5 easy weekend getaways from Atlanta
Atlanta has no shortage of fun things to do, but sometimes you need a change of scenery. Lucky for you, the ATL is just a quick road trip away from beaches, mountains, and quaint Southern towns. Break out of your weekend rut and take an impromptu getaway. Whether you want a romantic escape, a thrill-filled adventure, or something in between, we’ve got a destination for you.
Drive about 250 miles southeast of the ATL, and you’ll find yourself in Savannah, a charming coastal city near the border of South Carolina. Stroll the tree-lined streets of the Historic District and check out the classic antebellum architecture; taking advantage of the city’s open-container laws will make that walk even more fun. Savannah has amazing beaches, which means there are lots of opportunities to play in the water: Kayaking, jet-skiing, and parasailing are just a few of your options. The city is also known as a golf destination, so be sure to take some time to hit the links. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to experience Savannah’s famous food scene. Dig into a traditional Lowcountry seafood boil at Desposito’s, where you can chat up the locals while you shell your shrimp and crabs. For a more romantic night out, start off with cocktails at Planter’s Tavern, and then move on to dinner at the Olde Pink House. Insider tip: don’t miss the fried lobster tails.
Located about an hour from Atlanta, this quirky, fun college town is known for its live music scene. R.E.M. played some of its first gigs at the 40 Watt Club, and the B-52s also got their start here. Have a cocktail at the Georgia Theatre’s rooftop bar, and then catch a show at the famous venue. Even if live music’s not your thing, you’ll find plenty of other things to keep busy during a weekend here. There’s a booming restaurant renaissance happening in Athens. Sample different takes on Southern cooking at Five & Ten or Pulaski Heights BBQ (they even have smoked tofu for vegetarians), or have a leisurely brunch at Big City Bread Café. Want to soak up some art and culture? Up-and-coming artists have moved to Athens in droves, and galleries and studios are popping up all over town. Don’t leave Athens without a stop at the Georgia Museum of Art. The museum has been renovated and expanded, and their collection of unique Southern art can’t be beat.
3. Asheville, North Carolina
Just three hours away from Atlanta, Asheville has some of the highest peaks in the Appalachian range, so there are smashing views from just about anywhere you stand. The city center bustles with a vibrant art and restaurant scene, but the fresh mountain air will likely lure you toward more outdoorsy adventures. Lace up your hiking boots and hit the Appalachian Trail, or go on a fly-fishing adventure with a guide. Foodies should sign up for a wild food foraging adventure with No Taste Like Home. You’ll head to the woods and learn how to safely pick mushrooms and other wild foods. At the end of the day, you can take your "catch" to one of several local restaurants, where a chef will cook it up for you. "Hunger Games" fans might want to take a side trip to DuPont State Recreational Forest—one of the forest’s four waterfalls is Triple Falls, featured in the first movie. While you’re at DuPont, you can also hike, bike, picnic, and cool off in a swimming hole.
4. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Gatlinburg is known as the gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and it’s located about three hours from Atlanta. The area is one of the top outdoor destinations in the country. There’s golfing, fishing, and hundreds of miles of hiking trails nearby. If you visit in the winter, you can do some downhill skiing, tubing, or snowboarding. Need some higher-adrenaline adventures? Go zip-lining, or tackle the area’s Class IV rapids on a whitewater rafting trip. Be sure to visit the Space Needle, and ride the glass elevators 400 feet up to the observation deck. You’ll be treated to stunning, 360-degree views of the area. You can’t visit the heart of the Smokies without getting a taste of real Tennessee moonshine, so make a stop at the Sugarlands Distilling Company to sample their handcrafted spirits.
5. North Georgia Mountains
Want to get away for the weekend without spending hours in the car? Head to the North Georgia Mountains, only 40 miles from the city. This area is seated at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it’s perfect for active, outdoorsy types. Stop at Lake Lanier first. It’s the go-to place for kayaking, water skiing, boating, and swimming. After a day out on the lake, treat yourself to dinner at Antebellum. This upscale spot focuses on local ingredients and creative twists on traditional Southern dishes. Try the classic fried green tomatoes with an unexpected topping of bacon jam (because everything tastes better with bacon). Work off dinner at Tallulah Gorge, where you can hike 1,100 steps down to the bottom of the gorge and back up. There’s a growing wine industry in the Georgia mountains, so you’ll want to stop at a few of the thirty-plus wineries in the area. Tour the wine caves at Yonah Mountain Vineyards and taste the winery’s flagship blend, Genesis 6.