Day Trip: Alpharetta

Written By: Lissa Poirot

WHEN I moved to Alpharetta in 2000 from “Inside the Perimeter,” my city friends swore they’d never travel so far north. I moved up to the area because a job relocated to Windward Parkway, where

many corporations were moving, but there weren’t too many places to grab lunch or entertain friends back then.

My early days in Alpharetta were spent walking and running along the Big Creek Greenway, taking my toddlers to play at Wills Park or the indoor playground at North Point Mall on rainy days, and practically dining every Friday night at my favorite restaurant, Village Tavern. In those early days, the Taste of Alpharetta was a small and manageable event and walking to see fireworks was a piece of cake.

It didn’t take long until an outdoor concert venue was also created just around the corner from my home. No more driving to Chastain! (My first show at then-named Verizon Amphitheatre was Stone Temple Pilots.) It took some time for the new Avalon shopping area to be developed.

It seemed like ages were spent overcoming the fallout of the Great Recession, getting approvals and clearing the land before construction finally began.

And now, after all of these years, Alpharetta is no longer the remote location it was more than 20 years ago. In fact, today, it is a thriving destination for “out of towners” to visit. We have the shopping, the dining, the festivals, the outdoor spaces, the music and the events—and all of the places I loved in the early days are still here. We are perfectly nestled in between the city and all the great things to explore in the North Georgia Mountains.

If you are looking for a weekend getaway or just a day trip, let me tell you about everything you can do and see in my favorite spot in Georgia. (And yes, I am unapologetically biased.)

WHERE TO WANDER

When I first moved to Georgia from Boston, my favorite thing was how much music and outdoor activity there is to enjoy. Alpharetta has earned the nickname Music City for its live music scene. The Amphitheatre, now called Ameris Bank Amphitheatre, brings national acts to its outdoor setting with room for 12,000. More live music can be found every Friday night at Avalon from 6 to 8 p.m. (free!) to kickstart your weekend for Avalon Nights Live. Near City Hall, Brooke Street Park provides more free outdoor music—just bring a chair. But our coolest music joint around is Matilda’s Music Under the Pines in nearby Milton. Showcasing local and regional artists, it feels like you’ve stumbled on a concert in the woods when you arrive. Plus, you can bring your own food and drinks while you enjoy the shows. Then again, Jazz lovers will prefer a stop into the Velvet Note Jazz Club. Renowned artists come through these doors and you can enjoy a southern-inspired seafood menu for dinner, music and a show all in one.

When it comes to being outdoors, the Big Creek Greenway is 9 miles of paved space for bike rides, walks, rollerblading, you name it. The Greenway extends beyond Alpharetta into Forsyth County and Roswell, and with its 12-foot-wide pathways, it’s the best way to squeeze in some physical activity.

Over at Wills Park, you’ll find one of the most incredible playgrounds for your kids, all enclosed by a fence so you won’t have to worry about losing them inside the fortress-themed playground that gives them a chance to climb and hide. Wills also boasts a dog park for pet parents and their furry friends, with yappy hour. There is an Equestrian Center here, too, which brings horse shows and even rodeos. Of course, live music and festivals often take place here, as well.

One of the most popular spots, especially for the gents, is Top Golf. This national chain creates an entertainment destination around golf. You can play, eat, grab drinks and have fun all in one large space for a great boy’s night out.

WHERE TO EAT

Since my early days in Alpharetta, I’ve never needed to travel far to find delicious fare. As aforementioned, my go-to remains Village Tavern near Haynes Bridge Road. A traditional steakhouse décor of dark woods with a massive stone fireplace, and high-backed booths for intimate settings, the menu is classic American paired with an extensive wine list.

Another favorite that has survived for decades is Pure Taqueria on Roswell Street. Built into the old Pure gas station for which the Mexican hotspot got its name, windowed garage doors can roll on up and let the air in or close during cold winter nights. Founders’ Chris and Michele Sedgwick provide a lively atmosphere with food and drinks with a twist.

