Easy day trips to north Georgia

Mt. Yonah presides over Yonah Mountain Vineyards near Cleveland, Georgia. Photo by Cindy Foster.
Mt. Yonah presides over Yonah Mountain Vineyards near Cleveland, Georgia. Photo by Cindy Foster.

You work hard, so getting the chance to play shouldn’t be hard work too.

Think about it though. Often by the time you’ve planned it, packed for it and driven or flown it, you need a vacation from your vacation.

That’s why we’re recommending quick little day trips as a stress-free way to relax and unwind.

Lucky for us, there are plenty of places to go that are less than 2 hours away from the metro Atlanta area.

Here are some of our favorites:

Lanier Islands

Near Buford, Georgia, Lanier Islands is pretty much a one-stop shop for fun and relaxation. Golf, boat, ride horses, zip-line, hike, be a beach bum or get soothed in the spa. No matter what floats your boat you’ll find it at Lanier Islands. To find out more about activities, dining, lodging and special events, you may visit their website at lanierislands.com

Lake Burton

You can feel the tension melt away at this lake haven nestled between majestic mountains in the northeast corner of the state. The best thing to do is rent a pontoon boat for the day (or bring your own boat) and picnic while you putter around the lake. You might even decide to wet a hook. Park the boat in the middle of the lake at a site known by locals as Mr. Water Safety and take a swim in the pristine cool blue waters. There are several places at the lake to rent boats including LaPrade’s Marina, lapradesmarina.com

Sautee Nacoochee Community Association

Located in White County, at the juncture of the historic Sautee and Nacoochee Valleys is one of the best art centers in the state. On the campus at the center, you’ll find the Folk Pottery Museum which tells the story of the region’s legendary folk pottery families. There is also a history museum, art galleries and an African American heritage site. The association sponsors events and festivals all year long. You can see a play, hear chamber music, do a little folk dancing or see artists at their craft and buy their work. Coming up May 4 and 5th is the Fiber Festival in the Valley. There will be workshops as well as fiber artists with work to sell. For more information visit snca.org

State Historic Sites

Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site

Learn all about America’s first gold rush. It happened not even two hours north of Atlanta in Northeast Georgia. The museum is housed in the old Lumpkin County Courthouse in the charming town of Dahlonega. Inside you’ll find interesting artifacts from the gold rush of 1836 including gold nuggets. Currently, the museum is undergoing a few renovations, but will reopen early summer.

Hardman Farm Historic Site

This home was built in 1870 in the elegant and ornate Italianate style. It has been home to several families including Dr. Lamartine Hardman, Georgia’s governor from 1927-1931. A dairy was operated on the farm from 1910 through the mid-1920s and so visitors can learn about early 20th century dairy farming as well as see some of the interesting features of 19th century living that are still in place within the home. Across the road in the cow pasture is the iconic Nacoochee Indian Mound with the lovely gazebo atop…one of the areas most recognizable landmarks.

For more information on the Gold Museum or the Hardman Farm, visit gastateparks.org

Wine Time

Once known for illegal stills and corn “likker,” Northeast Georgia is now home to many vineyards. The fertile soil, sweeping valleys and temperatures moderated by the mountains make an excellent environment for growing grapes.

CeNita Vineyards

Combining the names of original property owners Cecil and Juanita Crumley, CeNita Vineyards is still very much a family affair owned and operated by Cecil and Juanita’s children and their families. Located in Cleveland, CeNita produces a lovely array of wines. Several have already garnered recognition within the industry. Visit the tasting room and discover your favorite wine while surrounded by peaceful rolling farmland and the majestic Mount Yonah. CeNita offers a number of events during the year including live music and after-hours events. Find out more at www.cenitawinery.com

Yonah Mountain Vineyards

In the shadow of the backside of Mount Yonah, rests Yonah Mountain Vineyards…also in Cleveland. Have you ever wondered how wine is made? You can schedule a tour where a very knowledgeable guide will show you the intricacies of making a top-notch wine and explain about tasting notes, aroma, body and blends. The vineyard also features a patio where you can enjoy the natural beauty of the property while you sample a glass or two. Yonah Mountain Vineyards also hosts special events during the year including Crush Fest in the autumn and Dinner and a Movie events in the late winter months. For more information visit yonahmountainvineyards.com

Paddle

If physical activity is something that helps you unwind, there are quite a few rivers where you can float on a tube, kayak, canoe or go white water rafting.

Cool River Tubing

Cool River Tubing in Helen, Georgia offers a lazy afternoon float down the Chattahoochee River. They provide the tubes and drop you off and pick you up at the end of your day of floating.

The Ocoee and Nantahala

For the more adventurous, the Ocoee River, where the 1996 Summer Olympics whitewater slalom event was held, is well known for its challenging rapids. The Nantahala is another river that lures water sports enthusiasts with clean mountain water and challenging whitewater sections.

You can find out more about Cool River Tubing at coolrivertubing.com. A quick internet search of Ocoee and Nantahala will bring up several options including places to put in and guided trips through the rapids.

Hike

Spend the day stretching your legs on trails both easy and challenging.

Anna Ruby Falls

An excellent hike for the beginner is the trek to Anna Ruby Falls near Unicoi north of Helen. The trail is simple and the cascading falls at the end of the hike is a wonderful reward for the effort. On a side note, the falls are named after a young lady who once called the house at Hardman Farm her home.

The Appalachian Trail

For the more intrepid, the Appalachian Trail runs for 78.6 miles through Georgia from the trail’s southernmost point at Springer Mountain. The trail is accessible at a number of other places including Neels Gap, Hogpen Gap and Unicoi Gap. Some of these sections are perfect for a day hike or even a simple overnight hike.

You don’t need to venture far from home to find something that will relax you, revive you or restore your spirit.