Hidden Hometown Gems: Acworth & Kennesaw

Written by Eryn Killian

Smith-Gilbert Gardens

Smith Gilbert GardensThough the Smith-Gilbert Gardens and historic Hiram Butler House have existed for more than a century, the gardens only opened to the public full-time just a few years ago. Ever since, they have been steadily expanding and improving their accessibility to visitors, and have become a true gem of Kennesaw. The garden features more than 30 outdoor sculptures and more than 3,000 species of plants, all labeled for horticultural experts and amateurs alike. Book a tour with a professional gardener, or wander through the grounds yourself — either way, you can easily spend a couple of pleasant hours lost in natural beauty. The meandering paths take you past innumerable flowers, trees and shrubs, interspersed with fantastic modern sculptures that accent the surrounding greenery. Benches are placed liberally throughout the grounds so visitors can stop to rest and soak in the view. Highlights include the bonsai collection, a gorgeous-scented conifer garden, and the stunning camellia walk. After your walk, be sure to visit the Hiram Butler House to check out the historic architecture and the gift shop, which carries pottery, jewelry and other gifts crafted by local artists, as well as packets of organic flower and herb seeds.

The gardens also offer classes on a range of gardening topics from vegetable gardens and caring for orchids to beekeeping and even Tai Chi. You can even rent a small family vegetable plot and attend once-a-week classes to learn how to grow your own food. Not only that, but the Gardens are a great place to host any wedding, party or corporate event for up to 250 guests. Interested in supporting the Gardens and having an evening of great food and music? Register for the Rose Garden Gala on April 27. 2382 Pine Mountain Road, Kennesaw, smithgilbertgardens.com

Escalade Indoor Climbing Center

Escalade ClimbingWho knew the little city of Kennesaw was home to the largest two-story bouldering facility in Atlanta and considered one of the best climbing campuses in the Southeast? For anyone in search of a new sport and a place to train, whether as a beginner or advanced climber, the workout amenities at Escalade are nothing shy of impressive, including a rappel tower, two angle wall slabs, two unique training climb ropes, swing rope, punching bag, free weight area, pull-up and dip bar unit and one-of-a-kind impact-resistant padded flex floor. Escalade also offers a growing list of activities such as climbing classes and classes for aerial silks. Enroll in the introductory/ beginner classes, where you learn the basics of controlling the fabric and build up your core strength in the meantime.

Of course, if a solid core is your mission, then the best bet just might be the conditioning class, which promises to push your limits regardless of ability. 3694 Kennesaw South Industrial Drive, 770-794-1575, escaladegym.com

Buckhead Burrito Grill

Buckhead Burrito GrillBuckhead Burrito Grill has been serving some of the best burritos and tacos in the Atlanta area for more than 10 years. Though the restaurant moved from its original location a few years ago, husband and wife team Bill and Melissa Ross still bring their customers an enticing array of fresh ingredients, creative sauces and the warm, friendly atmosphere that makes Buckhead Burrito Grill a real gem of Kennesaw dining. Their menu features a delicious selection of burritos, nachos, quesadillas, sandwiches and salads, but the real can’t-miss item is their fish tacos. Created by Bill, co-owner and resident chef, these tacos are stuffed with your choice of blackened or fried tilapia, cut and prepared daily with the in-house seasoning and cooked to a delicate perfection, then topped with fresh, spicy cabbage. Get them to-go, or sit down at one of the colorful booths and savor onsite. 3940 Cherokee St., Kennesaw, 770-420-7118

Acorn Home & Garden

AcornAt Acorn Home and Garden, a helpful team of interior designers and fl oral arrangers works with customers to pick out new home furnishings and provides assistance in designing whole new looks for the home or garden, whether for a special event, a holiday, or if you’re just looking for a fresh style. Located on the outskirts of Kennesaw and headed by legendary local fl oral designer Tony Whitlock, Acorn brings a professional, stylish and creative effort to every project. Specialties include decking out homes from top to bottom for Christmas and other holidays, as well as designing weddings. Recently, Acorn has become particularly well-known for its wedding designs, with a new bridal section of the store set to highlight that soon. No matter what your design need, Acorn is sure to provide a professional and personalized experience to everyone who walks through their doors. 3870 Due West Road, Marietta, 770-426-9840, acornhomeandgarden.com

Nature’s Corner Market

Nature's Corner MarketNot just another health food store, Nature’s Corner Market is a treasure trove of natural and organic foods sure to excite foodies looking for ingredients that are hard to find at a typical grocery, as well as anyone interested in adding more organic fare to their diet. Though the store claims a Marietta address, its location makes it helpful for Kennesaw shoppers with specific dietary needs. On top of a wide range of vegetarian and vegan items, it’s a particularly great place to shop if you or anyone in your family is on a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free items can be found throughout the store, including an entire aisle dedicated to gluten-free flours, cake mixes and more. Another highlight is their collection of dry ingredients sold by weight. An impressive array of nuts, grains, candies, spices and loose-leaf teas are stocked in jars along one wall of the store, where shoppers can take home as much or as little as needed in paper bags provided nearby. And it’s not just food — Nature’s Corner Market also stocks a variety of natural and organic cosmetics, soaps and other personal care products that make the store a great resource for anyone trying to reduce their exposure to unhealthy chemicals. After you’ve filled your cart with exciting new products, be sure to check out the smoothie bar on the way out. Their delicious but healthy drinks come in a variety of flavors that varies by season. 3960 Marietta Eliza Trace NW, Marietta, 678-833-5916, naturescornermkt.com

