I remember very clearly my first impression of Marietta. I had moved to Vinings from Boston in the late 90s and took a job in Kennesaw, so at one point, I found myself on Cobb Parkway when a giant chicken with moving eyes loomed before me. I remember asking my coworkers about what I had encountered. “That’s the Big Chicken!” they each exclaimed. My Northern transplanted self attributed it to be another eclectic trait of the South. As years passed, the Big Chicken became an endearing part of my drives and I became as eager as my coworkers to share in the whimsy by taking visiting friends and family to see it.
That wasn’t all I was ever doing in Marietta. Even after I moved from the area to Alpharetta and points northeast of Atlanta, I still make my way to Marietta’s Historic Old Square, which is a charming and utterly quaint town square with a park, events, theater and locally owned shops and restaurants that seem to be what Hallmark Channel movies are made of. Here are reasons to visit—and fall in love with—Marietta.
WHERE TO WANDER
Marietta is a full-fledged city that can throw you into life’s hustle and bustle with busy roads and high-adrenaline attractions like Six Flags White Water and Andretti Indoor Karting and Games. But its historic and natural areas can slow you right down and have you taking in the surroundings on foot, seemingly far removed from life’s craziness. Historic Marietta Square is the beating heart of Marietta, providing attractions, shops and dining within blocks so charming you’ll feel as if you are in a small town hours away from Atlanta. The beacon here is the Strand Marietta, which showcases live theater, concerts, events and film. Throughout the year, the Square becomes the gathering place for arts festivals, farmers’ markets, foodie events, and seasonal celebrations. In October, for example, HarvestFest fills the Square with scarecrows and pumpkins and brings artisans and crafters to the park to sell their wares.
There’s nothing that screams Southern tradition like “Gone With the Wind,” and while Margaret Mitchell lived in Atlanta, you’ll step back in time to her fictional Tara at Brumby Hall and Gardens. The 1851 home houses an extensive collection of memorabilia relating to both the book and the movie that Brumby houses in the Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum. For true history buffs, head down the road to see a real backdrop of the Civil War: Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park. While the preserved park is in Kennesaw, Marietta and its neighboring city both abut 1,808-foot Kennesaw Mountain. Visitors to Marietta
can find hiking trails and take in the views from the mountain’s heights. More outdoor pleasures can be found at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, where Sope Creek to the north and Cochran Shoals to the south feature hiking trails around the recreational area.
WHERE TO EAT
The best thing about visiting Historic Marietta, other than the fun and shopping, is the local restaurant scene just waiting to provide you with substance to continue your full day’s endeavors. And while Marietta is filled with places to eat, its best offerings can be found near the Square. wr Social House, for example, is meant to be a gathering place and, as it puts it, aims to bring diners the freshest ingredients it can get its hands on. (It serves a mean brunch!) While there is a second Stockyard Burgers and Bones in Atlanta, its Square location serves up some sticky-in-the-best-way ribs and two-handsrequired burgers with a pint of beer or a swig of bourbon. My favorite spots are Taqueria Tsunami’s fusion of Asian and Mexican foods for lunch and then dinner at Piastra Restaurant, where the Boston-bred chef/owner brings Italian cuisine that is as good as the North End for a little piece of home. Just outside the Square, but within walking distance, you’ll also find Two Birds Taphouse, a gastro pub with a solid range of local and regional beers served with Southern cuisine.
If you’re looking for serious date-night vibes, particularly after a show at the Strand, Mac’s Chop House is that old-school steakhouse: dimly lit, large martinis, even larger cuts of tender, mouthwatering steak. If you book well in advance and are lucky enough to get a table at the intimate Spring, one of the best restaurants in the Atlanta area and a James Beard Award semifinalist (twice!), your taste buds will be blown away. The Wagyu Beef Duo of ribeye and braised short rib is the most decadent dinner ever.
Of course, there is always a visit to the Big Chicken for finger-lickin-good fried chicken since it is an operational KFC!
WHERE TO SHOP
Nestled between the Cobb Galleria and Towne Center Malls, Marietta’s small-town shops provide a break from mass-marketed goods in chain stores lacking much soul. In Historic Marietta Square alone, you can find everything you need, from apparel to gifts, children’s items to home goods and much
more. Begin at Market with a B on Church Street, where hand-selected farmhouse décor, home provisions, gifts, women’s accessories and baby necessities can be found, then head next door for fashionable women’s clothing and accessories at Sarah Liz Boutique. Continue down to Square Threads for stylish looks for men, then pop across the street to Satoria on the Square for more distinctive women’s clothing. You’ll find adorable outfits and gifts at the children’s Rhino’s and Rhinestonz, and with Lizards & Lollipopz toy shop conveniently located next door. Before crossing Roswell Street, check out the gift ideas you can find at Doodlebugz.
You may need to pop back to the car to free your hands from shopping bags before tackling Roswell Street, where Bark Street Petopia provides pet-approved products, you can browse antiques at Antiques on the Square, find more gift ideas at The Corner Shop, be a kid in a candy store (literally) at Rocket Fizz, and pick up some gourmet groceries at The Local Exchange. There’s even an old-school record shop and costume shop!
But don’t think the rest of Marietta shouldn’t be explored. You’ll find boutiques and antique shops tucked all around the city and, whatever you do, don’t miss The Rustic Market on Kennesaw Avenue. This boutique gift shop is filled with hand- and locally made home décor, gifts, florals, bath products and more. This store has everything from clothing, footwear, leather goods and jewelry to even RM Interior’s furniture, textiles, lighting, art and home accents.
WHERE TO STAY
Marietta’s proximity to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Atlanta highways and the Cobb County Civic Center lends itself to chain hotels. You’ll find plenty of Hiltons, Marriotts and Hyatts and while it may seem the charm is missing in these accommodation selections, its gem is the Stanley House. Built in 1895, this stunning Victorian was the summer home of Dr. W.P. Stevens, the first doctorate professor in the state of Georgia and the uncle of President Woodrow Wilson. One of the most beautiful wedding venues in the Atlanta area, the Stanley House is a bed and breakfast featuring eight distinctive rooms, each with private bathrooms and king beds adorned with luxurious bedding. Accommodations are available for up to four in apartment-style offerings as well as furry companions in the dog-friendly suite. And, you may have guessed it: the Stanley House is located on the Square, too.
If a B&B isn’t for you, of the chain outfits, the Hilton Atlanta Marietta Hotel and Conference Center is tops with its estate-like presence overlooking City Club Marietta Golf Course. Also a popular reception venue, especially as it is located adjacent to Brumby Hall and Gardens, the hotel’s back veranda, complete with rocking chairs, is the perfect vista for taking in the greens and Kennesaw Mountain, and guests of the hotel are welcome to tackle the challenging 18-hole public golf course. Be sure to enjoy the views from the 250-seat Hamilton’s Restaurant, where floor-to-ceiling views practically bring the outdoors in as you sample New South cuisine.
To plan your day trip to Marietta, please visit visitmariettaga.com.