Woodstock is a city in Georgia’s Cherokee County, a short distance north of Atlanta. It’s close enough to be a popular place for city workers to live. In fact, it’s one of the fastest growing suburbs in the United States, and there’s good reason.
Woodstock was incorporated in 1897, and is believed to have taken its name from a Walter Scott novel.
It became an important trading hub with the construction of the railway. Although the last passenger service was back in 1949, Woodstock remains a vibrant place to be, while also within easy reach of all metropolitan Atlanta has to offer.
Here are the 15 best things to do in and around Woodstock, Georgia.
1. Downtown Woodstock
Woodstock’s innate and organic vibrancy can be experienced in all its glory in the city’s downtown district, which sits around the T formed by Main Street and Towne Lake Parkway.
The oldest part of the city, here lies a range of elegant brown brick buildings which date to near the city’s foundation.
Today, their lower floors are home to around 20 esteemed restaurants and almost double that number of independent stores, where you can find everything from signed books to native American jewellery.
What’s more, Woodstock’s downtown is infinitely walkable by both day and night, so whether its sightseeing or a night out you’re after, you’ll find it here.
2. Elm Street Cultural Arts Village
With a commanding location in downtown Woodstock, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Elm Street Cultural Arts Village is at both the geographic and cultural heart of the city.
This is no community theatre that lies empty and unused except for a few days in the year. Far from it. Instead, this ‘village’ hosts a series of events that means there’s something going on almost every day of the week.
You name it, and the village has probably got it, with its theatre hosting plays, musical performances, and concerts. Its events space includes a growing garden area, art gallery, and educational spaces too.
3. Olde Rope Mill Park
On the southern bank of the Little River, Olde Rope Mill Park is named after a rope mill from the 1800s which converted cotton into rope using the river’s constant flow as its power source.
While the rope mill and its surrounding flour mills might no longer function, they do offer a spectacular outdoor space in which to explore the region’s history and natural beauty.
Jump into a canoe to discover the river itself, or join one of the mountain biking or hiking trails that stretch for 30-plus kilometres from the park. They are named in memory of Taylor Randahl, an avid mountain biker who died in a car crash at the age of 16.
4. Balloon Atlanta
While Olde Rope Mill Park provides extraordinary land and river vistas from ground level, there’s nothing quite like taking in the landscape by hot air balloon.
Floating on the warm thermals as dawn breaks over northern Georgia, a hot air balloon is not just a romantic way to spend a few hours, but also an unrivalled means of witnessing the bigger picture.
Only from the air, several thousand metres up, can you understand Woodstock’s position within the state – how its links to and from Atlanta have formed over one hundred years, and how the city interacts with the other northern suburbs.
5. Dixie Speedway
About as far away from the quiet solitude of a hot air balloon as it’s possible to get are the roaring engines of the Dixie Speedway.
Trackways such as this one are a key part of the culture of the southern United States, and where you will find Woodstock residents at their most relaxed.
The track itself is nothing more than a clay oval loop, putting the trials of Formula 1 drivers to shame.
The highlight of all the events the track presents is probably the National Touring Stock Car Races, however it also welcomes motorcycle races, Monster Truck rallies, and concerts as well.
6. Reformation Brewery
Woodstock’s Reformation Brewery prides itself on producing beers that have been liberated from the rules of what exactly a beer should or should not be.
Its team of passionate brewers do this from its craft brewery just off Main Street. Visitors are able to step behind the scenes on self-guided tours of the metal tanks in which the magic happens.
But, of course, the proof of the quality of what Reformation produces is in trying the beers themselves.
These include American-style pale ales, German wheat beers, Belgian tripels, as well as heavier porters.
7. Archibald Smith Plantation Home
Predating anything that can be found in Woodstock itself, Roswell’s Archibald Smith Plantation Home was built in the 1840s.
Now a museum, it was the home of one of the city’s founders, Archibald Smith, along with three generations of his family.
This beautiful example of southern architecture built in a traditional style with clapboard planks is therefore a wonderful survivor from the immediate period around the American Civil War.
Its spaces include several pieces of original furniture, as well as personal items belonging to the long-term residents, showing the life of a privileged white family during this time.
The grounds contain an authentic cook house and carriage house, where the family’s African-American slaves would have lived and worked. The house is just 20 minutes from Woodstock.
8. Lake Allatoona
A similar distance in the opposite direction is Lake Allatoona. For all its natural beauty, the lake is an artificial one, constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers by the damming of the Etowah River.
