Alpharetta, Georgia, jewel in the south

Often referred to as the “Technology City of the South”, Alpharetta, GA sits on the northern fringes of Atlanta’s sprawling suburbia and as a tech hub, boasts more than 900 technology companies in the greater Alpharetta area.

But that’s not all the city has going for it. There’s a home-town appeal with a quaint, up-and-coming downtown area filled with history, local restaurants and boutiques. And Alpharetta’s newest crown jewel is the Avalon, a $600 million mixed-use community that is making waves in real estate circles as the way to incorporate new urbanism development into an existing city.

A large outdoor amphitheater that attracts high-profile performers, one of a handful of Top Golf locations in the U.S. and one of only two American Girl Boutique and Bistro’s in the Southeast make Alpharetta the perfect escape for the whole family.

 

Pink out

Alpharetta is close enough for a day trip from several southern cities, but it’s a better experience at least an overnight stay. So check into the Atlanta Marriott Alpharetta, especially if planning on a visit to the American Girl store. The Marriott offers an American Girl Experience with a separate check-in area, rooms decked out in pink and a small bed and robe for the accompanying doll. VIG (Very Important Girl) cards offer a free ice-cream or snack and milk and cookies delivered to the room each night.

Thousands of girls travel each year just to visit the American Girl store at the North Point Mall in Alpharetta. In fact the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau say it’s an economic driver for the city all on its own. Inside the store not only can one pick out a new doll and buy clothing and accessories, the American Girl Bistro serves up lunch, tea and snacks and a Doll Hair Salon offers “dolls that are very, very loved a chance to get spruced up” with a new hairstyle.

 

Fore!

If dolls aren’t your cup of tea, then a visit to Top Golf is in order. The rapidly expanding company has only a handful of locations in the U.S. (many more are underway) and the Alpharetta location is the first in the Southeast. The entertainment venue is like your “favorite neighborhood pub on steroids” and is fun even for non-golfers. In fact, Jason Evans, media relations manager for Top Golf, says that they’re not trying to cater to the hard-core golfing enthusiast. It’s a place to come with friends or family, have some food, drinks and hit some balls he said.

The “course” takes up about 12 acres and sectioned-off bays are located on three different levels. Visitors are assigned a bay which has a putting green, tables and chairs and an electronic scoreboard. Each ball is micro-chipped so as you hit your ball out onto the field, it records how each shot’s accuracy and distance.  “It’s like darts meets golf,” said Evans when trying to describe the concept.

 

Avalon

Of course no visit to Alpharetta is complete without a visit the newly opened Avalon.

The $600 million mixed-use development is home to an upscale Whole Food Market which offers fresh, cold-pressed juices, upstairs tapas and wine bar, a cooking kitchen and school, fresh-prepared food bars, a coffee bar and a gelato “wheel”.

The Avalon also has an exact replica of Rockefeller Center outdoor ice skating rink in the winter, a Ritz Carlton-trained concierge staff, a 12-screen movie theater, upscale shopping options and several outdoor plazas and public spaces.  Don’t-miss restaurants include Oak Steakhouse, Atlanta restaurateur Ford Fry’s El Fenix and Goldberg’s, a New-York-style deli.

 

Downtown Alpharetta

A guided walking tour of downtown Alpharetta by Alpharetta Tours will give visitors a good overview and history of the town that just 15 years ago was farm country. If you’d rather have something a little spookier, the company also offers a two-hour Howlpharetta Ghost Tour where you can learn about ghosts along Milton Avenue or what lies in the city’s Resthaven cemetery.

Several boutiques in the downtown area such as Sis and Moon’s, UB4Me Apparel and South Harmony offer shopping opportunities and local restaurants like Smokejack BBQ, Hop Alley Brew Pub, Pure Taqueria and South Main Kitchen serve up delicious locally-sourced food.

So whether it’s a new year’s resolution to travel more or an off-chance opportunity to just getaway, a visit to Awesome Alpharetta (the city’s moniker) offers the right combination of hometown appeal and new urbanism sophistication.

For more information, visit www.awesomealpharetta.com.

About the Author

Sherry Jackson

Sherry Jackson’s love of travel came at a young age. Her family would load up the car on the weekend, pick a destination and set off to explore. She has traversed thru jungles, snorkeled the turquoise waters of the Caribbean and wandered the streets of Paris, always searching for her next adventure. Her articles have been featured in a variety of outlets including USA Today, Blue Ridge Country, Foothills Spotlight Magazine, Jetsetter, Bootsnall, Gadling, Yahoo, CityRoom, The Simpsonville Sentinel and countless other print and online publications. She owns and maintains four websites (www.seethesouth.com , www.dragonflyventures.com, dvtravels.net and www.rulesforeveryday.com). Sherry is a member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). Her work can be viewed at www.dragonflyventures.com.

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