I’m writing this post today for anyone in the Houston area that is considering a move to Atlanta. Why? Because I was in this exact position about 7 years ago. How does Atlanta compare with Houston? Will you like it? I’m going to compare/contrast the two cities and hopefully it’ll provide you with a better idea of what to expect.
(A bit of background so you understand my point of view: I lived in Houston for about 7 years from 2004-2011. I worked for an oil company over in the west side of town (the Energy Corridor off of I-10 & Eldridge). I first lived in an apartment off of Westheimer, then bought a house near Clay Rd & Hwy 6 (sort of in between Katy & the Houston city limits) and then I bought a townhome intown in the Washington Heights area (fairly close to Memorial Park). I also spent a lot of time in the Rice Village area after meeting my now husband who worked in the Medical District. I’ve been to some of the suburbs of Houston (Katy, Spring, the Woodlands), so I am familiar with those areas as well. I now live in an intown area in Atlanta near Midtown.)
If you don’t have time to read everything in detail, I’ve listed some quick comparisons between Houston and Atlanta.
Quick Comparisons of Houston vs Atlanta:
In summary here are some quick comparisons (these are my opinions only):
- Traffic – both are bad in either city
- Weather – Atlanta has better overall seasons & less humid. Houston’s humidity drags on for months.
- Food – Houston wins in terms of the most options (BBQ & Tex-Mex are the best!)
- Festivals – Atlanta has festivals going on all the time which I don’t recall as much in Houston.
- Neighborhoods – Atlanta has more unique, older established neighborhoods.
- Diversity – both are diverse, I feel like Houston may have the upper hand on this.
- Parks – Houston has Memorial Park. Atlanta has Piedmont and Chastain Park.
- Jogging Paths – I love the jogging/bike path along Allen Pkwy in Houston & also Terry Hershey Park. Atlanta has Path 400, the Silver Comet Trail, and the popular Beltline (not to be confused with Houston’s Beltway 8…huge difference there!). FYI – both cities have TONS of running race events and running groups.
- Transportation – Atlanta has MARTA and Houston has METRO.
- Professional Sports – Atlanta has the Atlanta Falcons (NFL), Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Atlanta United (Soccer), & Atlanta Braves (MLB); Houston has the Houston Texans (NFL), Houston Rockets (NBA), Houston Dynamo (Soccer), & Houston Astros (MLB)
- Suburbs – there’s too many to really list but a few major ones are Spring/Tomball is like Marietta. The Woodlands is like Alpharetta. Katy is like City of Decatur.
- Shopping – Houston’s Galleria is like Atlanta’s Lenox & Phipps Malls. Houston’s Memorial City Mall is like Atlanta’s Perimeter Mall. Houston’s CityCenter is like Atlanta’s Atlantic Station.
- Grocery Stores – Houston has HEB. Atlanta has Publix. Both have Kroger, Trader Joes, Sprouts, and Whole Foods. Houston also has Central Market & the closest comparison for Atlanta is Fresh Market (but it’s not as good as Central Market in my opinion)
I will now go over in more detail some of the major topics when comparing Houston to Atlanta:
The traffic in Houston and Atlanta are both horrible. Which one is worse? Hard to say. I haven’t lived in Houston for 7 years and I’ve heard that it’s only gotten worse — even with the I-10 expansion that happened back while I lived there, it has only gotten clogged up again. What I did love about Houston is the feeder roads. What a great concept. Atlanta does not have such a thing. Atlanta grew too fast and just didn’t have time to keep up with the demand. Another thing I miss about Houston – a good grid layout. Blocks are laid out in a grid-type pattern. I love symmetry! Atlanta has more of a spaghetti road system. Roads curve and it took me months if not a year to figure out where roads merged together. And every other street is some sort of Peachtree name. However, I’ve come to enjoy the character of the curvy streets and windy roads. It makes for a more fun drive. Overall, Atlanta has horrible traffic on all of it’s major highways but I don’t think I saw any difference on Houston’s roads except I think the Beltway which always seemed to flow pretty well. Atlanta does have the Marta train station but isn’t exactly perfect since it is only a few lines which is very limiting.
