Explore the charm of Woodstock

A local guide of where to eat, shop, drink and visit.

Escape the city chaos for the weekend and venture out to a little Georgian treasure town that’s the perfect combination of serene country fare and cultivated, urban appeal. Just over 30 miles north of Atlanta, Woodstock is the ideal destination for a short traveled, out-of-town getaway. 

Born after settlers flooded into the area during the Georgia gold-digging frenzy in the 1830s, Woodstock was used for mining and agriculture. With multiple plant nurseries, stunning roadside sceneries of horse roaming fields and a weekly farmer’s market abundant with freshly grown produce, the agricultural influence is still prevalent throughout the city today.
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The heart of Woodstock lies within it’s lively and historic downtown district. After the civil war through 1949, it housed a major railroad station, transporting agricultural goods and traveling passengers throughout north Georgia. The train tracks remain a focal point, running straight down the middle of the street, now with numerous unique shops and hip restaurants along each side. Since the early 1900s, the area has been a bustling commercial center. Many of the original buildings remain, such as the visitor’s center which was once known as Dean’s general store; it’s even still owned by the same family.

There is also a park Downtown that’s decorated with beautiful memorials in honor of war veterans. Many of which are concerts that take place on the huge, outdoor Northside Hospital-Cherokee Amphitheater in the back of the park.

Coincidently like the famed festival, Woodstock is always amped with live music. Most popular is the Summer Concert Series where a different artist performs live each month of the season for free. Other seasonal concerts include the Brown Bag series every weekend in September and the Sunset Symphony on Oct. 11.

Many holiday festivities also take place in this park such as a Halloween kids festival and an annual Christmas parade. Other events include a Veteran’s Day candlelight ceremony and AMPED, a monthly fitness fair where attendees can participate in guided workout demonstrations in the park and learn more about local health and wellness amenities.

To make downtown Woodstock even more accommodating, it’s also an open container district. Order a boozy cocktail or cold beer to go from any of the multiple participating restaurants and drink while you explore.

With that being said, the well-known Reformation brewery resides here. Noted for their Belgian style specialties, they also brew sours, porters, IPAs, lagers and more using water from the nearby Etowah River. See how these liquid delights are created on a self-guided tour or kick back outside on the lounge chairs. Weekly events include Tuesday game nights, Wednesday trivia and monthly open mic nights and book gatherings.

Another notable downtown stop for good beer and friendly atmosphere is Truck and Tap, featuring an extensive, rotating collection of locally crafted beers and a different food truck out back each day. This is also a great place to watch your favorite Georgia sports team play; Atlanta United flags often are proudly displayed across the bar.

Truck and Tap
Photo: Megan Butler

Don’t worry about having to leave the furry, Fido friend behind when traveling here. Woodstock is a super dog-friendly town. Right behind the downtown strip is Woofstock dog park where visitors can walk their precious pups along the paved trail heads or let them run and play in the off-leash area. Many of the restaurants nearby allow dogs on their patios and some shops even leave out water bowls and free treats.

There are many one-of-a-kind shops downtown where guests can find out of the ordinary antiques, gifts, art, clothes and accessories. A fun must stop is The Wright Stuff Records and Collectibles. Walking in feels like taking a trip back in time with walls of vintage memorabilia, comics, records, antique jewelry and watches, even old military pieces.

Take home a new story to get lost in from the FoxTale book shop. This beloved little independent store has a great selection of books of all genres and for all ages. They also hold many author events, writing classes and book clubs.

One step inside Blue Frog imports is like entering a kaleidoscope, immersed in tie-dye and vibrant decor creations. This funky store is full of unique, handcrafted jewelry and colorful art. What really makes this shop stand out, however, is their quirky, painted metal sculptures to brighten up your home or business, ranging from little lady bug garden accents to five-foot-tall purple giraffes. They also sell Talavera ceramics which are vivid, Spanish works of art made from clay, traditionally used to decorate monasteries back in the 16th century.

Ladies can find a new floral sundress, lacy bralette, breezy kimono, or even a comfy fall flannel all inside Spirited boutique. The store gives casual, bohemian style a trendy, modern spin. All the jewelry is handcrafted by local artists, with some even made from recycled glass. One of the artists, Spirit Lala, also designs a collection of graphic tees and gives a percentage of their sales to charities empowering girls and women.

