Easy Weekend Trips From Atlanta – Going North!


If your next road trip is to visit your favorite team in Atlanta, whether it’s the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets or the Atlanta Falcons, plan an extra day to check out what’s available in the surrounding area.

Only an hour or two from the central city, you can hike mountain trails, climb the world’s largest exposed granite mountain, visit the Little White House, sample the newest offerings at numerous wineries, take in a road race, or just sit on the dock and watch sailboats drift by on one of the many gorgeous lakes in the surrounding countryside.

First, let’s travel North on I-75 to I-575, and then meander along some lazy mountain roads with stunning views of forests and streams and distant peaks, until we find ourselves at Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, site of the tallest falls east of the Mississippi.

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If hiking is your favorite outdoor activity, you probably know that the Appalachian Trail begins (or ends!) at Springer Mountain, just 8 miles north of Amicalola Falls State Park, and winds north for 79 miles past Blood Mountain near Vogel State Park in Blairsville, through Neels Gap, Dicks Creek Gap, and Bly Gap before crossing into North Carolina. The AT continues for approximately 2,200 miles to its end (or beginning!) at its most difficult section on Mount Katahdin, located in Baxter State Park in Maine. (The International Appalachian Trail begins here and winds through northeastern Canada. Sections have been designated in Great Britain, and there are even proposals to extend this portion through Europe and North Africa.)

But back to Georgia! If shopping is more your speed, be sure to visit the North Georgia Premium Outlets in Dawsonville, located on Georgia Highway 400, about 45 minutes north of Atlanta. Here you’ll find more than 140 high-end outlet stores from brands like Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Restoration Hardware, Ann Taylor, Coach, and many more. In addition to the food court, numerous restaurants are located nearby, as well as several hotels from national chains, if you just have to make another day of it!

And while you’re in Dawsonville, be sure to check out the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame with NASCAR race cars on display from famous drivers native to the area, especially Awesome Bill Elliott from Dawsonville! There’s even a moonshine distillery next door!

Just 15 miles away, Dahlonega is the site of the first gold rush in the United States. There you can still mine for gold, visit the University of North Georgia campus, stroll through more than 100 gift shops, candy and nut stores, clothing shops and boutiques, antique stores and thrift shops, art galleries, live music venues, and winery tasting rooms.

After tasting the local wines, your next stop might be one of the many wineries in the area: Tiger Mountain Vineyards, Crane Creek Vineyards, Habersham Vineyards and Winery, Yonah Mountain Vineyards and Winery, Cavender Creek Vineyards & Winery, Frogtown Cellars, Montaluce Winery & Estates, Three Sisters Vineyards & Winery, Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery. You could spend a week just visiting and sipping!

Other area attractions include Helen, a recreated Alpine Village offering shops, restaurants, museums and lodging; Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, where original Cabbage Patch Kids continue to be “born” and “adopted”; and Burt’s Farm, where you can pick out that perfect pumpkin and enjoy a hay ride with the kids. Depending upon the weather and the season, other activities might include tubing down the Chattahoochee River, trout fishing, picnicking, horseback riding, or just enjoying the beauty of the changing leaves and the rushing streams.

After a long day of shopping, hiking, or just strolling the shops, you’re probably ready to take a break. If you’re lucky enough to have planned an extra night on your trip, there are many choices for accommodations in the North Georgia area. National hotel and motel chains abound as well as cozy Bed and Breakfasts. If spending a lazy evening by the campfire is more appealing, be sure to check out the numerous state parks in the North Georgia mountains. We’ve already mentioned Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville and Vogel State Park in Blairsville. Other state parks in North Georgia include Black Rock Mountain State Park in Mountain City, Cloudland Canyon State Park in Rising Fawn, Fort Mountain State Park in Chatsworth, Tallulah Gorge State Park in Tallulah Falls, and Unicoi State Park and Lodge in Helen. Accommodations vary at each state park – some offer tent and RV camping sites, some offer cabins, and others offer hotel-type lodges with restaurants.

So whether your preference is pitching a tent and really getting back to nature, or enjoying a favorite glass of wine in front of the fireplace in your cabin, or even snuggling with that special someone in the luxury of a full-service hotel, you’re sure to find a comfortable resting spot. But remember, even though you can often score a vacant room or campsite as a walk-in, it’s always safer to make reservations first!

Wherever you go, and whatever you do, enjoy North Georgia. It’s at its loveliest this time of year!