Day or weekend destinations – all within a few hours' drive of Atlanta – offer family-friendly trips that can include healthy options as well. Whether you choose horseback riding, kayaking at sunset or hiking along miles of established trails, opportunities abound close to home to meet your fun and fitness goals.
Yurt Village at Sweetwater Creek State Park – Drive time: 30 minutes
Hike all day then spend the night in the just-opened Yurt Village in Atlanta’s closest state park. The 10-unit yurt village is tucked away in a quiet, wooded section of the park and can sleep up to six people. The yurts are made of wood and canvas and come with beds, futons, screened windows, locking doors, as well as an outside deck, picnic table and grill/fire ring. Yurt reservations are $85 per night. gastateparks.org/info/230398
Banning Mills – Drive time: 45 minutes
Soar up to 60 mph over the lost gorge and the ghost town of Banning at Banning Mills Resort and Adventure Park. This family-owned conservancy features more than 100 zip lines and a multitude of sky bridges, along with a 100-foot power free fall, aerial challenge courses, kayaking, hiking, biking and even sleeping in treehouses. historicbanningmills.com
Blue Ridge Mountains – Drive time: 1.5 hours
Fall in love with Georgia's Blue Ridge in the North Georgia mountains, where city sophistication meets small-town charm. Blue Ridge is filled with upscale restaurants, stylish shops and galleries, orchards, farm wineries, riding stables, beautiful mountains and many fall festivals. Rent a pontoon on beautiful Lake Blue Ridge, go trout fishing in the crystal-clear Toccoa River, or take a hike along 17 miles of walking and biking trails. Stay overnight in a mountain cabin or luxury vacation home overlooking pristine valleys and ridge tops. cityofblueridgega.gov
Dahlonega – Drive time: 60 minutes
Home to the largest hard-rock gold mine east of the Mississippi (and site of the first major U.S. gold rush), Dahlonega is a historic quaint mountain town in the heart of Georgia wine country, just over an hour north of Atlanta. Enjoy panning for gold and gemstones, visiting the heritage museums and touring the town, with its arts scene and gold-medal wineries. Or crank the activities up a notch with hiking, kayaking, bicycling, mountain biking, golfing, hunting, fishing and camping. dahlonega.org
White Oak Pastures – Drive time: 2.75 hours
This cherished, sustainable family farm just opened its doors in August to diners and lodgers. Guests can stay in cabins or book a room in the Pond House. Every other Saturday, the farm will host classes, such as a seed-starting class. Additional offerings include guided horseback trail rides, farm tours led by a member of the Harris family, fishing in the farm's ponds, skeet shooting and, of course, the incredible farm-to-table dining. whiteoakpastures.com
Amicalola Falls and Unicoi State Park – Drive time: 1.75 hours
Newly introduced adventure-lodge experiences await at these state parks in the North Georgia mountains. Both offer treetop zip lines, GPS scavenger hunts, 3-D archery and climbing walls, and both are “designated GoPro parks,” with classes and a rental program enabling guests to make an entertaining record of their day using the action camera mounted on a bike, kayak or helmet. Amicalola Falls also features guided hikes and fitness trail runs, survivalist camping and a birds-of-prey experience, while Unicoi adds lessons in fly fishing, paddleboarding, kayak fishing and primitive camping under the stars. gaadventurelodge.com
Chateau Elan Winery and Resort – Drive time: 45 minutes
Just a quick drive to Braselton, northeast of Atlanta, Chateau Elan is a 3,500-acre vineyard featuring healthy dining, a European health spa and 63 holes of golf with courses for beginners to champions. While you're there, check out the resort's night golf experience, a walking-course event with glow-in-the-dark balls, flagsticks and tee markers lighting the course. chateauelan.com
Biltmore Estate – Drive time: 3.25 hours
In 1895, George Vanderbilt built this 250-room chateau in Asheville, North Carolina, which stands today as the largest home in America.
The home's gardens were designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, with the Blue Ridge Mountains as the backdrop. Outdoor activities include fishing, horseback riding and bike rentals, and visits to the nearby Antler Hill Village and Biltmore Winery are popular highlights of this trip.
Christmas at Biltmore is a once-in-a lifetime experience. biltmore.com
Fall colors still paint the Georgia mountains
Early fall may be the peak of color change in Georgia, but warmer-than-usual temperatures have extended Mother Nature’s palette a bit longer this year. Enjoy the change of seasons while visiting one of many state parks close to Atlanta and taking part in the numerous activities planned for November.
“Beautiful fall color usually extends through early November, so it’s not too late to enjoy colorful leaves,” said Kim Hatcher, Public Affairs coordinator for Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. “F.D. Roosevelt, Victoria Bryant and James H. Floyd state parks usually have pretty scenery later in the season. In fact, when you’re hiking, you’re often looking down at the trail, which will be covered with red and orange leaves.”
Here are a few events taking place in Georgia in November. Find the entire list of activities, as well as times and prices, at gastateparks.org/family-fun.
Saturday, Nov. 7
• Mountain Arts & Crafts Celebration – Cloudland Canyon State Park, Rising Fawn, Georgia. Enjoy the Mountain Arts & Craft Celebration amid the beautiful autumn foliage atop Lookout Mountain. This two-day, family-friendly event offers over 100 exhibitors displaying quality arts and crafts for sale, as well as music and spoken-word performances. 706-657-4050.
• Nighttime hayrides and storytelling – Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site, Cartersville, Georgia. Experience Etowah at night on a hayride and finish the evening with snacks and a fireside story.
Saturday, Nov. 14
• Paws on the Falls – High Falls State Park, Jackson, Georgia. Grab your leash and bring your dog out to walk with some new friends on the High Falls Trail. A special surprise for each dog that attends.
Saturday, Nov. 21
• Indoor basic archery – Panola Mountain State Park, Stockbridge, Georgia. Have you ever wanted to release your inner archer? Or maybe you're just looking for a place to hone your skills. Indoor archery classes are a great place to brush up on the basics or start from scratch with the guidance of a certified instructor. All equipment is provided. Ages 9 and up. Must call to register.770-389-7801.
• Fall hike on Blue Mountain bike trail – Hard Labor Creek State Park, Rutledge, Georgia. Enjoy a six-mile walk on one of the most scenic trails at Hard Labor Creek State Park. Join a park ranger on this guided tour which transverses many woodland vistas. This hike is for ages 10 and up, and participants must be in appropriate physicalcondition. Space is limited, please register in advance. 706-557-3001.
• Annual Sugar Cane Festival – George L. Smith State Park, Twin City, Georgia. Enjoy a fun day in the park with fresh cane syrup, fresh-ground cornmeal, live music and a wide variety of food and crafts vendors.
Sunday, Nov. 22
• American Frontier Days – F.D. Roosevelt State Park, Pine Mountain, Georgia. Meet a trapper. Talk to a soldier. Throw a tomahawk. See living skills displays from local historians. Walk through time from the mid 1700s to the late 1800s. Held on the baseball field across from the Liberty Bell Pool on Hwy 354.
Friday, Nov. 27
• Walk off the turkey – Tallulah Gorge State Park, Tallulah Falls, Georgia. Take a guided hike through the gorge floor to work off those extra pounds you acquired over Thanksgiving. This hike is strenuous and involves climbing over and under rocks and logs, jumping from rock to rock, and possibly getting your feet wet. Participants must be 10 or older. Register in advance. ■