The Park at City Center is the main gathering spot in Woodstock. The upper portion of the park is highlighted by a fountain and gazebo. (City of Woodstock)

Daytrippin’ in Woodstock: Music, shopping, food and — yup — scarecrows

School’s in, summer work hours are out and the stressful holiday season is fast rounding the corner.

Sigh. If you’re like most of metro Atlanta, you’re ready for a quick getaway right about now.

So pack your (day)bagsand head to Woodstock!

Located just 30 miles north of Atlanta in Cherokee County, Woodstock boasts a highly walkable downtown, unique stores and eateries, live music galore and an infectiously upbeat attitude.

Debbie Taylor and dog Stella finally find a spot to put down chairs on Friday, Sept. 7, the day before a 38 Special concert in the Park at City Center in Woodstock. Part of the free summer concert series put on by the city, the show drew some 15,000 people -- many of whom had started marking their spots with chairs the Tuesday before. (Jill Vejnoska/AJC)

“It’s crazy fun here, in a good way,” said Debbie Taylor, who downsized from Marietta to Woodstock a year ago with her husband. “It’s the best decision we ever made.”

If you’re looking for a place to play tourist for a day right in your own backyard, check out our guide to things to do, see, eat — and even get your fill of scarecrows — in Woodstock.

This community mural recently was created on the Mill Street facing wall of the century old Woodstock Pharmacy building. Artist AnnaLysa Kimball interviewed local residents and worked with the town historian and photos to create this work of public art in which everyone depicted is a real person. (City of Woodstock)
Photo: HANDOUT/City of Woodstock/City of Woodstock

Town Center

The Park at City Center boasts a picturesque gazebo and fountain, touching memorials and an amphitheater at one end of a large grassy lawn. It’s the go-to spot for everything from the July 4th festival and Christmas Jubilee to the city’s insanely popular free Summer Concert Series .(Residents started plopping down lawn chairs to reserve their spots five days before 38 Special played for 15,000 people there on Sept. 8). The park fronts onto Main Street, which is lined on both sides with dozens of stores, restaurants and residences. An ongoing streetscape program has added wide sidewalks, plantings, benches and even a fabulous new “community mural” on the Mill Street-facing wall of the Woodstock Pharmacy. 

This "scream" of a scarecrow, positioned near the old train depot, was part of a previous "Scarecrow Invasion" in Woodstock. Dozens and dozens of cleverly conceived scarecrows are entered in the annual event that lines Main Street throughout October and raises funds for downtown beautification efforts. (City of Woodstock)

Come October, dozens and dozens of sometimes elaborately decorated scarecrows will line Main as part of Woodstock’s annual “Scarecrow Invasion.” Vote on your favorite for $1, with the money going to downtown beautification efforts, including the town’s growing collection of “art” benches. There are some 1,500 parking spots on Main Street, in nearby lots and at Chattahoochee Technical College. Our advice? Park your car and just stroll (Need more convincing? The downtown “entertainment district” is a designated open container zone).

The Park at City Center, 100 Arnold Mill Road

Downtown Woodstock with shops, restaurants and residences on either side of Main Street and the historic train depot in the center . AJC FILE
Photo: For the AJC

Theater/Arts

Located in a former church, the Elm Street Cultural Arts Village offers professional level live theater: its current production, Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapine Agile,” runs through Sept. 23, followed by “The Drowsy Chaperone” starting October 12. Elm Street also puts on innovative music-meets-conversation events through its Lantern Series, (Next up: “Landscape of Guitar” on Oct. 6). Meanwhile, the new Elm Street Visual Arts Center, which will have galleries, artists studios and classroom spaces, should be open by the end of 2018, said Stacy Brown, Woodstock’s marketing manager. There’s more: “Friday Night Live” takes over downtown on the first Friday of each month. Stores stay open late, restaurants offer specials and the streets are transformed in keeping with that month’s theme (In May it was “London Calling,” On Oct. 5, it’s “Roaring 20s Night.”)

A crowd enjoys a recent concert at the Northside Hospital-Cherokee Amphitheater located in the Park at City Center in Woodstock. A series of free summer concerts put on by the city bring in big name artists and crowds, many of whom claim their places with lawn chairs days before. An estimated 15,000 people attended a free 38 Special concert on September 8. (City of Woodstock)

Meanwhile, Woodstock’s rep as a go-to spot for live music has seen The Swingin’ Medallions, Everclear, Journey tribute band Departure and the Charlie Daniels Band all play recently as part of the summer concert series. Plus,  MadLife Stage & Studios offers live music shows nearly every night, along with a restaurant and professional recording studios.

Elm Street Cultural Arts Village, 8534 Main St.

