Great Getaways, Close To Home
by Susan Flowers
|PHOTO: Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau
Atlanta is a wonderful place to live and work, but even the most diehard metro resident needs a little R&R now and then. Spring is just the right time for a fun-filled getaway, so if you’re looking for a locale that’s an easy drive and offers lots to do, consider one of these destinations for a day, weekend or week-long stay!
Famous as the site of the first U.S. gold rush in 1828, Dahlonega boasts a wealth of activities for the whole family. Adults will enjoy the area’s five wineries including Montaluce Vineyards & Estates. With rental cottages and an onsite restaurant, plus tastings and tours, Montaluce offers more than a day’s recreation.
Explore Dahlonega’s rich history and pan for gold at the Crisson Gold Mine, featuring the only working stampmill in Georgia. For relaxation and pampering, visit one of Dahlonega’s several spas, such as the Anidawehi Plantation at Forrest Hills Mountain Resort. With aromatherapy, reflexology, hot stone massage and more, even the most stressed visitor can find tranquility and relaxation.
Shoppers will catch great finds at the stores in and around Dahlonega’s town square. One favorite is the Hummingbird Lane Art Gallery which features more than 150 local, regional and national artists. Whatever activity you choose, be sure to make time to dine at the historic Smith House Inn, featuring authentic Southern cooking at its best.
The apple capital of Georgia offers a range of activities. Spend a day fishing at the fully stocked Carter’s Lake, the deepest manmade lake east of the Mississippi, or tackle the lake’s challenging mountain bike trail, which the local Chamber of Commerce touts as a “lung-busting 5.6 mile roller coaster ride.”
The region’s highest waterfall, located at Amicalola Falls State Park, provides an aweinspiring look at nature’s beauty. You also can check out Fort Mountain State Park’s 855-foot mystery wall, which is believed to have been built by ancient Native Americans though its original purpose remains unknown.
Forgotten any outdoor supplies? Pick up extras at the Cartecay River Trading Company. And when you’re ready for a good meal, drop by Wolf Creek Canyon BBQ which is known for its mouth-watering Brunswick stew.
You’d think North Georgia would be the last place you’d find a touch of Bavaria, but think again: Helen, a charming re-creation of an Alpine village, features multiple attractions. While you’re browsing the town’s bevy of shops, pick up some homemade fudge and hand-dipped chocolates at the Hansel and Gretel Candy Kitchen. For upscale dining with authentic European cuisine and the ambience of an Alpine chalet, visit the Vines, located in the Edelweiss German Inn.
During warmer months, enjoy tubing down the Chattahoochee with Cool River Tubing Company, or visit the area’s several wineries, including Habersham Winery which features tours and tastings of its selection of Georgia wine, plus an excellent gift shop.
Just a short distance from Helen is Babyland General Hospital, located in Cleveland at a fabulous, just-constructed new site. Home of the famous Cabbage Patch Kid dolls, Babyland General offers tours and an irresistible dose of nostalgia for 30-somethings.
|Visitors enjoy the beautiful
vistas at the State Botanical
Garden of Georgia in Athens. Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Most Georgians think of Athens as the site for fall games between the hedges, but this vibrant city actually features a range of activities. Theatre buffs will appreciate Athens’ several companies, including the Morton, which boasts its own unique history: Founded in 1910 by an African American owner as a vaudeville theatre, the Morton is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Visitors to the 313-acre State Botanical Garden of Georgia will delight in the three-story tropical conservatory as well as the themed gardens and more than five miles of trails. On your way to pick up souvenirs at the gift shop, be sure to stop for lunch at the Gardenside Café.
For some of the best coffee around, visit Jittery Joe’s Coffee Roasting Company. Opened in 1994, this Athens institution quickly became popular far beyond the city. Named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 24-hour coffee houses in America, Jittery Joe’s also spawned a live recording that’s ranked the fifth most popular underground album of all time.
