State Of The Suburbs
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State Of The Suburbs
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At Thrillist, we love big cities, but we also recognize the appeal of smaller towns with the same mix of great food, nightlife, and culture – plus a lower cost of living. That’s why we’ve partnered with the National Association of Realtors® on a content series highlighting the best suburbs of nine major cities, perfect for young urbanites who may be looking to buy a home. And when it’s time to start house hunting, check out HouseLogic.com, from NAR, for buying and selling advice to help you navigate loan options, bidding wars, and everything else it takes to close the deal. Dream home, here you come.
There’s no reason to wonder why Ray Charles crooned about Georgia being on his mind when you think about the sprawling metropolis that is Atlanta. Once nicknamed Terminus, since the city acted as the ending point of a railroad stretching north to Tennessee, Atlanta has surely come a long way from its beginnings as a sleepy southern city. Today, its suburbs are bursting with character and offer a draw away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown areas. More greenery. More space to live. Lower cost of living. A chance to build true community.

All that makes the Atlanta suburbs a desirable fit for any young adult looking to put down roots; in fact, its metro area is experiencing the third-largest population gain in the country (after Houston and Dallas). “Millennials continue to be the most active generation of buyers for five consecutive years now,” says Bill Rawlings, an Atlanta real estate agent and Realtor® -- a member of the National Association of Realtors®. “Contrary to popular belief, they are buying in the suburbs as opposed to in or near the city.”

So, ready to become a suburbanite? Whether you set your sights on a city within Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, or Gwinnett counties, get ready to call metro Atlanta your new home sweet home.
Village living near the city
In the 1900s, Smyrna was an overlooked city with a chiefly agricultural base and a downtown area that was akin to a ghost town. That all changed with the opening of Market Village in 2002, bringing condominiums, retail space, and several restaurants, now including Zucca Bar & Pizzeria, The Corner Taqueria, and Atkins Park Tavern, for residents (now numbering nearly 55,000) to dine out right in their neighborhood.

“We’ve been fortunate to have Smyrna as our home,” says chef Andre Gomez, who moved to town 10 years ago and opened his Argentinian-Puerto Rican fusion restaurant, Porch Light Latin Kitchen, in 2015. “I walk home from work. You really see a good bit of diversity. We’re close to the city, so we do get millennials -- people who want to downsize and get away.”

The thriving restaurant, bar, and things-to-do scene has made Smyrna a popular suburb, but the Cobb County city is still under a half-hour drive from the bustle of Atlanta via I-75 -- though you’ll feel thoroughly removed from the urban grit while you’re here. Often referred to as the ‘Jonquil City’ due to the abundance of jonquil flowers that can be found blossoming around town in the spring and summer months, Smyrna is also an attractive choice for outdoor lovers. There are 33 acres of parks and green space spread throughout the city, and Village Green, its multi-use community center, has a basketball court, fitness area, and even an arboretum.
Avondale Estates/Scottdale
Small towns with big tastes
Named for the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Avondale Estates, a tight-knit, small town in DeKalb County with a population around 3,000, has long been known for its Tudor-style architecture in the downtown square. But the city, less than 10 miles from downtown Atlanta, also makes a great pick for millennials because of the abundance of bigger lots in-town, kitschy local restaurants, and annual festivals, such as the Holiday Spirit Awards and the Easter Sunday Antique Car Parade.

Local eateries shine here; favorites include the comic-book themed Savage Pizza and Skips Chicago Dogs (which also serves hamburgers and cheesesteaks). It’s also home to the Waffle House Museum, which chronicles the humble beginnings of the ever popular Southeastern breakfast chain on the site of its first location.

Nestled next to Avondale Estates, as a suburban sister of sorts, is Scottdale, a town of approximately 11,000 residents. The biggest attraction in Scottdale is Your Dekalb Farmers Market, a sprawling indoor international market that’s open seven days per week and features a wide selection of produce, meat, fish, cheese, freshly baked bread, a pastry counter, and a hot bar where you can fix plates to go. Outdoor enthusiasts (or those looking to burn off all those calories from the market) can bike, walk, or run via the PATH Trail that cuts through Scottdale and leads to nearby Stone Mountain Park, roughly 10 miles away.
The new city on the block
This up-and-coming suburb about 10 miles northeast of Atlanta has a lot to offer, despite being a relatively new living option -- it officially became a city in 2012. That may make Brookhaven appealing to millennials that are likewise new to the suburbs, along with its medium size (population: 50,000), and easy access to downtown via I-85.

