For the AJC
Jessica ❤ Michael
Forrest Hills Mountain Resort in Dahlonega, GA
Atlantans live in an area with plenty to do and see, but when it’s spring break, you’ll have time to hit the road and explore some new destinations a little farther away from home.
These fun spring break getaways are all less than two hours from Atlanta, so you and your family will arrive at your destination quickly without being exhausted from a long trip:
Driving time from Atlanta: About one hour and 45 minutes.
Where to stay: Chattanooga Choo Choo, 1400 Market St., Chattanooga. 423-266-5000. Located downtown, the aptly named inn was once the terminal station for a Southern Railway line.
Chattanooga has an urban, yet scenic setting that makes it ideal for a spring break trip. Take a stroll or bike along the Riverwalk, which runs along the Tennessee River, or stop at one of the piers and fish. The kids will also enjoy Coolridge Park, which has a restored antique carousel and a floating restaurant, and if they love animals, stop by the Chattanooga Zoo or the city’s Aquarium. You’ll also want to make time for the Creative Discovery Museum in downtown Chattanooga.
Pine Mountain, Georgia,http://www.pinemountain.org
Driving time from Atlanta: About one hour and 12 minutes
Where to stay: The Mountain Creek Villas, 17800 US-27, Pine Mountain. 706-663-2281. These private dwellings are a short walk to Callaway Gardens’ attractions and have one to four bedrooms, each with its own bath, a fully equipped kitchen and washer and dryer.
Visit Callaway Gardens, which has a Spring Break package that’s good until May 20, 2017. It includes lodging, admission to the Gardens and its attractions (including the Butterfly Center), and two hours of bicycle rental, kayak or canoe rental, and tennis court time. Make a stop at Pine Mountain’s Wild Animal Safari, a 500-acre park where you can drive or take a guided tour bus through three acres of exotic animals and walk through an additional section. You can also mix in a little education with your family’s fun at Roosevelt’s Little White House.
Driving time from Atlanta: About one hour and 25 minutes
Where to stay:The Smith House, 84 South Chestatee St., Dahlonega. 706-725-8148, ext. 1. Enjoy family-style dining during your stay.
Named one of Smithsonian Magazine’s “20 Best Small Towns to Visit,” Dahlonega has plenty of small-town charm combined with lots of activities for the entire family. Kids will love panning for gold at one of Dahlonega’s gold mines and visiting the University of North Georgia’s Planetarium and Observatory. Also check out the North Georgia Zoo, which hosts a Springtime Festival with extra kid-friendly activities from March 31-April 12.
Lake Oconee, 1 Lake Oconee Trail, Greensboro, Georgia, http://www.visitlakeoconee.com.
Driving time: About one hour and 17 minutes
Where to stay: The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, 1 Lake Oconee Trail, Greensboro. 706-467-0600.
The resort has lots of kid-friendly activities including a nightly s’mores celebration and lakeside bonfire.
Lake Oconee provides the perfect setting for many water sports, including canoeing, kayaking, jet-skiing, fishing and boating. Hiking, golf and horseback riding are also among the active pursuits your family can enjoy while at the lake. And if you’d like to go on an off-road excursion, visit Durhamtown, a 6,000-acre facility where you can rent dirt bikes, ATVs and more.
There are two types of gold in Dahlonega: the mineral and wine.
Or at least that’s how Tully, who was manning the desk at the town’s visitors center in early February, put it.
It’s easy to enjoy both in a few hours in the Northeast Georgia town. The 60-mile trip is perfect for a quick and fun day away from Athens.
Start at the Dahlonega Gold Museum, right in the center of the downtown area in the county’s former courthouse. The $7 admission buys a short film on the town’s gold rush and a look at the building’s jury rooms and judges’ chambers.
Then turn your attention to the town’s newest draw: wine. The visitor’s center offers the chance to sample drinks from local wineries. Five dollars buys a glass for the wine walk, a self-guided crawl through five of downtown Dahlonega’s tasting rooms, and all of them feature selections from different wineries. The glass allows two small tastings for $2.75 at participating tasting rooms.
I started at the Naturally Georgia Tasting Room on Public Square North, at a quiet wooden bar nestled between work areas for local artists. I tried the Tiger Mountain Vineyards Burton Blanc and Hightower Creeks Dueling Banjos Peach. A bottle of the peach-tinged wine came home with me.
