February 5, 2023

The 16 Best Weekend Getaways From Atlanta

Atlanta is a thriving Southern metropolis with world-class cultural attractions, sporting events and historic landmarks – an amazing standalone destination in its own right. The state’s capital also makes a great home base, in part because of its prime location in north-central Georgia. City dwellers have access to major freeways and airports that make it a breeze to hop on the road and explore the surrounding Appalachian and Southern regions just a few hours away.

From charming coastal enclaves to sprawling golf resorts to rustic rural hideaways, Atlanta is perfectly positioned for access to a plethora of fun family trips and romantic getaways. Make your great escape from the city to one the top weekend getaways from Atlanta.

The Best Weekend Getaways From Atlanta

  • Lake Oconee, Georgia
  • Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia
  • Barnsley Resort, Georgia
  • Callaway Resort & Gardens, Georgia
  • Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa, Georgia
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Columbia, South Carolina
  • Tybee Island, Georgia
  • Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
  • Golden Isles, Georgia
  • Jekyll Island, Georgia
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Key West, Florida

Lake Oconee, Georgia

Spending 15 days camping on the shore of Lake Oconee.  The sunsets were always wonderful to see.

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Located about 85 miles east of Atlanta, this recreational haven is perfect for those seeking a weekend trip with plenty of outdoor activities. While in Lake Oconee, enjoy fishing, camping, golf, hiking and water sports. Visitors admire the scenic beauty and serene atmosphere of this rural gem, which provides year-round family fun. The reservoir itself boasts nearly 375 miles of lush shoreline, lined with lakefront homes, marinas, restaurants and geologic features – like the popular Jumping Rock, accessible only by boat. Landlubbers can hit the trails at the Rock Hawk Effigy & Trails center to hike, mountain bike and watch wildlife.

Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia

Amicalola Falls, Georgia, USA

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Conveniently located 70 miles north of the city, this expansive recreation area in Georgia makes for an easy weekend getaway in the great outdoors. The park’s 800-plus acres harbor the tallest waterfall in the region and a variety of hiking trails for all skill levels, including a connector to the official Southern starting point for the renowned Appalachian Trail. The approach to the falls is challenging but worthwhile, according to visitors who appreciate the trek for its stunning scenery. Supervised activities like a zip line, archery sessions and live wildlife presentations offer additional family-friendly entertainment and adventure.

Refuel at the park’s mountaintop restaurant, popular for its Sunday brunch and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the forest. On-site accommodations range from glamping and camping sites in the forest to resort-style lodge rooms and cabins – which feature beautiful views in every direction, according to travelers. The park is accessible year-round, and past visitors mention that they enjoyed the experience with fewer crowds during the winter months.

Barnsley Resort: Adairsville, Georgia

A couple riding horses at Barnsley Resort.

(Courtesy of Barnsley Resort)

This sprawling 3,000-acre property nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains was once the countryside estate of one of the South’s first cotton barons, complete with elegant architecture and pristine landscaping. Visitors say the natural beauty and regal ambiance of Barnsley Resort create a quiet serenity that quickly erases any tension built up from the hustle and bustle of city life. Located about 65 miles from Atlanta, the grounds feature riding stables, a golf course, a 10-acre lake for recreation and a sport shooting facility. Other amenities – ranging from an on-site spa and seasonal outdoor pool to curated experiences like bourbon tastings and fireside s’mores – provide everything you need for a well-rounded romantic respite or girls getaway.

Despite the array of adventurous activities, a leisurely stroll through the resort’s 10 acres of heirloom gardens is a must. The estate gardens, designed in the 1840s, are featured on the Georgia Garden Trail, a collection of 26 public landscapes with native blooms and historic significance. The nearby town of Adairsville is on the National Register of Historic Places, providing a charming spot to spend an afternoon of antiquing. It also offers additional dining options, which some guests felt were lacking on-site.

Callaway Resort & Gardens: Pine Mountain, Georgia

Pretty purple Azalea flower blooming in the Callaway Gardens in Springtime, GA USA.

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With its two golf courses, a full-service spa, expansive botanical gardens, mini-golf and private lakes featuring a 1-mile white sand beach, a weekend getaway to this 2,500-acre resort is a one-stop shop for fun and relaxation. Located about an 80-mile drive from Atlanta, Callaway Resort & Gardens boasts many activities and amenities that are accessible to non-lodging guests for a daily admission fee, providing entertainment for visitors to the nearby town of Pine Mountain, too.

