- Blake Guthrie For the AJC
Jekyll Island was once the domain of the privileged elite. Now, it’s an affordable vacation retreat for everyone. You can get a feel for what the old days were like in the historic district on the river side of the island. The moneyed class of the Gilded Age must not have liked staying directly on the beach, but these days, that’s where you want to be at places like the centrally located Holiday Inn Resort (rates start at $139; 701 Beachview Drive N., Jekyll Island. 912-635-2211, www.ihg.com). The ocean-view rooms open up to a grassy dune area where you can watch the slow pace of Jekyll unfold from your patio or balcony, then take a few steps to become a part of the action. Bike trails connect the resort to the rest of Jekyll (don’t miss surreal Driftwood Beach or the enchanting Georgia Sea Turtle Center). The best place to eat seafood on the island — the Beach House — is on site. The resort is pet-friendly.
Dahlonega is a something-for-everyone mountain town, ideal for a family getaway close to Atlanta. Kids will love learning how to pan for gold, tubing down the Chestatee River, the underground tour of the Consolidated Gold Mine, and all the treats awaiting them at the Fudge Factory, the Dahlonega General Store and many other shops on the historic town square. Stay and eat at the Smith House (rates start at $99; 84 S. Chestatee St., Dahlonega. 706-867-7000, www.smithhouse.com). It’s only a block from the square and features one of the best family-style dining rooms in the state.
Five Georgia State Parks have lodges appealing to families who don’t camp. Head for the mountains at Unicoi Lodge close to Helen or Amicalola Falls Lodge perched above the highest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi. In central and southwest Georgia, Little Ocmulgee Lodge and George T. Bagby Lodge beckon golfers to their championship courses, have plentiful outdoor activities and offer traditional Southern dining. Lake Blackshear Resort has the added bonus of being situated on 8,700-acre Lake Blackshear with its boating and other water sports options. Rates start at $119; 1-800-864-7275, gastateparks.org/lodges.