If you’re not ready to travel until the pandemic wanes, bookmark this list for future itineraries.
Greenville, South Carolina
Travelers can scout out some 50 waterfalls, a roughly two-and-a-half-hour drive from Atlanta. These natural wonders reside in the Blue Ridge Escarpment — where the Blue Ridge Mountains drop abruptly 2,000 feet to the Piedmont region below — earning it the accolade of the highest concentration of waterfalls within the Eastern U.S.
A tourist must-see is apparently the Reedy River Waterfalls in the center of Main Street in the city’s downtown. Falls Park on the Reedy River and Liberty Bridge, the 355-foot suspension pedestrian bridge that suspends over the falls, are popular attractions in town, so try going early in the morning on a weekday to avoid crowds.
Greenville has the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 22-mile beginner-friendly bike trail that you can take to five nearby state parks. Scope out rare wood frogs, native brook trout, peregrine falcons and more residing in these picturesque parts.
For camping, Paris Mountain State Park is a go-to.
Baseball fans, head to The Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum. If you’re unacquainted with the legendary figure, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson played in MLB from 1908-1920. After two decades of playing ball for company teams in the South, Jackson and his wife returned to Greenville, where they ran a liquor store.
At the museum, which was Jackson’s Greenville residence, you’ll trace this story of his childhood working in a local textile mill through his years playing textile league ball all the way to his pro baseball career and his liquor store days. Recently reopened, this fascinating museum is right across the street from Fluor Field, home to the Greenville Drive, a Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. Their field is a mini replica of Fenway Park, complete with a "green monster" in left field.
For accommodations, check into the AC Hotel Greenville Downtown. It's within walking distance of Falls Park on the Reedy River, the Swamp Rabbit Trail, and the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, among many other local draws.
Birmingham is brimming with BBQ, historic sites and outdoor adventure.
Make your home base The Valley Hotel located in a nearby Birmingham suburb that gives you easy access to the wonders of Red Mountain Park, ripe with hiking and mountain biking trails, a zip-lining course and rock climbing tower. Head out for a hike around sunset and be rewarded with sweeping views of the verdant landscape and plenty of picnic spots.
Mountain State Park is a hot pick for a jog or stroll. It also offers "cable skiing" and an inflatable water park at Flip Side Watersports.
For good eats, make the two-mile drive to downtown Birmingham Botanical Gardens where you can enjoy dinner at Dreamland BBQ on 14th Avenue South. For something fancier, make a reservation at French hotspot Chez Fonfon, about a ten-minute drive from the botanical gardens. There, you can play boules (a.k.a. bocce) on the patio of a James Beard semifinalist turning out hits like moules frites, trout amandine and crab cakes with "fines herbes."
For more culinary experiences, don’t miss Helen for its contemporary Southern food in a two-story 1920s-era shotgun-style building, The Essential (try it for brunch) and Bandit Patisserie (for a pastry coma) from chefs and partners Victor King and Kristen Hall. Automatic Seafood & Oysters is also said to be a must – serving smoked fish dip, duck fat poached swordfish and Gulf shrimp toast.
Dahlonega is a city best known for its gold rush history.
In addition, this town attracts a fair share of oenophiles thanks to the Dahlonega Plateau AVA (American Viticultural Area). Grab an Uber, Lyft or designated driver and tackle the 39-mile wine trail and sip at some of the best vineyards and wineries Northern Georgia has to offer.
The neighboring Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Dahlonega is a place well-suited for adventurers whether you prefer to bike, hike or go ATV-ing. The Etowah and the Chestatee Rivers are also an option for skilled boaters to canoe and kayak with predominantly Class I and II rapids. For fly fishing, book a guided trip with Bowman Fly Fishing.
For an overnight stay, try Stay Dahlonega Treehouse Daybreak. Each morning you'll be greeted with soul-restoring mountain panoramas smack dab in Dahlonega’s wine country. Another good option in this area is a cabin or room rental with Dahlonega Resort and Vineyard, for vineyard-side digs.
Another spot to stay is the deluxe eco-cabin at Barefoot Hills Resort – a renovated shipping container in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. A popular spot for those hiking can do so on the Appalachian Trail (AT).
Chattanooga is a two-hour drive from Atlanta and lies along the banks of the Tennessee River.
If thrill-seeking is for you, book it to Lookout Mountain, where you can check out Ruby Falls, said to be the tallest and deepest underground waterfall open to the public in the U.S.; Rock City, rock formations, gardens, and views galore atop the mountain’s summit and Lookout Mountain Flight Park where tourists can spread their wings hang gliding and paragliding.
For something more low-key, say all aboard at Incline Railway – a sightseeing railroad system that dates back to 1895.
To soak up some Tennessee’s scenery into evening hours, go to William’s Island, where campsites are free with advanced reservations. It’s located at the mouth of the Tennessee River Gorge and accessible only by boat, so rent your floating vessel with Erwin Boat Rentals if you’re not bringing your own.
When energy fades, retreat to Common House Chattanooga, a stylish property in the city’s Southside neighborhood with an outdoor pool. It’s walking or biking distance to the shops-and-restaurants-filled River Front District where the Tennessee Aquarium is located and the Hunter Museum of American Art.
For a day trip about an hour-and-a-half drive from the hotel, head to the Ocoee River for a rafting trip with Ocoee Rafting, which offers guided whitewater trips. A few blocks from the Common House, The Crash Pad, a hostel that feels more like a boutique hotel, is one choice if you’re looking for something more wallet-friendly.
The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee, is perched on its namesake lake with roughly 30 acres of shoreline. Close out summer playing golf on one of five courses, fishing, sunrise or sunset boat tours, biking or relaxing by the lake.
Capture the magic from your escape by booking a session with the photography concierge desk — all guests get a complimentary photo session and $50 print credit during their stay.
For a splurge, spring for the Lake House with a private pool and dock and oversized soaking tubs. Nearby off-property attractions include the Greene County African American Museum in downtown Madison – a small town with Antebellum and Victorian homes plus tennis at Reynolds Lake Oconee.