From romance to adventure, from family fun to small town charmGeorgia’s treasures offer something for everyone.
by Avery Thibadeau
As a city that reinvents itself as the years pass, Atlanta attracts many types of peopleyoung singles, families and retirees from all walks of life make their homes here. A dynamic city, events and festivals continually crop up to entertain, educate and excite its diverse population. Fortunately, there is something for everyone outside the city as well. The entire state is filled with destinations appealing to travelers from the poodle-loving princess to the SUV-sporting family to the granola-toting backpacker. As warm weather approaches, think about getting outside the city for a day, a weekend or longer, and discover the cultural breadth of the state. From high-class romance to a romping low country good-time, Georgia offers everything you’re seeking in a city escape.
For a weekend away, who can resist Savannah, the city of southern aristocracy?
And if heading to Savannah, well, who can resist the Mansion on Forsyth Park (888-711-5114, www.mansiononforsythpark.com)? A 19th century mansion serves as the foundation of this lavish 126-room hotel and plays host to the ideal weekend, especially if pampering is in order. Dramatic and unusual features characterize the hotel, which boasts mahogany and teak paneling and molding, a grand staircase, art gallery and a delightful hat collection. The boutique guest rooms glitter with crystal chandeliersand state-of-the-art flat screen televisions and Bose radios.
Although you’ll be tempted to stay and revel in the grandeur of the hotel, the city itself is just as charming. City tours leave from the visitor information center daily, but on a quick visit, the best place to soak up the local culture and learn about the city’s illustrious history is on River Streeta site key to Savannah’s status and wealth as a port city. Stroll the cobblestone streets while poking through the boutiques, jewelry stores and art galleries. Dinner at the Oyster Bar or Fiddler’s Crab House is always enjoyable, but a true Savannah experience involves a ride on a riverboat, such as the Georgia Queen, which offers dining and entertainment filled with the city’s unique flavor.
Each cottage features heart-of-pine flooring and is beautifully filled with antiques. No detail has been ignored, from the period-inspired bathrooms to the custom-built king-sized beds. Ask and ye shall receive, including a fire in your cottage’s wood-burning fireplace. When (dare we say “if?”) you’re able to pull yourself away from your home-away-from-home English cottage, explore the estate by horseback or mountain bike, or even take a shot at sporting clay. If a slower pace fits the bill, the gardens and enchanting ruins of the manor home offer plenty of enticing hideaways.
Georgia may not be known as wine country, but it can still offer the romantic wine country experience. Reserve a room at Château Élan (800-233-9463, www.chateauelanatlanta.com), Georgia’s own 16th century French château. Both a winery and resort, Château Élan is lauded for the premium wine it produces as well as for its flawless luxury. Take the wine tour to discover how the grapes are grown and put your wine knowledge to the test at the wine tasting. Be sure to try one of the uniquely southern Muscadine wines, made from a grape native to the Southeast.
Château Élan features a full service spa offering packages or services chosen à la carteplan ahead for an overnight stay and select one of the uniquely-appointed spa suites. From a taste of Greece to English elegance, each suite is individually designed to offer guests a relaxing experience culled from their dreams. The resort’s inn or the golf villas also offer a luxurious backdrop for a weekend filled with golf or tennis games and decadent meals at any of the resort’s eight restaurants. True sophistication and elegance await you here.
For a quieter taste of romance and a cozy weekend for two, look no further than Madison. Named the “#1 Small Town in America” by Travel Holiday magazine, the town is dotted with pre-Civil War homes, primarily because, according to some accounts, this is the town that Sherman refused to burn. Shady trees line Main Street, and bright, welcoming smiles are seen on faces throughout the town.
Book a room at the Madison Oaks Inn and Gardens (706-343-9990, www.madisonoaksinn.com), a 1905 Greek Revival mansion featuring just four intimate guest rooms and true southern hospitality. Each room is individually appointed with antiques and offers sun-filled views of the surrounding gardens. Start your day with a full gourmet breakfast before strolling the half-mile to the town square.
All About Adventure
Numerous landings are situated along the river, most of which are paved, so putting in your own canoe or kayak is easy to do. Feel free to contact any of the local outfitters for rentals and a guided trip of canoeing, kayaking, fishing, day hiking into the surrounding flatlands, or all of the above. Check out unusual sights, such as the partially submerged paddle wheel boat about halfway down the river, and enjoy the scenic river corridors. The river is not dammed and is thus a natural habitat for over 130 endangered species of plants, animals and birds; the bald eagle and swallow-tailed kite have been sighted, and the watershed hosts colonies of red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Both developed and wilderness camping are available on Cumberland, but the Greyfield Inn (www.greyfieldinn.com) offers romantic, alternative lodging to visitors who enjoy the outdoors without complete immersion. This former 19th century mansion is furnished with turn-of-the-century items, taking visitors back to the time of Thomas and Lucy Carnegie, who once used the island as their personal retreat. Visit the ruins of their former home, Dungeness, and their son’s Georgian Revival mansion, Plum Orchard.
Another site worth visiting, the First African Baptist Church, hosted the wedding of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette.
At the Drop of a Hat
Georgia may not be a land of giant mountains, but it does feature a rather impressive gorge, Cloudland Canyon (706-657-4050), near Lookout Mountain in Northwest Georgia. A state park, visitors can hike to the bottom of the gorge to view the cascading waterfalls of Sitton Gulch Creek or simply plan a picnic overlooking the canyon.
All Kinds of Culture
In Mountain City, the Foxfire Museum (706-746-5828, www.foxfire.org) takes visitors back in time to life in Appalachia over 150 years ago. A collection of 20 historic log cabins filled with tools and artifacts provides visitors with a hands-on historic experience of life before running water and electricity.
It’s a Date
Put April 2 8 on your calendar and head to Augusta for the Masters Tournament (www.masters.org). A golf tournament since the 1930s played on the famed Augusta National Golf Course, the Masters annually pulls thousands of visitors to the city.