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Surprising Small Town Atlanta

Article and photo by Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel

Strung north of big city Atlanta, a chain of small towns offers everything that a traveler desires, but at a slower pace. Whether you're looking for a weekend getaway or longer, these metro Atlanta villages will surprise and delight you.

Swell Roswell

Saunter under the shaded porticos of Canton Street. The street's historic buildings house one-of-a-kind specialty stores, restaurants, antique shops and avant garde galleries. Step into the Raiford Gallery, a contemporary gallery that features arts and crafts from local artisans. Look for the jewelry made by silversmith and gallery owner Judie Raiford.

Let the brick sidewalks lead you to a Southern trilogy of Greek Revival antebellum mansions. Barrington Hall and Smith Plantation conjure up the grace of the Old South, but Bulloch Hall is known for its presidential heritage. Inside the elegant home, you'll find the room where Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. married the Bulloch's youngest daughter, Mittie. The couple's son, Teddy, became the 26 th president of the United States, and their other son, Elliot, was the father of Eleanor, the future First Lady. You can learn more of the Bulloch's family history in the house's Museum Room. Later go outdoors where you'll find a summer house, reconstructed slave quarters, lovely gardens, a museum shop and more. Make reservations early to witness December's reenactment of Mittie's wedding to Theodore.

Awesome Alpharetta

Families, young and old, flock to Alpharetta.

Plan a full fun day at Andretti Karting and Games that will engage the entire family. NASCAR ?wannabees? can suit up for a tear around the in-door speedway in mini-racers. Lots slower but also designed for the adventurous is a climb up the cosmic rock wall. Arcade games, bowling, basketball and billiards provide hours of amusement. After working up an appetite, there's no need to leave. Simply head back to mid-20 th century and Ethyl's Diner, an in-house retro eatery. Afterwards, enjoy the evening show at their Funny Farm Comedy Club.

Lucky young girls make a pilgrimage to North Point Mall to visit the American Girl Boutique and Bistro ? the only one in the Southeast. It's the place to find the famous American Girl doll and her accessories. Dolls are for sale but some girls arrive with their own doll for a girls' day out. Everything centers on the youngsters and their dolls -- even a doll beauty salon.

Alpharetta's serious side honors veterans from all branches of the US military who were engaged in conflicts from the Indian Wars to today's war in Afghanistan. Incised in the walkways of almost 8,000 bricks are the names of those who served. Throughout the park are monuments and maps that spotlight each war. On exhibit in the park are a helicopter, tank and 15,000 pound twin gun mount. Call ahead if you'd like to arrange a tour led by a veteran.

Scenic Sandy Springs

Water, water, almost everywhere in Sandy Springs and it's where the Great Outdoors beckons. Ironically, small Sandy Spring's only a 15-minute drive from downtown Atlanta.

The Chattahoochee River, that former president Jimmy Carter calls ?one of the most beautiful places in our country,? flows through Sandy Springs. It attracts nature lovers and adventurers. Some come to stroll or picnic along the seven-mile woodland trail. They search for the wildlife found along the river's edge, bird watch or enjoy the profusion of wildflowers. Others raft, canoe, kayak and fish in its waters. A visit to the Chattahochee Nature Center offers an in-depth study of 30 species of wildlife and 127 acres of plants, all native to Georgia. All ages can experience the butterfly and bog gardens, boardwalk and interactive exhibits.

Merry Marietta

A playful spirit runs through Marietta. For a quick overview of the town, hop aboard the old-fashioned red trolley for a one-hour tour of Marietta's rich history. Ride pass Victorian and antebellum mansions, the 1898 train depot, Marietta Square and out to the Civil War battlefields of Kennesaw Mountain.

Stop by the iconic turn-of-the-century town square with its bandstand and manicured shrubbery. It's where you may catch a play, a musical performance or a quick nap on a bench. Enjoy the cafes, bars, galleries and boutiques that surround it.

You might encounter that playful spirit (or one who's not so playful) on the trolley's Ghosts of Marietta tour. The nighttime fully-narrated ride shares the accounts of those who once lived and resided in Marietta, but are neither gone nor forgotten. You will see and hear the stories of haunted houses and even a haunted statue. But you'll never forget your ?spirited? stroll through Old City Cemetery. For the brave and hearty, there's also a ghost walking tour.

Housed in the historic Kennesaw House, the Marietta Museum of History is a ?must-see? for dedicated history buffs and upcoming history buffs. Learn about the Cherokee Indians that were forced from the area on the ?Trail of Tears,? and the gold rush to nearby Dahlonega. The Homelife Gallery takes viewers down Memory Lane with period rooms and objects from the 19 th and 20 th centuries. But the three-to-five age group is sure to enjoy the fun Museum Mouse Tours that are designed to introduce them to history.

What classic movie is associated with Atlanta? Duh? like, Gone With The Wind . Fans can relive it at the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum, located near the square. See the original honeymoon gown worn by Vivian Leigh, (a.k.a. Scarlett O'Hara,) memorabilia from the famous film's other stars, a display of GWTW movie posters and much more.

This short list of the towns near Atlanta will keep you busy and entertained for quite a while. For more Small Town Atlanta travel, check out the hamlets of Dunwoody, Gwinett and Villa Rica.

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Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.

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