Escape Atlanta Without Leaving Town By Visiting These 14 Places

You could use a break.

The COVID-19 pandemic is making it difficult to travel the world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun around Atlanta. With a little creativity, a restaurant’s patio or a botanical garden may make you feel as though you’re on that dream trip for the afternoon -- minus the jet lag. Feeling antsy for an escape? Here are 14 places to visit within a couple hours drive of Atlanta.

Channel Paris at The Select and Café Vendôme

Sandy Springs
Head to the City Springs development for a mini excursion to Paris. The Select is an homage to Le Select brasserie in Paris, which was supposedly one of Hemingway’s haunts. Sit on the patio and order a few bites off of the Mediterranean-inspired menu -- Spanish octopus, maybe? -- and a classic cocktail. Across the street you’ll find Café Vendôme with plenty of French pastries and breads to indulge in. Let yourself pretend you’re in Paris for a moment while enjoying a croissant and a cafe au lait.

Stroll through the picturesque grounds at Barnsley Resort

Adairsville is only an hour drive outside of the city, but it feels like a different world. The 3,000-acre property features a resort, golf course, and spa -- but it’s the gardens that make it worth the day trip. The property was originally owned by Godfrey Barnsley, a wealthy British immigrant, who built a mansion for his family in the 1800s. Fast forward, and the mansion is now in ruins, but the boxwood parterre garden remains. A stroll through the garden and former mansion is tranquil (and makes for some great photo opportunities). If you get hungry you can grab a bite on the veranda of the Woodlands Grill overlooking the golf course, but try to make a reservation first as guests are given priority.

Visit Umi’s Bonsai Room to dine on sushi in a beautiful patio

The U.S. Department of State recommends that American travelers reconsider travel to Japan right now. Take their advice, and head to Umi in Buckhead instead. The sushi restaurant, widely considered the best in the city, has recently completed a patio dubbed the Bonsai Room. Grab a table, order some sushi (the New Page roll, with salmon and thinly sliced lemon is a standout), and pretend you’re in the Omiya Bonsai Village outside of Tokyo. 

Drink a potent Mai Tai at S.O.S. Tiki Bar

Tiki bars are far from anything actually Polynesian, but if you’re looking to sip a strong rum drink amongst greenery and palm tree murals then you can’t beat S.O.S. Tiki Bar. The patio is small but, grab a table and order one of their potent drinks, like a Mai Tai or daily punch and let the tropical vibes wash over you. They also currently have Sweet E’s pop-up, serving Caribbean-inspired treats like tostones, smoked chicken in jerk marinade, and ceviche.

Visit the Atlanta Botanical Garden to pretend you’re in Alice in Wonderland

You can’t really travel anywhere so you may as well travel to a place straight out of the imagination of Lewis Carroll, right? Alice’s Wonderland Reimagined features larger-than-life plant sculptures of Alice and the crew. The exhibit runs through November 1. While you’re there, stroll through the permanent exhibits like the orchid center and the Chihuly collection.

Make your Oktoberfest dreams come true

Though Oktoberfest is canceled, you can get a German fix less than two hours outside of Atlanta. Head north to Helen for Bavarian-style buildings and plenty of mountain views. Come hungry and ready to feast on German treats at restaurants like Mullers Cafe, known for its fried cheese, and Hofer’s of Helen for pastries and treats. If you’re feeling motivated, hit the trail to Anna Ruby Falls or go tubing.

Take in scenic views and plenty of wine at Wolf Mountain Vineyards

Take 400 north and don’t stop until you reach Wolf Mountain Vineyards. There are beautiful mountain views, steep vineyards, and plenty of wine. The vineyards grow red grapes on the property including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. You can dine in their restaurant, or you can buy a pizza to-go and take it for a picnic. If one vineyard isn’t enough for you, follow the Dahlonega wine trail to visit other wineries like Frogtown Cellars and Cavender Creek.

Don’t forget about good ol’ Piedmont Park

Okay, this one might seem obvious. But let’s not take for granted our very own version of Central Park in the middle of Atlanta. Pack a picnic, sprawl out on the grass, and take in that skyline and relax for a bit.

Eat around the world on one stretch of road

Buford Highway
Whether you’re craving eats from Malaysia to Korea to Cuba you’ll find it along Buford Highway. You can’t travel to Vietnam, but you can enjoy a banh mi from Lee’s Bakery. Many of Buford Highway’s restaurants have reopened for dining in, or you can grab takeout if you’re more comfortable traveling the world from your home.

Head to the roof of Botanico Kitchen + Bar for tacos and mezcal

Located on the rooftop of Savi Provisions on Pharr Road, Botanico channels beachy Tulum vibes with plenty of plants and rattan. Helmed by Mexican-born chef Luis Damian, the restaurant features dishes like tostada de ceviche and tacos with slow roasted pork. There’s also an extensive mezcal menu to help round out the Mexican culinary journey.

Get your boardwalk fix at Skyline Park

Old Fourth Ward 
The outdoor amusement park on top of Ponce City Market hearkens back to days on the boardwalk. Only here you trade the beach for sweeping views of the city and beyond. Here you can play games like Skee-Ball and break-a-plate and go on rides and follow it up with an al fresco meal at Nine Mile Station. Masks are required.

Enjoy the great outdoors at Olmsted Linear Park

Druid Hills
It’s easy to overlook the park adjacent to Ponce de Leon Ave between Midtown and Decatur, but it’s worth stopping for. The park is actually made of six segments and was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Sr. who also designed Biltmore in Asheville and New York’s Central Park. You’ll find plenty of green space to sprawl out on, as well as forests and creeks to explore along the way. You’ll forget you’re off one of the main thoroughfares in no time.

Visit the East Palisades Trail for stunning river views

Sandy Springs
You barely need to leave the city to lose yourself in nature. The East Palisades Trail in Sandy Springs takes you through a bamboo forest, historic ruins, and offers stunning views of the Chattahoochee River.

Time travel to Jazz Age Atlanta at the Swan House

Owned by the Atlanta History Center, the Swan House historic mansion once belonged to Atlanta businessman Edward Inman. The first level of the home has reopened, with limited capacity, as have the gardens and trails. Really, though, it’s all about those swoon-worthy steps.

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Lia Picard is a contributor for Thrillist. 
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