Lifestyle

The Eight Most Exciting Suburbs Outside Atlanta

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You might be reluctant to admit it, but the suburbs of Atlanta have a lot to offer. If you need to escape town for a few hours for a change of scenery, you don’t have to go very far. From exciting dining to nature experiences, here are eight suburbs to check out (don’t forget your mask!). We won’t judge you if you want to stay.

Marietta

Distance from Atlanta: 30 minutes
Located northwest of Atlanta, Marietta is pretty easy to get to by shooting up 75. The heart of the city is Marietta Square, built in the 19th-century around a park donated by Mayor John Glover (hence the park’s name, Glover Park). The park itself is beautiful with shady trees, benches, a fountain, and a performance area. It may also seem vaguely familiar because it gets used in films from time to time. 

The real draw is the food. There’s something for everyone from the minimalist-fancy Spring, the current takeout only Butcher and The Baker, and Australian Bakery Cafe with delicious hand pies. If you’re looking to imbibe, check out the 32 drafts at Two Birds Taphouse, The Third Door for a more speakeasy-like experience, or Glover Park Brewery for some local craft beer. For a plethora of options, drop into Marietta Square Market with food stalls like D’Cuban Cafe, Creme de la Crepe, and Four Fat Cows. There’s plenty of places to sit outside or take your food to Glover Park. Located about a half-mile away in a historic neighborhood is Sessions Stand. The couple behind The Butcher and The Baker, Katie and Micah Pfister, opened it as a coffee shop that also doubles as a baking space. Expect delicious pastries, locally roasted coffee by Rev, and flower arrangements by Dianthus and Co.

Roswell

Distance from Atlanta: 40 minutes
At first glance, Roswell might look like a typical suburb but then you arrive at Canton Street and it suddenly becomes quite picturesque. The city has roots as a manufacturing town when Roswell King set up his mills in the 1800s. In 1996, when Atlanta hosted the Olympics, money was poured into the beautification efforts of small towns including Roswell which led to Canton Street becoming so walkable. Now you can stroll down and admire the historic buildings, green spaces, and grab a bite at one of the reputable restaurants. 

If you visit for brunch or breakfast, definitely visit Fellows Cafe. The historic former cottage has indoor and outdoor seating and a killer menu with options ranging from ricotta pancakes, sweet potato eggs benedict, and various toasts. If you come for dinner, it’s a close call between Table & Main, known for Southern fare like fried chicken and short rib, and its sister restaurant Osteria Mattone, known for housemade pasta and pizza. Whichever one you choose, plan on making a reservation. 

Roswell is also known for its beautiful parks and trails. The aptly named Old Mill Park takes you by mills along Big Creek including the old machine shop which is the last structure left of Roswell Manufacturing Company. Riverside Park has walking trails and play areas by the Chattahoochee River as well as a boat launch.

Woodstock

Distance from Atlanta: 35 minutes
Sorry to disappoint, but Woodstock isn’t a hippie haven. It’s not clear how the town got its name, but apparently it’s been called Woodstock since 1833. Today, it has a charming downtown with plenty of restaurants, like Century House Tavern (actually set in an old house!) and Freight Kitchen and Tap, and shops, like Spirited and Antiques by Samson and Delilah to explore. 

If you’re a mountain biker, you will want to make the trip for Blankets Creek alone. The trail system is of national repute and is accommodating of everyone from beginner to expert mountain bikers (you’ll want to check the trail status first).

Alpharetta

Distance from Atlanta: 40 minutes
Another northern suburb, Alpharetta has experienced booming development in recent years between mixed-use development Avalon and the transformation of its downtown now known as Alpharetta City Center. Head to Avalon if you want the more corporate experience with a stadium movie theater (temporarily closed), commercial shops like Banana Republic, and Ford Fry’s popular Mexican joint Superica. It’s beautifully designed with a central green space and most of the restaurants have outdoor seating.

Alpharetta City Center also mixed-use but blended new buildings with historic ones when the city expanded its downtown by six blocks. The restaurants and shops here are mostly locally-owned. If you're hungry, grab a bite from Never Enough Thyme (a cafe with soups and salads), Coalition Food and Beverage (modern comfort food), or Restaurant Holmes. Head to Valor Coffee for a caffeine fix and Crave Pie Studio for a sweet treat. 

