. I recognize I am speaking from a hyper-privileged space on this one but it is almost enough to sway me back in the direction of Atlanta. It’s way too humid in this city for there not to be a swimming pool readily available. You would think with all this gentrification there would at least be more complexes with pools available, alas…Philly is not too keen on luxury.

As far as the parks and number of activities going on daily, the cities are evenly split. There is a lot to see and do in both places, though it’ll probably take you a lot longer to do anything in Atlanta since it’s significantly harder to get around. There is more history in Philadelphia, and because it is a more developed city chances are there are more happenings here, but Atlanta is definitely trying to step up it’s game, attracting a higher profile and a more diverse night life. Based on arts and cultural events, Philly edges out the victory.

Nightlife

Atlanta takes the cake in this department. Philadelphia is comprised mainly of bars versus Atlanta which has an array of night clubs or special events geared toward dancing. I am consistently disappointed by the lack of dancing in Philadelphia. It’s a real problem, and Philly is down a nightclub since Fluid closed recently. It’s really sad because I see a lot of potential, but I stand by my sentiment that Voyeur is the only legitimate nightclub in Philly.

In Atlanta, I could run through a list of spots to try out on any given night for a variety of people looking to get into something fun. In Philly…all I can offer is a place to drink away your dancing blues.

Food

Atlanta wins. There are still some parts of Philly I need to get to know, but I can find better food and for cheaper in Atlanta, and I don’t have to worry about bringing my own alcohol!

Weather and Geography

The temperatures are around the same. On some days it might be ten degrees warmer in either city. Atlanta has more of a dry heat and Philadelphia is very humid because of the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. Atlanta is definitely missing a body of water, how lucky that Philadelphia has two. I like all of the tall trees in Atlanta, Philadelphia is lacking in this department unless you go into west Philly or up north into Fairmount Park.

There are a lot more bugs in Georgia but I love being surrounded by the green space.

Vibe

When I first moved to Philly, I could feel the difference on the street level. People seem much more alive and in tune with each other and the world around them. One of my friends suggested that Atlanta is more isolating because of the amount of driving necessarily…it’s an interesting argument and partially true perhaps. I had one experience that pretty much sums it up.

One summer I was showing  some new Temple MFA students around the city. We passed a corner store in center city. A black woman dressed in scrubs was exiting the store and a white man wearing a suit and tie was entering. What seemed like abruptly to us but maybe not to them, they engaged in possibly the most perfect high five ever. “That was awesome” one of my school mates said. “That is Philly,” I responded. Things like that happen all the time here. People actually refer to each other as brother and sister.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Atlanta is a very nice city, people are extremely pleasant, they speak and smile at one another. Being the south, they are big on genteelness and pleasantries, but something seems more genuine about the camaraderie in Philly.

Crime is rampant in both cities, but somehow I’ve not managed to be affected by it in Philadelphia, although the statisitics are horrible. People in both cities are just trying to chill overall.

Conclusion

Philadelphia needs more swimming pools! Is there a place that offers the best of both worlds?

15 Responses

  1. ATL is a new place for segregated folks that work all day and party all night. And Philly is an old place for unemployed souls that watch the city decompose & then get together to grow food from the rubble.

  2. Brianna says:

    Loved this post. My hubby wants to move to Atlanta. He’s born and raised here in Philly and I’ve been here 10 years (transplant from DC/MD but originally from western NY). Your article provided interesting perspective and comparison. I have a ton of friends and family in Atlanta but as far as I’m concerned it’s just a great place to visit. The transportation, traffic, and sprawl are enough to keep me away. Lol And I would miss hoping in the car or train to go to the other nearby NE cities like NYC or DC. I love being in a tri-state area here with NJ and DE. We’ll see what happens. Great post! And Nile L.’s comment about growing food from the rubbish was too funny. Philly is surely big on sustainability.

    • Clay says:

      While Atlanta has nicer housing options, don’t do it. I just moved back to Atlanta after living in D.C. for two years and it was a mistake. I lived here 20 years previously and it never felt like home. The traffic in Atlanta is horrendous and it is all about North Metro/South Metro politics and they are ugly. We are staying a few more years for financial reasons, but then we are gone. I miss being able to go to NYC, Jersey, Baltimore, DC, Atlantic City, etc. in a few hours. I also miss being able to walk to neighborhood restaurants, shops and stores and I miss the metro. I wouldn’t move back to D.C. due to the cost of living, but I would move to Philly.

  3. Brandon shaw says:

    “Atlanta has more of a dry heat”? that’s got to be the first time I ever heard that, but it was good for a laugh.

  4. Molly says:

    Philly is my home & I live in Georgia. The weather is NOT the same. The winters in Philly are long, cold, snow, ice, & blizzards. The winters in Atlanta are no where near like the northeast. Also, Septa tends to go on strike (Philly is politically ran), so you may love it now. But you will hate it when the only available public transportation is the Regional Rail. Atlanta is a slower paced small city. I hate that there isn’t any closer city & beaches. In Philly, you can drive to Atlantic City, D.C., New York, Baltimore, & the coastal beaches (so there are way more options for fun & entertainment). Pennsylvania has set laws vs. Georgia changes them person to person (it’s all about “who you know” down here)

    • Vshawn says:

      Atlanta is way to over crowded and hot! Coming from chicago i moved to atlanta over a year ago and ive hated it from the start. Im over qualified for most of the jobs in my field and its very hard to find a good job unless you know someone. The nightlife in atlanta is cool but its so many nightclubs here that you can ride around for hours just to find one that has a large crowd unless you want to go to the hood spots and get your car broken into. Im moving to philly in a couple months because i think philly has more to offer i went to visit my brother and in the two weeks i was there i had six job offers as in atlanta they dont care if your qualified or not if you dont know anyone you will definitely be unemployed or making only 8 or 9 bucks an hour, nice city but definitely a mistake moving to atlanta

      • Brandie Moore says:

        Oh wow! your experience sounds like mine. Wondering how things are going for you in Philly. Thinking of making the same move. I have a Masters Degree and still can’t find the right job. To make matters worse, I’m working 3 jobs like a Jamaican in Atlanta. Never experienced this in New York. Hoping your Philly experience is better.

