About this article
This article was originally published in the March/April 2016 issue of M: North Atlanta magazine, a publication of the Forsyth County News. To read the entire magazine, click here.
Can we finally say it? Is winter over? With spring break coming up, it sure does look promising.
After being cooped up inside for the last few months from the cold and the rain, and even the occasional snow flake, March is a signal to break out the shorts and the map (on your phone, of course) and get on the way to a vacation.
It would certainly be nice to hop on a plane and go to some tropical paradise, or to the west coast, or to another country, but let’s be honest: Not everyone can wrangle the time off and the money to make such extravagant travel plans.
There are plenty of places to explore closer to home that require only a car and a tank or two of gas. They’re close enough to get there easily and without planning too far in advance, but far enough to still get that relaxation that comes with escaping to somewhere new for a vacation.
Whether you have just one day, a weekend or an entire week, here are some Southeastern spring break trips sure to make memories. Trust us, we’ve been there.
Visiting the historic Civil War-era site, which is located in the middle of a 3,200-acre state park, is a perfect day trip for the entire family.
From hiking and kid’s activities to restaurants and seasonal events, you may just have to go back to get it all in.
* When you get there, take a scenic train ride around the mountain to get a grasp of what’s in the park.
* Trek through the treetops on SkyHike, a floating adventure course.
* Go fishing in Stone Mountain Lake or take a walk along the multiple trails.
* Take a cable car or hike to the top of Stone Mountain, where a view of the Atlanta skyline will dazzle in the distance.
* Explore the activities, shops and restaurants on the way to see the giant Stone Mountain carving.
* Hang around for the sun to go down for a spectacular laser light show featuring a fireworks finale.
Another family-friendly day within driving distance is full of animals from around the world, all in one place.
The zoo, located in Grant Park in Atlanta, can easily take up a full day, from seeing the animals to shopping, eating and playing.
* Walk around the zoo’s animal exhibits, including elephants, orangutans, otters, birds, pandas, giraffes, gorillas and the Amphibian and Reptile Experience.
* Shop for toys, games, books and more at the Zoo Atlanta Trading Company.
* Hop on the Zoo Train, a replica of an 1863 locomotive, to journey through the Critter Crossing town and experience a day in the life of its inhabitants.
* Ride the Nabisco Endangered Species Carousel with your kids. It features hand-painted murals of endangered mothers and babies in their natural habitats.
* Eat at the Wild Planet Café and grab dessert or a pretzel at Flamingo Joe’s.
Asheville has it all. Whether exploring the outdoors, visiting museums, touring breweries, dining or shopping, there is something memorable for anyone who wants to see some local flair in a walkable city.
Here are some ideas of things to do and how to group them together, but one of the best things about Asheville is being able to walk around and pop in and out of places.
* To do: Lexington Glassworks, Southern Highland Craft Guild Folk Art Center, Asheville Pinball Museum
* To eat: Sunny Point Café for breakfast, White Duck Taco Shop for lunch, Zambra for dinner
* Extra: The Chocolate Fetish
* To do: The Biltmore is a full day by itself. Visit the estate, gardens, estate winery (do a tasting and visit the gift shop), and Antler Hill Village
* To eat: Grab breakfast at Biscuit Head (there will be a wait, but it’s worth it), a snack while exploring the estate and dinner at The Corner Kitchen in the Biltmore Village
* To do: Spend the morning driving the Blue Ridge Parkway (it’s hundreds of miles long, so just stop whenever) and make sure to check out the visitor’s center for maps and hiking trails to know where to pull over for great overlooks and photo opportunities. Then head back downtown to explore the shops and eateries. If something looks interesting or tasty, it probably is.
* Breweries: There are more than a dozen within city limits, and that many more nearby. Some highlights include Green Man Brewery, Sierra Nevada Brewery and Tap Room, Wicked Weed, Hi Wire Brewery and Twin Leaf Brewery
* To eat: Tupelo Honey Café for breakfast, a brewery for lunch, and for dinner try Table or Curate
St. Augustine, Fla.
When planning a trip for an entire week, that’s when it really starts to feel like spring break. So what better type of vacation than to spend it on the beach in the oldest city in the country?
St. Augustine, while it appears to be quaint and unassuming, has a lot to offer. History buffs will love the Spanish architecture and exploring the old waterfront fort.
Foodies will get their share of seaside cuisine. And for those who just want to relax in the great, sandy outdoors, there’s plenty of space for a towel.
* To do: Castillo de San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S., where visitors can walk through the halls overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and see old cannons. Then visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum to get more great views after climbing the steps to the top
* To eat: Breakfast at Café Eleven, lunch at Crave Food Truck, dinner at The Floridian
* To do: Walk around Flagler College and learn about the area’s native animals at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park
* To eat: Cousteau’s Waffle and Milkshake Bar for breakfast. Grab a smoothie or healthy burrito at Stir it Up for lunch. Mango Mango’s Caribbean Grill and Bar for dinner
* To do: Explore the old city of St. Augustine. There are enough shops and restaurants to spend a day wandering between the landmarks, such as the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse and the Old Jail
* To eat: Walk into any place that looks good along the old streets. Old City House Inn and restaurant is good for lunch or dinner, Hyppo has fresh and unique gourmet popsicles, and Kilwin’s makes fudge, ice cream and chocolate not to pass up
* To do: Ripley’s Believe it or Not and Potter’s Wax Museum are great for the whole family, and even non-golfers will enjoy the World Golf Hall of Fame.
* To eat: Crucial Coffee Café for a quick breakfast, lunch at The Oasis, dinner at Sunset Grille or Saltwater Cowboys for great seafood.
* To do: St. Augustine Wild Reserve houses exotic and non-traditional animals that people kept as pets before realizing they couldn’t handle them, and St. Augustine Distillery Company offers tours and samples.
* To eat: Wildflower Café for breakfast, Spanish Bakery and Cafe for lunch, Columbia Restaurant for dinner (get the sangria).
Pack the schedule with things to see and do, but the best part about a beach vacation is that you don’t have to. Sprinkle in time to visit these coastal spots throughout the day or save entire days just for the beach if some of the activities don’t look appealing. Some beaches will let you drive onto the sand, so pack a lunch or bring a grill to fire up by the waves.
* Anastasia State Park (no cars on the sand), St. Augustine Beach, Mantanzas beach (good for fishing by the bridge), Flagler Beach.