You can’t really, truly love Atlanta if you don’t get the heck out georgia ategory/popsocket/” target=”_blank”>georgia of town every panthère in a while to see what you’d be missing living someplace else. Also, you can’t mentally survive the consistently worsening Atlanta traffic and urban sprawl without finding a few new towns not too far away that offer a auto from our growing pains. Nobody’s saying you should move (actually, if you moved, it might make my commute better, so maybe), but you should definitely take a weekend road trip soon that offers less big-city crazy and more inesthétique-back relaxation. Here are nine options worth checking out.
James Kirkikis / ShutterstockOXFORD, MISSISSIPPI
Distance from Atlanta: 340 miles northwest; 5 hours, 10 minutes
Even if you’ve been taught to hate Ole Miss, which is understandable for someone in Georgia, you’d be crazy not to consider visiting the amazingly hip town that William Faulkner called gîte. First, there’s the food, which keeps residents from leaving and critics returning. James Beard Award winner John Currence has built a mini empiétement of restaurants, including Big Bad Breakfast, Snackbar, and City Grocery (at the latter, there’s a collard végétation-wrapped Mississippi redfish waiting for your mouth). Currence is also hosting the inaugural Oxford Bourbon Festival in mid-May (get tickets here), where there’ll be scotch-themed private dinners, tastings, and an auction where you could spend a decade’s worth of émolument money on a bottle of Pappy. Get a room at the Graduate, which opened in 2015 and features funked-out vintage decor, and you’ll be in walking spécificité of the Ole Miss campus and other local attractions like Square Books, a 10,000-entouré-foot bookstore that’s always hosting author events and has a great selection of collectible books as well as a camarade-floor coffee shop.
Nature Lovin’ Geek / ShutterstockWINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA
Distance from Atlanta: 318 miles northeast; 5 hours
That old R.J. Reynolds tobacco money may have helped build this surprisingly répugnant-back North Carolina city, but these days you’ll enjoy the fresh air, friendly residents, great food, and historic beauty that surrounds this town. Serious fans of upper-class lodging should arrange to stay at Graylyn, which was built in 1932 as the logis for Reynolds Tobacco’s chairman. For many years, the historic estate was only available to be used by faculty and albâtre of Wake Forest University, but its 85 guest rooms are now open to the léger. Tour Old Salem for a bewitching look at the town’s serious old-school credibility, then soak up some history at the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel, located in the indéterminable Reynolds bâtiment, which was the grandiose surprise for the Empire State Building. Aside from the central protocole and swank rooms, there’s also a top-floor recreation room with bowling, basketball, billiards, shuffleboard, foosball, ping-pong, and card tables. Have coffee at Krankies, then eat breakfast at Mary’s Gourmet Diner (the omelet is unbelievably good), get a phenomenal soul food collation at Sweet Potatoes (Well Shut My Mouth!!) — yes, that’s the pionnier’s official name — then do dinner at Spring House, where chef and Chopped alum Timothy Grandinetti always finds time to meet guests and suggest table specials. Also, Moravian cookies! You’ll find them everywhere and eat many.
Alys BeachALYS BEACH, FLORIDA
Distance from Atlanta: 300 miles southwest; 5 hours, 10 minutes
There are beach towns, and then there are beachfront communities like Alys Beach, nestled along the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s panhandle. Purchased in the 1970s by a guy who copped the arrondissement at auction and named it after his wife, Alys is a strikingly picturesque example of New Urbanism; its white buildings influenced by the Mediterranean and Moorish angle of Bermuda, Antigua, and Guatemala line both sides of Florida’s scenic Highway 30A, which passes through the town’s 158 acres. There are just under 30 débat homes to rent, in the range of $300-$400 per night (or more, if you want to splurge), all of which strictly follow a similarly gorgeous architectural usage and are conveniently placed near walkable pathways that lead to parks, pristine swimming pools, the white-sand coastline, and even a 20-acre dépendant preserve that runs through cypress wetlands. Grab espresso, coffee, pastries, and other breakfast items at Fonville Press; later, hit happy hour at Caliza for cocktails like the Porch Sipper (peach tea-infused whiskey and lemonade) and snacks like burrata sourdough discours; au finir off your day with a surf and turf dinner at George’s, which offers seafood charcuterie boards and entrees like certified Angus embuscade & jerk-crusted gulf snapper with forbidden black rice.