Home of several fascinating attractions, Macon offers enough diversion for a couple of weekends. No visit to this central Georgia city would be complete without a stop at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Fans of R&B, jazz, country and rock will find tributes to their favorite homegrown heroes, including REM, Lena Horne, the Allman Brothers and Little Richard. While you’re there, be sure to check out Tune Town, where each building houses a different genre of music, and drop by the Vintage Vinyl record store to see exhibits on REM, the B-52s and more.
The nearby Georgia Sports Hall of Fame highlights the state’s sports heroes in a 43,000- square-foot facility. Learn more about the legendary homerun king Hank Aaron and football star Fran Tarkenton, among many others, including high school and college stars.
|Sports fans will find tributes
to their favorite homegrown
heroes at Macon’s Georgia
Sports Hall of Fame.
A trip to the Tubman Museum, the state’s largest African American museum, offers a look at permanent and visiting exhibits by prominent artists. Don’t miss the 70-foot mural showcasing African American history, art and culture. You can catch all three attractions with the Around Town Museum District Tour, and when you’re hungry from all your sightseeing, enjoy great barbecue at one of Fincher’s three locations.
You don’t have to be a plant lover to appreciate the beauty of Callaway Gardens, and spring is the perfect time for a weekend at this idyllic Pine Mountain resort. From the 40-acre Azalea Bowl to the Vegetable Garden featured on a popular PBS show, this wonderland provides a welcome retreat from weekday stress. Spend a morning wandering one of the numerous nature trails, and follow up with golf or tennis in the afternoon. Pick up souvenirs at the Country Store, the Butterfly Center Gift Shop or any of the Callaway’s several other specialty shops.
Callaway also offers an array of options for dining, including southern cuisine in the Piedmont Dining Room and barbecue in the Country Kitchen. More formal dining is available in the Gardens Restaurant, which features Georgia favorites including Vidalia onions and grits.
Accommodations range from rooms and suites at the Mountain Creek Inn to four-bedroom, upscale Villas. For some weekend pampering, book a package at Spa Prunifolia, Callaway’s new spa which boasts 13 treatment rooms as well as a fitness center and image center for hair and make-up.
Franklin Roosevelt discovered the delights of Warm Springs in the 1920s, visiting frequently to enjoy the area’s warm mineral waters. Today, visitors can fill a weekend with tours of Roosevelt’s presidential retreat and adjacent museum. The Little White House, built by Roosevelt in 1932, is preserved just as it was when the 32nd president resided there—right down to scratch marks made by FDR’s Scottie, Fala. The museum’s exhibits include Roosevelt’s Ford convertible as well as the unfinished portrait being painted of Roosevelt when he died.
A stay at the Hotel Warm Springs Bed and Breakfast Inn, built in 1907, also allows you to revel in the past, with rooms featuring period furniture and an ice cream parlor often visited by the President. The hotel, like several other accommodations in the area, is within walking distance of shopping and restaurants, including the Bulloch House, which features country cooking and southern hospitality.
||Visitors experience the enchantment
of the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center
at Callaway Gardens.PHOTO: Callaway Gardens
With attractions including the open-air Flint Riverquarium, a visit to this south Georgia treasure provides endless opportunities for weekend getaways. Be sure to spend time downtown in Ray Charles Plaza, with a view of the river and a life-size sculpture of Ray at his piano, and visit My Downtown Bistro for fresh foods made with ingredients from local producers.
Also near downtown is the six-acre River- Front Park, featuring trails, pavilions and the Riverwalk. While in the park, grab lunch or dinner at Riverfront Barbecue and indulge in a sweet treat at the Cookie Shop. Families will enjoy the All American Fun Park. With activities including bowling, arcades, bumper boats, laser tag, gokarts, a virtual roller coaster and miniature golf, this attraction has something for everyone.
For inside exploration, The Thronateeska Heritage Center is home to science and history museums as well as the new Wetherbee Planetarium. Boasting a high-definition projection system and digital surround sound, the planetarium’s 40-foot dome is sure to dazzle any visitor.