If you want to stretch your legs, go for a stroll on the Big Creek Greenway.The eight-mile trail is paved and there’s also a wetlands trail made of mulch (accessed near Northpoint Mall) that allows you to see wildlife like herons and deer.

Duluth

Distance from Atlanta: 40 minutes
Duluth is located northeast of Atlanta and known for its parks and green spaces, whether that's the nearly 50-acre Scott Hudgens Park, which has access to the Chattahoochee River, or Rogers Bridge Park with its historic steel bridge that spans the river. Duluth’s Town Green hosts festivals throughout the year (when there's not a pandemic) and is home to delicious food like O4W Pizza, micro food hall Sweet Octopus, Crave Pie Studio, and the market Provisions on Main.

Duluth also boasts a large Korean community with plenty of Korean-owned restaurants to support like Breakers BBQ, Dan Moo Ji which serves twists on Korean classics, and Thank U Chicken.

Smyrna

Distance from Atlanta: 25 minutes 
Located northwest of Atlanta, Smyrna is pretty residential but chock-full of gems worth seeking out. It’s also adjacent to the part of Atlanta that’s home to The Battery (remember baseball games? That's where Truist Park is located). For starters, the Silver Comet Trail starts in Smyrna and is worth seeking out whether you're a pedestrian or cyclist. It’s 61.5 miles of paved trail that ends at the Georgia-Alabama line. It's pretty flat and offers lots of greenery along the way. 

When it comes to food, Muss & Turners and its speakeasy, Eleanor’s, are a must-visit. Whether you go during the day for one of its famous sandwiches (like Swifty’s Dream with slow smoked pulled pork, barbecue sauce, bacon, and horseradish slaw on a brioche bun) or at night for one of the creative dishes like mushroom “bourguignon,” you’ll leave with a happy belly. Nearby is Porch Light Latin Kitchen, which currently is takeout-only, but no less worthy of attention thanks to chef Andre Gomez’s skills when it comes to preparing pan-Latin dishes. Fueling up at Rev Coffee, located in a former Mercedes Benz garage, is mandatory. The coffee is roasted on premises and you can get delicious drip or espresso drinks.

Sandy Springs

Distance from Atlanta: 30 minutes
Sandy Springs borders Buckhead and sprawls north to border Roswell. If you like ogling fancy real estate, drive through the neighborhoods of Sandy Springs, which also happens to be the home of Mercedes Benz’s U.S. headquarters. Drive down the main thoroughfare of Roswell Road and you’ll find vintage furniture shop Kudzu & Company and resale clothing store Rag-O-Rama. Dining options are incredibly diverse from Pho24 and Mandolin Kitchen to the forthcoming Plant Based Pizzeria, which is wildly popular in Atlanta for vegan pizza. 

The mixed-use development City Springs is home to a performing arts center and city hall, as well as a beautiful green space (hello, splash pad!). Here, there are even more dining options like the exciting second location of The General Muir, the French-inspired bistro The Select, and an outpost of health-minded chain Flower Child

Sandy Springs is also known for its recreational areas, like the 30-acre riverside Morgan Falls Overlook Park and trails within the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. It’s easy to feel quite secluded despite only being a few minutes from the perimeter and bustling Roswell Road.

Stone Mountain

Distance from Atlanta: 30 minutes
Located east of Atlanta, Stone Mountain might conjure images of a racist monadnock, but the actual town has more to offer. For starters, the team at Gilly Brew Bar serves creative coffee elixirs that you won’t find at coffee shops in town. Some change seasonally, but you might find Elixir Chapter 2 made with Colombian coffee infused with house-made ginger jam or the Elixir Chapter 4, which features nitro coffee infused with a Boulevardier-inspired mixer, maraschino cherries, and grapefruit-maple syrup. Nearby is Sweet Potato Cafe, a cozy spot that serves salads and soup and, yes, plenty of sweet potato dishes including sweet potato souffle, veggie loaded sweet potato, and sweet potato biscuits.

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Lia Picard is a contributor for Thrillist. 
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