Great Destinations in the Southeast to Rejuvenate, Relax and Have Fun!
By Jennifer Colosimo
Once the temperatures dip, the allure of indoor fun intensifies, and a short drive from the city opens up countless opportunities to avoid cabin fever and keep the entire family loving life and each other while staying adequately entertained. Here’s your guide for where to go in the Southeast and what to do when you get there.
Start by checking off the state’s best museums with a stroll through the High Museum of Art, the Children’s Museum of Atlanta, and Fernbank Museum of Natural History. You’ll also want to tour the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville or experience the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum in St. Marys. You often don’t have to go far to include these educational stops on your vacation itinerary.
Celebrate on the Lake
In Georgia, the lake life doesn’t stop when the weather turns cooler. In fact, if you’ve got the right itinerary and a dose of holiday spirit, the entertainment actually ramps up.
Lake Lanier (and its surrounding towns) includes numerous family-friendly farms with pumpkins, hayrides and u-pick crops along with petting zoos and craft tables and plenty of rentable cabins to cozy up in during seasonal festivals. Plus, the entire family can enjoy holiday highlights during Magical Nights of Lights at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands.
Find a bevy of fall fun around Lake Allatoona, with costume contests, parades, avid bird watching and more surrounding its 12,000 acres of lake. Nearby Barnsley Resort provides a season full of fun such as signature holiday dining, lights and wreath-making workshops in December, as well as horseback riding through the changing leaves, toasting s’mores over an open fire, enjoying football, lawn games and craft brews in the outdoor Beer Garden or joining in on a Saturday Artisan’s Workshop, featuring a different local artisan every weekend.
Just outside of Athens, Georgia in historic Greene County, Lake Oconee offers cozy campgrounds, golfing, nature walks, a renowned food and wine festival, a fall Rhythm & Brews concert and more. Christmas at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee includes breakfast with Santa Claus, holiday lights on the lake and a life-sized gingerbread house.
In North Georgia, revel in picturesque fall-hued vistas, don coats and grab hot chocolate mugs when strolling through the holiday lights festival at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds in Hiawassee or indulge in the holiday buffets and craft shows at Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa.
Cooler on the Coast
Just because the swimsuits are packed away doesn’t mean the beach is out. In fact, much of the drivable coastline for Georgians offers plenty of cool-weather calendar choices.
Alabama’s beaches serve up small-town charm with ample entertainment. From Orange Beach and Gulf Shores to Perdido Key, soak up a vivid arts scene, maritime history, and adventure parks. End any day at the famous Flora-Bama Lounge for cocktails and five stages of live music and fun.
Along Florida’s 30A, you’ll find some of the most sought-after residences in spots like Destin and Sandestin, Panama City Beach and Grayton Beach, Seagrove and Seaside. Attend one of the food, wine or holiday festivals, or play a round of golf.
Often the holiday season inspires a sense of giving, and several resorts have answered the call for a growing voluntourism trend. Give Kids The World Village in Kissimmee, Fla. offers Disney-faring families a way to give back during their trip, helping in a storybook resort created for sick children and their own families.
Escape to the Mountains
Snow or shine, valleys and peaks, day hikes or the Appalachian Trail, the mountains provide bucket-list-worthy stops to schedule any vacation around.
Small-town vibes draw travelers to cities like Blairsville, Helen, and Hiawassee in Georgia, North Carolina’s Hayesville, Franklin and more. Apple picking runs into the early part of the fall in North Georgia, with stops like Mercier Orchards.
Ski, board and tube throughout North Carolina at Sugar Mountain, Beech Mountain Resort and Appalachian Ski Mtn.
Trade equipment for hiking boots to explore picturesque hikes, such as North Georgia’s easy uphill Brasstown Bald trek.
Off the hiking path, Asheville invites you to fill your itinerary with eclectic eats, brewery tours and the Biltmore Estate. Nearby, Chattanooga is a classic destination with stops like Lookout Mountain and Rock City.
If do-it-yourself is the key to holiday happiness, start your Christmas tree trimming from scratch and visit Hunter’s Christmas Tree Farm in Milton or take a trip to North Carolina to cut down your own.
Where to Go
Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds
Located along the shores of Lake Chatuge, the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds offers beautiful fall foliage in view of the various events held on the grounds—from the nine-day Fall Festival with live music and a Pioneer Village to the Mountain Country Christmas In Lights Show with caroling and crafts.
Henderson Park Inn
At Henderson Park Inn, an adults-only, gulf-front boutique hotel in Destin, Florida, privacy seekers will find the ultimate sanctuary for rest, relaxation, and romance. With serenity and style, the Inn boasts 36 intimate rooms, luxury amenities, and gulf-front terraces. Enjoy complimentary beach chairs/umbrellas, bicycles, chef’s gourmet breakfast, picnic-style boxed lunches, happy hour drinks at the “Tiki” bar, as well as wine, chocolates, and roses upon arrival.
The Inn at Brevard
The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort
St. Simons Island
KingAndPrince.com | (912) 638-3631
Enjoy upscale poolside
rooms, spectacular villas with ocean-view balconies and more, providing the entire family with a comfortable home away from home, just steps away from plentiful beach recreation, rich history and natural beauty on the island.
Noontootla Creek Farms
NCFGA.net | (706) 838-0585
Noontootla Creek Farms offers first-rate quail hunting, more than 2 miles of water with high-quality trout, and 12 sporting clay shooting stations. During a guided fly-fishing experience, each member of your party will be outfitted with boots, rods, reels and flies. Besides the activities, outdoor enthusiasts will adore taking in the 1,000-plus acres of beautiful landscape here.
The Pearl Hotel
Rosemary Beach, Florida
ThePearlRB.com | (855) 969-3303
This award-winning boutique hotel boasts private balconies with views of the Gulf of Mexico, contemporary décor, upscale spa products, and amenities including complimentary beach setups, in addition to a menu comprised of locally sourced food.
Raft1.com | (423) 799-2354
The best in safety and fun, this group of expert guides has grown up battling the rapids, and as a result, delivers unmatched adventures during an unforgettable white-water rafting trip down the Oconee River.
RBM of Alpharetta
Elevate your next road trip with a sophisticated spin on the classic way to travel. The Airstream Touring Coach by Mercedes-Benz offers four luxurious models equipped with all the bells and whistles, or you can build your own.
Tennessee Valley Railroad
The only regularly scheduled, fully operating train ride in the state, this railroad museum offers a standout day of interactive history to entertain and educate people of all ages. All aboard!