My bucket list has many subcategories. One of these is easy escapes from Atlanta – I have a long list that includes old standbys, but I always make room for new and unexpected additions. Here are three I’ve added recently: two are brand-new and one – well, I would never have expected this city to make an appearance on my list.
This family-owned property in Sylacauga, Alabama, is about a 2.5-hour drive from Atlanta. Its origins date back to 1904 when the family operated a fertilizer business. That evolved into the development of a fertilizer for golf courses. Rather than have several traveling salesmen go around the country and tell people about how well it worked, they built a first-rate golf course and invited them to come see it for themselves.
David and Ellen Pursell are now welcoming all types of guests to enjoy the top-rated FarmLinks golf course, spa and 12-station Orvis Shooting School. They are adding several new amenities to the 3,200-acre property over the coming months, including a 40-room inn with additional dining options. Currently, Pursell Farms has room for 75 guests in a lodge, cabin and cottages.
Now guests eat meals at The Grille at the Clubhouse where Chef Andrea Griffith is cooking up southern classics. There is a also a farm where you can buy fresh eggs, honey, pork products and beef.
This upscale resort, near Helen, Georgia, is just opening this summer, with the Grand Opening Weekend July 22. Located about 1.5 hours from Atlanta, it has a top-rated chef, a spa, golf at the Innsbruck Golf Club and European architecture. And you know you’re in a fancy place when they serve afternoon tea.
For dining, you can have a private dinner in the Abbey Wine Cellar, have a snack at the pool, order room service or dine at the rooftop Sky Bar with a magnificent view. A concierge can help you book activities for kayaking, wine tasting and fly fishing excursions, or arrange for you to take a golf cart to explore the cute town of Helen.
Now this one may surprise you, but I’m tellin’ you, Columbus, Georgia, is a cute, lively city where there’s plenty of adventure, great restaurants and a fun downtown. Located less than two hours away, Columbus is an easy getaway, or stop there to or from your trip to the Florida panhandle.
I was there recently and we had an action-packed couple of days. For adventure, there’s ziplining all the way to Alabama. That’s right, it’s the only zipline in the country where you cross a state line. Once you’re there, see if you’re brave enough for the Blue Heron Aerial course, a treetop adventure with 10 obstacles. (Full disclosure: I made it around the first level, and declined to try the upper level where the level of difficulty looked eons beyond my comfort level.)
Columbus has the longest urban whitewater rafting in the world, and has been called one of the top 12 manmade adventures in the world. We took the two-hour Classic trip, with class I-III rapids, while other options will have you battling up to class V. You can also kayak and paddleboard in the river. Or hop on a bike and bike the 22-mile Riverwalk.
For dining, get Plucked Up for breakfast and enjoy huge fried chicken biscuits. Or almond croissants at the new My Boulange. Locals flock to Country’s Barbecue, housed in a former bus station, where you can even sit in a bus to enjoy your meal. For more elegant dining try Meritage. For live music, go upstairs at The Loft for a wide variety of musical acts.
One of my tried-and-true favorites is Barnsley Resort. For more on Barnsley, visit Atlanta Weekend Escape: 5 Reasons to Love Barnsley Resort