Along Main Street and Milton Avenue in the Historic District are so many restaurants you can park your car and play eeny-meeny-miney-mo to choose which one can be your Saturday nightspot. Will it be barbecue from Smokejack BBQ (also a long-time staple), local brews from Currahee Brewing Co. or Jekyll Brewing, ceviche from Ceviche Taqueria & Margarita Bar, the lively beer hall that is Truck & Tap, gastropub fare at Butcher & Brew, soul food from Citizen Soul, brunch fare at Never Enough Thyme, Indian food at Curry Up Now, ramen from JINYA Ramen Bar, or pub fare Central City Tavern? And I haven’t even listed every restaurant in the five-block radius!

Old Milton Parkway’s stylish live, work and play destination, Avalon, also offers multiple restaurants within blocks of one another. You’ll find healthy and vegan options at True Food Kitchen, a Napa-style wine bar CRU, sushi and Japanese fare at MF Bar, Persian cuisine at Rumi’s Kitchen, south of the border cuisine at Superica, and more American grub at Kona Grill.

In northern Alpharetta’s Windward Parkway area, there are ample chain restaurants and some long-time beloved restaurants like the old-school steakhouse, Cabernet, and the Italian restaurant owned by the Sedgwicks, Vinny’s on Windward.

Head just a stone’s throw down Route 400 to Halcyon in Forsyth, for another mixed-use space with more restaurants to frequent. CT Al Pastor and Cantina Taqueria both provide Mexican fare, Cattle Shed is an upscale wine and steak bar, and casual American restaurants Cherry Street Brewpub and HOBNOB Neighborhood Tavern will provide something for even the most-picky diners.

There is no shortage of places to eat in Alpharetta—which is why one festival you should never miss is A Taste of Alpharetta. When I first attended, the festival was 10 years old, and I found myself struggling to try something from every restaurant. Now in its 30th year, the annual May event gives you a chance to try samples from the area restaurants, making it easier for you to narrow down your choices when you visit, because there are more than 200 dining choices in Alpharetta!

WHERE TO SHOP

Shopping is a mainstay of Alpharetta. After decades, North Point Mall isn’t quite what it used to be, but plans are in place to transform the old mall into an open-air, multi-use shopping complex known as The Point. But that’s not an issue, considering Avalon already offers a place where shopping, dining, events, and fun and games are ready daily. From live music to family- and dog-friendly activities, Avalon is more than a shopping destination.

But if boutiques and local shopping are as important to you as to us, plenty of shops specifically support local owners. Favorites include Magnolia Moon for affordable fashion, Perched for farmhouse-chic home décor and gifts, Hemline for Boho styles, and Dress Up for fashionable accessories. All are on Market Street in the Historic District.

Halcyon is limited in shopping as a newer addition to the area. Still, you’ll find Nina + Leigh for women’s fashion, Derbyshire for men’s style, and RW Design & Exchange for quality furnishing and décor for your home.

If you haven’t already guessed, like dining, shopping is a main feature of our North Fulton town. Within a 5-mile radius are more than 250 shops! This is the place to go to bang out your holiday shopping in one fell swoop.

WHERE TO STAY

Back in the day, when family and friends came to visit and needed a hotel, the options were limited to run-of-the-mill chains. Today, my favorite recommendations can be found at Avalon. Park your car, check-in, and then have several restaurants within walking distance. The Hotel at Avalon, Autograph Collection, is an upscale, boutique-style hotel operated by Marriott. Rooms and suites here feel like you are in a stylish city apartment with dark hardwood floors, high ceilings with crown molding, and hues of whites and blues. Guests can borrow complimentary bikes or request a courtesy car or pedicab within 3 miles, which means you can get to Main Street for local, one-of-a-kind shops, or hit the Greenway. Plus, it’s pet-friendly, which I often seek because I rarely go anywhere without my corgi.

Near the Greenway, you will find an adorable tiny house available on Airbnb. The equestrian-themed cabin, called Serenity Now is located next to the owner’s pony barn. Guests in the South Forsyth house can meet the ponies and enjoy the 4-acre horse farm.

Alpharetta’s first truly boutique property, The Hamilton, recently opened in the Historic District, just steps from Main Street and the multitude of restaurants and bars. A Curio Collection by Hilton property, the hotel has vintage charm but in an artfully modern setting. Besides its relaxing and cool rooms, find the Roaring 20s living on by entering RoSo Clothiers. Here, a secret password will open a door into Roaring Social, with velvet couches, jazz music, bowling and old-fashioned cocktails.

Are you in New York or Alpharetta?

To plan your day trip to Alpharetta, please visit awesomealpharetta.com.

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