The 13 Most Exciting Suburbs Near Atlanta

Whether it’s Marietta, Woodstock, or College Park, these cities just outside of the ATL are perfect for a day visit.

If you’re from Georgia’s capital, you’ve probably experienced pretty much everything the city has to offer. But there are several suburbs outside of Atlanta that are more than worth the short drive for a little variety. The nostalgia of College Park, the vibrance of Johns Creek, or the lovely aesthetic of Roswell—the city’s Greater Metropolitan area has plenty of options for the quiet traveler or the youthful group of friends looking for things to do on a Saturday night. So, whenever you feel as though the speed of the 404 may be a bit too much, you can always switch gears at one of these surrounding locations.

City of College Park Government
City of College Park Government

Distance from Atlanta: 15 minutes
The city of College Park is arguably one of the most nostalgic places in the state of Georgia. It is home to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the Gateway Center Arena, a convenient MARTA station, along with many other establishments. If you travel to Main Street, you can experience a bevy of restaurants that serve great food, such as Nouveau, The Corner Grille, Tom, Dick and Hank, and Virgil’s Gullah Kitchen; or you can play pool or sing karaoke at Hammer’s Good Time Emporium on Virginia Avenue.

This neighborhood is also surrounded by East Point and Hapeville, two increasingly growing communities that have been considered a hub for Black-owned businesses, especially in recent years.

VisitDecaturGA
VisitDecaturGA

Distance from Atlanta: 20 minutes
Decatur is only a few minutes east of the city, but in recent years it has developed its own character as a hidden gem outside Atlanta’s Metropolitan area. Named after US Navy official Stephen Decatur, this rapidly expanding town has so much to offer, regardless of what you’re looking for.

Known for vast history, amazing food, and unique shopping options, “Decatur Where It’s Greater” is home to the James Beard-nominated restaurants Kimball House and Revival—both focusing on farm-fresh ingredients while staying true to the Southern cuisine that makes Georgia one of America’s top-tier travel destinations. Don’t feel like eating out? The Dekalb Farmers Market has a huge selection of meat, seafood, produce, pastries, and so much more. For all you history buffs, the city’s History Center provides comprehensive information about Decatur's chronology and was the actual site of the Civil War’s Battle of Atlanta. Located in the heart of Decatur, The Square features good eats from Brush Sushi Izakya and Calle Latina, clothing boutiques like Squash Blossom, and a quaint bookstore called Little Shop of Stories. Before you leave, you have to stop by SOS Tiki Bar for its island-themed ambiance, reasonably priced appetizers, and large list of cocktails and spirits.

Atlanta Braves
Atlanta Braves

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.

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area | EWY Media/Shutterstock

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 Mandolin Kitchen to 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.

Marietta Square Market
Marietta Square Market

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 and Australian Bakery Cafe with delicious hand pies. If you’re looking to imbibe, check out the 32 drafts at Two Birds TaphouseThe 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.

Gilly Brewing Co.
Gilly Brewing Co.

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.

Southern Belle Farm
Southern Belle Farm

Distance from Atlanta: 35 minutes
McDonough is a straight shot down I-75 South and is the perfect place to spend the day when you want to escape from the busy city of Atlanta. With so many options to choose from, whether it be the food, the sports events at Warhawk Stadium, or its variety of unique indoor activities, his town located in the heart of Henry County will always provide amazing memories.

The Southern Belle Farm is an outdoor experience for all seasons. There’s strawberry and peach picking during the summer months, a pumpkin patch in the fall, and some of the best Christmas trees to buy this side of the Mississippi. The C.O. Polk Interactive Museum puts a modern twist on the story of the city’s 200 years of history, and the Hood Street Arts Center hosts regular events for anyone who fancies any kind of art. Heritage Park is a must-see place whenever you go to McDonough. It contains Henry County’s first library building, large picnic area, and the Heritage Park Veterans Museum.

McDonough’s Main Street has always been a tourist attraction for its great eating spots such as Gritz Family RestaurantMacon Street Tacos, and KirbyG’s Diner & Ice Cream Parlor. Be sure to swing by The Square in May for the town’s 44th annual Geranium Festival.

Freight Kitchen & Tap
Freight Kitchen & Tap

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).

Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra
Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra

Distance from Atlanta: 40 minutes
Consistently ranked in the top three of the “Best of” cities list in Georgia, Johns Creek is definitely a place anyone would want to call home. This relatively young suburb (the city of Johns Creek was founded in 2006) has tons of parks and trails for outdoor activities and family fun, along with plenty of festivals dealing with the arts—in case you need a bit more culture in your system.

The cool thing about Johns Creek is that even though it’s a burgeoning city, it still maintains a small-town feel. Located along the Chattahoochee River, its National Recreation Area is a haven for fisherman and water lovers. You can go rafting, tubing, or canoeing on the river, or if you want to stay dry, take a walk along many of its beautiful land trails. Newtown Park is all-purpose: It includes the community garden, a dog park, the Veterans Memorial Walk, and the
Mark Burkhalter Amphitheater. The Johns Creek Arts Center is a great place to view some gorgeous art and it also offers classes for anyone ready and willing to learn. The North Atlanta Dance Theatre and the city’s Symphony Orchestra are great date night outings for any performing arts enthusiast.

Johns Creek has also established itself as one of the premier spots to grab great Italian food. After you’ve spent the day exploring the city’s many interactive locations, stop by Altobeli’s Restaurant & Piano Bar for some of the best fettuccine alfredo around.

City of Duluth, Georgia - City Hall
City of Duluth, Georgia - City Hall

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.

Old Mill Park
Old Mill Park | Michael O Lowe/Shutterstock

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.

Alpharetta City Center
Alpharetta City Center

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.

Bear's Best Atlanta
Bear's Best Atlanta

Distance from Atlanta: 50 minutes
In 2014, Google named Suwanee Georgia’s eCity due to its strong online business community, but this place is more known for its parks and interactive events suitable for folks of all ages. Sims Lake Park, the Suwanee Creek Greenway, and the Big Splash Interactive Fountain provides big fun for the kids, and there's also Bear’s Best Atlanta for all you golfers out there, which was home to Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament on the PGA Tour.

Suwanee is very eclectic when it comes to their restaurants. It features top notch Eastern cuisine spots such as Kang Seo and MoRi House, Mexican-inspired establishments like Don Bonachon Mexican Bar & Grill, and an Indonesian sports bar called Adda located right on Peachtree Parkway. In November, Town Center Park is host to the Walk To End Alzheimer’s, followed by its popular Chili Cook-off and Music Fest. Pull up and support.

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Lia Picard is a contributor for Thrillist.

Okla Jones is an Atlanta-based journalist who writes about food, fine arts, and entertainment. His work also appears in ESSENCE, Creative Loafing Atlanta, and Consequence of Sound. Follow him on Instagram at @coolhandoak.