Its long, thin form means construction around it has been limited. Particularly true at its northern end, the lake is another attractive location for anyone seeking out a little of the great outdoors.
The best way to get to the lake shore is by heading towards one of the seven public campgrounds and campsites still operated by the US Army, or either one of the two yacht clubs.
9. Berry Patch Farms
While Georgia might be known as the Peach State, there’s more to the region’s agricultural offerings than one fruit. Let’s not forget that Georgia resident former President Jimmy Carter used to be a peanut farmer.
Some of America’s natural foodstuffs can be found at Berry Patch Farms, from pumpkins of all sorts in the run up to Halloween, to pick your own blueberries during the summer.
The farm takes on a festive air during the Christmas period, when families come from far and wide to pick out their Christmas tree.
Elsewhere, at Big Springs Farms, visitors are not only able to grab a pumpkin, but also take a farm tour on the back of a wagon. You’ll get to check out many of the farm’s resident animals at the same time.
10. Red Top Mountain State Park
Covering more than 700 hectares, Red Top Mountain State Park sits on a peninsula of land surrounded on three sides by Lake Allatoona.
Twenty kilometres west of Woodstock, its lakeside location makes it popular with anglers, swimmers, and water skiers. There are also plenty of opportunities for canoeing, kayaking, and pleasure boating, with vessels for rent in the park.
A sand beach makes a pleasant place to relax between swims. The more active will appreciate the more than 20 km of hiking trails to be found here.
Manmade attractions within the park’s bounds include the Allatoona Pass battlefield, and the reconstruction of an 1860s homestead.
11. Alpharetta and Old Milton County History Museum
Although Woodstock isn’t able to boast its own museum, there are plenty within a short drive of the city that help explain the settlement and development of the area immediately north of Atlanta.
One of the best is the Alpharetta and Old Milton County History Museum in the neighbouring city of the same name.
Located in Alpharetta’s City Hall, it doesn’t hide away from the fact that this area was native American land before its tribes were forcefully removed in the Trail of Tears.
Archive photographs help to demonstrate how the city has changed since its earliest times, while its also possible to listen to 70 residents detail their experiences. Alpharetta is roughly 30 minutes east of Woodstock.
12. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
The north of metropolitan Atlanta was a key battlefield in the American Civil War of the 1860s. To try and understand the reasons and consequences of the war, history lovers won’t want to miss Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
The battle around the mountain would last for three weeks in the summer of 1864. As opposed to the war overall, Kennesaw Mountain was the site of a victory for the Confederate south, delaying Abraham Lincoln’s General Sherman from attacking Atlanta.
The museum here contains various artifacts from the battle, and its earthwork defences still stand. They can be examined in more detail from 28 km of walking trails.
The park is 30 minutes south of Woodstock by road.
13. MadLife Stage & Studios
Back in downtown Woodstock, music fans should reserve some time for MadLife Stage & Studios, an excellent performance space with regular live music.
Its indoor stage offers intimate gig experiences, with less than 300 tickets available for each performance. The table-studded space also gives it a laid-back bar feel.
Outside, when the weather is good (and this is Georgia remember) MadLife is also able to boast a patio stage. The onsite grill serves food throughout the day, with a menu of takes on traditional southern flavours.
Unusually for such an establishment, this is a scratch kitchen, meaning everything is made and cooked in house, with the chefs going as far as smoking their own meat.
14. Park at City Center
Park at City Center might not be the largest green space on offer in and around Woodstock, however it is still a pleasant space for a picnic in the sun.
Its mature trees provide plenty of shade if the sunshine gets too hot, and a polygon bandstand provides an extra shady space.
A central fountain provides added interest. There is also a war memorial, and 9/11 memorial displaying track from the World Trade Center’s subway station.
The park’s lower section provides a space for the Northside Hospital Cherokee Amphitheatre, known for its summer concert series.
15. Georgia Aquarium
Thirty minutes south in downtown Atlanta, visitors will find one of Georgia’s most popular attractions, Georgia Aquarium.
One of the largest in the world, it is just a handful of aquaria anywhere that’s big enough to be home to whale sharks – one of the giants of the deep.
Other major attractions include its charming beluga whales, boisterous California sealions, and elegant manta rays.
However, these creatures form just a small part of the aquarium, that spans all the world’s marine environments, from the coldest to the warmest seas.