There's a lot to be said for cozying up for a take-out and movie bingeing date when cool temps set in.
But there's another option that's more original, more invigorating and sometimes even more romantic: hiking with your sweetie through one of the Atlanta area's chilly scenes of winter.
And oh how scenic it is, with views of the Georgia mountains shifting from bright foliage to achingly beautiful silhouettes and frosty river banks. The barns and landmarks hidden from view in warmer months sit stark against the cold beauty, while the songbirds of winter can be heard plainly as they gather food.
A short walk or a more ambitious trek each offer the heart-healthy and mood benefits of being in the great outdoors. And most important, since this will be a date, after all, the quiet and beauty give you a great chance to just be alone together, and breathe and bond.
Best of all, hikes can be an inexpensive date option, even if you take the opportunity to catch some of Georgia's countryside attractions before or after your outing. Here are six places to chill out on a cheap date hike, all within 30 minutes of Atlanta:
In summer, just you and hundreds of the world's most dedicated tourists take to Stone Mountain Park. If you try a date there in winter, you may still have to share, but you'll be able to have more privacy.
1-Mile walkup trail at Stone Mountain Park
$20 for daily parking for one vehicle also includes access to a quarry exhibit, Confederate Hall education center and a laser show on select nights.
1000 Robert E. Lee Blvd., Stone Mountain. www.stonemountainpark.com
Trailhead parking lot is next to the Confederate Hall GA 30083
Extra bonus: the cold will work with you on the 3,851-step, 1-mile walk-up trail. Invigorating! And you can keep an eye out for winter wildlife like chipmunks, white-tailed deer and wild turkeys. If you're not ready for the fun to end after, check out Stone Mountain's Village Corner German Restaurant and Bakery for a snack, meal or brew.
Old Mill Park
Free to enter; free parking
95 Mill View Ave., Roswell. 770-641-3705, friendsoftheroswellparks.com/uncategorized/old-mill-park
Part of one of Atlanta's most alluring public parks, the Old Mill Park is close enough to civilization that you can get a nice walk in without traveling too far to get back home if you get cold.
The walk will take you along Vickery Creek and you can enjoy views of a 30-foot dam and millrace, built in the early 1800s. If you're sure this will be a steady date in years to come, bring the camera. One of the area's most appealing covered bridges and scenic overlook are at the top of the dam just begging to serve as a backdrop for couple photos.
If you like what you see, return another day to take on another adventure among the 30 miles of trails on the Roswell River Walk
No entry or parking fees
900 Kennesaw Mountain Drive, Kennesaw. 770-427-4686 (visitor center), www.nps.gov/kemo/index.htm
A much more ambitious hike for coupling outdoorsy types, there's a great 11 mile loop through this national park and Civil War battlefield.
Expect to find a very different view of its open fields, jagged rock mountaintops and stream-filled forests than you would in spring or fall. Fantastic, unobstructed views of the Atlanta skyline are another reward. If you need to warm up there's a visitors center open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. every day and on select dates, there are even wintry presentations.
Chattahoochee Nature Center
$10 adults, $7 seniors 65+
9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. 770-992-2055, www.chattnaturecenter.org
Wandering the 127 acres at The Chattahoochee Nature Center is always rejuvenating, and the river view is especially appealing in the winter.
Just to prove you're really hardy, consider bringing a picnic to savor at one of the CNC's outdoor picnic areas.
Blue Heron Nature Preserve
Trails and parking are free
4055 Roswell Road NE, Atlanta. 404-946-6394, bhnp.org
If your idea of a wild date involves actual wildlife, here ya go. Traipsing the trails at this 30-acre greenspace right inside the ATL will warm your heart (and maybe your date's, who knows?)
Other nice aspects of the BHNP for a date: it's open till 11 p.m., for the spontaneous outing. And in the chilly, non-festival months of operation, your dogs are welcome to join you, as long as they stay on leashes.
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