  5. Tee says:

    Thanks for the blog post. Let me first say that I’m a true born and breed GA Peach who recently relocated to Philadelphia specifically in suburbs west of the city. I relocated for work because I felt my career options were limited in Atlanta for my particular field. While my salary is very good I’m experiencing a bit of culture shock. Rent and utilities are incredibly expensive for quality of housing (size, age, other amenities). I own a home in Atlanta. My rent in Philly is more than my mortgage and I’m living in an 1.5 bed apartment that looks damn near like the projects in Georgia. Now that’s a shame! So I find Philly to be more expensive and that you get more bang for your buck in Atl. I was truly astonished at how dirty the city is. There’s a lack of respect for the community and the environment. Even the airport is filthy …. What a way to welcome people your city. We recycle in Atl, it was probably just your apartment complex. I also find my current area to be incredibly isolated and homogeneous. The lack of diversity is sad and I wasn’t surprised by recent presidential election. Atlanta is far more diverse than we’re I’m currently living. But seems to be alittle more diverse in the heart of Philly. Lastly, if I want pizza and pasta Philly’s where it’s at! However hands down the food in Atlanta is much much better across all cuisines. I can’t tell you how much money I’ve wasted on horrible bland food. Oh I agree about with your comment about the lack of swimming pools. Also not as many festivals as Atlanta either. But I do like Septa and Amtrak. Also that New York, DC, NJ are jump skip away. Oh and beaches here aren’t the best (stinky water) …save up for a trip to the Caribbean like Georgians do.

  6. jcrizzo says:

    Philadelphia is a city that at first glance I would think I’d like WAY more than Atlanta.

    It’s walkable, it’s beautiful, the architecture is amazing, the skyline is great, it’s location is also nice. From an urban planning standpoint, it’s simply no contest.

    However that’s where things end for me, and after visiting and a lot of looking on yelp and research I decided against Philadelphia.

    Why?
    There is simply way more going on in Atlanta in terms of events as it’s THE hub of an entire region, whereas Philly plays 4th best city for the Northeast. The restaurant scene is better in Atlanta. The types of jobs and companies in Atlanta are better. There seems to be way more successful people in Atlanta. The nightlife in Atlanta is better as well.

    There was a time in my life where I’d choose the super urban Philly environment over Atlanta, but now I’ll choose where I can get a better overall amenities and opportunity. It’s the same reason I’d choose sprawled out LA over Philly too… way more things to do, even if not packaged in a walkable environment.

    If I moved back to the NE, it would be to NYC or DC… not Philadelphia, there’s a reason it’s so cheap compared to Boston/NY/DC… the amenities and quality of life simply aren’t there.

  7. Keary Williams says:

    Philly I have love in my heart for but Atlanta is where my heart is.
    Philly is just too rundown but has made remarkable progress.
    However its expensive.Just not worth paying what I would there when Id rather live in NYC for what I would pay in rent.

    Atlanta weather is MUCH better.It was 65F yesterday in January.We dont ever really get snow.

    Also Philly is a bit brash for me but its also down to earth.
    Anybody saying that Atlanta has no jobs,are just not used to competition and they are usually living beyond their means.
    I cant afford to live in Buckhead so I move where its much cheaper in the suburbs until I save enough to by a bigger nicer house in one of the cities neighborhoods..
    To those complaining about not having walkable options in Atlanta but live in Marietta or Dunwoody, that’s not Atlanta!
    There are PLENTY of decent affordable neighborhoods that are extremely walk able and close to transit.
    After livng in South Jersey and visiting Philly every other summer to stay with many relatives,I know Philly well and love it but would never move there.
    Not one of my many relatives in Philly have moved to Atlanta and moved back accept one.
    None of my Atlanta or Georgia relatives have moved to Philly since 1920 so that should tell you something also.
    Philly is a place you visit,Atlanta is a place you live.

    • Lee says:

      Which neighborhoods to do you recommend in Atlanta? I’d like to be closer than Marietta but it seems like IP is expensive????? I have a 250K housing budget and am considering moving to the Atlanta area…thanks!

    • jcrizzo says:

      I agree, Atlanta is a nicer place to live. Sure you can look at Philly being next to NYC… but if I’m going to put up with that weather and prices, I’d rather just pay a tad more and live in NYC then call it a day.

      Atlanta has better jobs, but is also more competitive than Philadelphia. Philadelphia is the 4th best job center in the NE, the highly competitive usually go to NYC or DC, even Boston.

      The highly competitive people in the southeast that want to stay in the southeast almost all go to Atlanta, that’s the big difference. Atlanta is a high profile city with a lot going on just in a sprawled out package.

      • jcrizzo says:

        Atlanta is also significantly more diverse metro wide and transplant friendly. People drive from a 200 square mile area to use Atlanta airport, go shopping, etc. NYC steals Philly’s thunder in that regard. Philly also has really bad areas, worse than Atlanta I’d say. Center city Philly is the trump card that Atlanta doesn’t have. But its surrounded by slums in every direction. But Atlanta has more interesting areas in many more places being a multi nodal metro area.

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