Atlanta is within a drive of some of the South's most prized destinations showcasing pristine beaches, picturesque mountain towns, outdoor adventures, and of a wealth cultural activities. When you need to escape the heat or crave a change of scenery sans traffic, jump in the car for any of these weekend getaways from Atlanta.
You won't find more charm in a Georgia city than you will in Savannah. As the state's oldest town, it's walkable and brims with lovely public parks and elegant antebellum architecture. Tybee Island, the city's beach, is a getaway on its own. Just four hours from Atlanta, Savannah is a place where you can feast on delicious food, socialize in a local tavern, soak up tons of history, and experience the best of Southern hospitality.
Blue Ridge, GA
With its breathtaking vistas and artistic community, this quaint mountain town in North Georgia is a favorite Atlanta getaway. Situated about 90 miles north of the city, Blue Ridge is one of the state's top areas for hiking and enjoying the great outdoors. For less adventurous travelers, downtown offers a parade of shops. Stop by Das Kaffee Haus for a cup of Joe before browsing Blue Ridge Cotton Company, Huck's General Store and Blue Ridge Mountain Mall. Finish off with something sweet at Chocolate Express.
The Golden Isles, GA
Hugging the Atlantic Coast between Savannah and Jacksonville, FL, Georgia's Golden Isles consist of Brunswick, St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island. Popular vacation spots for Atlanta residents, the Golden Isles are known for beautiful beaches, vast marshlands, and activities such as horseback riding, biking, golfing, not to mention a rich, southern heritage. The port town of Brunswick features stately Victorian homes and the cherished "Lover's Oak," a centuries-old oak tree dating back to 1787.
Callaway Gardens, GA
Set about 60 minutes from Atlanta, Callaway Gardens is a golf course and resort, proving to be a relaxing getaway from Atlanta. Escape for a spa weekend with the girls, a golfing outing with the guys, or a romantic rendezvous with that special someone. Callaway offers zip lining, hiking, and geocaching for more active travelers, and plenty of fun things to do for the kids, making it a family-friendly choice as well.
Some may say that Savannah's rival is Charleston, but this South Carolina city holds its own in terms of gorgeous architecture and alluring gardens. Even though the travel time is about five hours, the extra car time is worth it to experience the city's burgeoning restaurant scene and elegant, European feel. The historic French Quarter and Charleston Battery, overlooking the harbor, are two of the oldest (and prettiest) parts, known for cobbled streets and horse-drawn carriages.
Hilton Head, SC
This town is an island in South Carolina's Lowcountry, just 20 miles from Savannah. With 12 miles of pristine beaches and endless opportunities to golf, bike, and parasail, Hilton Head is an ideal choice for a summer vacation near Atlanta. Considering the coastal location, it's no surprise that Hilton Head restaurants cook up some fantastic fish. Hudson's Seafood House on the Dock, The Crazy Crab, and Fishcamp on Broadcreek are just a few of Hilton Head's go-to eateries serving fresh seafood.
Famous for its thriving arts community, this North Carolina town sits in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains and only four hours from Atlanta. Dubbed the "Napa Valley of Beer" by NPR, Asheville provides the quintessential craft beer drinking experience with the opportunity to taste more than 50 local brews. Design and nature lovers should dedicate an afternoon to touring the Biltmore Estate, a Gilded Age Mansion and the largest privately owned home in the United States.
Ringed by the Nantahala National Forest, Highlands is a short two-hour drive from Atlanta. While any time of year is a good time to visit, fall brings stunning autumn colors and leaf peeping, and summer shows off the area's lush green foliage. Nature lovers appreciate the cascading waterfalls, and hiking trails and culture enthusiasts adore the spree of indie shops in this small mountain town. Great food is no stranger either, so be prepared to eat if you choose Highlands as a weekend getaway from Atlanta.
For city slickers looking for a slower pace, neighboring Alabama offers Birmingham, also called "The Magic City." The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute are two of the town's biggest draws, but there's plenty more to see and do. The award-winning Railroad Park is a haven boasting a large lake and birch grove, and Vulcan Trail, a mile-long trail shows off views of the downtown skyline. All this, and then there's the food. The Most Outstanding Restaurant in America title went to Highlands Bar & Grill, one of many excellent places to dine in Birmingham.
Minutes from the Georgia Border, this Tennessee town is a quick and easy weekend escape. Chattanooga is home to the Hunter Museum of American Art, holding one of the country's most impressive collections of American works, Chattanooga Artisan Market, one of the best artisan markets in the USA, and a vibrant live music scene. Add Civil War history, fantastic shopping, and a host of locally-sourced restaurants, and Chattanooga becomes one of the top picks to escape Atlanta for the weekend.