Seasonal surprises and special events – including vibrant azalea blooms in the spring, foliage in the fall, beach access in the summer and an award-winning holiday light display in the winter – keep travelers returning time and time again. Nature lovers will find delight in a network of trails; the Discovery Center, with wildlife exhibits and live shows; and a conservatory with some 1,000 free-flying butterflies, which many visitors claim as their favorite feature. In addition to Aqua Island, the resort’s floating water park, kids of all ages love the challenge of conquering three aerial adventure courses made from a collection of zip lines, ladders, bridges and other fun obstacles (additional fees apply).

Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa, Georgia

Just over 100 miles from Atlanta, this secluded, family-friendly mountain lodge sits in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, spotted with the manicured greens of an on-site golf course. Travelers are enchanted with the beautiful scenery, complete with hardwood forests and flowing streams, which can be explored on a hike or horseback trail ride around the 503-acre property. Equestrian enthusiasts will feel right at home at this full-service north Georgia resort, with its stables, guided trail rides, riding lessons, and customized experiences like catered picnic outings and hayrides. Afterward, soak away any soreness with a refreshing dip in the indoor-outdoor swimming pool or a visit to the spa before heading to dinner at one of the two on-site restaurants. Located on sacred Cherokee ground, Brasstown Valley Resort offers spa services that incorporate ancient Indigenous healing practices.

The surrounding area boasts additional restaurants and attractions such as Crane Creek Vineyards for wine tasting or Lake Chatuge for fishing and boating, which the resort concierge can assist in making arrangements to visit. While people adore the rustic fireplaces throughout the lodge for setting a nice scene to relax with a book or glass of wine, some travelers say the guest rooms feel outdated.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Aerial of Chattanooga Tennessee TN Skyline

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This midsize mountain town about 120 miles from Atlanta is known as the “Scenic City” for its location on the banks of the Tennessee River at the base of Lookout Mountain – a beautiful natural area that can be explored with a thrilling ride on the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, a Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark. Then, plunge underneath the peak to discover Ruby Falls, the country’s tallest and deepest underground waterfall. Visitors advise that although tickets and reservations are required for each of these top-rated activities, both experiences are worth the cost of admission. For a more laid-back trek, you can take a stroll across the Walnut Street Bridge – one of the longest footbridges in the world – at sunset.

Chattanooga is a great place for multigenerational families to vacation together thanks to an array of historic and cultural attractions that pique the interest of all ages. Stop by the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and Tennessee Aquarium, which residents and tourists alike admire for its impressive collection of more than 9,000 living creatures arranged in thoughtful displays. All of these attractions are easily accessible from The Westin Chattanooga, an upscale hotel located downtown whose rooftop restaurant serves up an impressive view.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Oconaluftee overlook, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Fall 2014

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Visitors gush about the scenic trails, waterfalls and wildlife that abound in this natural treasure, and Atlanta residents can experience it all for themselves during a long weekend. The entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park located in Cherokee, North Carolina, is about 165 miles from Atlanta. The more than 522,000-acre park straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee and hosts more than 11 million visitors each year – the most of any U.S. national park. A drive north along Newfound Gap Road, the park’s main thoroughfare, covers about 30 miles, but you’ll want to allow at least two hours to stop at the numerous scenic overlooks and landmarks, such as Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the park, and Mingus Mill, a historic gristmill that gives live demonstrations.

If time allows, hit the trails for a more in-depth view of the park, including its many notable waterfalls. Located near Sugarlands Visitor Center, the popular Laurel Falls Trail is about 2.5 miles round trip with a moderate incline, leading to a picturesque 80-foot cascade. There aren’t any hotels or restaurants located within the park (save for a few snack items found at the visitor centers), but a plethora of shops, dining and accommodations options can be found in the resort town of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, located near the northern park entrance. The Margaritaville Resort Gatlinburg is top-rated by travelers for its good value, ambiance and amenities.

Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville city downtown during sunset North Carolina Aerial view

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Hop in the car and cruise north about 200 miles to this vibrant town in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains for a romantic North Carolina getaway or family trip. You’ll enjoy access to outdoor recreation, farm-to-table cuisine and the iconic Biltmore Estate: an 8,000-acre property with a chateau museum, restaurant and winery. The historic landmark is top-rated by travelers for its architecture and gardens, especially during the holidays, but some guests warn that admission is a pricey affair. Immerse yourself with an overnight stay at one of the on-site hotels, where you can get the royal treatment with special activities like wine tastings and a falconry experience.

