You can look at the upcoming Labor Day weekend in one of two ways:
As an annoying reminder that much of the rest of the country is just starting to put a period on its leisurely summer while Georgia has been back to the 9-to-5 grind for a month now.
Or as a total gift, a three- (or let’s be honest, more like four-) day holiday that comes along just when real life was getting to feel a bit too, well, real.
Either way, you need one last carefree excursion before an arduous fall of college football tailgate-hopping and trying to get your kid’s photo taken with the Phipps Santa. Here are five last-minute ideas for getting away from it all, whether you’re looking to spend time in the great outdoors, rub elbows with history or have some playtime in the great indoors (aka a casino). Most could be day trips, but if you really want to get away, we’ve also included some lodging recommendations. All still had availability two weeks before the start of the holiday weekend, but as always, check before you go.
Beach it … (with a bonus bacon getaway)! This could be your last chance to take full advantage of Georgia’s beach-y weather before the onrush of fall responsibilities and — groan! — the holiday season. And Tybee Island, with its relaxed attitude and affordable hotel rooms, is ideal for doing so. Along with the usual mix of sun, sand, fishing and sightseeing (Tybee Lighthouse, Fort Pulaski National Monument), the 9th Annual Labor Day Beach Bash takes place on Saturday and Sunday (Sept. 3-4). There’ll be free live concerts by Big Engine and the Swingin’ Medallions and fireworks both nights at the Tybee Island Pier and Pavilion. Full information can be found at www.VisitTybee.com.
Tybee’s only about 15 minutes from Savannah, so you can add in a stop there for more sightseeing and fine dining. Speaking of which, the 3rd Annual Savannah Bacon Fest takes place at Rousakis Riverfront Plaza on River Street from 4-10 p.m. Friday (Sept. 2) and and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 3). The Savannah Waterfront Association has complete information on its website at www.riverstreetsavannah.com.
Get away, and above it all. Located midway between Carrollton and Newnan, Historic Banning Mills feels miles removed from the hustle and bustle of daily metropolitan life. That’s due in large part to its 1,500 unspoiled acres (a conservancy has worked with the Trust for Public Lands and the Upper Chattahoochee River Keepers to protect the area), where a historic interpretive center tells the story of this bucolic spot along the Snake River Gorge.
The range of outdoor recreational opportunities in a jaw-dropping setting includes horseback riding, biplane tours, hiking, even falconry. It’s a great way to spend the day, but you can’t miss the chance to spend the night in one of the fabulous treetop rooms. Not “up” to that? Not to worry. Historic Banning Mills’ other lodging options include an inn, rustic cabins, a B&B and more. Call for information at 770-834-9149 and visit the website at www.historicbanningmills.com.
Vote “yes” to letting go. It was good enough for a president of the United States, so why not you? Just 1 hour 15 minutes south of Atlanta, Warm Springs is where Franklin Delano Roosevelt retreated to his “Little White House” and also found relief for his polio symptoms in the springs’ naturally heated waters. You can make a day trip out of touring FDR’s getaway home and enjoy the natural attractions of F.D. Roosevelt State Park.
It’s about a 20-minute drive from the Little White House to Callaway Gardens, which offers miles of hiking trails, a famed butterfly garden, two golf courses, water sports and many other things to do. There’s also a variety of lodging options there if you want to overnight it. Or if you want to feel like FDR, may we recommend a stay in the Presidential Suite at the Hotel Warm Springs Bed & Breakfast (47 Broad St., Warm Springs. It’s $145 per night, which includes the full amenities package). Find information on this and other rooms at www.hotelwarmspringsbb.org or call 1-800-366-7616.
Make a bet on fun. The great outdoors not for you this holiday weekend? Fear not. One of America’s favorite indoor sports is a lot closer than Las Vegas. There are two glittering casinos within driving distance in neighboring North Carolina. If you just want a quick getaway with some gambling, then head to Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel in Murphy (www.caesars.com/harrahs-cherokee-valley-river). AJC staff writer Melissa Ruggieri wrote all about it in this story. Located slightly more than two hours from Atlanta, it offers most of the familiar casino fare, including slot machines, blackjack, craps, roulette, three-card poker and mini-baccarat tables. There’s a food market on site and the nearby Great Smoky Mountains for scenery and stretching your legs. If it’s the full-blown Vegas-style outing you’re yearning for, complete with spa, a seemingly miles-long buffet, luxurious suites and more, then check yourself in to the mega-resort Harrah’s Cherokee Resort & Casino in Cherokee, N.C., located about an hour east of Murphy (www.caesars.com/harrahs-cherokee).
Bike-cation on the Atlanta Beltline. Maybe you’ve been meaning to spend more time exploring the Beltline, or want to see what all the fuss is about. Here’s your chance — and your perfect mode of transportation. Ride your own bike (check Beltline.org for access points and other helpful info); rent one (nearby options include Atlanta Beltline Bicycle at 404-588-9930 and Skate Escape at 404-892-1292); or try Atlanta’s new bike share program, Relay (www.relaybikeshare.com). Right now, paved trails are open in four different locations, and a bike is a great way to see more than just the famed Eastside Trail. But, speaking of that particular 2-mile stretch … Ponce City Market (675 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E., Atlanta) sits almost smack in the middle, and you can leave your wheels with the complimentary bike valet (yes, really) and head inside to the food hall or up to Skyline Park on the roof. More information can be found at www.poncecitymarket.com.