When you think of a city like Atlanta, it’s easy to imagine a sprawling metropolis: one in which the boundaries of bustling, urban influence radiate into every direction. So while a lot of people have heard of Decatur, with the quiet charm of its oak-lined streets and its laid-back, progressive culture, few newcomers realize just how close this town actually is to the action.
Atlanta’s city-within-a-city mixes progressive values with a Southern, small-town vibe. While the history of Decatur dates back nearly two centuries, the city has only recently entered a sort of Renaissance, and for good reason. Prospective homeowners, desirous of a location close to the city center, but more inclined toward owning a historic home (complete with yard and mailbox), have found Decatur’s convenient location to be an excellent compromise between the amenities of the city, and the easygoing values of an intimate, but highly inclusive community.
It’s for this reason that families, especially, choose Decatur as a starting point when considering a relocation to the Atlanta area: the school district is among the very best in the state; festivals geared toward all ages punctuate the calendar throughout the year; and for nights when a baby sitter can be procured, some of the best restaurants in the South are within easy walking distance.
Excellent public schools
A walkable, family-friendly community
An annual roster of festivals and events
Proximity to Atlanta’s center (20 minutes)
Streets lined with restored historic homes
A progressive population and an active LGBT community
Great restaurants and beautiful parks
Decatur is located on the Ponce Corridor, about six miles to the east of Atlanta’s center, and a couple of miles due west of I-285. As the seat of Dekalb county, Decatur lies at the center of a number of other, smaller communities that offer slightly different variations of this small town’s charm.
Spending the afternoon in Decatur, and arriving by car? The parking garage on Trinity Place (just a couple of blocks off the main square) offers a rare commodity in Atlanta: abundant and inexpensive parking.
Decatur takes great pride in its public library (The DeKalb County Public Library), and it’s not too uncommon to see Atlantans from as far away as OTP keeping a Decatur library card in their wallet. No matter where you end up living, check it out.
The same can be said of much of the Atlanta, but for Decatur, it’s especially true: talk to people. The folks who live here know the town like the back of their hands, and are always proud to point out some special spots to newcomers.
Decatur is known as having one of the best Public School Districts in the region—and to be sure, with 80% of property taxes going toward the school system, it’s a service the residents pay for. Still, for families looking for quality education, that factor is a selling point all by itself. Here’s a list of Decatur’s schools, from pre-school to post-grad.
City Schools of Decatur
College Heights ECLC (public preK)
Oakhurst Elementary (public K-3rd grade)
Winnona Park Elementary (public K-3rd grade)
5th Avenue School (public 4th-5th grade)
Renfroe Middle School (public 6th-8th grade)
Decatur High School (public 9th-12th grade)
Friends School of Atlanta (private)
School of the Oaks (private)
Agnes Scott College (private)
It’s hard to throw a stone in Decatur without hitting a patch of public greenspace. From tiny, quiet neighborhood squares to sprawling, tree-filled parks spanning several city blocks, there’s never an excuse to spend a pretty day inside. Here are a few favorites, just close by.
Oakhurst Dog Park
New to Atlanta?
Whether you’ve already slated your move to Atlanta, or are just considering this city as your new home, you’re likely going to be doing a lot of research. Every city has nuances, history, quirks, and jargon that can be confusing for newcomers, and Atlanta is no different. We’ve taken the liberty of providing a few basics with our Atlanta Beginner’s Guide. Check it out, and you’ll be feeling like a local in no time.
The Ponce de Leon corridor runs straight through Downtown Decatur. Traffic can be a little thick on this artery during peak hours, but it offers a straight shot to Midtown, or to the I-285 perimeter. Meanwhile, small neighborhood roads and surface streets grant easy access to the surrounding Atlanta neighborhoods.
The I-75/I-85 Connector is located about 6 miles to the west of Decatur, while I-285 lies about 2 miles to the east.
The Decatur MARTA station is located in the middle of downtown Decatur, just beneath the town square, granting regular, easy access to Atlanta’s main commerce and lifestyle hubs.
During your first visit to this county staple, pace yourself. It’s easy to spend a whole afternoon in this sprawling indoor market, which features vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses, fish and packaged specialty items from across the globe.
Held every Labor Day weekend, this literature lover’s event has become a staple in Decatur, with booksellers, artists, and food vendors lining the streets, and famous authors and speakers packing out the schedule.
Music lovers rejoice: this acoustic venue offers a daily lineup featuring some of the freshing voices in the South, making it one of the Atlanta Metro’s premier (but still intimate) places to catch a good act.
Lined by weathered hardwoods and the namesake bricks, this beer-infused gastro pub conjures up the feel of an ancient British mainstay, with a menu that has a few Southern twists up its sleeve. 125 E. Court Square, (404) 687-0990, brickstorepub.com
Drawing on the influence of Spain’s Iberian Peninsula, this eatery prides itself of an excellent selection of cured meats served in a polished but funky atmosphere, and a superb list of small-production wines not to be found elsewhere. 121 Sycamore St., (404) 371-8800, theiberianpigatl.com
“Farm-to-table” is a culinary style Atlanta knows well, but Chef Billy Allin’s take on the simplicity of local fare (prepared to perfection) has become especially renowned, making this eatery a reason in-and-of itself to spent an evening in Decatur. 155 Sycamore St., (404) 377-7994, cakesandalerestaurant.com
Public gardens are popular in Decatur, and a plot can be found pretty easily. But “urban agriculture” doesn’t stop there—raising chickens is actually a pretty popular pastime for Decatur residents, and a few support groups even exist, where members can exchange tips and information (in addition to some killer frittata recipes).