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Spring Getaways
Just A Drive Away

Craggy Gardens near Asheville offers stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Photo: Asheville CVB.
Although Atlanta is an incredible place to call home—a dynamic city with nearly limitless options when it comes to living, working and playing—sometimes, you just need to get away. Particularly if you’ve recently experienced the stressful process of moving and finding that new job, new school, new house, new friends, new life. A great getaway in its own right, Atlanta is filled with attractions, events and activities that draw countless numbers of people each year, and you’ll love living here, but everyone needs a vacation from time to time. And one of the many advantages of living in Atlanta is the fact that it’s surrounded by destinations that are perfect for getting away. Whether you’re looking for sand and sun, history, incredible mountain views and more, you’ll find it at the following getaways near Atlanta. Take a look—relaxation is only a drive away

Island Paradise: Brunswick and the Golden Isles, GA

The charming area of Brunswick and the Golden Isles, which includes St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons Island and Sea Island, is just five hours from Atlanta and offers something for everyone. Little St. Simons Island, a 10,000- acre privately owned oasis accessible only by boat, offers a true desert island experience, with pristine beaches, forests and abundant wildlife. Nearby Jekyll Island boasts a 240-acre historic district that is one of the largest ongoing restoration projects in the Southeast. Part of this district is the elegant Jekyll Island Club Hotel, once a retreat for some of America’s wealthiest families (namely, the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts). St. Simons Island is home to one of the oldest churches in Georgia—Christ Church. If you aren’t a history buff, you can challenge the 198 beautiful holes of golf in the area, or enjoy bird- and dolphin-watching, strolls along miles of sandy beaches, shopping or a deep sea fishing excursion. You can also test out your luck on the area’s 600-passenger cruise/casino ship Emerald Princess II, or board the Lady Jane, a working shrimp boat, for a truly unique sea adventure. One of the best ways to explore Brunswick and its isles is by bike—on the miles of paths, so be sure to bring your own or rent one.

America’s Castle & More: Asheville, NC

  Asheville’s majestic Biltmore House, the largest home in America. Photo: The Biltmore Company.
Asheville has come a long way from the primitive outpost it was in 1797, when Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett occasionally passed through. In the winter months, many flock to Asheville for snowboarding, skiing and snowtubing. The city actually has mild winters, but it’s just a half-hour from the closest slopes. However, Asheville is more than a winter vacation destination. There’s plenty to do in the mountain city year-round. Named one of 12 top travel destinations in the world by Frommer’s in 2007, Asheville offers a vibrant downtown area, with locally owned shops and art galleries, unique restaurants and exciting entertainment venues. Plus, the city is nestled in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, so outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking and whitewater rafting are favorite pastimes. Perhaps Asheville’s most popular attraction is Biltmore Estate, which features America’s largest home surrounded by exquisite gardens. Boasting an indoor pool, 65 fireplaces, rare antiques and paintings, and 250 rooms, including a library with 10,000 volumes and a banquet hall with a 70-foot ceiling, the Biltmore House is a must-see. Don’t miss the Festival of Flowers Apr. 4-May 17, when the estate’s gardens are in full bloom.

A Golden Experience: Dahlonega, GA

The first major U.S. gold rush actually took place in Dahlonega, “the Georgia gateway to the Appalachian Mountains,” in 1828, about 20 years before the California rush. The Dahlonega Gold Museum and numerous other “golden” attractions pay tribute to this fact (and the Dahlonega CVB even offers a Gold Fever vacation package), but there’s more than gold in this city’s hills. There are day spas and retreats; charming B&Bs with lovely views; The Holly Theater, one of the state’s top performing theater companies; art galleries; great shops and restaurants; and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures. The Georgia General Assembly deemed Dahlonega and Lumpkin County the foremost cycling venue in the Southeast—Lance Armstrong has biked here. The Dahlonega mountains also have the highest concentration of wineries and vineyards in North Georgia. Its beautiful vineyards feature a wide variety of European, French hybrids and American wine grapes. (For a Georgia winery adventure, see the Worth the Drive sidebar on page 54.) The mountain town also plays host to some fantastic festivals through-out the year, including the Bear on the Square Mountain Festival from Apr. 17-19, a weekend of music (primarily old-time and bluegrass) and art; the Mountain Flower Art Festival May 16- 17, which features arts and crafts and celebrates the area’s wildflowers; and the Georgia Wine Country Festival June 6-7, where guests can sample wine from participating vineyards while enjoying live music.

History, Tradition & Charm: Charleston, SC

The Charleston Harbor. Photo: Charleston Area CVB.
There are many reasons why Charleston was named Favorite Southern City by readers of Southern Living magazine for its 2008 Readers’ Choice Awards. Cobblestone streets, palm trees, and charming, elegant Charleston-style homes (or Charleston singles) are just a few of its charms. A carriage tour is perhaps the best way to learn about the city, but a harbor tour also is a great option. There are companies that offer both tours as a package, so be sure to search for these deals. A trip to Charleston wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its beautiful plantations. Eighteenth-century Middleton Place boasts immaculate gardens and aban- doned rice fields where alligators now reside, while the plantation house at Drayton Hall is one of the only pre-Revolutionary homes in the country to remain in near original condition. For sand and sun, nearby Folly Beach, one of the top surfing spots on the east coast, is popular, with a pier that extends more than 1,000 feet into the Atlantic, charming souvenir shops and eateries, and miles of sandy beaches. After some sight-seeing, you’ll undoubtedly be a bit fam-ished. Hyman’s Seafood in downtown Charleston, which serves up high-quality, priced-right seafood, is a must. Locals and visitors alike flock to the place, so it’s usually crowded, but well worth the wait. Celebrities also have an affinity for the eatery—there’s a plaque at each seat indicating a celebrity who once sat there. How often can you sit at the same table as Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins or Oprah? Before you depart Charleston, you’ll want to experience an evening stroll—many of the homes have flickering outdoor gas lights that create a calm, peaceful ambiance.

