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5 ways to create the staycation of your dreams in and around Atlanta
Get the rest and relaxation you want right here in your own backyard.
November 20, 2023
Want a getaway without actually having to get away? If you’ve got some PTO to burn or simply want a long weekend to escape the grind, there are plenty of ways to simulate the vacation experience in and around Atlanta, from spa-days to road trips to idyllic areas nearby. During the holiday season or throughout year, toss your to-do list to the side and get out of your element while saving some time and money.
Find incredible nature nearby
If you feel like a dose of nature, Georgia offers an abundance of National Parks, nature reserves, trails and bodies of water to peruse.
Take a trip to Vogel State Park, located at the base of the Blood Mountain, and travel through Neel Gap to Brasstown Bald—the highest point in the beautiful state of Georgia. If you’re looking for an impressive water feature, see a stunning 729-foot waterfall at Amicalola Falls State Park, where you can also enjoy a rustic cabin stay or luxe hotel resort, many with incredible scenic views. It’s even possible to sample something close-to-home in Sweetwater Creek National Park, offering miles of serene wilderness (and excellent fishing spots) just miles away from the city.
In fact, you don’t even need to leave Atlanta—it’s known as the “city in the forest” for a reason, with trees providing a canopy throughout the greater metro area. Wildlife enthusiasts, grab your binoculars and visit Blue Heron Nature Preserve in North Buckhead, where three miles of distinct habitats are home to a stunning mix of creatures, from butterflies to turtles and, of course, the Great Blue Heron. Nestled in Atlanta’s Cascade Heights, the Cascade Springs Nature Conservancy features springs, waterfalls and 250-million-year-old rock formations. Constitution Lakes is a decidedly unique experience, thanks to the playful (or creepy, depending on your thoughts) Doll Head Trail, where found items, including abandoned doll parts, dot the scenery.
Relax at the spa or create an experience at home
Is your perfect idea of a vacation to pamper yourself? Jeju Sauna is a Korean bathhouse with various kinds of dry and wet saunas including rooms that utilize crystal, clay, charcoal and pink Himalayan Sea salt rooms, each offering their own healing purpose. Open 24/7, Jeju also has a restaurant and services such as massages, manicures and pedicures for an extra fee.
If your perfect getaway isn’t getting away at all, why not try a full spa day at home? Visit the beehive to find handmade-in-Atlanta soap, candles, linen sprays and a bath bombs from North/South Soap Company, or find one-of-a-kind candles from A Bearden Project with scents like Rose Garden, Moroccan Cashmere and Nature Walk. You can also stop by Atlo at Lee + White in the West End—a refill station where you can embrace the low-waste lifestyle with natural home and body products like shampoos, conditioners, body oils and more. Many of the products are produced by local Atlantans.
Take an easy road trip
If a pricey plane trip isn’t on your agenda, you can still travel a few hours out of the city to explore something new while not venturing too far. Helen, Georgia will transport you with scenic outdoor views and Bavarian-style architecture, where among the quaint buildings you’ll find beer crawls, candy and fudge shops and plenty of boutiques. If your tastes run a bit more gothic, try Savannah, Georgia with pristine parks and centuries-old live oaks that frame hip eateries, moody speakeasies and trendy shops. Or, visit any number of quaint centers close to Atlanta, like Marietta Square, where you’ll find a theater with films and live theater, a record shop, antique stores, boutiques, restaurants and farmers and artist markets to explore on weekends.
Stay among the trees
Take your glamping and camping up a notch by visiting one of the many spectacular rentals close to the city — with some that will quite literally elevate your overnight experience. A three-story treehouse retreat in Kennesaw is situated among the canopy and even offers a treasure-hunt so you can embrace your inner thrill seeker. For those seeking an adult summer camp experience, enjoy a treehouse in Suches featuring river-front views, an outdoor kitchen, private, spacious balconies and nearby trails to truly immerse yourself in nature. If “roughing it” isn’t in your vocabulary, there are plenty of options for upscale cabins that fuse hygge and modern amenities, like this gem in Tiger in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains — though you may feel like you’re in another country altogether.
