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Charming Buford.
Explore Gwinnett

15 small towns near Atlanta you need to visit right now

Here's a mapped-out checklist of 15 great (little) destinations to get you going in 2019

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Charming Buford.
| Photo by Explore Gwinnett

Let’s face it: Sitting in traffic jams and dealing with road rage (either your own or that of fellow drivers) can wear on ITP folks. Sure, we choose to live here—just look at the selection of restaurants, shopping, cultural destinations, etc.—but not surprisingly, lots of small towns around the state offer the same.

If all that separates you from a laid-back day trip in a cool small town is a hundred miles of highway (or less), why not put the pedal to the metal and visit one this weekend? Here’s a mapped list of 15 great little destinations to get you exploring beyond the limits of ITP in 2019.

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1. Carrollton

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Head west on Interstate 20, and you’ll soon find yourself at this small but thriving city. Not to be outdone by Atlanta’s Beltline, Carrollton is home to the Carrollton Greenbelt, an 18-mile, closed loop paved bike and walking trail that’s ideal for exploring the area. Downtown, find a growing mix of shopping and dining and an outdoor amphitheater, along with a calendar full of entertaining events. And that’s before you include all there is to see and do at the University of West Georgia. 

Picture by Melanie Boyd

Posted by Main Street Carrollton Georgia on Tuesday, June 7, 2016

2. Senoia

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This Walking Dead mecca boasts all the right ingredients for a quaint, small-town escape. Senoia has museums, bed and breakfast spots, gardens, covered bridges, sightseeing for fans of post-apocalyptic zombie bloodbaths … yeah, it’s pretty much got it all. Located in Coweta County—roughly an hour and 10 minutes away—the city’s website describes the town as “the perfect setting for life.” Ahh ...

3. Covington

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Aside from ghost tours, antique stores, antebellum homes, and Civil War monuments (for history buffs), there’s something else about Covington that sets it apart. Give up? It’s known—apparently?—as the Hollywood of the South. Covington has played host to production crews filming Vampire Diaries, The Dukes of Hazzard, In the Heat of the Night, and more than 60 other film productions. Curious? They’ve got tours, of course.

4. Downtown Buford

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Sure, it’s close to the Mall of Georgia (gasp), but venture a few miles farther and you’ll find Buford’s roots downtown. With the sprawling 9,000-square-foot Bona Allen Mansion—the 1911 European-style home of a local tannery tycoon—just a stone’s throw from the many shops and restaurants in the historic district, the City of Buford offers a unique take on small-town life.

5. Downtown Cumming

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Located in Forsyth County—just a quick drive up Ga. Highway 400—the City of Cumming is close enough to mountainous trails for those looking for a hike, and it’s also got Lake Lanier for those visiting during warm months. Its quiet downtown is good for walking, shopping, and taking in all the yesteryear vibe.

Posted by City of Cumming, GA - City Hall on Friday, January 19, 2018

6. Eatonton

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This city was the home of Joel Chandler Harris, who wrote the Uncle Remus children’s fables (they still love their Briar Patch heritage) as well as Alice Walker, The Color Purple novelist. Showing pride in its history, Eatonton continues touting itself as a “hub for local artists,” featuring many cultural attractions.

7. Fayetteville

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Established in 1823, Fayetteville also fancies itself a cultural small-town destination, housing the Old Courthouse Art Show and Main Street Festival in October (it wouldn’t be a small town without a good, old-fashioned fall festival). It’s about 35 miles south of Atlanta, so you can get there in about an hour if you hit traffic.

Y'all come on out! Lunch on the Lawn till 1:30!

Posted by City of Fayetteville, Georgia - Government on Friday, April 27, 2018

8. Rome

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A thriving city in the northwest corner of the state, Rome is built around the meeting of three rivers. The charming downtown area is ripe for shopping and dining, while the Town Green along the riverfront is home to family fun, annual events, and relaxing views of the flowing waters. More than 13 miles of the Downtown Heritage Trail System provides the perfect opportunity for biking, jogging, and walking. Beyond downtown, there’s much history to explore at nearby Berry College, the Chieftains Museum & Major Ridge Home, and the Duke Museum of Military History. 