Family Attraction: Pigeon Forge/ Gatlinburg, TN

  Pigeon Forge’s historic Old Mill, one of the most photographed
mills in the country. Photo: Pigeon Forge Dept of Tourism.
A popular family destination, Pigeon Forge is perhaps best known as the home of Dolly Parton’s Dollywood. The 140-acre amusement park nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains boasts over 40 rides and attractions—and there’s also Dollywood’s Splash Country for the warmer months, a 30-acre water park recognized twice by the Travel Channel as one of the country’s top 10 water parks. Attractions are one of the main reasons many families choose Pigeon Forge as a getaway destination. From miniature golf and bumper boats to waterslides, laser games and an indoor skydiving simulator, there are more than 40 attractions lining Pigeon Forge’s Parkway. And nearby Gatlinburg isn’t lacking when it comes to attractions either, offering fascinating museums; go-cart racing; Ober Gatlinburg, a ski resort with year-round ice skating; an aquarium with a 340-foot underwater tunnel, where a green sea turtle, giant stingrays and large sharks swim by; and much more. Plus, there are more than 400 village-style shops lining the streets of Gatlinburg, selling such items as outdoor gear, homemade candy, handmade arts and crafts, and gifts and souvenirs. Through June 7, the city hosts its annual SpringFest—the streets feature baskets and landscaping overflowing with colorful flowers and plants, and there’s live entertainment along the sidewalks. Of course, the fact that Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are surrounded by the Smoky Mountains means there’s plenty to do in the way of mountain activities as well, such as camping, hiking, fishing, biking, canoeing, horseback riding and whitewater rafting.

A River Runs Through It: Chattanooga, TN/Lookout Mountain

Chattanooga’s beautiful revitalized Riverfront is a popular hangout. Photo: Chattanooga CVB.  
Over the past several years, Chattanooga’s charming Riverfront downtown has gone through a dramatic transformation—and the area was already worth a visit. Today, the revitalized Riverfront boasts a new pier, vast green spaces, playground, wetlands park, additional shops and restaurants, public art and a passageway leading to the Tennessee River. On the banks of the river is the Tennessee Aquarium, where visitors can explore a variety of aquatic animals in their natural habitats, including otters, sharks, colorful reef fish, penguins and much more. The nearby Chattanooga Choo Choo, a historic train station that now features a hotel, restaurants, shops and railroad museum, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. Also downtown is the 1.5-mile Walnut Street Bridge, the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. Chattanooga is also all about the arts—its Hunter Museum houses the South’s largest collection of American Art, and the city will host the 4 Bridges Art Festival Apr. 18-19. From June 5-13, the city will welcome nearly 700,000 to its 28th Annual Riverbend Festival, which offers over 100 performances on six stages by the river. If mountains are more your thing, then head to nearby Lookout Mountain, which boasts incredible views and attractions such as Rock City Gardens, a walking trail with massive rock formations, lush gardens and a 200-foot swinging bridge, and Ruby Falls, a 145-foot waterfall that is the largest underground commercial waterfall in the world.

Worth the Drive

If a multi-stop getaway is more your style, check out some of Georgia’s great driving trails. For additional trails and information, call 404-962-4000 or visit

Georgia’s Wine Trail

As its name suggests, this trail includes stops at some of Georgia’s breathtaking vineyards, including Crane Creek Vineyards in Young Harris; Tiger Mountain Vineyards in Tiger; Fox Vineyards and Winery in Social Circle; Habersham Winery and Vineyard in Helen; and Three Sisters Vineyards and Winery in Dahlonega.

Georgia’s Antebellum Trail

A 100-mile journey through seven cities that survived Sherman’s march through Georgia, including Athens, Watkinsville, Madison, Eatonton, Milledgeville and Old Clinton. The trail is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year with its first Antebellum Trail Pilgrimage event during three weekends in April (Apr. 16-18, Apr. 23-25, Apr. 30-May 2)—special events and tours will take place along the trail, including access to private historic homes not open to the general public. Tickets are $25, include access to seven attractions and/or events and can be purchased at any Welcome Center along the driving trail.

Border to Border Trail

This trail on Highway 27, which spans the entire state from north to south, promises “320 miles of natural wonders, cultivated beauty and manmade marvels.” Stops include Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” Cloudland Canyon; the luxurious 13,000-acre Callaway Gardens resort, spa and enrichment center; the Kolomoki Indian Mounds built between 250 and 950 A.D.; and former President Franklin Roosevelt’s personal retreat, the Little White House in Warm Springs.

Atlanta History Center
Fernbank Museum, Children's Museum, Centennial Olympic Park

Turner Field, Zoo Atlanta, Atlanta History Center, World of Coke
Children's Museum of Atlanta
Turner Field

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