Alpharetta snuggles deeply into the fringe of suburban Atlanta and the town’s sophisticated cultural vibe keeps bringing visitors back.
Only an hour and a half from Chattanooga music lovers, shoppers and foodies find a cultural meeting ground in a small town. Going down Hardscrabble Road—the name is reminiscent of the 2010 novel of the same name by George Weinstein—this roadway in north Fulton County, runs through Georgia’s affluent Alpharetta. The homes here don’t match the hardscrabble moniker. They are large homes, spilling over what was once rolling farmland in this community of over 62,000, just minutes north of Atlanta. Many residents work in nearby tech companies that abound here too, yet the town draws visitors for a variety of reasons.
Little girls make pilgrimages for extraordinary dolls and parties at the American Girl Boutique and Bistro. Couples drive over for antiques and collectibles. Tribes of women come to shop and lunch. Music lovers come for concerts and songwriting workshops. Foodies come for events and festivals. Horseback riders haul into nearby Wills Park for shows or training at The Equestrian Reserve and to visit the Snooty Fox Tack Exchange.
The vibrant restaurant culture, the entertainment scene at Encore Park with its 12,000-seat Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and special events like the Wood & Wire Songwriter’s workshop, free arts and food festivals offer loads of entertainment, including culinary tourism.
Taste of Alpharetta is a popular annual festival that will be held May 12 this year, in downtown Alpharetta. The Thursday night event features 60 restaurants that serve from 5:00 p.m. through 10:00 p.m.. Admission is free and with the purchase of .50 food tickets patrons can sample $3.00 tasting plates—a great way to try new creations from area chefs.
“My favorite feature of local activities is that many of the events are free,” says Caitlin Blizzard, communications director for Awesome Alpharetta.
The highlight of a weekend here might even be one of three unique cooking schools. One features the only Publix Apron’s Atlanta Cooking School in the state of Georgia and one of only nine in the country. Sur La Table at North Point Mall features date night cookery of French, Italian, Spanish and Thai cuisines. Salud! Cooking at Whole Foods Avalon is a place where visiting chefs, artisans and authors lead affordable classes and the recreational kitchen offers culinary education for all ages.
The crown jewel in Alpharetta’s collection is Avalon, an emerging mixed-use development. The 86-acre site includes 500,000 square feet of retail, a 12-screen Regal Cinemas theater, 105,000 square feet of Class A office space over the retail, 101 single-family residences and 250 luxury rental homes. The developer, North American Properties Atlanta, also owns and manages Atlantic Station in Atlanta.
“While visiting Avalon you can enjoy a broad array of shops and restaurants, as you experience special events,” says Carla Toro, director of Marketing. Office space and a new Whole Foods Market are located just off the “Main Street” of Avalon. There are several fine dining restaurants and big-name retailers like Crate & Barrel alongside fountains in the landscaped avenue. Phase II of the complex, including luxury housing, is to be completed by end of 2017.
The city of Alpharetta is a certified Green Community and is taking steps to craft a land use plan while Marta’s rail transportation expands north from Atlanta to include commuters living in Alpharetta. During our brief stay-over in town we had a delightful lunch at Vinny’s on Windward, featuring rustic Italian food and one of several restaurants owned by the Sedgwick Restaurant Group. And later we enjoyed a jazz concert at the Chukker Farm Polo Club, a beautiful 100-acre farm and event facility that hosts thousands of visitors for Sunday polo matches (a $20 ticket at 2 p.m.), fundraisers, corporate outings and a variety of concerts.
Certain concerts are offered on the first Saturday of every month from May through November. They are produced by Home By Dark, featuring James Castro. From Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe to the clubs of New York City to airwaves across the globe, Castro’s percussive piano-pop, keyboards and soulful vocals have created a loyal fan base.
To enjoy music produced not only by Castro, but with many incredible performers at one of the most scenic venues in the region, visitors may reserve seating in the Pavilion by going online. General admission tickets may be purchased at the gate.
Chukker owner Jack Cashin is also creating an exceptional looking sculpture garden which is now emerging. Built in three phases it will offer 54 sculptures when completed. Twenty-two are now installed.
The next three-day event featuring live music and arts is Street Fest to be held on May 28-30 in the heart of Avalon. With so many activities planned throughout the summer, easy day trips and stay overs are sure to please.
For more information see: awesomealpharetta.com experienceAvalon.com vzwamp.com chukkerfarmpoloclub.com
Photography courtesy of Awesome Alpharetta