5 cool downtowns near Atlanta worth exploring

Downtown Duluth has dozens of shops, boutiques and restaurants along Main Street on Thursday, Feb 11, 2021. City Hall is adjacent to an outdoor amphitheater and the community is biker and pedestrian friendly. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Downtown Atlanta has tons of options for food, shopping and entertainment, but a trip outside of the perimeter can be just as exciting.

Expand your circular bypass horizons with a tour through the quaint downtowns that dot the metro area. Some boast nearby walking trails and mountainous views, others offer unique festivals and one-of-a-kind diners. And you don’t even need a full tank of gas to experience it all.

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Ready to take a mini-road trip to escape from the hustle and bustle of big-city living? Here are a few destinations to get you going.


A 30-minute drive northwest of Atlanta will take you to a charming town with plenty of dining spots and attractions that will appeal to everyone. Take a free ride on the trolley to the Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta for a shopping spree at designer stores; the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Amphitheater for concerts from May to September; or Reformation Brewery for a taste of some good craft beers.

You can also partake in Friday Night Live, an event series that happens the first Friday of every month. Participating merchants offer creative activities and discounts on products, as live music plays throughout the area.

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Want to enjoy nature? There are a few neighboring walking and biking trails, such as the Noonday Creek Trail, with numerous river access points perfect for the outdoor enthusiast.

Location: Downtown Woodstock - 1 Innovation Way, Woodstock, GA 30188; Website: downtownwoodstock.org


Marietta Square is at the heart of this Cobb County city. It’s just north of I-285 and boasts a variety of restaurants including Taqueria Tsunami and Marietta Square Market — a curated selection of 18 restaurants. It’s speckled with a slew of specialty shops like Eddie’s Trick Shop, Marietta Wine Market and Bark Street Petopia.

For a dose of culture, you can make your way to the Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre, which hosts live theatrical and musical productions and films, and the Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art, where you can take in cool exhibits.

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You can always count on the weekly farmers market, open on Saturdays April through December, for locally sourced fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other goods. And don’t miss out on popular events like the Taste of Marietta in April, HarvestFest and Scarecrows In The Square in October, and the Veterans Day parade in November.

Location: Marietta Square - 99 S Park Square NE, Marietta, GA 30060; Website: mariettasquare.com


Travel about 30 miles north of Atlanta to spend a day in Suwanee. The Town Center includes a 10-acre park, centered around the largest interactive fountain in Gwinnett County; a glass-fronted City Hall; and a terraced amphitheater for concerts and plays.

The grassy area is also surrounded by connecting walkways with shops and restaurants, such as Tequila Mama Taqueria, and Ippolito’s, which serves classic and specialty Italian dishes.

Location: Suwanee Town Center Park - 330 Town Center Ave, Suwanee, GA 30024; Website: suwanee.com

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A plethora of dining and shopping selections are available as well. You can feast at Salt Factory Pub for some American eats or try South Main Kitchen if you’re in the mood for upscale comfort food. Browse through fancy and affordable fashions and home goods at boutiques like La Bella Maison or Alpharetta Outfitters.

Location: Downtown Alpharetta - 35 Milton Ave, Alpharetta, GA 30009; Website: awesomealpharetta.com

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