If thoughts of airports and security lines or day-long car rides are enough to make you consider skipping a summer vacation, then a staycation might be just the thing you need. Luckily, options abound for staycations close to home that feel (many) miles away—from serene lakeside getaways to action-packed escapes in the country to luxurious city sleepovers.
Old-World charm: Barnsley Resort
Tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains just 60 miles from Atlanta, Barnsley Resort is a place where you can enjoy the pleasantries of old-world charm in a countryside setting that feels like going back in time to a fine Southern estate—all in the best ways possible.
Now spanning 3,000 acres, the historic grounds were originally home to an opulent estate in the late 1800s. Today, Barnsley Resort offers golf, a sporting club, spa, pool, horseback riding, gardens, historic ruins, gourmet dining and more. The resort is often a top-pick for weddings in the South—and it’s easy to see why, with its charming English-inspired village, tree-lined streets, fountains and rolling hills creating a picture-perfect backdrop around every corner.
Upon check-in at Guest Registration at the center of the village, you’ll receive a map outlining key areas of interest and helping you navigate the quaint lanes and sidewalks in this extremely pedestrian-friendly resort. There are 90 guestrooms and suites available, each located within a variety of cottages throughout the village. Additionally, five one-bedroom Arbor Cottage suites are available with enhanced amenities, as well as multi-bedroom Estate Cottages for groups (and construction is currently underway on a new 55-room inn, expected to open in early 2018).
Everything is just a quick walk from the cottages— stroll down to the pond to see swans floating across the water, let the kids burn off some energy at the playground or in the pool, or walk to the ruins and museum. If you get tired of exploring on foot, rent some bicycles to tool around with on meandering trails, or hop on a mountain bike for a more rugged adventure on the hiking trails.
Besides biking, the resort offers plenty of other activities—disc golf, paint ball, fishing, canoes, kayaks, sporting clays and animal encounters down at the Barnsley Barnyard, to name a few. Horse lovers will want to check out a guided wilderness ride. Wrap up a day of activities with an afternoon spa treatment before hitting up the beer garden for casual eats and live music. Other dining options include The Woodlands Grill and the more upscale Rice House.
And a happy note for those who love to travel with their furry family members—Barnsley Resort offers pet-friendly accommodations (pet fee applies) and all of their public areas are open to pets—nearly everyone you’ll see will have a dog in tow, tail wagging.
597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville, 770-773-7480, barnsleyresort.com. Rooms range from $319 to $729 per night.
Peaceful escape: The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee
The peaceful oasis that is The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee is a beloved favorite destination for families and couples alike. Located just 75 miles from Atlanta, it’s an ideal place to enjoy quality R&R. But be forewarned: Atlanta traffic and construction on I-20 can nearly double the length of this road trip, so you’ll need plan your departure time very carefully. However, the property’s sweeping views of Lake Oconee and the gently sloping “backyard” that meanders down to the water should dull any post-traffic-jam trauma.
Laid-back elegance is the name of the game at the resort and you can spend your time there doing as much—or as little—as you want. For those seeking activities on the water, take advantage of boating, fishing, kayaks, Yolo boarding or Schiller Water Bikes. On land, hit the links on one of five golf courses, do some yoga or another fitness class, or explore the trails on bikes or a nature hike. If taking it easy is more your speed, treat yourself to a massage at the spa and then chill out at the lakefront infinity pool.
If you can make it over to The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee this summer, you’ll be in for a musical treat in the form of their “Live at the Lake” summer concert series, boasting live entertainment and fireworks on select Sunday evenings through August.
The resort offers three restaurants—Linger Longer Steakhouse (fine dining), Gaby’s by the Lake (their motto is “No Shirt, No Shoes, Our Pleasure” and they serve up a mean lobster grilled cheese) and Southern-inspired Georgia’s.
A new complimentary family fun hour also is offered daily from 4 p.m.-5 p.m. with games and crafts, and the resort continues to offer their Ritz Kids program and Kids’ Night Out on Fridays and Saturdays, among other family-friendly offerings. And don’t miss the nightly s’mores around the fire pit, an instant hit with visitors young and old. Cap off the night with a special delivery of milk and cookies to the room, complete with adorable picnic basket and big red balloon.
1 Lake Oconee Trail, Greensboro, 706-467-0600, ritzcarlton.com. Starting rates for rooms range from $389 to $749 per night. Nightly starting rates for cottages are $2,000 and lake house is $5,500.
City trippers: St. Regis Atlanta
There’s just something about the St. Regis Atlanta that’s decidedly fabulous—but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Maybe it’s the subtly delicious signature scent that envelops you as you enter the lobby or the crisp glass of champagne that welcomes you at check-in. Or maybe it’s the heated-just-so pool that makes swimming with your toddler bearable or the soaking tub in your bathroom that’s, dare we say it, maybe even a little too big. But what we do know for certain is that for those “city mouse” out there seeking a luxurious vacation, the St. Regis Atlanta will fit the bill (albeit a large bill when it’s all said and done).
A chic lobby with sparkling chandeliers and a dramatic staircase sets the tone for your stay at the St. Regis Atlanta, which is located in the center of Buckhead, close to hot restaurants and swank eateries (like must-try sushi joint Umi just around the street), cool watering holes and plenty of shopping (The Shops Buckhead Atlanta is right across Peachtree).
High-caliber customer service is served up with a genuine smile from everyone on staff, from the bellhop helping with your bags to your server down at the bar. This is a place where you’ll never feel like you’re bothering the staff with your request—big or small—which seems harder and harder to come by these days. It’s truly an art form, and one that St. Regis does so well.
Also an art form: the sophisticated design of the chic, spacious guestrooms, complete with custom furnishings and artwork. The hotel offers 151 guestrooms, plus 31 suites that come with butler service. White marble bathrooms with deep soaker tubs, a double-vanity and super-plush robes add to the luxurious environs.
A day at the hotel wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Pool Piazza, where lounge chairs encircle a pool that’s anchored by a dramatic waterfall cascading from the mouth of a lion (A bit over the top? Yes. Will you mind? No.). Poolside butlers offer complimentary treats like fruit skewers and smoothies.
Adjacent to the pool, the Grand Terrace is a great spot for lawn games such as badminton and bocce ball. Back inside, get a workout in with a visit to the 24-hour Athletic Club, or zen out at the Remède Spa with a facial or another customized treatment.
Don’t miss unique offerings from the hotel, like daily Afternoon Tea at Astor Court (which also serves breakfast and lunch) or the evening champagne sabering at 6 p.m. near the Wine Room. In the evenings, hit up the hotel bar to sip wines from their curated wine list, and enjoy live jazz on Thursday nights.
If you want to grab dinner on-site, the Atlas restaurant dishes out seasonal fare. Or try The Tavern at Atlas, a new dining experience offering a small-plate menu and cocktails in their newly renovated lounge and library.
After a long day of living like royalty, retire to your fluffy bed and snuggle up for some Z’s. A little room-service breakfast the next day will let you relish one last indulgence before you have to say goodbye. Ah yes, the bitter return to reality accompanies all vacations—even staycations.
88 W. Paces Ferry Rd. NW, Atlanta, 404-563-7900, stregisatlanta.com. Rooms start at $295 and Empire Suites start at $3,000 per night.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.