Three Weekend Escapes Perfect for the Budget Traveler

These weekend getaways are easy on the wallet and an easy drive from all of Georgia's neighboring states.

Sometimes the best trips are short jaunts. Plan a weekend getaway to North Georgia, South Georgia or West Georgia with these ideas for places to stay, play and eat.

  • North Georgia Weekend
  • South Georgia Weekend
    Ray Charles Plaza in Albany, Georgia
  • West Georgia Weekend
  • Stay, Play & Eat in Hiawassee and Blairsville

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  • Stay, Play & Eat in Albany

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  • Stay, Play & Eat in Columbus

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Stay, Play & Eat in Hiawassee and Blairsville

Hiawassee is located on beautiful Lake Chatuge and a quick drive from Atlanta or Tennessee. In summer, rent a boat to explore the waterways. In the fall, the Georgia Mountain Fair is the big attraction. Hiking is perfect anytime of year.

Begin your weekend by checking into The Ridges Resort and Marina, located right on Lake Chatuge along US 76. Unwind from the travel at the Moosehead Lounge, or head outside for complimentary marshmallows around the fire. In addition to hotel rooms, The Ridges also has suites and villas, perfect for families or groups.

Brasstown Bald in Hiawassee, Georgia. Photo by Tom Stone

After breakfast at the hotel, take hike at Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia and part of the Chattahoochee National Forest. At the top of the mountain, on a clear day, get a selfie with Atlanta (which is two hours away) in the background.

After the long hike, treat yourself to some Happy Hawg BBQ, rated one of the best restaurants in Hiawassee. Try the fried corn and the brisket, in addition to the BBQ of course.

Pat your belly while looking at local art on display at Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa in Young Harris. Purchase your favorite before heading to the stables for a trail ride through the mountains.

Sleepy Hollow Whimsical Fairy Garden in Blairsville, Georgia

If you have small children, or children at heart, visit Sleepy Hollow Enterprises in nearby Blairsville. Owner Art McMillian was a Disney Imagineer and builds whimsical playhouses and fairy houses that will make anyone a believer.

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Stay, Play & Eat in Albany

Getting outdoors in Albany is easy. Start your  adventure along the Flint River at RiverFront Park. There are miles of trails, the Turtle Grove Play Park, and fountains for the kids.

Take a lunch break with some hot dogs to go from Jimmie’s Hot Dogs, a local establishment that is a little off the beaten path, but worth it. Bring the hot dogs back to the Riverfront and enjoy them while relaxing on a piano key and listening to music in Ray Charles Plaza. The singer was born in Albany. Afterward, you can get a selfie with Ray and his piano.

The Bridge House in Albany, Georgia

Before heading out for a day of sightseeing, visit to the Albany Welcome Center, also in RiverFront park. The Bridge House, where the center is located, is a historical landmark with a very interesting story. You'll have to visit to learn more.

End the day a bit early so you can check in to locally owned Merry Acres Inn and enjoy some pool time, or just rest up for an evening of craft beer and live music at Harvest Moon.

Start your second day in Albany with breakfast from local favorite Pearly's Famous Country Kitchen. Then, walk off your calories at one of the seven wonders of Georgia: Radium Springs. Walk through the ruins of a once vibrant garden and resort.

Chehaw Park in Albany, Georgia

Keep the natural theme going with a visit to Chehaw Wild Animal Park. The park was started by Jim Fowler of Wild Kingdom fame. Before you head home, get a pimento cheese sandwich and freshly baked cookie from The Cookie Shoppe.

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Stay, Play & Eat in Columbus

Go all out in Columbus for a weekend of thrills. Get your heart pumping immediately with a free fall and zip line into Alabama on the Blue Heron Adventure Course, part of the adventure activities at Whitewater Express.

Upon your return from Alabama, walk into town for lunch at The Black Cow. Treat yourself to the pimento cheeseburger, voted by Garden and Gun magazine as one of the best burgers in Georgia.

Whitewater rafting on the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, Georgia

After a hearty meal, head back to Whitewater Express for some rafting. For a mild experience, go early in the day; for a more intense experience, go after 3 p.m., when the dam releases.

Check in to the Columbus Marriott, a few blocks from the riverfront and get cleaned up for dinner at 11th and Bay, a Southern table restaurant that begs you to pull up a chair and stay awhile. If you still have energy, walk around Downtown Columbus.

On your second day in Columbus, grab a quick breakfast, then return to Whitewater Express and pick up bikes for a morning ride. The Chattahoochee Riverwalk is a 22-mile linear park that includes meandering trails that go all the way to Fort Benning, and the free National Infantry Museum and Solider Center.

National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Fort Benning, Georgia

Take a break for lunch at Country’s Barbecue on Broadway. The restaurant is set in an old Trailways bus station – complete with bus to play in. Afterward, take a short drive to Providence Canyon State Outdoor Recreation Area. Known as Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon, Providence has some unique hiking trials both around the rim and down in the canyon. 

Sue Rodman is Georgia's official Smart Travel Explorer. Find more of her budget-friendly tips and trip ideas on,

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