Close to home: Unusual getaways near Atlanta

TreeTop Adventure has 10 zip lines ranging from 44 to 700 feet in length and other high-flying challenges woven into the natural forest. Contributed by Callaway Gardens
TreeTop Adventure has 10 zip lines ranging from 44 to 700 feet in length and other high-flying challenges woven into the natural forest. Contributed by Callaway Gardens

Nothing alleviates cabin fever like getting away from it all on a vacation. Since COVID-19 crashed the party this year, many people decided to forgo any unnecessary trips and play it safe staying closer to home. Luckily, you can shake off the corona-rut at one of Georgia’s unique and unusual getaways, which offer an unforgettable break from the norm within driving distance of Atlanta. These out-of-the-box locations offer a reprieve from the monotony of pandemic life while keeping the virus in mind.

A natural retreat right around the corner

Unicoi State Park and Lodge. 1788 Highway 356, Helen. 800-573-9659. www.unicoilodge.com.

Whether you’re looking for an overnight trip or a week-long escape, the Unicoi State Park and Lodge combines a tranquil forest setting with memorable experiences for the whole family. Located less than two hours from Atlanta, staying at Unicoi State Park and Lodge means leaving your cares behind and immersing yourself in the sights and sounds of the North Georgia wilderness.

With unparalleled activities for outdoors enthusiasts, you’ll rediscover yourself and connect with nature through hiking, biking, fishing, archery, air gun shooting, paddle boarding, kayaking, ziplining, geocaching and more. Spanning 1029 acres deep in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest, you’ll feel like a kid again when you stay at this adventure-lovers retreat.

If you’re not quite the camping type, don’t worry — Unicoi State Park and Lodge offers a variety of accommodations, including a stay in the lodge or cabins. For families looking for something out of the ordinary, try out one of the Historic Barrel Cabins, which have been a beloved landmark around Helen for decades.

Kristina Hernandez of Greenville explains how staying in one of these Barrel Cabins delivers an experience, not just a place to sleep. “One special thing I loved about the barrel cabin is the symphony of sounds when it rains – the structure has tin on the outside so the rain is beautiful,” describes Hernandez, “Sit on the covered porch and just listen. You haven’t experienced the beautify of rain until you’ve heard it on a tin roof.”

If you’re a coronavirus front-line worker, Unicoi State Park and Lodge has you covered. Nurses, doctors, first responders, law enforcement officers and teachers can enjoy a 20-percent discount on the Best Available Rate when booking their getaway online. Choose from one of the guest rooms at the main lodge, enjoy a romantic retreat in one of the private cabins tucked away in the woods or go primitive by renting one of nearly 100 campsites.

Escape to the mountains in North Georgia

Forrest Hills Resort. 135 Forrest Hills Road, Dahlonega. 706-864-6456. www.forresthillsresort.com.

Located one hour north of the Metro, the family-owned Forrest Hills Resort isn’t just another run-of-the-mill retreat. This eclectic mountain resort, situation between the quaint town of Dahlonega and the awe-inspiring Amicalola Falls, the Forrest Hills Resort offers a stay in peaceful seclusion with access to a vast array of activities, like hiking, biking, horseback riding, gem mining, golf, canoeing, kayaking, spa treatments and shopping. Groups of 20 or more can experience the Chuck Wagon Dinner onsite, featuring a picturesque wagon ride, grilled food, live entertainment and a bonfire.

Guests can stay in the lodge or in one of the 32 private cabins or 12 luxury suites. For couples seeking a cozy getaway this winter, staying in a cabin offers a private retreat complete with hot tub and fireplace. Forrest Hills Resort also offers a few add-on options in case you want to go all out during your close-to-home getaway, including candlelit dinners, romantic carriage rides, couples massages, horseback riding, chocolate-dipped strawberries, souvenir glasses, champagne, spa and snack baskets, picnic with a keepsake tote and more.

Journey to Georgia’s wine country

Dahlonega Resort and Vineyard. 400 Blueberry Hill, Dahlonega. 706-865-7678. www.dahlonegasresort.com.

Get ready to relax your cares away at one of Georgia’s hidden gems, tucked into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Whether you’re a wine aficionado, yoga enthusiast or a mom in need of a few spa treatments, Dahlonega Resort and Vineyard features amenities and activities perfect for someone looking to unwind and get away from it all. For vacationers hoping to expand their yoga practice, breath in renewal at one of the yoga retreats offered onsite, with sessions taking place in the light-filled Gadane Hall, a 1,200 square-foot space overlooking the surrounding woodlands.

Along with rest and relaxation, guests at this serene sanctuary can also enjoy fine dining and educational wine tasting at Dahlonega Resort and Vineyard’s Twisted Wine Garden. This outdoor tasting experience provides guests with an open-air view of the surrounding mountains and rolling vineyards while sampling some of the best wine in the South.

Looking for something a little different? Take a break throughout the rest of the year at some of Georgia’s other unforgettable resorts, all within driving distance of the Metro area. Check out these top picks:

Durhamtown Offroad Resort. 2350 Randolph Church Road, Union Point. 706-622-4108. www.durhamtown.com.

Dirtbikes, ATVs, SXS trail riding and hunting

Great Wolf Lodge. 150 Tom Hall Parkway, LaGrange. 844-473-9653. www.greatwolf.com.

Indoor waterpark, costumed characters, climbing wall, MagiQuest, gem mining, yoga, story time, dance parties, bowling, mini golf, ropes course, arcade and more.

Barnsley Resort. 597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville. 877-773-2447. www.barnsleyresort.com.

Historic ruins, golf, shooting, horseback riding, hiking, biking, spa, archery, tennis and gardens.

Jekyll Island Club Resort. 371 Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island. 844-201-6871. www.jekyllclub.com.

Golf, horseback riding, beaches, pools, hiking, biking, tennis, nature center, bird watching and waterpark.

King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort. 201 Arnold Road, St. Simons Island. 912-638-3631. www.kingandprince.com.

Golf, oceanfront beaches, pools, fitness center, boating, fishing, biking, tennis, dolphin tours, waterpark and nature programs.

Lanier Islands. 7000 Lanier Islands Parkway, Buford. 770-945-8787. www.lanierislands.com.

Golf, beaches, horseback riding, pools, hiking, biking, boating, waterpark and spa.

Petit Crest Villas. www.petitcrestvillas.com.

Golf, beaches, boat rentals, fitness center, pools, canoeing, tennis, hiking and fishing.

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