There is fun of all flavors inside I-285, but when you’re looking for something new to do, set your sights outside the halo of the perimeter. Yes, there are things to do out there! Selecting the ideal destination can be tricky, but we have you covered. Hiking or horticulture, arts or aerial views - here are four attractions worthy of an OTP road trip.
For garden-lovers: Gibbs Gardens
Imagine an oasis, tucked in the woods; a garden brimming with color. This is Gibbs Gardens: 220 acres in Ball Ground include “24 ponds, 32 bridge crossings and 19 waterfalls.” In addition to the four seasons of blooming annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees, visitors enjoy 15 yearly celebrations including the Daffodil Festival, the Japanese Arts & Culture Festival and Twilight in the Garden with live music, sunset walks and plenty of wine. It’s only about an hour north of Atlanta in Cherokee County. The garden is open on weekends and most weekdays, with over 20 million daffodils blooming from March thru mid-April.
For hiking and history: Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi
Blairsville calls to outdoor connoisseurs, with magnificent waterfalls and hikes du jour. In the midst of Mother Nature’s grandeur sits Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi, where you can grab all sorts of gear, from packs to shirts and poles to books. The beautiful stone building is worth a trip because of its history. The building was completed in 1937, the same year as the Appalachian Trail. In fact, the AT runs right though the property; it is the only covered section of the East Coast thru-hike. Take a peek in the store, climb the back walk for gorgeous mountain views, see the hundreds of thru-hiker’s boots hanging from the rafters and listen to stories of those passing though.
For appreciators of the arts: Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden
Howard Finster was a folk artist of “sacred art” and minister from Summerville. Dubbed both “the grandfather of Southern Folk Art” and “the Andy Warhol of the South,” Finster produced over 46,000 works of whimsy in his 84 years. Paradise Garden Foundation displays his work with pride, in hopes of continuing to inspire others now that he has passed. Even if you haven’t heard of him, you might be more familiar with Finster’s work than you think. His art graces the cover of REM’s Reckoning album, as well as Little Creatures by Talking Heads. Celebrate Howard Finster and other great folk artists at Finster Fest in May.
For adventure-seekers: Historic Banning Mills
Historic Banning Mills is known for adventure, holding the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest and largest zip line canopy and the world’s tallest freestanding climbing wall. There are about 10 miles of canopy zip line spread over 100 lines, including team building and GPS Trek courses, an aerial challenge course and a 100-foot power free fall. Those looking for a weekend getaway will enjoy a live birds of prey show, kayaking, horseback riding and an overnight in a treehouse, high above the ground. Scaredy-cats are welcome to slumber in the lodge or a cabin.
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