Wow, I forgot how HUMID Houston is! I guess I got used to the humidity when I lived there but now when I go back, I wonder how I ever put up with it for 8 months out of the year (or something like that). I am a big runner and I was so used to waking up and getting my long Saturday run in before the sun came up to “beat the heat.” After moving to Atlanta, I never found a running crew that ran on Saturday mornings before 7:00AM. Atlanta has really nice Springs and Falls – the nice, mild temperatures last for a great while. Houston had some nice days sprinkled in here and there but the majority of the days were overtaken with humidity. Yes, Atlanta does get HOT in the summer & can get humid (they call it Hotlanta for a reason) but in my honest opinion, the humidity doesn’t last nearly as long as in Houston. A few other notes – the pollen here in Atlanta during the Spring is something like I’ve never seen. Prepare to have your cars and outdoor furniture caked with green pollen. Side note – my allergies spiked up even worse here in Atlanta than in Houston. Both cities get their share of thunderstorms and Houston can be more proned to flooding. Both cities will get the occasional snow and of course the whole city shuts down. Or sometimes, it shuts down if there is just the tiniest threat of cold weather that might have a 10% chance of precipitation. Atlanta is pretty gun shy about cold weather after Snowmageddon 2014.
Trees & Landscape:
Houston is FLAT. Atlanta is HILLY. I actually welcome the hilly terrain. It adds a lot more character. In Houston, while training for the hilly Boston marathon, I remember having to run up parking garages to get my “hill” runs in. Here in Atlanta, there is no way to go on a run and avoid a hill. It took me about 1-2 months to get my shins & legs acclimated to the hilly terrain but it has definitely made me a stronger runner. Ok – I’ll stop about the running talk but the point is – Atlanta has some HILLS and it really gives the city a lot of charm in that regard. Atlanta also has a ton of trees! Atlanta is so serious about their trees that it requires special permitting to take one down. I know Houston has areas of nice mature trees as well (River Oaks, Rice Village, neighborhoods along Memorial Drive) but I also recall areas that have been bulldozed to build tons of new homes or townhomes and lack that aspect.
I am not a food critic by any means and actually prefer more simple dishes but here’s my take on the dining scene. Atlanta has the upper hand on the southern flair but Houston wins hands down on Tex-Mex & BBQ. I never knew how much I would miss Tex-Mex & BBQ. The best place I can find in Atlanta to get my bbq fix is Fox Bros BBQ (I miss Houston’s Goode Company BBQ or Rudys) and for Tex-Mex, the only place that is reasonable (in my mind) is Superica. Another thing I miss from Houston is simple cafes for the casual dinner where you don’t want to spend a ton but still get good food (such as Hungry’s, the Black Walnut, Cafe Express). Don’t get me wrong – there are good restaurants here in Atlanta too – but there just seemed to be more that I loved in Houston!
I didn’t pay a ton of attention to housing prices in Houston except for the couple of times I was looking for a home. Now that I switched careers since moving to Atlanta and do full time real estate, I obviously am more in tune with housing prices and locations. What I do know about Houston vs Atlanta is that I think the overall cost of living in Houston was cheaper. For one, Texas does not have state income taxes. However, if you are living in the intown areas of Houston (say, inside the 610 Loop), you will be paying for high taxes similar to what you would pay to live intown in Atlanta (inside the I-285 perimeter). I’m sure in both instances, depending on exactly where you live will warrant higher taxes than other areas based on schools. The one thing I did have to give up when moving to Atlanta was a garage. I live intown and in a rehabbed old 1930’s home, fairly close to Midtown. While there are homes with a garage (more common for it to be detached) there are still a number of homes that just have a driveway. I’ve gotten used to it but I do miss a garage when it is raining! Again, I am not in tune with Houston real estate prices these days so I am not going to compare house prices between cities.
I thought I’d share just a few other random things that randomly come to mind.
- Both cities are very diverse which I like. Atlanta has very large LGBT community which I was not aware of when I first moved here but if I’m not mistaken, I believe Houston does too.
- People are friendly in both cities and both exhibit southern hospitality.
- I think the Atlanta drivers are more aggressive.
- Both have large airports (Delta is headquartered in Atlanta & United headquartered in Houston)
- Atlanta has better zoning laws compared to Houston. I remember in Houston, you can find a strip club next to a restaurant/boutique store/etc. Houston also has a lot more billboard signs (for example, along I-45).
Need More Info? Let’s Chat!
I certainly cannot go into every tiny detail in a blog post but if you are in need of talking with someone that knows a bit about each city, then feel free to reach out to me. I’d of course be happy to help you in an Atlanta home search. Or, if you are reading this and are considering moving from Atlanta to Houston, let me hook you up with an excellent Houston real estate agent!