9. Suwanee

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It’s not a traditional small town with the kind of old-school historical vibe one finds in these other spots, but Suwanee has all the amenities you’re likely to seek while escaping the ATL for a day: parks, shopping, a town green, and real Southern accents. The city hosts concerts on the Town Green throughout the year as well as Food Truck Fridays during the summer. Also, their beer fest (coming in March) rocks.

10. Griffin

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For what’s billed as the “cultural and government center of Spalding County,” Griffin is a pretty chill destination for day-trippers. Boasting a historic Main Street area, historic Confederate camps, and full-blown tours of historic Confederate cemeteries, there’s a lot of … well … history, in Griffin, as well as some picturesque Walking Dead film locations. Let's not forget this was Doc Holliday's hometown.

11. Jackson

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Speaking of film locations, seen Stranger Things yet? If not, tired of people asking if you’ve seen it yet? Fans of the show might find it entertaining/weird/surreal walking the same streets as their favorite stars from the Sci-fi Netflix thriller located in Butts County—roughly 40 miles from Atlanta. There's also a fine (and rather famous) BBQ joint down there called Fresh Air that's almost 90 years old.

12. Dahlonega

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A bit north of Cumming, the Lumpkin County seat known as Dahlonega (don’t try to pronounce it if you don’t know how … it’ll only lead to embarrassment) has roots in gold. As the site of the first major U.S. Gold Rush, the mountain city has a “wine trail” leading visitors on a tour of local vineyards, and a wealth of natural beauty. Oh and, of course, a beautiful historic downtown area.

13. Madison

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This is a well-known spot and a no-brainer for those looking for a step back in time. And they’re proud of it. According to the city’s website, Madison “retains its small-town character and remains the heart of the community.” For those who've been, it’s hard to deny they’ve got something special going on that city folks don’t.

14. Blue Ridge

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For small-town enthusiasts who really don’t mind taking a good, long drive, Blue Ridge is the place to go. The thing about taking a two-hour trek to Blue Ridge? It justifies renting a nearby cabin and staying the night for a full-on mountain adventure that is sure to include beautiful vistas, fresh air, and if you’re (un)lucky, bears. The vibrant downtown area (full of art galleries and surprisingly good dining) is enough to warrant a trip to the tiny town.

15. Serenbe

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“Serenbe is a utopian experiment in new Urbanism being molded out of Georgia Red Clay.” The New York Times had that to say about the progressive community, which is “connected to nature on the edge of Atlanta.” It’s made up of acres and acres of preserved forests, meadows, and well-maintained nature trails. With good food. And thoughtful architecture. Yep, sounds pretty darn utopian.

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1. Carrollton

Carrollton, GA

Head west on Interstate 20, and you’ll soon find yourself at this small but thriving city. Not to be outdone by Atlanta’s Beltline, Carrollton is home to the Carrollton Greenbelt, an 18-mile, closed loop paved bike and walking trail that’s ideal for exploring the area. Downtown, find a growing mix of shopping and dining and an outdoor amphitheater, along with a calendar full of entertaining events. And that’s before you include all there is to see and do at the University of West Georgia. 

2. Senoia

Senoia, GA 30276

This Walking Dead mecca boasts all the right ingredients for a quaint, small-town escape. Senoia has museums, bed and breakfast spots, gardens, covered bridges, sightseeing for fans of post-apocalyptic zombie bloodbaths … yeah, it’s pretty much got it all. Located in Coweta County—roughly an hour and 10 minutes away—the city’s website describes the town as “the perfect setting for life.” Ahh ...

3. Covington

Covington, GA

Aside from ghost tours, antique stores, antebellum homes, and Civil War monuments (for history buffs), there’s something else about Covington that sets it apart. Give up? It’s known—apparently?—as the Hollywood of the South. Covington has played host to production crews filming Vampire Diaries, The Dukes of Hazzard, In the Heat of the Night, and more than 60 other film productions. Curious? They’ve got tours, of course.

4. Downtown Buford

Buford, GA

Sure, it’s close to the Mall of Georgia (gasp), but venture a few miles farther and you’ll find Buford’s roots downtown. With the sprawling 9,000-square-foot Bona Allen Mansion—the 1911 European-style home of a local tannery tycoon—just a stone’s throw from the many shops and restaurants in the historic district, the City of Buford offers a unique take on small-town life.