MadLife Stage & Studios, 8722 Main St

Tea Leaves and Thyme in Woodstock offers afternoon tea and other tea services, as well as serving lunch and hosting showers, birthday parties and other events. (/Special)
Photo: Chris Hunt

Food

You won’t go hungry in Woodstock, where there are more than two dozen inviting spots to eat, drink or choose between enjoying classic afternoon tea or a limited edition lager. Or both. Here are some suggestions:

Freight Kitchen & Tap. Hand-crafted drinks and Southern farm-to-table food in Woodstock’s Historic Train Depot. 251 East Main St. 770 -924-0144, freightkitchen.com

Main Street in Woodstock is lined with quaint and cool places to eat and shop, some of them in well-preserved old houses and buildings. Ipps Pastaria is a popular Italian dining spot. (Jill Vejnoska/AJC)

Pie Bar. Whole or half pies, or by the slice. From tart cherry and salted caramel apple streusel to cannoli cream and bourbon chocolate pecan. 8720 Main St. 678-402-6245. orderpiebar.com

Pure Taqueria. Hip, authentic Mexican eats and drinks, with a great rooftop deck. 405 Chambers St. 770-952-7873. puretaqueria.com

Reformation Brewery. Their new downtown location has two bars and a beer garden. Full food menu coming soon. 105 Elm St. 678-341-0828, reformationbrewery.com

The new downtown Woodstock location of .
Photo: Reformation Brewery

Rootstock & Vine. Wine and bourbon bar, with a kitchen offering tapas, charcuterie, gourmet desserts and more. 8558 Main St. 770-544-9009, rootstockandvine.com

Tea Leaves and Thyme. Offers a variety of tea services, plus a lunch menu. 8990 S. Main St. 770-516-2609, tealeavesandthyme.com

Truck & Tap. Popular spot with a rotating menu of craft beers and food trucks (see website for schedule). 8640 Main St. 770-702-1670, truckandtap.com/woodstock

Sit and have a slice -- or two or three -- of pie at Pie Bar. There are seven to eight different types of pie on a rotating daily schedule and you can also buy a whole or half pie. There's even a montly pie club. (Jill Vejnoska/AJC)

Shopping

The Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta (actually, Woodstock, just over two miles from downtown) features nearly 100 brand name stores, including Coach, Michael Kors, Saks and Kate Spade. Woodstock’s free trolley, which runs on Fridays and Saturdays, stops there. The Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta, 915 Ridgewalk Pkwy. theoutletshoppesatatlanta.com

Dave Smith, owner of Bull Frog Imports, which sells folk art, yard art, pottery and other colorful collectibles. Since moving from Alpahretta his location on Main Street in 2011, he's watched appreciatively as Woodstock has become a buzz of activity. "Three years ago, there were nowhere on this side of the street to get a drink. Now there are thirteen places to eat and drink!" (Jill Vejnoska/AJC)

Downtown:

Blue Frog Imports. A fun, colorful emporium of folk art, unique yard decor, pottery, furniture and more. 8608 Main St. 770-592-0122. bluefrogimports.biz

FoxTale Book Shoppe. One of the South’s top independent bookstores, with a great selection of new and classic titles, knowledegable staff, author events, writing classes and book clubs. 105 East Main Street. 770-516-9989, foxtalebookshoppe.com

Maxwell’s Cigar Bar. Fine cigars (plus beer and wine), live music on Fridays and Saturdays, all in a setting of comfy leather chairs and couches. Currently at 460 Chambers Street, but relocating soon to 150 Town Lake Parkway. 770-627-2006, maxwellscigarbar.com

The Whole Nine Yarns. Most any type of knitting and crocheting yarn, needles and patterns you’d ever want, plus helpful staff and places to sit and, well, knit. 8826 Main St. 678-494-5242, thewholenineyarns.com

The Wright Stuff Collectibles. Impressive array of vinyl record albums, comics, coins, movie and TV memorabilia. It was the place to find the original vinyl soundtrack album to “Sharkey’s Machine” the morning after Burt Reynolds died. 8646 Main St. 410-294-8226, facebook.com/twsrecordsandcollectibles/

Kayaking, paddle boarding and other water sports are popular in Woodstock, where nearby Lake Allatoona and other locations offer places to "put in." (City of Woodstock)
Photo: HANDOUT/City of Woodstock/City of Woodstock

Outdoors 

Woodstock is an embarrassment of outdoors and recreational riches, starting with its six parks (including one for man’s best friend, Woofstock). And then there’s the Greenprints planned trail system, which already has six walking and biking trails around town, with more to come. The city also is part of the Zagster bike share program, with pickup and drop off spots at three locations. If you’re more of a water bug, nearby Lake Allatoona is an ideal spot for fishing, boating, swimming and paddling sports. So is Olde Rope Mill Park, where you can fish, canoe or put in a paddleboard and head out for Allatoona. Murphs Surfs, a self-described “local Paddle Shack” in Woodstock, rents and sells paddleboards and kayaks; its website also has a helpful list of additional “paddle spots” in and around town. Finally, get back-to-nature at Berry Park Farms. Pick-your-own-blueberries season is over, but pumpkin season (which includes hayrides, cider, baby farm animals and more) starts Oct. 6. And you can cut down your own Christmas tree starting Nov. 23.

Woofstock Park, 150 Dupree Road

Olde Rope Mill Park, 690 Olde Rope Mill Park Road

Berry Patch Farms, 786 Arnold Mill Road

X