Of the many attractions of Asheville, North Carolina, the Biltmore House is probably the best known—but even previous visitors might not be aware of all this palatial estate now offers. Spring brings the Biltmore’s annual Festival of Flowers, highlighting the beauty of the 8000- acre grounds.
Featuring its own winery (the most visited in America), carriage rides and horseback riding, the Biltmore offers a full week of activities for vacationers. Learn fly fish or shoot at clay targets at the estate’s onsite schools, and navigate off-road obstacles at the Land Rover Experience driving school. With four restaurants plus several sites for outdoor dining, you can enjoy a variety of menu options without ever leaving the estate.
Accommodations are available at the Biltmore Inn or area hotels, including the historic Grove Park Inn. Opened in 1913, Grove Park Inn offers a wealth of options for a relaxing spring vacation, including a spa, golf course and sports complex, plus an onsite shopping promenade and several dining options.
The charms of this coastal Georgia city are almost too numerous to list. From shopping on River Street to dolphin cruises, Savannah is a vacationer’s delight. Several tours provide a good overview of the city’s attractions, but be sure to include one of the city’s many Ghost Tours. (Savannah was named America’s most haunted city in 2002 by the American Institute of Parapsychology.)
|For a romantic afternoon, tour the
streets of Savannah in a horse-drawn
carriage. PHOTO: www.VisitSavannah.com.
When it’s time to eat, make time to dine at the Pirate’s House. Often patronized by actual pirates in the 18th century, the Pirate’s House was home to events which inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. History buffs will also enjoy a visit to nearby Fort Pulaski, the site of a famous two-day Civil War battle.
Shoppers can browse not just through River Street, but the antique districts at Broughton and Bull Streets. Savannah’s transportation options include everything from trolleys to horse-drawn carriages, but the Savannah Belles ferry system is not to be missed, with free rides on two colorful, riverboat-themed ferries. And if you’re visiting in March, you may want to time your trip to coincide with Savannah’s famous St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
The beauty of Charleston is an ideal match for the warmth and splendor of springtime. A visit to this low-country paradise reveals great shopping, relaxing beaches, exquisite scenery and historic sites galore. Shoppers will want a leisurely stroll along lower King Street, known as Charleston’s antique district. While shopping the district, be sure to visit George C. Birlant and Co.: Founded in 1922, this well-known store is the maker of the famous Charleston Battery Bench. Discover other treasures as you browse through the downtown open air market and surrounding shops.
Take a ferry or private boat to Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began, as well as nearby Fort Moultrie, site of the first American victory over the British navy in the Revolutionary War. History fans will also want to check out the area’s several plantations, including the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. With beautiful gardens dating from the early 1800s, a nature train, boat tour and petting zoo, as well as educational tours of the home and slave cabins, this site delivers something for the whole family.
Charleston’s accommodations range from bed and breakfasts to hotels and historic inns such as the John Rutledge House, which dates from the 18th century and was built by a signer of the U.S. Constitution.
St. Simons Island
No site offers a more relaxing getaway than one of Georgia’s loveliest Golden Isles, St. Simons. With leisure activities galore, St. Simons is guaranteed to make you forget big-city living for a week. A trolley tour, which begins downtown, will give you a good idea of what this island has to offer. Your next stop should be St. Simons’ unspoiled beaches, where you can forget your cares as you watch dolphins frolic in the Atlantic.
Be sure to set aside a couple of hours for an excursion on the Lady Jane, a converted shrimp boat that can host up to 49 passengers. During your cruise, the captain and crew will drag a net, offer a detailed talk about their catch, and prepare fresh shrimp for you to enjoy on board.
Don’t miss the tour of the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum for an inside look at one of the five surviving light towers in Georgia. The lighthouse, which can be seen at sea from 23 miles away, is still used today. St. Simons features a number of great dining options, from the notto- be missed crab cakes and “chocolate stuff” at the legendary Barbara Jean’s to the daily potluck specials and huge sandwiches Fourth of May Cafe & Deli.