Stay and play right here in ATL
Atlanta is expansive, but you can cover more ground with a guided bike or scooter tour. Atlanta Street Art Tours is an excellent way to gain a new appreciation for the public art around the city, where you’ll hit notable murals while hearing details about the artists themselves and interesting details about the area. For those with a heart for history, Civil Bike Tours makes stops at Atlanta’s iconic civil rights locations.
After you’re done touring the city, indulge in a stay at one of the many luxury and boutique hotels, from nationally acclaimed brands like the Ritz Carlton Atlanta, The St. Regis Atlanta, Waldorf Astoria Atlanta or the Four Seasons Atlanta to enjoy fine dining and plush amenities for a VIP experience. Or, if you’re looking for more Atlanta-specific stays, consider the Stonehurst Place, where “SoHo meets sweet tea” or The Kimpton Sylvan for beautiful views and a heavenly pool.
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7 Free and low-cost holiday events you’ll love in Atlanta
Put your money into a gift (for yourself) instead.
The holiday season is here and we’re ready for the spirit of the season—think mulled wine, sweaters and twinkling lights. In Atlanta, you can immerse yourself in all the joys of the season without dreading looking at your bank account in January. In and around the city you’ll find plenty of festivals, events and gatherings. Keep on reading for fun for the whole family starting during Thanksgiving week.
Ski into the holidays at Buckhead Village, where they’re kicking off their Après All Day events for 2023. Don your best “after-ski” gear and be whisked away to a winter wonderland with snow-capped trees and crackling fires. Every Saturday through Dec. 16, you’ll find a street festival that lasts from 12 – 7 p.m., alongside live DJs and performers, a wandering Santa, hot chocolate, vendors and special events like a kids’ crafting experience or wreath-making workshop. Stop by one of the ski-life photo ops to commemorate the day.
Or, experience authentic German cuisine and drinks in a vibrant shopping atmosphere at the Atlanta Christkindl Market from Nov. 24 to Dec. 24. With all the traditional elements of a Bavarian market, you can indulge in delectable culinary treats and handcrafted treasures in an enchanting environment where old-world traditions meet the modern energy of a bustling city.
Most events are free, but some require a reservation, so make sure to plan before you go.
Winter Wonderland at Fernbank Museum
Winter Wonderland: Celebrations & Traditions Around the World is a holiday exhibition that showcases diverse cultural celebrations and traditions through stunning displays on two floors, running from Nov. 18 to Jan. 7. The exhibition features unique festivities and traditions selected by cultural partners, including Sweden, Mexico, India, Kenya, Japan and more.
Winter Wonderland is a holiday staple in Atlanta, and visitors can enjoy an artistic experience while immersing themselves in different cultures. As a bonus, visitors can participate in the Winter Wonderland scavenger hunt to guide them as they explore the exhibition. You can enter with the price of admission to the museum, but members can enjoy it for free. Teachers and veterans can also get special deals on museum memberships.
Tinsel Tavern at the Battery
Get ready for a festive holiday season at Tinsel Tavern! The pop-up experience will be filled with glittering tinsel and twinkling lights, as well as delicious seasonal cocktails and small bites. Great instagrammable backdrops are ready for all the selfies.
Tinsel Tavern will be open from Nov. 23 to Dec. 23, and you don’t need a reservation to visit (but it’s recommended.) There will be themed nights, including an ugly sweater party and silent disco, as well as fun holiday karaoke. Entry is free, except on themed nights. ($5-10 cover)
Lights over Alpharetta
Are you ready for some holiday cheer? For those visiting family in the Atlanta suburbs, Lights over Alpharetta is an excellent and affordable option for the whole family to experience. Book in advance and get in for $29 per car Monday through Wednesday for a joy-filled driving and walking experience from Nov. 24 to Dec. 30.