The Crane Creek Dahlonega Tasting Room is a few steps away and features selections from Stonewall Creek Vineyards. I gave Crane Creek Vineyards Mountain Harvest White and Sweet Sally a try.
In between, a quick walk gets you to Dahlonega Tasting Room on North Park Street, which features choices from Habersham Vineyards. I tried the Scarlett and Cheorkee Rose while standing at the metal-topped bar before browsing the shop’s batch of pillows and wine glasses.
Canvas and Cork on North Meaders Street and Georgia Winery of Dahlonega Tasting Room are also included on the walk. Both are a manageable stroll from the gold museum and visitors center.
After the tasting, spend an hour or so browsing the shops, including the town’s thrift and gift shops, before grabbing a late lunch. I pulled up a seat at the bar at Spirits Tavern at the recommendation from Vicki, the owner of Naturally Georgia Tasting Room. The burgers were recommended, so I tried the Augusta burger, topped with white cheddar pimento cheese and green tomato chow chow. I grabbed a slab of milk chocolate fudge from the nearby Fudge Factory for dessert before starting the 90-minute trip back to Athens.
Even a place as pleasant as the Classic City can leave a person wanting a change of pace, but it’s not always easy to make a major getaway. For those who are in Athens over spring break but are ready for a mini-vacation or perhaps a weekend away, the following locations are close enough to be made into day trips and still warranted destinations for any traveler.
Dahlonega is home to the site of one of America’s first gold rushes, and has remained a rustic relic of American history ever since. Its position nestled against the Chattahoochee National Forest means that the terrain, such as Amicalola Falls, is great for hiking, tubing or any manner of outdoor adventure. The less outdoorsy can still enjoy the quaint town square, complete with a plot of land just beside the visitor’s center that is usually outfitted with folk musicians. The local Consolidated Gold Mine is the top tourist spot, but there are eateries, wineries and shops to keep anyone occupied.
Home to its namesake university, Clemson is another Southern town that highlights both the great outdoors of the Appalachian Mountains and picturesque Southern historicism. Whether you want to find beauty in historic homes and plantations, explore the South Carolina Botanical Gardens, meander through CLemson’s campus, or walk along the Abernathy Waterfront, you’ll be able to fill your time with activity and your stomach with delicious food at one of the many farmers’ markets hosted in the town.
Clayton, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, brings an edge to outdoor adventuring with its white-water rafting, beautiful campsites and mountain trails. Not to mention the local barbecue restaurants have an edge of their own. Those with a taste for wine and whiskey will enjoy establishments like the Noble Wine Cellar and the Moonrise Distillery, and those with a taste for the other fine things of life will enjoy perusing local galleries of bucolic art.
Greenville is a favorite among budget travelers for its affordable fun and congenial atmosphere. The Mice on Main, nine mouse statuettes placed along Main Street, guide visitors through the town from park, to restaurant, to landmarks like the waterfall-filled Falls Park on the Reedy. The Swamp Rabbit Trail is another way to explore the city, and the more sedentary can enjoy one of over 300 events a year that are held at the Peace Center, a performing arts center so impressive that it has hosted several Republican presidential debates.
From cool mountain hamlets to colorful beach burgs, here are your top 10 favorites.
What is it about a small town that hooks us? Whether they’re waterfront or mountaintop, the great ones all have a few things in common: a thriving downtown with locally owned restaurants, shops, and galleries; a touch of the artsy; loads of character; friendly locals; and, of course, a beautiful location. Readers’ #1 pick is a picture-postcard town on the South Carolina coast. Can you guess it?
The South’s Best City: Charleston, S.C.
When a writer posts something like this it makes all of our hard work worthwhile.
Posted October 29th, 2015 by Jan Ross
Natchitoches, La. Named Best Southern Small Town!
Abingdon, Va.; Bardstown, Ky.; Dahlonega, Ga. and Natchez, Miss. also winners
While cities like Charleston, Memphis and Atlanta make excellent destinations, there’s something simply charming about the South’s smaller towns and villages.
For the last four weeks USA TODAY 10Best readers have been voting daily for their favorite Southern small towns in the 10Best Readers’ Choice awards, and now the results are in!
It was a very close race between the top two finishers, but in the end, Natchitoches, La. (population 18,275) took home top honors. “Nack-a-Tish,” B&B Capital of Louisiana and quaint setting for the ensemble-cast classic, Steel Magnolias, is the oldest town in the state of Louisiana.
Runner up for Best Southern Small Town is Abingdon, Va. (population 8,206), located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and home to the Barter Theatre and Virginia Creeper Trail.
