The 12-year-old town invites visitors to play, dine and stay awhile
Since the early 1970s, Dunwoody has been a district anchored by Perimeter Mall, the upscale retail center that sprouted on former farmland. Office towers, apartments and restaurants soon followed, and in 2008, the area transformed into an official city with a population of about 49,000.
Given its destination for shoppers, workers, diners and homeowners, the municipality also developed a reputation for its traffic snarls, particularly around I-285 and Ashford Dunwoody Road. In 2012, the state stepped in to ease some of the congestion when it built Georgia’s first diverging diamond pattern to make getting in and out easier. Rush hour can still be challenging, but by the time happy hour is over, Dunwoody turns into a getaway destination that appeals on many levels.
Start by parking the car at one of the city’s stylish hotels that welcome weekenders and overnighters alike. Two have undergone extensive renovations, boasting well-appointed rooms and amenities to help you kick back. At Le Méridien Atlanta Perimeter, the outdoor pool is nestled beside a stone patio, and by evening, the expansive lobby bar morphs from a coffee house to a spot to enjoy craft cocktails and, on Fridays, live jazz. Pay attention to the ceilings and walls in both the public areas and guestrooms: What looks like abstract artwork is actually graphics depicting the hotel’s distance to metro area landmarks, including the airport.
From the outside, the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia looks like it’s all business, but it also boasts walking trails, an indoor pool and a fitness center. A soaring, naturally lit lobby is dotted with dining areas and a coffee bar. But step outside and you’ll be in the Backyard at Parkwoods, a tree-shaded stone patio with a small stage where acoustic musicians entertain under strings of twinkling lights.
Once you’ve stowed the overnight bag, figuring out where to have dinner could be the biggest challenge of the weekend. Dunwoody’s culinary array covers most cravings, from Italian to Thai. While the city is home to a variety of upscale, national operations such as Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar and Seasons 52, local culinary talent is well represented at McKendrick’s Steak House, where meat is the star, and the appetizer “towers” are a meal in themselves, stacked with oysters, shrimp, crab and lobster tails.
Another local favorite is the clubby wood-and-brass ambiance at Joey D’s Oak Room. Known for its steaks, it’s also a destination for New Orleans-inspired seafood with dishes such as crawfish and andouille sausage in spicy lobster sauce. At lunch, the eatery is packed with diners who dig into the oversized, New York deli-style sandwiches. One way to work off those calories is by heading to Brook Run Park, a 110-acre greenspace with a playground, 2-mile trail, skate and dog parks, and the recently added Tree Quest with four adult ziplines and a kids’ zone with a trampoline and low ropes course. Kids of all ages will marvel at the beehives, treehouse and creek at the Dunwoody Nature Center that also offers three geocaching adventures.
Slow the pace with a stroll through the gallery at the nonprofit Spruill Center for the Arts, where planning ahead can nab you a seat in a ceramics, painting, sculpture or photography class. Wrap up an evening with a show at the Stage Door Players theater that offers a variety of live theater productions. Jerry’s Habima Theatre at the Marcus Jewish Community Center is another local arts organization noted for its musical performances staged by adults with special needs.
It’s worth forgoing room service to enjoy breakfast at Alon’s Bakery, the suburban outpost of the popular intown emporium. Place your order at the counter, pick up some pastries and pull up a patio table. Leave time to meander through the selections of gourmet breads, sauces, cheeses and candies, and pack a few into the backseat—just in case the traffic makes it hard to leave.
Brook Run Park
Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravina
Dunwoody Nature Center
Jerry’s Habima Theatre
Joey D’s Oak Room
Stage Door Players
Spruill Center for the Arts
Atlanta-based writer and editor contributing to a number of local and state-wide publications. Instructor in Georgia State’s Communication department and Emory’s Continuing Education division.