It’s no doubt that Atlanta is a captivating destination of its own — with its world-class aquarium, luxe hotels, celebrity sightings, high-end restaurants and a nightlife scene that rivals New York and Los Angeles. But, in the midst of a pandemic, sometimes escaping the bustling city life is all you need to relax, rejuvenate and recharge from the thralls of it all.
Thankfully, because it’s the Southern epicenter, there are also some other amazing places to visit in the region if you’re setting your sights on a weekend escape. From here, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and other undiscovered parts of Georgia are all within just a few short hours.
So, if you’re looking for a weekend getaway, here are a few easy options that will have you on the road in no time.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Everyone’s looking for that perfect vacation; the kind where you return refreshed and rejuvenated. The sugar-white sands of Alabama can be your perfect vacation, whether your goal is to lie on the beach or take an adventure on the surrounding bays and lakes. Twin treasures located right on the Gulf Coast, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama provide visitors with countless ways to discover 32 miles of sugar-white sandy beaches, the clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico and exciting eco-friendly adventures. The 6,150-acre Gulf State Park is an especially good place to get a handle on this fascinating region that’s home to nine different ecosystems and a 28-mile Backcountry Trail for biking and hiking.
About five hours from Atlanta, Savannah is an idyllic Southern city that sits near the coast and offers a weekend of outdoor activities, historical sites, and good food — and best of all, Insta-worthy architecture. These all combine to provide a beguiling charm, and the atmosphere is always relaxed, giving the feel of a small Southern town. Savannah’s downtown is the nation’s largest Urban Historic Landmark District, with 22 green squares and more than 1,600 historically and architecturally significant structures within a 2.5 square mile area.
Greenville, South Carolina
Greenville's proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains means endless ways to explore the outdoors on foot, by bike or by boat. Greenville offers a number of water experiences from stunning waterfalls and lakes to the centerpiece of downtown, the Reedy River- making it possible to spend a day on a pontoon boat and eating at a James Beard nominated restaurant for dinner. Enjoy the 22+ mile Prisma Swamp Rabbit Trail that's perfect for a leisurely bike ride, and just 7 miles from downtown, Paris Mountain State Park offers more than 15 miles of hiking trails and lakes for fishing and swimming. Or just pack a picnic lunch (by grabbing lunch to-go from a number of downtown's acclaimed restaurants) and sit by the Reedy River in Falls Park overlooking the beautiful falls and Liberty Bridge.
Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is home to historic landmarks, cultural arts, and breathtaking natural beauty, all which continue to entice and enchant visitors year after year. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountain range and bordered by the French Broad River, it’s an easy drive from Atlanta and remains a favorite southern escape by not just Atlanta city dwellers but travelers along the East Coast. There’s plenty to do all year long, with kayaking, rafting, hiking, cycling and climbing all as some of the most popular options within reach of the city.
Chattanooga has been named one of the top places to visit in the United States, and for a great reason. The Chattanooga area is continuously growing and boasts many new experiences and places to stay, eat, drink, and explore. In fact, it has racked up several accolades over the past few years, including the “Top 10 Small Cities in the United States” list. Outdoor adventure and music await in the gorgeously scenic Chattanooga, that is the birthplace of noted jazz figures Bessie Smith, Yusef Lateef and Lovie Austin. The riverfront, the mountains, the history, the restaurants, the arts…it’s all right there for you to explore. Not to mention, the city has been an area of Black history and commerce for more than 100 years.
Charleston, South Carolina
For a beach retreat, head to the coast of South Carolina, which is nearly 5 hours from Atlanta’s city center. Charleston is home to colorful streets, iconic cuisine, tons of Black history and old school Southern charm. What makes it even more special, is its quaint small-town charm, mixed with its tourism flair, making it a fun year-round destination to visit. Popular activities include horse-drawn carriage rides along cobblestone streets or or soaking under the sun on Folly Beach. If you’re looking for more excitement, head to the French Quarter or Battery districts of this port city in South Carolina. And, if you wish to support some Black owned businesses, there are nearly 100 Black owned restaurants and businesses where you can stimulate their economy.