The top 10 winners in the category Best Southern Small Town are as follows:
A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Larry Bleiberg (LarryBleiberg.com), Tanner Latham (AuthenticUsStories.com) and Lacy Morris (10Best Editor) were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of travel in the American South.
Additional nominees for Best Southern Small Town included Apalachicola, Fla.; Destin, Fla.; Leiper’s Fork, Tenn.; Marfa, Texas; Middleburg, Va.; Monroeville, Ala.; Mooresville, Ala.; Sanibel, Fla.; Tybee Island, Ga. and Wimberley, Texas.
10Best and USA TODAY extend their congratulations to all the winners. The contest was promoted on 10Best and USA TODAY.
Multigenerational travel is growing rapidly. It’s not uncommon to see vacationers bringing both their kids and their parents as they escape the routine of home. Here are seven exceptional vacation destinations that cater to the needs of young and old alike.
In and around Atlanta
The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation. Indulge at Reynolds Plantation, the most luxurious lakeside escape in the state. With Ritz-Carlton’s highly personalized service, your multigenerational memories will last a lifetime. Kids 4-12 enjoy activities with Ritz Kids while the adults golf, fish or boat on Lake Oconee or escape to the spa. Evenings include together-time as you enjoy fine dining, s’mores around the campfire and a dip in the infinity pool.
Adventure Lodge Program. Journey to the forest for the newest excitement from Georgia State Parks – the Adventure Lodge Program. Stay in a newly refurbished lodge room at Amicalola or Unicoi State Parks, or opt for a cabin in the woods with multiple bedrooms. While there, you receive a guide and equipment for a series of adventures including survivalist camping, ziplining, fly-fishing, paddle boarding and more. All ages and aptitudes are welcome, creating a fun learning environment for the entire extended family.
Helen, Georgia. Helen is an affordable and exciting town for children and grandchildren to connect. Stay in a spacious cottage at Smithgall Woods State Park, or opt for a room in the middle of town at the charming Hampton Inn. Tour the world’s largest Alpine model railroad at Charlemagne’s Kingdom, grab snacks at Fred’s Famous Peanuts, walk the short trail to Anna Ruby Falls or drive the Folk Pottery Trail for a lesson in cultural and mountain heritage.
Forrest Hills Mountain Resort. Relax in the mountains at Forrest Hills, with something for everyone. Their Group Lodges are ideal for family reunions and multigen vacations, with space for 8 – 200 people. Enjoy rafting, kayaking, hiking, canoeing, gold mine tours or shopping and antiquing. Swim at the pool, saunter the hiking trails or schedule a horseback riding session. Everyone will remember the dinner wagon-ride experience, with horse-drawn wagons leading you to a cookout under the stars, musicians and a bonfire.
Biltmore. 8,000 acres of history, beauty and excitement await you in the hills of Asheville at Biltmore. Explore Vanderbilt’s “castle” with a tour for adults and a treasure hunt for kiddos. Relax at the village, taking a moment at the playground, dancing to live music or taking a turn at the weekend Grape Stomp. Visit the animals at the farm in Antler Hill Village or soak up the sun and burn off some energy with outdoor activities such as bike rides and rental, horseback riding, a river float trip or a kid’s fly-fishing lesson.
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. Travel + Leisure named Palmetto Dunes one of the Top 25 World’s Best Family Resorts. With spacious villas and myriad activities, it also transitions to an ideal multigen family escape. Choose from a range of outdoor activities for all ages including golf or lessons at the resort’s three championship golf courses (one of only two oceanfront courses on the island,) tennis or lessons at one of 26 courts or kayaking or canoeing the resort’s 11-mile lagoon. Families will also enjoy biking the resort’s 5 miles of paved trails or 50 miles of paths across the island, shopping, waterfront dining and live music at Shelter Cove Harbour across the road and swimming on the resort’s 3 miles of Atlantic Ocean beachfront.
Little St Simons Island. When you want to escape the hustle and bustle of life, depend on the seclusion of Little St Simons Island for respite. 7 miles of beach and 10,000 acres of undeveloped wilderness are only accessible by boat, creating an oasis for children, parents and grandparents. Call one of six cottages home for your stay, while exploring the nature-lovers paradise. All-inclusive accommodations ensure you need not worry about boat transfers, three daily meals, drinks and alcohol, all activities, necessary equipment or Naturalist-led excursions.