Over the course of about a month, I managed to get myself to five (count them five!) Atlanta festivals. Some were bad, some were great, at one of them people just showed up and ate. (Rhyming sequence over.)
As any ATLien knows, if you don’t like a good fest you have no business living here. Starting in April and running through the fall, there’s at least one festival taking place in town just about every single weekend. Many of them are the same – artist booths, food trucks, a live band or two – but they do have their subtle differences. Here’s my impression of the five I recently attended.
Atlanta Dogwood Festival
This one has always been a bit of a scene for me. Held at Piedmont Park in the heart of Midtown, it really brings on the crowds, often making it difficult to enjoy. This year was no exception. I was able to squeeze into a few booths and have a look at the artists’ wares, but mostly I was unwillingly herded in between the long rows of booths without the ability to really see anything. That is kind of okay, though, because a lot of the art at the Dogwood is more upscale – read: expensive.
I was, however, able to snag this amazing gem from an artist whose work I always admire at these events – Alex Leopold. His shiny, resin-covered collages get me every time. This time, I just had to have one. This one was $43, and it’s everything I have been dreaming of and more!
The food at the Dogwood Fest also isn’t much to write home about. Unlike other fests that feature more of the local food trucks, this one mostly offers your typical, caloric carnival fare. King of Pops was there though of course, as they are at virtually every outdoor event in Atlanta (not that I mind).
Other attractions at the Dogwood include carnival rides and a dog competition (which can be fun to watch for a few minutes, but there’s only so much Frisbee-catching I can marvel at before wondering why I am not at home being more productive). Parking at this fest is typically a nightmare too, hence my friend and I walked there from West Midtown (which is not even remotely close). We were able to find a cab ride back relatively easily though.
The one plus about this festival is that there’s a lot of free stuff to be got from some of the non-art booths – I left with a bag full of food samples (granola, brownie bites, peanut butter crackers, etc.) from ALDI, Larabar and a few others.
All in all, I will likely skip this one in the future and just stalk Alex Leopold online. (The weather is also really weird during this time of year, so you never know what you’re going to get. This time it was boiling hot in the sun and freezing cold in the shade. Last year was also quite cold.)
Inman Park Festival
Thinking the crowds could not possibly compare to the Dogwood, I made my way to the Inman Park Festival the very next weekend. Boy was I wrong. This fest was even more crowded, making it almost impossible to even know where you were half the time. I brought along a 14-year-old who is typically very interested in shopping for trinkets and jewelry, and even she could not deal with the crowds long enough to pick out something purdy for me to buy for her. Instead, we once again meandered through the crowds in a zombie-like fashion just waiting for it all to be over.
One plus at this fest versus Dogwood is that you do see more of the less expensive, crafty art and jewelry pieces that the masses can actually afford. (That is, if you can see the booths at all in between all the bodies.)
The best part of this festival is the quirky parade featuring a lot of local organizations. That part was fun, but again, the crowds made it difficult to truly relax and enjoy it. (“Excuse me, ma’am, you are standing too close to our booth…”) Of course, going to the festival at parade time is probably not the smartest move if you want to avoid the crowds…
Food here was also pretty typical – I ended up with a corn dog and lemonade and my tween buddy had chicken fingers and funnel cake. The Inman Park festival also features a dance performance showcasing 4-5 local groups, which I have thoroughly enjoyed in the past. However, this year, only one of the groups (called Ballethnic) was that great and the rest were on the creepy/bizarre side. Oh well…next! I don’t really see a reason to return to this one…
(Parking isn’t bad here, though, as you can easily park in some of the Inman Park restaurant lots without getting ticketed or towed. One week also made quite a difference in weather – it was pretty much perfect for this festival.)
Taste of Alpharetta
Crowds galore at this one too, but when the primary objective is stuffing one’s face, somehow I don’t mind as much. Here are the restaurants/foods I opted to try:
- Bite Bistro & Bar – short rib and kimchee sliders – a little hard to chew, but tasty!
- Figo – butternut squash ravioli – Figo has never done that much for me, but their booth had no line, so that was enough incentive to try their food again. The pasta didn’t blow me away but it was perfectly fine.
- Tassa Caribbean Buffet – chicken pelau – yummy and spicy, but I rarely meet a Caribbean dish I don’t like.
- Sid’s Pizza & Grill – slice of pepperoni – not too shabby.
- M Chocolat – frozen peanut butter truffles – highlight of the evening!!! Me want more!
The only other “taste of” event I had been to before was Taste of Atlanta, and I dare say this one in Alpharetta was even more crowded. But for some reason, I really liked the vibe. There was live music set up in a few places, which was cool, and the crowd was super diverse – both from an age and ethnicity perspective. I dug it. There were lots of teens there together, and I thought it was impressive that they would go to something like that on their own.
