10 mini vacations within three hours of Atlanta.
Some days, you just need to escape, and you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your health or safety to do so. To help you get out of the house while still social distancing, I’ve compiled a list of 10 mini vacations within three hours of Atlanta.
1. Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon
Visit one of Georgia’s most unique parks: Providence Canyon State Park. Hike between the towering walls of the canyon and wonder whether you’ve been transported to Utah. It’s recommended you visit this park during the week in order to properly social distance. Weekends can be exceptionally busy.
Once you’re done hiking for the day, head to the campsite you’ve reserved at the nearby Florence Marina State park.
COVID-19 information: Providence Canyon is currently open; however, it has been experiencing a high number of visitors. Before you go, check the GA State Parks’ site to ensure the park has not restricted access due to high visitation.
2. When in doubt, kayak
Go kayaking on Lake Allatoona for up to five hours by renting kayaks from Lake Allatoona Kayaking. To give you an idea of price, $70 will get you a two-person kayak, life vests, and pickup and delivery of the kayak.
Afterwards, head to the campsite you’ve reserved at Red Top Mountain State Park and find a private spot to enjoy the sunset.
COVID-19 information: Red Top Mountain is currently open; however, some parks have experienced a high volume of visitors. Before you go, check the GA State Parks’ site to ensure there is not restricted access due to high visitation.
3. Ice cream and the Savannah River
Travel to Augusta, Georgia to experience a dynamic city. Grab lunch at the Sno-Cap Drive-In but be sure to save room for dessert! The one they’re most known for is their root beer float.
Once you’re done stuffing your face with ice cream, walk it off by hiking a few of the short trails at the Phinizy Center & Nature Park. Afterwards, get settled in your unique houseboat Airbnb located on the Savannah Riverwalk.
COVID-19 information: The playground, restrooms, water fountains, and visitor center at the Phinizy Center & Nature Park are all currently closed. Additionally, the park’s adjusted hours are from 7 am to 7 pm.
4. Scenic Byways and German towns
Head out early towards the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway via Alt US-75. Once you reach the byway, turn left to travel clockwise around it. It takes approximately three hours to drive the whole thing, so stop and eat your picnic you packed when you find a scenic overlook you like.
Then head to the quaint guesthouse you rented in Helen, Georgia. It’s walking distance to downtown, so you can easily explore the German charm Helen is known for.
COVID-19 information: The byway is open, but the spur to Brasstown Bald is closed. Most businesses in Helen have reopened, and even more will be opening by mid-June.
5. Where there’s a wine, there’s a way
Many people don’t know this, but northern Georgia encompasses wine country. Grab a standard guest room at the Barefoot Hills Hotel to put yourself right in the middle of it all.
Once you’ve gotten settled in your room, head to one (or more) of the award-winning wineries nearby. One that’s suggested because of their strict COVID-19 measures is Montaluce Winery & Restaurant. A tasting for one involving a choice of five different wines will cost you $30.
COVID-19 information: The hotel and much of wine country is located in Dahlonega, Georgia. The city appears to be following Governor Kemp’s phased reopening process. For updates before you travel to this community, take a look at the city’s COVID-19 news page.
Photo by @montaluce_winery
6. Experience Atlanta's quirkiness
Explore Atlanta by seeing some of its quirky side. First, head to the hotel that you never would have imagined seeing in the city: The Social Goat Bed & Breakfast, a small farm. Check into the Yellow Room located in a 1900 Queen Ann Victorian. Then head outside to spend some quality time with the five goats on property!
Once the sun begins to go down, mosey over to the Starlight Drive-In Theatre. Get your nostalgia on by watching a double feature in your car for just $10 a person. Afterwards, take the quick 7-minute trip back to the B&B and dream of the next morning’s complimentary breakfast.
COVID-19 information: The Starlight Drive-In is enforcing social distancing rules. Patrons must watch the films from inside their vehicle, and they may not park within 10 feet of another vehicle.
7. Blueberry picking (and blueberry eating)
It’s just about blueberry season in Georgia, so take advantage by heading to DJ’s U-Pick Blueberry Farm. Their blueberries will be ripe for the picking by mid-June, but take a look at their Facebook page before heading over to make sure they’re open.
Take a full gallon of blueberries back to your Airbnb for just $20. On your way there, pick up sugar and puff pastry (and maybe some ice cream) so you can make this blueberry cobbler recipe. The Airbnb we suggest has a full kitchen, so you should have no problem whipping it up.
COVID-19 information: It is up to the individual to social distance while at the farm, but you should have no problem as it has over 700 blueberry bushes.
Photo by @jahi._
8. Embrace the spooky
For lodging, book a room at The Highland Inn, a hotel believed by some to be haunted. In particular, try to book room 130, one rumored to be a paranormal hotspot.
COVID-19 information: While the cemetery is open, the visitor center and restrooms are currently closed.
Hummingbird mural and photo by Marcus Fetch
9. Get artsy in Birmingham
Head to Birmingham, Alabama, just about two hours from Atlanta. There you’ll find a city abounding in street art. See over 30 murals by following a 13-mile route either by foot, bike, or car. If you want to see even more murals, take a look at local muralist Marcus Fetch’s map of his artwork.
Your lodging for the evening is a downtown loft that brings you fantastic views of Birmingham, a hammock chair, and a shared rooftop deck with, you guessed it, more incredible views of the city.
COVID-19 information: Birmingham is slowly reopening, but there is a city ordinance requiring face coverings to be worn through June 12th, 2020. This ordinance has been extended multiple times, so take a look at Birmingham’s coronavirus updates before heading to the city.
10. Discover your love for yurt life
This final mini vacation is simple. Rent this incredible yurt on Lookout Mountain. Suggested activities include playing a few board games you’ve brought, eating dinner while sitting on the large deck, stargazing, drinking a cup of coffee while watching the sunrise, and simply disconnecting.
COVID-19 information: Thorough cleaning procedures are implemented between each guest’s stay.
Martha Anderson is a Budget Travel intern for Summer 2020. She is a graduate of Kennesaw State University.