The Oak Barrel

Oak BarrelIt’s four o’clock somewhere and if you happen to be in downtown Acworth at that hour any day from Wednesday through Saturday there’s a perfect venue to relax, have a glass of wine and become part of the growing family at The Oak Barrel. It’s rustic wine cellar appeal, interesting gift items and intriguing wine selections lead the way to its allure, and the customer experience here is paramount. The Napa Technology’s WineStation, which allows guests to pour a sample, half-glass or even a full-pour of one of many featured wines is conversational in its own right because you are unlikely to find anything similar nearby. The staff changes selections regularly, so sampling varietals that you will enjoy for years to come happens here one sip and swirl at a time. Visit the quaint shop for one of its regular tastings, for ladies night (the last Wednesday of every month) or for special events like the Argentina wine tasting with Panoram Imports’ Mariano Cebrian on March 8. Conveniently located near some of historic Acworth’s finest restaurants, at The Oak Barrel is a great place to begin or end a night out. 4843 North Main St., 770-974- 7720, theoakbarrel.net

Eclectic Living

Eclectic LivingLiving up to its name, this cute Kennesaw store, found in a beautiful house dating back to 1893, is an ultimate one-stop-shop for gift-buying. Whether shopping for someone whose tastes run to elegant or eccentric, Eclectic Living will have something for everyone, for every season. Jewelry, dishware, clothing and both indoor and outdoor décor pack every wall, shelf and table throughout the store; even if it weren’t for the constantly-changing collection, returning visitors can always spot something they missed the last time. Eclectic Living carries items made locally in Kennesaw as well as all over the world, with a special emphasis on designers and items with a story. Many are handcrafted, one-of-a-kind pieces, both antique and contemporary — and sometimes a combination of both, in the case of furniture crafted from reclaimed wood or antique farming equipment. With an expanding array of outdoor seating, the historic home and its surrounding garden is also becoming a popular place to host meetings, parties and family gatherings. Visitors are encouraged to stay and chat around the lighted fire pit many evenings, or just enjoy the quiet of the garden. Located just across the street from The Depot and The Southern Museum, Eclectic Living makes a great stop to rest and savor Kennesaw’s ambience while exploring the historic downtown area. 2886 Cherokee St., Kennesaw

UnCorked

UnCorkedTechnically this fabulous find is located in Marietta, but it’s just so close to Kennesaw, we couldn’t resist. If you’re looking for a great new palate pleaser, unCorked just might be where your search ends. Touting more than 250 beers and 500 wines in stock, this fun, hip store is sure to have something for anyone. The wide selection is based largely off of customer requests, so if there’s an obscure brew you just can’t find in Cobb County, just ask store owners Mark and Tonya Hetzel, and they’ll be glad to order it for you. Grab a six-pack of your favorite or get a little adventurous with a mix-and-match collection of craft beer at unCorked, where patrons can also sample new varieties risk-free during weekly wine tastings on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 – 8 p.m., and beer tastings Saturdays from 2 – 4 p.m. You can also join their monthly Wine and Beer Club, or sign up for a wine education class to become a true connoisseur. 3901 Mary Eliza Trace, Marietta

J.D.’s Bar-B-Que

JD's BBQIf you’re looking for barbecue done right, look no further than J.D.’s. With two restaurants now open — the original in Woodstock and a new one in Acworth — J.D.’s is bringing their authentic, quality barbecue to more people than ever, and we couldn’t be more pleased. At the Acworth location, you can settle down with the family and enjoy the hickory-smoked goodness of this great barbecue in a converted 1920s schoolhouse. J.D.’s has earned a reputation for everything from baby back ribs to beef brisket to wings, all of which are prepared from scratch and slow cooked to perfection in an old-fashioned wood smoker. Their sweet, tomato-based sauce has won them “Best Barbecue” at Taste of Acworth for two years running. Add a cup of Brunswick stew and a serving of good, old-fashioned Southern banana pudding for dessert, and you’ll understand why J.D.’s has become a restaurant locals love to brag about. 4424 S. Main St., Acworth, 770-974-8434, jdsbbq.net

Special Advertising Section: Hometown Highlights

LAUNCH AWARENESS YOGA CENTRE

This community wellness center focuses on personal and physical health and healing. Launch Awareness is the first and only AntiGravity yoga studio in Georgia, and also offers adult classes in pilates and meditation along with Kids Aerial Silks and spa services. 3450 Acworth Due West Road, Kennesaw, 770-975-4795, launchawareness.com

WHITE RABBIT COTTAGE

What began as a little antique store has grown into a thriving home décor and gift business with neighborhood charm, offering two buildings full of home, garden and cabin furnishings as well as fine gifts, and blending timeless traditional themes with modern elements. 3760 Due West Road, Marietta, 770-919-1100, whiterabbitcottage.net