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Feb./March 2007

Georgia Getaways
From romance to adventure, from family fun to small town charm—Georgia’s treasures offer something for everyone.
by Avery Thibadeau

As a city that reinvents itself as the years pass, Atlanta attracts many types of people—young 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.

River Street, Savannah
Relax, Already!
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, 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 chandeliers—and 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 Street—a 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.

Barnsley Gardens Resort
Equally full on history and luxury but worlds away in terms of atmosphere is Barnsley Gardens Resort (877-773-2447, in Adairsville, northwest of Atlanta. Originally the estate of Godfrey Barnsley, the manor home and gardens of this successful 19th century cotton trader is now the site of an 18-hole championship golf course, three restaurants, a luxurious spa, acres of gardens (complete with 150 varieties of roses) and absolutely charming guest cottages.

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.

Château Élan
When Cupid has Struck
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,, 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 carte—plan 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,, 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
If discovering the state also means adventure to you, head south to the Altamaha River for over 100 miles of nature exploration. It’s certainly worth visiting when the Nature Conservancy has earmarked it one of the 75 “Last Great Places” in the world, and your trip can be tailored to fit your rusticity liking—camp beside the river or enjoy day excursions from the comfort of your RV or hotel in a nearby town. Either way, this is a great way to experience South Georgia, from Hazlehurst or Lumber City to historic Darien.

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.

Cumberland Island
South of where the Altamaha flows into the Atlantic is wild and wily Cumberland Island. As Georgia’s largest barrier island, Cumberland is also the most primitive. Accessible only by ferry, the island is designated a national park, protecting it from development. Wild horses have made their home on Cumberland, unfettered by settlement, and 50 miles of hiking trails through maritime forests, marshes and beaches entice visitors eager for the opportunity to escape civilization. Sandy beaches stretch the entire length of the island’s eastern shore, sometimes as much as a mile wide.

Both developed and wilderness camping are available on Cumberland, but the Greyfield Inn ( 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.

Okefenokee Swamp
Further to the west and near the Florida border, the Okefenokee Swamp offers tales of thrills and solitude, but today’s explorers have the welcome advantage of taking guided tours if they choose. Okefenokee Adventures (912-496-7156, is a great choice for tours and rentals. Canoes, kayaks and quiet motor boats can take you and your family past the watchful eyes of alligators and turtles while you gaze upon great blue herons, egrets and ibis. Tours can last from one hour to overnight, and tour guides will not only direct your attention to points (or animals) of interest, but will also prepare you for any wildlife surprises lurking around the bend. Hiking, some hunting and fishing are also enjoyed within the confines of this national wildlife refuge.

At the Drop of a Hat
A quick day-trip is quite refreshing by itself, and Atlanta’s location is ideal to head in any direction for a brief yet unusual experience. The White House may be a bit far to venture for a day trip, but the Little White House (706-655-5870) in Warm Springs is most certainly not. The sometime residence of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, the house was a haven for the polio-stricken president with its proximity to the area’s healing spring waters. Now open for tours, the house has been largely preserved as it existed in 1945, when FDR died while posing for a portrait. This unfinished portrait is on display at the Little White House Museum today, along with other artifacts that belonged to the president and his wife.

The Kangaroo Conservation Center
The Kangaroo Conservation Center (706-265-6100, in North Georgia is also more convenient for Atlanta residents than its better-known counterpart—say, Australia—and it offers the largest collection of kangaroos outside the land down under. While taking a tour across Georgia’s outback, you’ll learn the inner workings of this preserve, visit bird aviaries, watch a show of “Wild Australia” and practice your boomerang throw, all in one day.

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
Georgia’s history is entertaining to say the least, and no where else does it come to life with such luster as in Swamp Gravy (229-758-5450,, the official folk life play of Georgia. Located in Colquitt and running weekends in March and October, each play is based on real stories of life in turn-of-the-century South Georgia.

In Mountain City, the Foxfire Museum (706-746-5828, 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.

New Echota
But before there were English settlers in Georgia, there were Native Americans, and the Cherokee capital, New Echota, is now a state park (706-624-1321, showcasing the arts, culture and music of the tribe. Both original and reconstructed buildings educate visitors on the Cherokee’s own newspaper, written language and system of law.

It’s a Date
When 300,000 flowering Yoshino cherry trees begin to bloom in Macon, it’s not surprising that the city finds reason to celebrate. From March 17 – 25, the Cherry Blossom Festival ( is a fanfare of hot air balloon races, air shows, fireworks displays, parades and historic tours.

Put April 2 – 8 on your calendar and head to Augusta for the Masters Tournament ( A golf tournament since the 1930s played on the famed Augusta National Golf Course, the Masters annually pulls thousands of visitors to the city.

Tour de Georgia
It may not be in France, but the Tour de Georgia ( is one of the top-ranked stage races in the world; it is also a rolling festival of community activities. From April 16 – 22, 12 Georgia cities will host this progressive event which directly benefits Georgia’s Cancer Coalition Research Fund.




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