Atlanta's Top 7 Memorial Day Getaways

Atlanta’s Top 7 Memorial Day Getaways

From natural wonders to the thrills of a(nother) big city, there are a few ways to take advantage of your long weekend.

Memorial Day is awesome. It’s the start(ish) of summer, and you get three days off: the official first chance on the calendar to get out and have a little fun. There are no shortage of activities within the city limits to keep you occupied, but should a change of climate be something you’re after, a whole weekend of fun can be found within a few hours of town, whether you want to get back to the great outdoors, chill out in a sleepy town, or party the night away in some rip-roaring honky-tonk. Here are our top recommendations for exploring the region.

Appalachian Trail

Two Hours North

It runs clear up to Maine, stretching well over 2,000 miles, but the base of the famed Appalachian Trail actually starts in the foothills of north Georgia. While time may not permit a shoe-destroying trek along the whole path northward, there’s still plenty to do in the first few miles, which are filled with natural beauty, a whole lot of history, and a few quirky surprises along the way (you may actually get to meet brave souls who are just starting the trek). If you’ve got to pick one area, settle somewhere around Brasstown Valley. The wonderful Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa will set you up with 18 holes of golf, and the views during the last few days of cooler weather are just striking from the nearby Brasstown Bald, which boasts the highest elevation in the state.

Asheville, North Carolina

Three-and-a-half Hours Northeast

Asheville has undergone a transformation over the last couple of decades. Once a sleepy little town that was on the verge of disrepair, the city has become an arts mecca comparable to Atlanta, complete with a bustling downtown, and the famous River Arts District—a collection of formerly abandoned warehouses now revitalized with tenancy by some of the biggest artists in the Southeast. Nightowls take note: this town really comes to life after the sun goes down.

Charleston, South Carolina

Five Hours East by Car; One Hour by Plane

There are a variety of Southern accents. But you know the one we’re talking about: that regal one, where the vowels are drawn out with a lilting quality, and where the words can sooth like sweet tea, or stab like daggers. The Francis Underwood accent for all you House of Cards fans. That’s Charleston (chaal-stun). This unofficial capital of S.C. is positively dripping in history, with cobblestone streets, ancient homes, and bustling nightlife districts (the French Quarter—not to be confused with New Orleans’ own—is a must-see). If you’re a conversational sort who also happens to be a sailing fan, a few days and a couple of mint juleps are all it will take to crew a boat in this friendly city.

Jekyll Island

Four-and-a-half Hours Southeast

It’s a bit more of a trek than a lot of the excursions on this list, but if old-school tranquility by the sea is what you’re after, it’s hard to beat Jekyll Island. Seemingly lost in time (the locals have fiercely defended themselves against overdevelopment for decades), this haven on the Atlantic prompts you to park the car, rent a bicycle, and explore at a slow, deliberate pace. Bring the camera: much of the coastline is lined with ancient, felled oaks that provide jaw-dropping opportunities for impromptu shoots while the sun is on the horizon.

Nashville, Tennessee

Four Hours by Car; One Hour by Plane

If you’ve never been, here’s the gist: what they say about Nashville is true. With the Grand Ole Opry and residency by some of the world’s most popular entertainers, it’s the music capital of the South (or even the U.S.—in either case, sorry, Memphis); it’s home to Vanderbilt University (an Ivy-League institution the city holds dear); and the downtown district, with cowboy boot shops, trendy eateries, and the (in)famous Printer’s Alley, cultural experiences unlike any other. If that’s not enough, there’s just one more word: honky-tonk.

Pensacola Beach, Florida

Five Hours South

Amidst ‘The Whitest Sands on Earth’ and the calm, emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Memorial Day in this little town is one of the biggest LGBT parties you’re going to find, well, anywhere. The main stretch of this friendly community is bustling with folks flooding in from all across the country to enjoy fresh seafood, cold drinks (ask for a Bushwhacker — the ice-creamy cocktail was invented here), and some relaxation in the sun. If there’s too much action (it’s not uncommon for 200,000 out-of-towners to show up), drive just a few miles east, along the coast, where vast stretches of rolling dunes are protected from development, but are perennially welcoming of beach towels and picnic baskets.

Savannah, Georgia

Three-and-a-half Hours by Car; One Hour by Plane

For an opportunity to let loose, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil style, Savannah’s the place that takes a party and makes it utterly refined. If you’re strolling around town, you’ll notice that open container laws are lax here, making bar hopping a fluid experience (just ask for a plastic go-cup before moving on), but with a restaurant scene that frequently tops the nation’s ‘Best’ lists, there’s a culinary pedigree here as well. The town is built on a bluff, so it’s been protected from centuries of hurricanes (many of the structures here date back to the 1700s), and if an afternoon on the beach is up your alley, Tybee Island is 20 minutes by car.

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