I’ve learned during this pandemic that you don’t have to travel far to discover new places that are fun and unique. Take my home state, Georgia, for example. You might have heard of cities like Atlanta, Savannah, Augusta, Macon, and perhaps others. But we have several smaller towns that offer so much charm and Southern hospitality.
Having lived in Georgia forever, I’ve realized that I’ve barely made a dent in exploring these smaller towns. While I enjoy urban areas, there is something about small-town life that draws you in. For starters, if you are an introvert like myself, you might love small towns since it means fewer people (and less traffic!).
But I love small towns for other reasons too: the delightful main streets lined with shops and small businesses, friendly locals, historical buildings, and delicious food that you can’t get anywhere else. Plus, I love supporting local whenever I can.
North Georgia has some fantastic small towns to visit, including one of my favorites: Ball Ground. I like to consider it the gateway town to the Blue Ridge Mountains as it is literally in the foothills of the mountain range.
In fact, if you take Interstate 575 to get to Ball Ground, you will see a beautiful view of the North Georgia mountains near Exit 16. You can’t miss it. Some cars even slow down to look at the view, probably not the best idea. But the view is stunning, especially towards sunset.
If you continue further along Interstate 575, you will reach Exit 27, the exit for Ball Ground. You will most likely pass this exit if you plan to visit Blue Ridge or Ellijay, two other small towns that I recommend seeing if you are in the area.
Ball Ground is not too far from Atlanta – approximately 49 miles (45 minutes to an hour usually on a good traffic day) and located in Cherokee County.
It doesn’t seem like it, but Ball Ground is actually considered to be in metro Atlanta. If you go just a few minutes north to Pickens County, you will no longer be in metro Atlanta. Ball Ground is right on the border.
With more people working from home these days, more people are moving to this very likable, little town. Around 2300 people live here, but the population is increasing, so is the construction of new homes and businesses.
The growth is good, but also sad as more farmlands are slowly disappearing. If you drive a little past the Ball Ground main street, you will see some vast farms with many horses and cows.
We once drove by a farm with horses running across the field at golden hour. It was so beautiful how they ran collectively as a group, and I will never forget that moment as the evening light shown down on them. And did I have my camera with me? Nope! That made me sad.
But despite the continuous growth, Ball Ground is a cute little town that seems to embody what you think of small-town life. It has a few places to shop, yummy eateries, and one of the newest additions: a brewery. I can’t complain there.
And it has the best coffee house that will make you question why you go to that other famous coffee shop (you know who I am talking about).
It is also a great stopping place for lunch if you visit the famous Gibbs Gardens, located approximately 15 minutes away from downtown. Ball Ground is also not too far from Amicalola Falls, one of the most well-known waterfalls to visit while in North Georgia.
You can make a day of it by exploring Ball Ground, visiting Amicalola Falls, and Gibbs Gardens.
If you want to skip the stores, restaurants, and surrounding attractions, you can always walk down to Ball Ground’s park, Calvin Farmer. It’s a small park with a playground, a pond, and a walking trail that goes in a loop.
If you come on certain Saturdays, you might even see the farmer’s market held outside near the park. You can visit Ball Ground Farmer’s Market’s Facebook page to see what days they plan to have the market.
Highlights of Downtown Ball Ground on Film
Many restaurants and stores are located on the main street, a small stretch of a road known as Gilmer Ferry Road. And it is a small street but slowly growing, and it seems like new businesses are added every year.
But when you visit, know that Ball Ground is not like Helen, Blue Ridge, or Dahlonega. It is much smaller, but what is there in Ball Ground is definitely worth checking out.
Places to Eat or Drink
You might see a Subway, Dominos, and a Waffle House, but Ball Ground is all about embracing the small biz. You won’t find many chains here. Ball Ground doesn’t even have a major grocery store such as Kroger or Publix.
One of my favorite food places is not a restaurant, but a meat market where you can pick up some amazing and I mean AMAZING bratwurst to take home and grill. This German meat market is called Frankfurt Döner & Meats, located on Gilmer Ferry Road.
If you are lucky, you might catch them grilling their delicious bratwursts that you can purchase and eat on the spot. People will make a trip to Ball Ground just to order their bratwurst. They are seriously that good.
Want to eat in a renovated mid-20th century trolley bus? You can do so at the Ball Ground Burger Bus. They have the best burgers and some delicious fried green tomatoes.
It’s a small, cozy restaurant, but there are some picnic benches if you’d rather be outside the bus. The bus and the picnic tables are located next to the railroad tracks that are still active today, and you might even see a train come by.
