The Chattahoochee River in Helen, Georgia.

7 Picturesque Small Towns In Georgia For A Weekend Retreat

The Peach State is as sweet as it sounds. Nestled in the Southeastern United States, Georgia is graced by the Blue Ridge Mountains, a solid stretch of Atlantic Coastline, and it experiences gorgeous weather for much of the year. Such a setting fosters that famous Southern hospitality – even more so when you clear the big cities. If you're planning for a picturesque weekend getaway, look no further than these seven small towns. Whether it's the rolling green hills, the wild and abundant marine habitats, or the cultural expressions (everything from the expected estates to German and even Hindu influences), these spots will have you ceaselessly reaching for your camera. 


The Americus Historic District
The Historic District in Americus, Georgia. Editorial credit: Roberto Galan /

Southwestern Georgia's Americus is an attractive and intriguing place to spend a few days. This Sumter County college town (home to Georgia Southwestern State University and South Georgia Technical College) is full of youthful exuberance, which pairs perfectly with its impactful history to create a unique blend in one place. For a good time, try catching a performance at the Ryland Theatre (an early 1900s vaudeville venue), take a haunted tour of the magnetic Windsor Hotel (built in 1892), and wash the weekend down with a game-changing coffee at Café Campesino, or sample a small-batch spirit at Thirteenth Colony Distilleries. To check in with Americus' notable past, check out the Lindbergh Memorial (where Charles Lindbergh made his first solo flight in preparation for his historic trans-Atlantic voyage), the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park (who was born and raised just one town over), and the Andersonville National Historic Site (a massive veteran cemetery and POW memorial). 


The marina at Brunswick, Georgia. 
The marina at Brunswick, Georgia. 

Perched on Georgia's Atlantic Coast, surrounded by rivers and the rest of the Golden Isles of Georgia, Brunswick might require multiple weekend trips to fully appreciate its brilliance. This small port city still services a robust shrimp boat industry, including the Lady Jane – the only such vessel on the East Coast certified to carry passengers (dolphin tours and sailing are also big in Brunswick). Explore the Old Town Brunswick National Historic District (paying particular attention to the Ritz Theatre and the Old City Hall), island-hop or paddle through the Marshes of Glynn, or, if the weather takes a turn, pop on over to Pinball Palace for a full afternoon of nostalgic entertainment, and grab some freshly-caught grub when it's all said and done. 


Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia.
Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia. Editorial credit: The Toidi /

Based right beside the spindly Lake Oconee and the Oconee National Forest, there is no shortage of year-round outdoor recreation in Greensboro. Try hiking some of the wooded trails, camping out under the stars, whipping down the long arms of the lake by boat, or playing golf at one of the many shoreline courses. This Greene County gem was founded in 1786 and is filled with antebellum architecture that is so closely associated with the South and particularly with the state of Georgia. Downtown Greensboro offers tons of artisan, antique, and apparel shopping, a bit of BBQ and brewery action, and its share of historical attractions, most notably, the Old Rock Gaol (one of Georgia's oldest penal structures). 


Aerial view of Dahlonega, Georgia.
Aerial view of Dahlonega, Georgia.

Dahlonega is full of treasures, including the Blue Ridge Mountains, vineyards, waterfalls, and gold. Beginning with the latter, in 1829, Dahlonega was the site of the United States' first major Gold Rush. Check out the Dahlonega Gold Museum to learn more, or better yet, get in on the action by taking an underground tour of the Consolidated Gold Mine. In terms of waterfalls, North Georgia is home to 120 gushing beauties, with seven standouts in the immediate vicinity of Lumpkin County. While exploring the luxuriant mountainous region, why not walk the first part of the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail? America's favorite long-distance trek (one of the longest in the world, in fact), begins just 20 miles Northwest of Dahlonega and doesn't stop until it reaches Maine. Wash the weekend of exploration down with the fruits of Georgia's wine country. After all, Dahlonega is known as the "Wine Tasting Room Capital of Georgia." 

Blue Ridge

Downtown Blue Ridge Georgia
Aerial view of downtown Blue Ridge, Georgia.

Another beautiful mountain town (and lake town) awaits, just shy of the Tennessee border. Blue Ridge is separated from Dahlonega by the 867,000-acre Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, which is complete with endless hiking trails (850 miles of them) and dozens of campgrounds. Immediately East of Blue Ridge sprawls the 11-mile-long Lake Blue Ridge, which has 65 miles of largely undeveloped shoreline – perfect for fishing, swimming, picnics, and paddling. This Fannin County treasure also has a flair for old-fashioned attractions. The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway begins its 4-hour/26-mile (round-trip) tour along the Toccoa River valley right from the heart of town at the historic depot on Main Street. After seeing Northern Georgia's natural appeal, catch a flick at the Swan Drive-In movie theater, which has been screening fan favorites since 1955. 


Helen Square in Helen, Georgia.
Helen Square in Helen, Georgia. Editorial credit: Sean Pavone /

Completing Georgia's Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest triangle is the German heritage town of Helen. This White County alpine community is filled with charming, Bavarian-style buildings, restaurants, and taverns that end in "Haus," and the kind of scenic surroundings that also mirror the small-town European atmosphere. Explore the town and the outdoors at your own speed. Maybe it makes sense to go zip-lining at Nacoochee Adventures or Unicoi State Park on Saturday and then casually float down the Chattahoochee River (which splices through town) on an inflatable tube (which can be rented from two local outfitters) on Sunday. If there's still time, head up to Anna Ruby Falls Recreation Area, where the 150-foot and 50-foot cascades converge in front of an interpretive trail lookout. 


Street view of Lilburn City Hall in Lilburn, Georgia.
Street view of Lilburn City Hall in Lilburn, Georgia. Editorial credit: The Brownfowl collection /

Georgia boats a few unexpected cultural twists. The German enclave of Helen is removed from the Southeast's largest Hindu Temple in Lilburn by only about 70 miles. Located on the Northeastern outskirts of Atlanta. The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir was constructed out of Turkish limestone, Italian marble, and Indian pink sandstone, thereby giving this monument to the oldest living faith an even greater worldly appeal. The temple is free to visit and allows anyone interested to participate in ceremonies and rituals. Just South of this Gwinnett County suburb, another fascinating (partially) man-made construction can be found at Stone Mountain Park. At the heart of this 3,200-acre public nature space (filled with loads of family-friendly activities) is a hulking quartz monzonite mountain dome with a Confederate Memorial Carving in its center. Quite an eclectic one-two aesthetic punch from Lilburn.

Georgia lets it all hang out. Its scores of delightful small towns are as entertaining as they are pretty. From mountain tops to coastal islands and the forests and lakes in between, natural beauty fills every sightline. At the same time, the friendly and creative communities love to contribute their own flavors, be it wine-making, cultural expressions, or tasteful enhancements to the outdoor experience. Try perusing some of these Peach State gems on your next available weekend. 

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