Ice skating at The Rink at Park Tavern
Located in the heart of Midtown Atlanta, the ice rink offers a winter oasis that brings joy to all ages from Nov. 25 to Jan. 15. The stunning backdrop features Piedmont Park and the Midtown skyline. You can grab a warm drink and skate in the city’s heart while enjoying the beautiful view. Stay until after 8:30 p.m. for an adults-only skate. If you’re looking for a great deal, go during the week for a special discounted rate of $15 per ticket (Monday-Thursday). The rink is open until midnight, making it a perfect after-work treat. Plus, only those who wish to skate need to purchase a ticket.
Oakland Cemetery’s Holiday Spirit Festival
Experience the holiday spirit on Dec. 2 at Oakland Cemetery’s Tour of Eternal Homes during the Holiday Spirit Festival. Explore select mausoleums with a Victorian guide, learn about the iconic stone structures and enjoy the holiday decorations. Buy tickets ($18/adults $14/child) to choose your preferred tour time. Tours run every 15 minutes and last approximately 75 minutes. Enjoy holiday festivities around Oakland’s Bell Tower before and after your tour. Celebrate with photos with Santa, a holiday artist market, a wreath sale, snacks, hot drinks and more.
Misfit makers workshops with Scraplanta
Scraplanta collects and reuses old art supplies to make Atlanta’s art scene more sustainable. They’re hosting free art workshops at Misfit DIY Wrapping Co. on the first three Tuesdays of Dec. Each week’s workshop will have a theme: Gaudy Garlands on Dec. 5, Unconventional Wreaths on Dec. 23 and Toilet Paper Candles and Poinsettias on Dec. 19. Check Scraplanta’s calendar for more details.
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Where to try out 2024’s hottest fitness trends in Phoenix
If you’re looking to shake up your fitness routine this year, check out the new kids on the fitness block.
Remember hula hoops from the ‘60s, Jazzercise from the ‘80s and Tae Bo from the ‘90s? While these fitness trends were all the rage at one time, the exercise industry continues to evolve — even if it’s just finding a more modern way to do the same old moves.
As with most fads, from fashion to cuisine, the fitness industry keeps consumers on its toes — motivating people with fun and unexpected activities, offering accessible and convenient options and making them feel like part of a like-minded community. Here are five of the hottest trends for 2024 and where to find them in Phoenix.
1. “Hot Girl Walks” Outside
Sometimes fitness just doesn’t need to be that intense — and those are the times to head out for some fresh air on a Hot Girl Walk to get your 10,000 steps in and contemplate life. The experts at Lifespan Fitness have been tracking more than 7.6 billion TikTok views for #Fittok alone, and #hotgirlwalks have 1 billion million views — one of the top 10 most searched for fitness trends.
What exactly is a hot girl walk? It’s a consistent walking routine where you can maximize the benefits of the outdoors, elevate your fitness and focus on self-care in a low-impact workout. Just grab some music, focus on yourself or your goals and take a stroll. And, since you don’t need any special gear to get started, there’s no upfront cost and you can start today.
Thankfully, in Phoenix, there are tons of great places to get your walk on. Of course, you can just tour your neighborhood, but if you’d prefer some more scenic options or ones with less traffic for your physical and mental health break, the following fit the bill.
Cruise the Arizona Canal, starting at Scottsdale Fashion Square in Old Town and heading west through Arcadia to the Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort. Or, meander the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt, which is an oasis of parks, lakes, paths and golf courses over 11 miles from Shea Boulevard and 92nd Street to Tempe Beach Park. You can even stroll the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert while enjoying the wildlife sanctuary.
2. Electro-Muscle Stimulation Classes
While high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been the buzzword for the past decade, a shift is happening. “People are looking for low-impact exercises that leave them feeling energized, not drained,” says Jason Sani, director of wellness at OHM Fitness, which has three locations in the Valley.