If you want, you can also take your burger to Ball Ground’s first brewery ever called the Rock Solid Brewing Company. I am generally not a beer drinker, BUT they have a fantastic coconut stout that I highly recommend trying. Of course, you can go all the way and get a beer flight to sample their other stouts and IPA.
If beer is not your fancy, check out Barrel House Coffee. We love this coffee house so much that we also buy bags of roasted whole beans to grind and brew at our home.
Barrel House Coffee is unique because they let their coffee beans “marinate” in bourbon barrels. And let me tell you, not only does this smell amazing (especially when you brew the beans in your house), but it tastes incredible.
If you don’t want barrel-aged coffee, you can get their regular coffee, which is still good. But seriously, though, try the barrel-aged coffee. Once you have it, though, it is hard to drink “regular” coffee again.
Also, their Nutella Frozen drink is perfection.
Another favorite is Dominic’s Food Truck and Dining, located on the main street across from Rock Solid Brewery. The main cuisine they serve is NY-style wood fire pizzas, but they also have tacos, barbeque, rib-eye steaks, and other items on different days.
If you step inside Dominic’s to eat, you’ll be surprised. It’s like stepping back in time to the mid-20th century. Everything is very retro, and there is even a jukebox to play some music. It’s fun and unique – something I probably initially wouldn’t expect in a small town like Ball Ground.
While Dominic’s serves amazing pizzas, if you want the whole Italian experience, check out Chef Rosario’s Italian Kitchen. They have all the Italian staples – lasagna, calzones, pizza, spaghetti; you name it. It is a small restaurant, so we usually take our food to go.
Other places to eat are Jill’s Cakes & Bakes, which serve breakfast, lunch, pastries, and my favorite – the cupcakes. And it is so hard not to buy these all the time. The chocolate icing is not too sweet and not too bland, and it’s scrumptious.
Jill, the owner, also owns Scooped on Main, a few walking steps down from Jill’s Cakes & Bakes. As the name suggests, Scooped on Main serves ice cream and a few other desserts. I always opt for the cookie dough ice cream, but anything they make is excellent.
And the ice cream is so refreshing to have for the hot and humid summer days in Georgia, and we are not short on those. That is one negative thing I have to say about Georgia – the humidity!
If you want something a little more different, try Les Bon Temps Lousiana Kitchen for some New Orleans-inspired cuisine. They have beignets on the menu. And I am ashamed to say that I haven’t tried these yet.
If beignets weren’t so messy, I would try making some at home. But the powdered sugar gets everywhere. And I mean everywhere.
So, I think a trip to Les Bon Temps is in the near future!
Are you feeling some barbeque? Not too far from Gilmer Ferry Road (main street) is Choate BBQ or Two Brothers Bar-B-Que.
Choate BBQ is a new addition to Ball Ground and very much welcomed. It is located on Ball Ground Highway at 10150 Ball Ground Highway Suite 201, about a three or four-minute drive from the main street. Very easy to get to if you want to venture a little further out from the downtown area.
On the way to Choate or Two Brothers Bar-B-Que, you will likely see a winery sign. Yes, Ball Ground has a winery, and it is called Feathers Edge Vineyards.
Now don’t expect rolling fields of rows and rows of grapes on vines. This is not Napa Valley, but they have good wine and other wine samples from various wineries in North Georgia. You’ll often hear some music being played here by local singers and bands, and it’s so lovely to sip your wine while listening to some good tunes.
Shopping in Downtown Ball Ground
If you visited Ball Ground 6 or 7 years ago, you wouldn’t have seen many restaurants, let alone places to shop. Many of the original buildings built in the late 19th century have been converted into the current-day shops that you will see.
Ball Ground has shops that sell home goods, locally made items, antiques, and clothes. They even have a record shop called Carma Vinyl and Vibes! I love how buying records is becoming more trendy again.
We have some records at home but no record player. I guess that might be helpful to buy.
For clothes, I love to go to Perched. They also have the most adorable baby section, and I often go there to buy gifts for baby showers.
You can even buy some toys and treats for your cat and dog at Ball Ground Hounds. They have a K-9 Courtyard outside their shop if you happen to have your dog with you and want to run around. I don’t have any dogs, but my cats like the treats we bring home.
And if you are looking for home goods and decor, stop by the Southern Oak Provisions. It’s so pretty inside. My husband has to remind me that we can’t buy everything in there for our house when we visit. They always have nice holiday decor too.
Ball Ground is definitely a town you need to add to your list of places to visit while in Georgia. The people, the atmosphere, and the fun shopping make it such a unique place that it can be so addicting that you might even want to live here.
Even if you stop by for a few minutes, you’ll see why this town is a place anyone can enjoy.
It is growing, and I am excited to see what is in store to come!