5. Downtown Cumming

Cumming, GA

Located in Forsyth County—just a quick drive up Ga. Highway 400—the City of Cumming is close enough to mountainous trails for those looking for a hike, and it’s also got Lake Lanier for those visiting during warm months. Its quiet downtown is good for walking, shopping, and taking in all the yesteryear vibe.

6. Eatonton

Eatonton, GA 31024

This city was the home of Joel Chandler Harris, who wrote the Uncle Remus children’s fables (they still love their Briar Patch heritage) as well as Alice Walker, The Color Purple novelist. Showing pride in its history, Eatonton continues touting itself as a “hub for local artists,” featuring many cultural attractions.

7. Fayetteville

Fayetteville, GA

Established in 1823, Fayetteville also fancies itself a cultural small-town destination, housing the Old Courthouse Art Show and Main Street Festival in October (it wouldn’t be a small town without a good, old-fashioned fall festival). It’s about 35 miles south of Atlanta, so you can get there in about an hour if you hit traffic.

8. Rome

Rome, GA

A thriving city in the northwest corner of the state, Rome is built around the meeting of three rivers. The charming downtown area is ripe for shopping and dining, while the Town Green along the riverfront is home to family fun, annual events, and relaxing views of the flowing waters. More than 13 miles of the Downtown Heritage Trail System provides the perfect opportunity for biking, jogging, and walking. Beyond downtown, there’s much history to explore at nearby Berry College, the Chieftains Museum & Major Ridge Home, and the Duke Museum of Military History. 

9. Suwanee

Suwanee, GA 30024

It’s not a traditional small town with the kind of old-school historical vibe one finds in these other spots, but Suwanee has all the amenities you’re likely to seek while escaping the ATL for a day: parks, shopping, a town green, and real Southern accents. The city hosts concerts on the Town Green throughout the year as well as Food Truck Fridays during the summer. Also, their beer fest (coming in March) rocks.

10. Griffin

Griffin, GA

For what’s billed as the “cultural and government center of Spalding County,” Griffin is a pretty chill destination for day-trippers. Boasting a historic Main Street area, historic Confederate camps, and full-blown tours of historic Confederate cemeteries, there’s a lot of … well … history, in Griffin, as well as some picturesque Walking Dead film locations. Let's not forget this was Doc Holliday's hometown.

11. Jackson

Jackson, GA 30233

Speaking of film locations, seen Stranger Things yet? If not, tired of people asking if you’ve seen it yet? Fans of the show might find it entertaining/weird/surreal walking the same streets as their favorite stars from the Sci-fi Netflix thriller located in Butts County—roughly 40 miles from Atlanta. There's also a fine (and rather famous) BBQ joint down there called Fresh Air that's almost 90 years old.

12. Dahlonega

Dahlonega, GA 30533

A bit north of Cumming, the Lumpkin County seat known as Dahlonega (don’t try to pronounce it if you don’t know how … it’ll only lead to embarrassment) has roots in gold. As the site of the first major U.S. Gold Rush, the mountain city has a “wine trail” leading visitors on a tour of local vineyards, and a wealth of natural beauty. Oh and, of course, a beautiful historic downtown area.

13. Madison

Madison, GA 30650

This is a well-known spot and a no-brainer for those looking for a step back in time. And they’re proud of it. According to the city’s website, Madison “retains its small-town character and remains the heart of the community.” For those who've been, it’s hard to deny they’ve got something special going on that city folks don’t.

14. Blue Ridge

Blue Ridge, GA 30513

For small-town enthusiasts who really don’t mind taking a good, long drive, Blue Ridge is the place to go. The thing about taking a two-hour trek to Blue Ridge? It justifies renting a nearby cabin and staying the night for a full-on mountain adventure that is sure to include beautiful vistas, fresh air, and if you’re (un)lucky, bears. The vibrant downtown area (full of art galleries and surprisingly good dining) is enough to warrant a trip to the tiny town.

15. Serenbe

Palmetto, GA

“Serenbe is a utopian experiment in new Urbanism being molded out of Georgia Red Clay.” The New York Times had that to say about the progressive community, which is “connected to nature on the edge of Atlanta.” It’s made up of acres and acres of preserved forests, meadows, and well-maintained nature trails. With good food. And thoughtful architecture. Yep, sounds pretty darn utopian.

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