For a long time, this western DeKalb County suburb was known only as the home of Oglethorpe University, and before that, as the place where early 20th-century Atlantans chose to purchase summer cottages away from the commotion of the growing metropolis. Brookhaven is also unique as the first city in the state to be built and modeled around a golf course, Brookhaven Country Club.

It’s perhaps no surprise then that it’s a natural choice for those who love the outdoors and want biking and dog-walking options close to home. The city is known for its sprawling parks, particularly Blackburn Park and Murphey Candler Park. The latter, at 135 acres, is the largest park in Brookhaven and features a swimming pool, picnic tables for outdoor feasting in the summer months, tennis courts, a playground for children, walking trails for trekkers, and a stunning lake. The 50-acre Blackburn Park has tennis courts, baseball fields, and a community garden.

Brookhaven is also chock full of local-favorite restaurants and watering holes. Wine lovers will find a home away from home at Pour with its sizable wine list of global varieties. For those into the craftier side of things, There gastropub has a hipster vibe and locally-sourced eats. The Righteous Room is a Brookhaven institution serving bar eats like thick burgers, nachos, and baskets of fries, though the highlight has to be the giant tree growing in the middle of the room.
Shopping, entertainment & Atlanta’s own K-Town
Spanning 10 square miles with a population of nearly 30,000, Duluth, located 30 miles northeast of Atlanta in Gwinnett County, is chiefly known as the home of Gwinnett Place Mall. Chain retailers such as Macy’s, Foot Locker, Sears, and Express make it a destination for weekend shopping, while Infinite Energy Center brings concerts and theatrical performances to the city. (This year, highlights include the stage rendition of Annie and Josh Groban.)

Notably, a tight knit immigrant community has emerged in Duluth, particularly Korean-Americans and Latin Americans, so much so that a corridor of Pleasant Hill Road is known as Koreatown. Choose from a smattering of Korean BBQ options, such as Honey Pig or Jang Su Jang, Korean spa Jeju Sauna, and Super H Mart, an Asian grocery selling hard-to-find food items.

Other notable attractions (and reasons to consider making Duluth your homebase): the Duluth Arts Festival in the spring; the weekly Food Truck Friday held May through September, featuring a rotating lineup of vendors and live entertainment; and Town Green, a central gathering spot downtown with a fountain and picnic areas for the warmer months.
Indie restaurants with a side of history
A half-hour drive from Atlanta, Roswell, in north Fulton County, mimics small-town feel with the heart and energy of a bigger city. With a population of nearly 95,000, it’s the second-largest suburb in the metro area, and the pride of Roswell is the inner vein of Canton Street, a long corridor running through the city center lined with local shops, restaurants, and bars offering tastes for every palate, including a renowned steakhouse in Little Alley and wine bar Vin 25.

Aside from Canton Street, there’s a historic district encompassing some 43 sites including an old cemetery, several cottages, and Lover’s Rock, which was once used as a shelter by Native Americans. There’s also the family-friendly Chattahoochee Nature Center and two miles east, the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, where you can hike the five-mile Vickery Creek Trail for scenic views of a waterfall, covered bridge, and two historic mills.

Every third Thursday of the month, from April through October, the city explodes with activity as the Alive in Roswell festival literally takes to the streets. Held concurrently in three locations around town -- on Canton Street, in Historic Roswell Square, and near city hall -- the evening event features local bands for entertainment, face painting, ice cream, and food trucks such as Greek Tavern, Five Finger Philly, Brazilian Taste, and Chef Q’s Soul Shack.

Such local businesses are what makes the street party, and Roswell in general, special, according to Tom LaDow, executive director of Atlanta Plays It Forward, which manages the event. “It starts with the atmosphere that the local merchants have created,” he says. “Roswell has over 200 speciality restaurants that aren’t chains, and a huge majority of those are in the Historic District.”
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