I was also glad to see a group of teens arriving as my friend and I were leaving, because we didn’t even use half of our tickets and needed to give them away to some deserving souls. Overall, I spent $20 on tickets, and probably used less than $10 worth. In general, the ticketing system is kind of annoying because there’s a slow line for that too so you have to stock up at the beginning unless you want to wait in line again.
The parking situation at this event was pretty easy, as they had several areas where you could park and take a free shuttle to the fest. I will do that versus fighting for a spot any day! Overall, Taste of Alpharetta gets my seal of approval. I would be open to attending this one again, but would be sure to buy fewer tickets…
Dunwoody Art Festival
This fest was pretty great. Again, there was easy parking with a free shuttle, so things were off to a pleasant start. But mostly I loved this fest because it featured several of my favorite Atlanta artists all one in place. I went a little crazy buying stuff here, but we just moved into a new house, so I need new décor, right??? Here is what I purchased:
I have been pining after this husband-and-wife team’s goods since I first saw them at the Indie Craft Experience last fall. Their paintings leave me absolutely spellbound, so I had to get two… (Each print was $32.)
I have no idea what that name means, but this woman’s whimsical creations make me happy to be a girl. I just haaad to snag a few of her little plates for my new dining room (sorry, husband). Each plate was $20. Two of them even came with hooks for the wall – she ran out of them for the third, but said I could get one at Michael’s.
I just discovered 3 Hip Chics at the Dunwoody festival, and boy am I glad I did. These beauties, which I scored for $45 total, will go great in my new yoga/meditation room. (Yes, I am really having that, thanks husband!)
The crowds in Dunwoody were much more bearable than at the other fests, though it was far from deserted. I didn’t stick around for the food because I had to book it to the winning fest of this battle, the Buckhead Spring Arts & Crafts Festival. However, from what I spied, it seemed like this fest had a better mix of conventional fair food and some more interesting options (including Jamaican food, a Panini truck and a sweet and savory pie purveyor).
All in all, the atmosphere was more lazy and chill (as an art fest should be) than the events above. It was getting way closer to my speed, and the loot I left with made it all worth it! Depending on who is there next year and how much art I need, I may return.
*Dunwoody also scores bonus points for not making me use a porta-potty. All of the local businesses allow you to use their restrooms during the event. What a concept!
Buckhead Spring Arts & Crafts Festival (The Winning Fest!)
This event was nothing short of magical for me. Set in Chastain Park, one of Atlanta’s most lovely green spaces in my opinion, it was a total breath of fresh air – providing plenty of shade and room to groove. At no point during this festival did I feel claustrophobic or crowded in. That alone makes it the winner of this battle in my opinion, but there were many other upsides as well.
First of all, parking is plentiful around the park both in lots and on side streets. If you’re okay with a quick, picturesque walk through the park, ditching your car is totally hassle-free. Secondly, even though I’d already spent more than intended on art that day, I did score a few more great finds.
A Whirl & A Twirl was there with its to-die-for headbands that don’t hurt your head, so I had to pick up another one of those babies. Seriously, everything on earth gives me a headache, but I can wear these gems all the live-long day without getting one. And they are super unique and gorgeous too!
I also appreciate that the owner gives a discount to repeat customers. She took $5 off my latest treasure. Prices for the headbands vary based on the design and the materials used to make them. My latest treasure was $35, but they also have some cheaper options for under $20.
There was also no way I could leave without this cute, quilted tea coaster by Kris Khan Designs for $8:
If it’s Asian, I buy it. End of story.
And lastly, the food, my favorite thing to discuss. These festival organizers are definitely more into the unique, homegrown food truck/cart scene, which I highly appreciate. Among others, Yumbii was there, as was King of Pops and my new obsession, Ursa Minor Coffee. Based in Asheville, NC, this magical truck occasionally makes its way to Atlanta to bless us with its euphoric beverages. Both times I have been lucky enough to encounter this truck, I could not resist ordering the iced “Bombay,” a coffee drink pumped up with Indian spices. Yes, it’s as amazing as it sounds.
Next time I see them, I will have to force myself to try another one of their (always unique) concoctions. Not that I am over King of Pops or anything, but I am currently as obsessed with Ursa Minor as I used to be with King of Pops when they were first becoming popular. Any time they are back in the ATL, I will do whatever I can to get to Ursa Minor’s delightful drinks. (Don’t worry, KoP, I also grabbed a coconut lemongrass pop for the road as I was leaving the event.)
April and May are only the beginning of fest season in these parts, so there’s lots more eating and craft hoarding to be done in the coming months. A few summer events on my radar include the Peachtree Hills Festival of Arts, Summer ICE (the Fall ICE was A-MA-ZING!), the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival (always love that one) and, of course, the Atlanta Street Food Festival!
Is there an awesome summer fest I’m missing? Shoot me a note and let me know. Happy festing!