Venture outside of downtown to shop from popular name brands at lower costs and all in one place at The Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta on Ridgewalk Parkway. Stores include Nike, Columbia, Michael Kors, American Eagle, Ralph Lauren, Vans, True Religion and many more. There’s pretty great food court inside with the classic salted pretzels and sit-down restaurant options as well.

When it comes to eating in Downtown Woodstock, there aren’t really any bad choices. One of the most famed however is inside the historic train depot building that has since been used as a fire station, community center and now a restaurant, rightfully named, Freight Kitchen and Tap. Incorporating fresh produce from local farms, they serve southern-style entrees such as buttermilk fried chicken with bacon collard greens, bourbon BBQ pork braise and offer a rotating selection of the latest craft beers from breweries across the state. On the weekends, guests line up out the door for the delectable brunch buffet paired with tableside mimosas and a bloody Mary bar.

Freight Kitchen and Tap.
Photo: Megan Butler

For the ultimate dining and music experience in one, check out MadLife Grill, also located in Downtown Woodstock. Sip on a flavorful cocktail and dine from an extensive menu of salads, steaks, and in-house made breads, deserts, and smoked meats, all while enjoying live music. Local artists play daily on the covered outside patio and the stellar, two-story indoor venue opens in the evening featuring different performances each night on a spectacular stage. These concerts require tickets and often sell out so it’s recommended to buy them in advance at the box office or online.

Ipp’s Pastaria and Bar is perfect for a romantic date night of fine wine and good old fashioned Italian cuisine without completely breaking the bank. Family-owned since 1989, the restaurant radiates a homey atmosphere with a brick fireplace and classic black and white décor. Outside is a charming, intimate patio with stringed lights and a stone fountain. Careful not to fill up on the fluffy garlic rolls to save room for the favorited seafood cannelloni, eggplant parmigiana, or fettuccine bolognese.

To satisfy the sweet tooth or if you’re just looking for a freshly brewed cup of coffee, Pie Bar is a must stop. The cozy and quaint little downtown shop serves a variety of fresh-baked pie slices, such as Cinnamon Buttermilk, Chocolate Chess and Apple Streusel.

There are endless restaurants outside of the downtown area as well, both popular chains and local specialties. If in the mood for some authentic Latin lunch, visit Cylantro’s on Main Street. Named after their own signature cilantro sauce, this Venezuelan family-owned restaurant serves flavorsome traditional dishes such as arepas, which are sandwiches made from a special, stone-baked cornbread, stuffed with different meats, cheeses and other tasty fillers. There are some Mexican-style favorites including tacos and burritos on the menu as well.

There are many Asian dining options throughout the town, but Izumi on Towne Lake is exceptionally great. They offer a wide variety of savory sushi rolls, noodle bowls, spicy curry dishes and of course stir-fried hibachi dinner options. The big, shaded, illuminated patio space is also perfect for late-night sake tasting.

Start the morning off sunny side up with a scrumptious, country breakfast at Maple Street Biscuit Company on Towne Lake Parkway. The biscuit dough, sausage and shitake gravies, and flavored jellies are all made in house daily. Even the orange juice is freshly squeezed into a tall glass.

Immerse in the natural wonders of northern Georgia with a riverside, wooded walk, a peaceful picnic, or by hanging a hammock in the pines to curl up in with a book. Located right off of Ridgewalk Parkway, Olde Rope Mill Park is the perfect spot to spend a beautiful day outside. This site dates back to the early 1800s where ropes were made from cotton through the Rope Mill, which was powered by water flowing from Little River, Noonday Creek, and Etowah River. Now visitors can come here and enjoy outdoor activities such as fishing, canoeing and kayaking. There are 14 miles of secluded mountain bike trails.

Rope Mill
Photo: Megan Butler

Get a taste of the local farm charm and take home a fresh grown souvenir at Berry Patch Farms. Every spring, pick your own juicy, pesticide free blueberries right off the bushes. Guests can also take a hayride out to the pumpkin patch and take some home starting October 5. Then warm up with some fresh apple cider, homemade pie and adorable baby farm animals. After Thanksgiving, stop by to get ready for the Christmas season by picking out the perfect tree.

There’s an entire community of talented artists in the city. Dance, visual, culinary, musical and theatrical arts are all provided by The Elm Street Cultural Arts Village. Some of the local art is showcased in a little green space downtown with a giant stained-glass guitar and other sculptures. Enjoy one of their featured plays performed at the city center auditorium. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at elmstreetarts.org.

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