In downtown Asheville, follow the Asheville Urban Trail to work your way through some of the city’s other notable spots, from public artwork and indie bookstores to historic buildings and markers, with a plethora of restaurants, shops and parks to explore along the nearly 2-mile route. Travelers can also get out into nature on one of the area’s top hikes. Make sure to stop at a brewery to sample the local suds, too, as the city is known as the beer capital of the Southeast and has more than 100 craft beers to offer.

Columbia, South Carolina

The framing of this shot was really fun - the bridge disappears across the river and into downtown Columbia SC and is seen from a boardwalk along the bank of the Congaree River.

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This midsize college town is chock-full of trails, events, attractions, restaurants and history to discover – including plenty of free things to do – for a fun weekend trip in South Carolina’s state capital. You’ll find this city a 215-mile drive from Atlanta. Start with a stroll around the recently revitalized downtown district: Attractions range from the Columbia Museum of Art, known for its thematically organized galleries, to the Soda City Market, a weekly roundup of regional eateries and artisans adored by both travelers and residents alike for its charming atmosphere and variety of vendors. Keep your eyes peeled for public artwork tucked into otherwise nondescript nooks and crannies, including the zany “Tunnelvision” mural by Columbia-born artist Blue Sky.

Next, head to the Congaree riverfront; you can float or paddle the muddy waters, or simply watch for birds and enjoy the lush scenery from the shore. Along the Saluda River sits the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, which houses a nature trail lined with Civil War-era landmarks in addition to more than 2,000 animals. End your day at Terra restaurant, a farm-to-table eatery where diners can enjoy modern dishes and traditional Southern flavors crafted by a James Beard Award-winning chef – such as a pimento cheeseburger pizza.

Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island Lighthouse on the Atlantic Ocean in Georgia at sunset - horizontal

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Located just off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, near the South Carolina state border, Tybee Island is heralded for its beautiful beaches and water sports like kayaking and fishing. It sits about 265 miles from Atlanta. The laid-back island is also known for its collection of seaside eateries: Stop by the North Beach Bar & Grill at the base of the Tybee Island Lighthouse or feast at the Crab Shack. You can refuel at the latter with the Snow Country Boil platter, the outpost’s unique twist on the traditional Southern seafood dish piled high with shrimp, potatoes, corn on the cob and snow crab legs. Although this popular dining spot and former fishing camp overlooking Chimney Creek can feel a bit touristy, travelers say it’s at least worth a stop to check out the on-site alligator lagoon.

The top-rated Tybee Island Inn is described as charming and serene by guests who come back again and again for the bed-and-breakfast‘s convenient location near the beach.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Sunrise- Hilton Head Island-South Carolina

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Located around 280 miles from Atlanta, this world-class coastal destination is worth the drive for its golf courses, pristine beaches and waterfront dining, most of which can be enjoyed year-round thanks to its warm climate. While on Hilton Head, indulging in Lowcountry cuisine is a must; enjoy seafood boils, fried okra and grits with views over the water at restaurants like the Skull Creek Boathouse. To learn even more about the Lowcountry region’s heritage, head to the Coastal Discovery Museum, which is free to enter and lauded by patrons as a hidden gem.

The island is home to two dozen gorgeous championship golf courses and regularly hosts PGA tour events that attract spectators from around the world. The swanky Sea Pines Resort showcases Southern hospitality at its finest, and its Harbour Town location provides plenty of entertainment of its own.

Golden Isles, Georgia

St. Simons Island, GA Gould's Inlet ocean waves

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This cluster of barrier islands on Georgia’s Atlantic coast – known as the Golden Isles for its cream-colored sand – provides paradise for those seeking to escape the heat and hustle of the city for a few days. The area is popular for its iconic marshland scenery, laid-back lifestyle and acclaimed golf courses, but each of the islands has distinct offerings. Start with a stop by the historic mainland city of Brunswick – about 305 miles from Atlanta – to poke around its Colonial squares and landmarks before heading to the coast.

The largest of the Golden Isles, St. Simons Island, is home to Pier Village, a quaint district with shops, restaurants and an iconic lighthouse, where visitors say the panoramic views from the top are well worth the climb. Heading north, the exclusive resort community of Sea Island boasts a private beach club, championship golf courses, horseback riding, and a variety of dining and lodging options, including the internationally acclaimed Cloister at Sea Island hotel.

