|A STROLL THROUGH VININGS
by Jesse Pompei
Atlanta Buckhead – March 2002
As you drive into Vinings along Paces Ferry Road from Buckhead, you feel like you just left the city and entered your own little Hundred-Acre Wood. The houses along Paces Ferry are nothing short of spectacular, and give you a small hint as to the splendor that awaits you in Vinings.
The bridge that crosses the Chattahoochee is your entryway into Vinings Village. Hermi’s Bridge still runs alongside the modern bridge, and is open to walkers and runners and has a great view of the river.
Right after the bridge is a small shopping center with Vinings favorite romantic restaurant, Canoe. Out-of-town celebs and Atlantans alike flock here for nights out, and countless wedding rehearsal dinners have been planned on this spot along the ‘Hooch.
As you continue into the historic district, you exit the woodsy envelope and see the light, the light of a shopper’s dream. Created in the early 1980s with a turn-of-the-century feel, the Vinings Jubilee is a small village in itself. As you approach the shops through your woodsy journey, a huge skyscraper looms above the shopping center and reminds you that you’re still in the city. But turn into the shopping center and you will forget all that and think you are in Smalltown, U.S.A. Park anywhere and start exploring this upscale shopping and eating Mecca.
One thing you notice in Vinings is customer service. In every store you visit, you are greeted and made to feel comfortable. Sandpiper was my first experience with this on my walking tour of the Jubilee. The design of the space is stunning, and makes you want to stay and look around. Sandpiper recently took over the space next to their shop, and has since added new clothing lines, shoes and purses. The jeans are tacked up in old orange school lockers, and folded shirts are placed on chairs that have been nailed on to the wall.
More women’s clothing stores await the shopper looking for chic options. Chico’s, White House Black Market (where everything is a shade of black or white), Talbot’s – and my favorite accessories shop, Ben & Jerry’s. One of the few freestanding Banana Republics offers options for men and women.
The Jubilee is also a great place to look for gifts, if you ever tire of shopping for yourself.
The first thing you notice about the Shoppe of Vinings is the smell; a floral candle aroma floats through the large space. Candles, garden art, pottery, greeting cards, silver and baby clothes all await the wandering shopper. Artrages Gallery is filled with all kinds of whimsical art pieces for any price range. Glass work and jewelry, folk art and pottery are everywhere, and ask Norma to tell you the story behind any piece and she will.
Hungry yet? Inside the Jubilee are countless options to satisfy you until you are ready to go back and shop some more. La Paz satisfies my Mexican fix, and has a great vegetarian burrito. Mellow Mushroom, a favorite of mine in Midtown, has a location in the Jubilee, with a great outdoor deck.
Garrison’s has one of the best patios in the Jubilee, overlooking another option for dining, The Grape, which offers wine tastings, a light menu, a retail shop and a patio. Check out the custom-designed wine trees that hold the bottles, and if purple is your color, hang out in here for a glass of wine.
Eating al fresco in Vinings is the best option – the surrounding Vinings Mountain and the village atmosphere make for some great scenery. You are away from the traffic inside the shopping center, and can eat without the fumes.
I hate to leave the security of the Jubilee – it makes me feel safe and lets me pretend I don’t have to go back to work. I can just shop and eat all day, right?
But there are more things to do outside of this shopping refuge. One of the best lunch specials in town is at the Orient Express, right across Paces Ferry from the Jubilee. For under $8 you can get those crunchy little fried things, soup or salad and a main entrée. Or you could sample from the sushi menu. The restaurant has high booths like in a train dining car, and you can usually hear the train go by as you dine or at least hit the traffic jam as you exit the parking lot.
The Vinings Inn on the corner of Paces Ferry and Paces Mill is a standard of the neighborhood, and reminds you of the strong history of the area. The old house is a favorite in the neighborhood, with its attic bar upstairs offering wine and beer tastings.
If you continue up Paces Ferry Road from the inn, you will see a grouping of office buildings to your right called the Overlook. That road will lead you up to the overlook of Vinings, where you can see the Jubilee and the rest of the village, and it is the former site of Vinings Mountain, the location of many a night of skiing on pellets, or so the memories go. Back down from the mountain along Paces Ferry up toward 285 there are clusters of shops and restaurants. Once you reach the top of Paces, the seclusion you felt inside the Jubilee and surrounding neighborhoods ends with the highway and jolt back into realty. Make a quick U-turn and head back to safety.
After a day of shopping and eating, it’s always fun to drive through neighborhoods. There are a few driving tours I take my visiting friends on – West Paces Ferry, Little Five Points, and these roads in Vinings – to ooh and ahh at the homes. Woodland Brook Road is the first road on your left after you cross the bridge into Vinings. Take a slow drive along the road to see some of the most beautiful homes in Atlanta. One of the few gated communities in Atlanta is to your left; continue on and you’ll see a fenced-in wooded area that is apparently someone’s front yard. Right before you come to the end of the Woodland Brook, a log cabin will be on your right and then you dead end into Log Cabin Road.
Turn around and head back to Paces Ferry and back to reality. As you cross over the Chattahoochee on your way back to Buckhead, I-75 and traffic, you can find comfort thinking about your next trip to the village of Vinings.