Surprising Small Town Atlanta
Article and photo by Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel
Strung north of big city Atlanta, a chain of small towns offers
everything that a traveler desires, but at a slower pace. Whether you're
looking for a weekend getaway or longer, these metro Atlanta villages will
surprise and delight you.
Saunter under the shaded porticos of Canton Street. The street's
historic buildings house one-of-a-kind specialty stores, restaurants,
antique shops and avant garde galleries. Step into the Raiford
Gallery, a contemporary gallery that features arts and crafts from local
artisans. Look for the jewelry made by silversmith and gallery owner Judie
Let the brick sidewalks lead you to a Southern trilogy of Greek Revival
antebellum mansions. Barrington Hall and Smith Plantation conjure up the
grace of the Old South, but Bulloch Hall is known for its presidential
heritage. Inside the elegant home, you'll find the room where Theodore
Roosevelt, Sr. married the Bulloch's youngest daughter, Mittie. The
couple's son, Teddy, became the 26 th president of the United States, and
their other son, Elliot, was the father of Eleanor, the future First Lady.
You can learn more of the Bulloch's family history in the house's Museum
Room. Later go outdoors where you'll find a summer house, reconstructed
slave quarters, lovely gardens, a museum shop and more. Make reservations
early to witness December's reenactment of Mittie's wedding to Theodore.
Families, young and old, flock to Alpharetta.
Plan a full fun day at Andretti Karting and Games that will engage the
entire family. NASCAR �wannabees� can suit up for a tear around the
in-door speedway in mini-racers. Lots slower but also designed for the
adventurous is a climb up the cosmic rock wall. Arcade games, bowling,
basketball and billiards provide hours of amusement. After working up an
appetite, there's no need to leave. Simply head back to mid-20 th century
and Ethyl's Diner, an in-house retro eatery. Afterwards, enjoy the evening
show at their Funny Farm Comedy Club.
Lucky young girls make a pilgrimage to North Point Mall to visit the
American Girl Boutique and Bistro � the only one in the Southeast. It's
the place to find the famous American Girl doll and her accessories. Dolls
are for sale but some girls arrive with their own doll for a girls' day
out. Everything centers on the youngsters and their dolls -- even a doll
Alpharetta's serious side honors veterans from all branches of the US
military who were engaged in conflicts from the Indian Wars to today's war
in Afghanistan. Incised in the walkways of almost 8,000 bricks are the
names of those who served. Throughout the park are monuments and maps that
spotlight each war. On exhibit in the park are a helicopter, tank and
15,000 pound twin gun mount. Call ahead if you'd like to arrange a tour
led by a veteran.
Scenic Sandy Springs
Water, water, almost everywhere in Sandy Springs and it's where the
Great Outdoors beckons. Ironically, small Sandy Spring's only a 15-minute
drive from downtown Atlanta.
The Chattahoochee River, that former president Jimmy Carter calls �one
of the most beautiful places in our country,� flows through Sandy Springs.
It attracts nature lovers and adventurers. Some come to stroll or picnic
along the seven-mile woodland trail. They search for the wildlife found
along the river's edge, bird watch or enjoy the profusion of wildflowers.
Others raft, canoe, kayak and fish in its waters. A visit to the
Chattahochee Nature Center offers an in-depth study of 30 species of
wildlife and 127 acres of plants, all native to Georgia. All ages can
experience the butterfly and bog gardens, boardwalk and interactive
A playful spirit runs through Marietta. For a quick overview of the
town, hop aboard the old-fashioned red trolley for a one-hour tour of
Marietta's rich history. Ride pass Victorian and antebellum mansions, the
1898 train depot, Marietta Square and out to the Civil War battlefields of
Stop by the iconic turn-of-the-century town square with its bandstand
and manicured shrubbery. It's where you may catch a play, a musical
performance or a quick nap on a bench. Enjoy the cafes, bars, galleries
and boutiques that surround it.
You might encounter that playful spirit (or one who's not so playful)
on the trolley's Ghosts of Marietta tour. The nighttime fully-narrated
ride shares the accounts of those who once lived and resided in Marietta,
but are neither gone nor forgotten. You will see and hear the stories of
haunted houses and even a haunted statue. But you'll never forget your
�spirited� stroll through Old City Cemetery. For the brave and hearty,
there's also a ghost walking tour.
Housed in the historic Kennesaw House, the Marietta Museum of History
is a �must-see� for dedicated history buffs and upcoming history buffs.
Learn about the Cherokee Indians that were forced from the area on the
�Trail of Tears,� and the gold rush to nearby Dahlonega. The Homelife
Gallery takes viewers down Memory Lane with period rooms and objects from
the 19 th and 20 th centuries. But the three-to-five age group is sure to
enjoy the fun Museum Mouse Tours that are designed to introduce them to
What classic movie is associated with Atlanta? Duh� like, Gone With
The Wind . Fans can relive it at the Marietta Gone With The Wind
Museum, located near the square. See the original honeymoon gown worn by
Vivian Leigh, (a.k.a. Scarlett O'Hara,) memorabilia from the famous film's
other stars, a display of GWTW movie posters and much more.
This short list of the towns near Atlanta will keep you busy and
entertained for quite a while. For more Small Town Atlanta travel, check
out the hamlets of Dunwoody, Gwinett and Villa Rica.
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