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Georgia Outdoors

Georgia is one of the few states blessed with both coast and lakes, mountain forests and wetlands, renowned nature-made scenic lookouts and top-class man-made adventure parks.

For a beach trip that combines cultural and natural history with minimal crowds, the Georgia coast’s wilder, lesser-known islands, Sapelo and Cumberland, allow groups to have the beach to themselves, while Lake Lanier, just a short drive from midtown Atlanta, offers maximum activities spread over a water park resort.

In Georgia’s northern mountains, groups can also choose to go with the flow at Lookout Mountain’s popular Rock City, home of the See 7 States lookout, or find their own path in the sweeping Chattahoochee National Forest.


Lake Lanier

Somewhere between a Minnesota lake destination, a Florida resort and a theme park, Lake Lanier is a one-of-a-kind destination. Rather than drawing things to do from the natural surroundings, the 1,500-acre Legacy Lodge and Conference Center resort that manages the lake area has put together so many attractions and activities that you’ll never have to wonder for a second what to do.

Active groups can hop a lake-view canopy zip-line course through the surrounding forest, learn to ride at the equestrian center, grab a kayak or stand-up paddleboard at Energy Watersports, or dive into LanierWorld, the resort’s seasonal water park that also includes dining options like poolside movies.

For a relaxing, lake-focused time, groups can charter a yacht out into Lake Lanier’s 30,000 acres of fresh water. “One of the unique features of the resort is we have one of the largest man-made dammed lakes in the region and, certainly, in northern Georgia,” said Michael DiLeone, director of sales. Wine cruises and lakeside golf tournaments can also be organized for groups.

Just a little over half an hour from midtown Atlanta, Lake Lanier is a popular summer day-trip destination for city dwellers, so DiLeone recommends booking well in advance for summer weekends.


Lookout Mountain

The slopes of Lookout Mountain stretch through three states — Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee — but its main visitation area is accessed from Chattanooga on the Tennessee side.

Due to its sweeping views, including a point from which it is said you could once see seven states, including Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, on top of the three adjacent to the mountain, Lookout Mountain has served as a key strategic outpost since Native American times through the Revolutionary and Civil wars.

Today, the mountain is home to three attractions, like its three-state split, with the most crowd-pleasing scenery in the Rock City section on the Georgia side. Here, a 4,100-foot-long self-guided trail winds through Rock City’s ancient natural rock formations, past waterfalls, over gorges, past the See 7 States and Lover’s Leap lookouts.

Though the narrow path is best explored on one’s own, groups can convene at the trail’s halfway point around Lover’s for lunch at Café 7 or private dining in the main pavilion, which is available for group rentals and catering.

To ensure there is adequate space for a group to explore together and not get split up among the crowds, groups of 15 or more can call ahead to get a reserved spot on the course. Morning and late afternoon are usually safe bets for avoiding the crowds, though it depends on whether there is a festival going on at the time. Favorite annual events include Rocktoberfest, a German-themed celebration in partnership with a local brewery, and the Enchanted Garden of Light display for the December holidays.

Gabi Logan

Gabi Logan is a freelance travel journalist whose work has also appeared in USA TODAY, The Dallas Morning News and Italy Magazine. As she travels more than 100,000 miles each year, she aims to discover the unexpected wonder in every destination.