Just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta, perched above the northern rim of the I-285 Perimeter, there resides a big little city that oozes urban liveliness mixed with neighborhood charm. It’s a place that’s defined by green spaces and outdoor places, where visitors can get away from it all and create their own tailor-made adventures. It’s also a place becoming increasingly well-known for its melting pot blend of Greater Atlanta energy yet easy-going vibe. And arguably best of all, it’s a place that’s home to an astonishingly impressive array of things to do for every type of visitor—whether you’re a craft-coffee-loving Millennial or the mother of a fun-loving (not to mention art-loving) kid.
This place, of course, is Sandy Springs.
If you’re an Atlanta local looking for a great day trip escape from the city, or an out-of-towner hoping to spruce up your Atlanta visit with some outdoor exploration topped off with an award-winning brew, you really can’t get much better than Sandy Springs. Here are just seven of the many reasons to strongly consider a visit.
1. The Unique History
From its early days as a watering hole for Native Americans frequenting the freshwater springs for which the city is now named, through its early settler days in the 19th Century, and up until 2005 when it officially incorporated as a city, Sandy Springs has experienced a long and interesting history.
In the 1960s, the arrival of I-285 signaled a housing boom which transformed Sandy Springs from a previously rural community into a more urbanized portion of Atlanta Metro. In 1966, the first efforts were made to incorporate Sandy Springs after the city of Atlanta pushed to annex the area. Those debates wore on for over 40 years, until 2005, when residents of Sandy Springs overwhelmingly voted (94 percent!) to incorporate. It was the first new city in Georgia in almost 50 years!
Today, Sandy Springs is the 7th largest city in Georgia and easily one of the fastest-growing in the state with a residential population of around 100,000 people. Interestingly, the city deploys a unique public-private partnership model for its operations, which has become a model that lots of other cities across the country are beginning to study and think about emulating.
2. The Relaxed Vibe & Easy Way of Life
In short, Sandy Springs is a place that feels different because it is different. It has a sprinkling of Atlanta Metro excitement, a dash of entrepreneurial spirit, and budding arts and culture. There’s more than a pinch of outdoor recreation and a heaping portion of neighborhood charm that makes local residents and visitors feel relaxed and right at home. When you visit, you have the palpable feeling that this place is special, a cut above the rest. You’re able to carve out whatever experience you’d like to have for yourself and it’s all because Sandy Springs has just the right mix of ingredients for you to do so.
3. The Great Outdoors Scene
Surrounded by 950 acres of lung-expanding parks and green spaces, Sandy Springs is a veritable outdoor gem. With no less than 16 city parks—running the gamut from playgrounds and tennis courts, to densely-wooded forest preserves and riverside parks with unbeatable access to all sorts of paddle sports—there’s something for every type of outdoor enthusiast in Sandy Springs.
But the real pride and joy of Sandy Springs’ extensive outdoors scene? The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area—a multi-unit series of preserved spaces and the lifeblood of Greater Atlanta outdoor recreation. Hands down one of the favorite activities in the area is a lazy float down the Chattahoochee River itself. But there are plenty of great on-land adventures as well—like getting lost among the swooping trails, wooded hills, and riverside paths that define the East Palisades - Indian Trail. Really, you can’t go wrong no matter what outdoor experience you choose in Sandy Springs.
4. Premier Food & Drink
Sandy Springs, in its entirety, is a menu of great places for premier food and drink, which can make it hard to decide where to go. How can you rightfully be expected to choose between authentic tastes of Italy at il Giallo Osteria & Bar versus the juicy steaks inspired by award-winning chef Peter Kaiser? What about donuts at DaVinci versus cookies at Susansnaps or even the famous sweet bread at Breadwinner Café and Bakery? What about a rooftop bar with Mexican food and margaritas versus an outdoor deck on the banks of the Chattahoochee with seafood and an extensive wine list?
The answer: Make multiple visits and go to all of them!
5. Thriving Arts & Culture
Okay, it’s true: most suburban areas across America probably aren’t very renowned for their eclectic, colorful cultures. But Sandy Springs is no ordinary suburban area mainly because, well, even though it exists on the fringes of one of the country’s biggest cities, it’s not actually a suburb; it’s a city. (Remember the little history lesson in #1?) And sure, Sandy Springs is a young city, but it’s perhaps this youthful energy that gives it so much pizzaz.
Take a trip to the new pulsating heart of the city at City Springs, and you’ll see firsthand a 14-acre civic and cultural center that’s home to City Hall, the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, the Conference Center at City Springs, retail and residential spaces, and an exterior with bubbling fountains and a sprawling grassy lawn.
In addition to this centralized hub—where jazz music, contemporary dance shows, movies by moonlight, and more are commonplace—Sandy Springs also boasts a one-of-a-kind collection of events that would rival any city. From the must-see-to-believe Lantern Parade, in which hundreds of lanterns are lit up and walked from Steel Canyon Golf Club to Morgan Falls Overlook Park, to the Food That Rocks festival, which celebrates local cuisine and music, and plenty of other seasonal events between, Sandy Springs is a place where something is always happening.
6. Your Dog Will Love It Just As Much As You
So, you’ve gone to work all week leaving your dog pent up at home all day, each day? Chances are she’s itching to get out on the weekend just as much as you are. Good thing Sandy Springs is perfectly suited for a great little doggie day trip from Atlanta.
First, there are tons of dog-friendly trails in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (if your dog has good balance, you can even take her on a standup paddleboard at Morgan Falls Overlook Park).
Second, there are all sorts of restaurants and establishments in Sandy Springs where dogs are not only allowed but also encouraged. Take Perk-N-Pooch, for example, a coffee shop that doubles as a dog grooming business—perfect for when your dog has muddied herself along the banks of the Chattahoochee earlier that morning.
To treat yourself after having gone on a hike and having wrestled your dog with soap and water at Perk-N-Pooch, there’s no better thing to do than grab a beer at Pontoon Brewing—an expansive brewery with indoor and outdoor seating, a family-friendly vibe, some of the most inventive beer creations you’ll find in Greater Atlanta, and yes, basically a kennel’s worth of friendly dogs mingling not only among themselves but also with all the other smiling patrons.
7. There’s Something for Everyone
Perhaps best of all, Sandy Springs is a place where everyone can have an unforgettable experience. Are you a mother interested in family-friendly entertainment during the day and maybe a little nightlife cocktail entertainment at night? Maybe you’re the outdoor type hoping to stand-up paddle a long section of the Chattahoochee or even hike and run along its swooping riverside trails. Maybe you’re someone who’s always enjoyed doing things a little outside the box, like playing foot golf or going to a restaurant and bar that doubles as the ultimate gamer’s paradise. No matter what you choose, we’re confident whatever you pick will make you want to return to Sandy Springs again and again.
Written by Ry Glover for RootsRated Media in partnership with Sandy Springs.