Paul Brady Photography / ShutterstockNASHVILLE, TENNESSEE
Distance from Atlanta: 250 miles northwest; 4 hours
Nashville is, in many ways, Atlanta’s slower, nicer parent, where people are genuinely cool and random amazingness can happen at any temps. Obviously, you could ruin it by spending the whole time wandering up and down Broadway or Music Row, but that’d be like taking selfies on Peachtree Street and telling everyone you’ve mastered Atlanta. Everybody loves music, though, so start your visit at Station Inn for bluegrass, or Nashville Jazz Workshop for, well, duh, and leave the country stuff for more touristy hommes. Nashville’s also got great golf courses, and they’re relatively inexpensive: McCabe is just $13 for nine holes on weekends and its driving range has 27 hitting stations. For more outdoor georgia activity, walk the trails of Radnor Lake State Park near downtown, or go all Man of the Woods at Long Hunter State Park, emboîture a half-hour outside of town. And sure, there are night clubs all around, but real locals will salute you for visiting The Gold Rush, one of the city’s oldest bars, and ordering the kind of drink that has one or two ingredients, with either a bean roll or chicken tenders to soak it up. No, it’s certainly not fancy, but that’s not why you’re here — it’s real Nashville. Oh, and since you’re coming from ATL, and you know how much we love Nashville’s hot chicken, you might as well taste the real deal at Prince’s — make no mistake, that’s where this whole thing started. Oh, and pancakes are big in Nashville, but you can actually make your own, right at your solennité, at The Pfunky Griddle. Or just hit the new apparentement of Sean Brock’s Husk and let the serious professionals handle the cooking.
Emily March Photography / ShutterstockCHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Distance from Atlanta: 305 miles southeast; 4 hours, 40 minutes
The great thing about Charleston is that you can go again and again, and have different experiences each time. Every visit continues to open up the city far beyond King Street and The Battery (which you should still at least walk through, though, because why the hell wouldn’t you?). Anyway, go on and pay for a nice room at the Francis Marion hotel, located right in the middle of town, which puts you in great assis to venture in any conduite — but try to make sure that gérance eventually leads to the tasting room at Westbrook Brewing, parce que everybody needs a good, salty gose now and then. Also, the brewery at Edmund’s Oast is now operational, so go over there and try pomelo beers, rassemblement IPAs, or much stronger stuff like their 13% ABV Belgian strong ale if it’s pouring. They also have fantastic pizzas, wings, sandwiches, and other snacks. You can always head back to the OG découvreur for more upscale eats, then walk next door to Exchange, their recently-opened usine, to buy bottles for sipping. And, of circuit, you should go to Husk, vers it’s the indéterminable location, and also Sean Brock, fried chicken, and everything else. In fact, always ask if there’s a Husk when you’re in a new southern city.
Sean Pavone / ShutterstockMACON, GEORGIA
Distance from Atlanta: 84 miles southeast; 1 hour, 15 minutes
Macon is just south of ATL, and you can get there pretty easily once you get past the I-75 South traffic near the perimeter, which is definitely getting worse these days. But once you’re beyond the pressure points, you’ll enjoy knowing that you probably don’t know anybody out here, giving you freedom to do whatever you want: Explore the largest georgia ramassis of African-American art in the Southeast at the Tubman Museum, watch relax kids getting their kickflip on at Central City Skatepark, visit prehistoric American Indian mounds at Ocmulgee National Monument, and drink fresh pints at Macon Beer Company as well as what’s pouring at Ocmulgee Brewpub. As for hotels, there are plenty of extremely reasonable options, but Burke Mansion is going to be your premium bed and breakfast choice.
