Things to do in Roswell, Georgia
I had worked at an office once a week for 10 years, and never ventured out during the day. Then I read an article about the best thrift stores in Atlanta, and discovered one was right down the street – that began my weekly strolls outside the office to the thrift store where I found dozens of designer purchases for just a few dollars. I felt the same way about Roswell, Georgia, about 30 minutes north of Atlanta.
I made the trek up GA Highway 400 for years, as my father lived there until he passed away two years ago. But we never ventured outside his home to explore this historic city of 88,000. I recently spent a bit of time there and got an excellent facial and mani-pedi, sipped a tea at an adorable coffee shop, boutique-hopped on Canton Street, and saw Santa Clause getting his hair done.
Here’s a things to do in Roswell, Georgia, whether you’re going for a day or a weekend.
I rarely make the time for a manicure or pedicure, but I was reminded that the results include more than just pretty nails. It’s one of the best stress relievers I know.
I felt comfortable right away when I walked into Jolie Beauty Spa & Nails and immediately noticed the lack of that overpowering nail salon smell. That’s because the salon is 98% chemical free. I spent a relaxing morning there and left with lovely nails. And a noticeable decrease in stress.
And the prices beat anything close to me in Buckhead. For example, specials this month include a 90-minute stone massage for just $95. A day package includes a one-hour massage, 1- hour facial and mani-pedi for just $150.
I’ve shied away from facials as they generally made my face break out, but I opted for one at the cute Plum Tree Salon & Spa, located in a former home on Canton Street, the main street of Roswell. Opened in 1999 by Barbara Sangenito and Cindy Lowden, these ladies and all the other stylists make you feel right at home. The spa section of the lively salon is tucked in the back corner in a quiet spot, where I had the best facial of my life.
And Plum Tree is also where Santa gets his hair done, and where I learned that being a Santa is a high-maintenance, year-round endeavor. Contrary to popular belief, Santa is not lounging on a beach all summer enjoying time off. No, Santa Doug is making appearances at parties and community events, and for that his flowering white locks and beard have to be in photo-worthy shape.
Shop on Canton Street
Canton Street is lined with inviting shops and restaurants, and I found several unique gift items I couldn’t resist. All these shops are easily walkable from each other, and staffed by friendly clerks. Try Serendipity and Southern Style for fun gift items. Southern Style also has apparel and home décor. The popular boutiques The Bilt-House and Spirited Boutiques also have locations here.
Head a bit further up the street to Raiford Gallery, a huge two-story light-filled gallery with art from 400 artists in the US and Canada. We were lucky enough to be shown around by the owner, the immensely entertaining Judy Raiford, who is also a talented jeweler. (A Judyism: “I got into jewelry because it’s hard to make a living with drugs and rock and roll.”) She took us downstairs to her studio where I was fascinated by the large array of gems and metals, and chuckled at her hammer collection, labeled “Hammer Porn.”
Dine at one of the 200 independent restaurants
Forget the notion that chains rule outside large-city limits. It’s all about the independent restaurateur in Roswell. We opted for lunch at Salt Factory Pub, which features items like Thai beef lettuce wraps, Shepherd’s pie, and veal and mushroom meatloaf, in addition to pizzas and burgers. At dinner, I indulged in a rich, decadent dish of shrimp and grits at Peachtree Diner.
For Cajun cuisine and delicious beignets, try Adele’s on Canton, right next to Raiford Gallery, where New Orleans-born Chef Marc ensures the authenticity of the cuisine. The newly opened Crazy Love Coffee House is worth a stop for a cup of coffee and to enjoy the design of the former bungalow turned coffee house.
Tour Historical Sites
Start your visit to Roswell at the Roswell Visitors Center to learn about the history of the area as well as its present-day attractions. Roswell was a cotton mill town, and on the banks of Vickery Creek you can see the ruins of Roswell Manufacturing Company, burned during the Civil War.
As you may have heard, not much of Atlanta survived the Civil War. For your antebellum home fix, Roswell is the place to go. A trilogy of lovely homes is open for tours. The founders of Roswell, Roswell King and his son Barrington, founded Roswell and built Barrington Hall. Bulloch Hall was built in 1839 by Major James Bulloch, one of Roswell’s first settlers. His daughter married Theodore Roosevelt Sr. in the home and their son was Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. Smith Plantation was built by slaves in 1845 and three generations of the family lived here. Tip: Tour all three homes with a Trilogy Pass for $18.
Shoot the Hooch
While I hadn’t previously spent much time in Roswell, I had visited Azalea Park on the Chatthoochee, a favorite place for us to launch our kayaks. The water flows so slowly on the weekends, it’s a breeze to paddle upstream then switch directions for our return. On one recent visit, we saw people floating on just about every object possible including huge blow-up mattresses, some sunburned and weary, propelling themselves forward through the slow current while large groups of roped-together inner tubers partied to the soundtrack of their portable tunes. There are a few outfitters where you can rent kayaks and canoes. Or just take a picnic and relax in the park.
Attend Alive in Roswell and Other Festivals
Alive in Roswell is a monthly family-friendly festival held on the third Thursday of the month from 5-9 from April through October. The event is on Canton Street and the Historic Roswell Square, and features food trucks, games, vendors and entertainment. There are plenty of other festivals held throughout the year.