For ultimate privacy and serenity, hop on a ferry at the Hampton River Marina on St. Simons Island for access to the northernmost outpost: Little St. Simons Island. Here you can partake in a naturalist-guided tour of its 11,000 acres of undeveloped beaches, maritime forests and wetlands teeming with wildlife, including 300-plus species of birds. Or, book a cottage at The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island. This all-inclusive resort full of Southern charm accommodates just 32 people per night – ideal for a romantic weekend getaway or a small family reunion.

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Tree and waves in the Atlantic Ocean at sunrise at Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia

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Guests must pay a parking fee to gain access to Jekyll Island, the southernmost island of the Golden Isle chain. Once covered with sprawling Civil War-era plantations, the island is now a haven for nature lovers with trails for hiking, biking and bird-watching. Its pristine beaches are known for their extraordinary shelling. Travelers say the remote Driftwood Beach, located on the north end of the island, is a must-visit attraction for iconic photos of the sandy strip’s twisted log formations and stunning sunsets.

Jekyll Island is also home to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a state-of-the-art rehabilitation and research facility. Sea turtles are the unofficial mascot of the area, and visitors will find turtle-themed events and activities planned throughout the year, including the Turtle Crawl races and Turtleween festivities. Half a mile from the turtle center sits the Jekyll Island Club Resort, a historic enclave on the banks of the East River with a variety of lodging options, applauded by guests for its beautiful grounds and Southern charm.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Summer scene in Myrtle Beach SC USA

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Drive directly east of Atlanta and you’ll reach Myrtle Beach in about 360 miles. This beach resort is great for families with kids, as an array of entertaining attractions will keep them busy. Check out the oceanfront Family Kingdom Amusement Park, Myrtle Waves Water Park, mini-golf courses and Ripley’s Aquarium of Myrtle Beach, where visitors of all ages find delight in unique exhibits like a shark tunnel, penguin pool and stingray touch tank.

The beach itself is 60 miles long and lined with hotels and high-rise apartment buildings for easy access to sand and surf for sunbathing, water sports and sunrise (or sunset) strolls. Its crown jewel is the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, a scenic promenade complete with a 200-foot Ferris wheel: The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, featuring a cutting-edge design and enclosed gondolas for up to six people, was the first of its kind in the country. If sand traps rather than sandcastles are more your style, Myrtle Beach also boasts more than 80 golf courses, many of which are PGA-rated and celebrity-designed.

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee downtown skyline at twilight

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Nashville is conveniently only about an hourlong flight away. Traditionally known as the “Country Music Capital of the World,” this glitzy Southern city has become a popular destination. There’s so much more to see than the Grand Ole Opry (although this renowned landmark is still not to be missed). Guests of the Fairlane Hotel enjoy a central location from which to explore the expansive city.

The best way to see as much as possible during a quick weekend trip to Nashville is to purchase tickets for the Old Town Trolley: a hop-on, hop-off tour that shuttles travelers to more than a dozen popular attractions around the city. Stops include the Ryman Auditorium, a famous concert venue and original home of the Opry, and the Parthenon in Centennial Park, a full-size replica of the Greek original that houses a collection of artwork. After the trolley tour, you can quench your thirst at Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery, a historic watering hole whose interesting tour and tasty whisky samples visitors rave about.

Key West, Florida

Cruise ship view of the Mallery Square pier at Key West, Florida

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Atlantans can board a less than two-hour flight for a tropical weekend getaway to Key West, known as the southernmost city in the continental U.S. for its location about 90 miles north of Cuba. The town boasts crystal-clear sea and picturesque beaches as well as various annual festivals and events. The wild Fantasy Fest around Halloween is one draw to Key West; there’s also the Hemingway Days Festival, a celebration of the famous author whose historic home is now a local museum. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is one of the city’s top attractions for its witty and informative tour guides.

Watching the sunset is another popular pastime in Key West: The city’s Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, a former Civil War fortress, is one of the best viewing spots around. Travelers also recommend heading to Mallory Square for its nightly sunset celebration featuring street performers, food trucks and ocean views. Once the sun goes down, Duval Street comes alive with a mile of lively open-air bars and restaurants where visitors can sip rum cocktails and dance until the sun comes up again. Recover in the shade of a palm tree on Smathers Beach, a serene swath of sand just steps away from the hip Margaritaville Beach House Key West.

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