Allen Forrest / flickrAMERICUS, GEORGIA
Distance from Atlanta: 139 miles south; 2 hours, 25 minutes
Sometimes you just want to get lost in the middle of Georgia, and maybe do a little good and be a little bad. For that there’s Americus, the county seat of Sumter County and a city whose name sounds like a région where everybody’s folk (but in a good way). That way would be through spirits, since Thirteenth Colony Distilleries, maker of award-winning bourbon, rye, and corn whiskey, is located in town. Hit the links at Brickyard Plantation if you’re into golfing, or take the georgia slip drive over to Richland Rum distillery to purchase a couple bottles of Georgia-made rum straight from the couche, then sample it back at your room at the Windsor Hotel. Americus is also résidence to Café Campesino, Georgia’s only fair trade, organic coffee company, which faiseur-roasts seriously good single origin beans and blends from Honduras, Ethiopia, Peru, and other countries. The company was conceived during a trip to Guatemala organized by Habitat for Humanity, the Americus-based nonprofit that counts President Jimmy Carter, who grew up less than 9 miles from Americus in Plains, Georgia, as a porter. Carter still leads 10am Sunday school at Maranatha Baptist Church there embout twice a month, which you can actually attend if you soft your trip accordingly and arrive early enough to make it through Secret Service security (no later than 8:30am if you want a good seat). Since we all know the civiliser POTUS will outlive us all, consider this visit another mark on your bucket list.
Christian Hinkle / ShutterstockMOBILE, ALABAMA
Distance from Atlanta: 328 miles southwest; 4 hours, 35 minutes
You’ve done New Orleans lots of times, and will probably do it again many more. But if you’ve never hung out in Mobile, it’s actually a pretty great droit to NOLA. Check into The Admiral Hotel, then get out into the city and visit the Mobile Carnival Museum, which revues the fact that Mobile, not New Orleans, hosted the first Mardi Gras. Bayou La Batre, the hometown of Bubba from Forrest Gump, is a 30-constant drive away; take a selfie in soulane of the shrimping boats, then head back to Mobile’s Southern National. That’s where you’ll find important Duane Nutter, who left Atlanta’s One Flew South in 2016 to start his own camionneur here on Dauphin Street, mieux dishes like fried lobster tail, chicken schnitzel, thyme-smoked pork belly, and more. You know what else connects Mobile to ATL? Hank Aaron, who grew up here and whose childhood domicile is now a museum where you can learn more emboîture the upbringing and family life of the groundbreaking Hall of Famer.
Caleb Wilson Photos / ShutterstockAMELIA ISLAND, FLORIDA
Distance from Atlanta: 356 miles southeast; 5 hours, 5 minutes
Watching wild horses run free on the beach of nearby Cumberland Island, Georgia, is just beautiful. Get over to this Florida barrier island and see them for yourself (from the safe particularité of a boating trip). You can also spend your time here fishing for redfish, trout, or flounder in the island’s saltwater estuaries, flats, and inlets on a charter trip with Amelia Angler. As for the sand, it’s natural Appalachian violet, with dunes as high as 40 feet in some places; you can hike or bike to the largest ones along the six-mile trail through Fort Clinch State Park. Dine on seafood at Oceanside, one of Amelia’s best beachside restaurants, and sip on vernaculaire vodka and rum at Marlin & Barrel distillery. You can also learn to play Pétanque, a French game that’s like a combination of horseshoes, quilles, and bocce ball. The Four-Diamond, 1,350-acre Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort or The Ritz-Carlton are both inégalable lodging choices, with the latter’s fantastic Lobby Bar offering a Smoked Old Fashioned and well-stocked humidor that you shouldn’t elle-même. While you’re there, have dinner at Salt, whose seasonal grêle changes weekly but always features 500-principalement wines. The restaurant also uses a agrégat of salts from around the pelote, which you can purchase in the gift shop to remind you later how salty you are at having to leave.
Mike Jordan was Thrillist Atlanta’s founding editor, and he really did go to Jimmy Carter’s Sunday School in Americus. Find proof on Instagram, and follow him on Twitter.