He points specifically to electro-muscle stimulation (EMS) technology, a group training class where you wear a bodysuit with electrode pads that deliver electrical stimulation to large areas of the body as you exercise simultaneously. “It allows you to activate and recruit fibers that are often neglected and challenging to activate,” says Sani.
Though the research is still emerging on the benefits, Hollywood celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Jessica Alba, Heidi Klum and Madonna gush about EMS as their secret to building muscle without breaking a sweat, and OHM Fitness is planning to have up to 30 locations open by the end of 2024 to meet the rising demand for classes.
Desert Ridge: 21001 N. Tatum Boulevard, Suite 18-1090, Phoenix
McDowell Mountain Village: 15029 N. Thompson Peak Parkway, Scottsdale
Gilbert Cooley Station: 3919 E Williams Field Road, Suite 101, Gilbert
3. Muscle Building in the Gym
For those who would rather stick to the basics, strength training and muscle-building will never go out of style — the only thing that seems to shift each year is which body parts those muscles should dominate. For 2024, Megan Smith, Fitness Director at Camelback Village says, “It’s the year of the strong glutes and legs, like Carrie Underwood legs.”
Since you clearly won’t be skipping leg day, the only big decision is how you’d like to get your workout done — and gyms are experiencing a resurgence after COVID lockdowns. Sure, you could still do your strength training at home with any number of apps, but gyms offer a real-life community that’s impossible to replicate combined with access to top-notch equipment.
At Village Health Clubs & Spas, there’s no shortage of options to meet your needs: one-on-one person training to help maximize results and keep you motivated, group training classes for accountability and support, specialized weightlifting sessions with Gainey XFit Sport, or hitting the state-of-the-art weight room on your own.
Camelback Village: 4444 East Camelback Road, Phoenix
Gainey Village: 7477 East Doubletree Ranch Road, Scottsdale
Ocotillo Village: 4200 South Alma School Road, Chandler
DC Ranch Village: 18501 North Thompson Peak Parkway, Scottsdale
4. Pickleball for Social Gameplay
America’s fastest-growing sport for three consecutive years, pickleball, is sweeping the nation and has no signs of letting up anytime soon. And it’s especially popular in the Phoenix Valley, considering the governing body for the sport, USA Pickleball, is located just 35 miles north of central Phoenix in Surprise.
This fast-paced and competitive game is easy for beginners to learn, and is played on a court the same size as a doubles badminton court. There is singles and doubles play, making for a social outlet alongside a great workout. You’ll need a paddle and ball, can wear any athletic wear you’d like, and there are free and paid courts all over town.
The Pecos Park Pickleball Courts in Phoenix has 16 outdoor courts that are free to use (there is a fee to use the indoor ones) and open from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Pickleball Kingdom in Chandler is a dedicated facility with 15 indoor courts, locker rooms and shower facilities, a snack bar and air conditioning — the perfect summertime solution. This facility also offers free Pickleball 101 classes for beginners, so you can work up to playing in open sessions, leagues, or tournaments. And Chicken N Pickle at the Westgate Entertainment District in Glendale, is a growing chain of indoor and outdoor pickleball courts (plus ping pong, bocce, Jenga and more) serviced by a range of bars and dining areas.
Pecos Park Pickleball Courts: 17010 S. 48th Street, Phoenix
Pickleball Kingdom: 4950 W. Ray Road, Chandler
Chicken N Pickle: 9330 W. Hanna Lane, Glendale
5. Biohacking Recovery with Ice Baths and Saunas
Ask any trainer and they’ll tell you that the real magic of exercise happens in the recovery phase — so it’s important to place an emphasis on giving your body time to rest and heal after tough workouts. A technique called biohacking may help.
“Biohacking is when a person takes their biology into their own hand and does little things to trigger biological changes,” explains fitness and recovery expert Devon Jackson, owner of LiveColder. “The most popular of which is ice baths and saunas. Look for the number of people partaking in ice baths, saunas, red light therapy, cryotherapy and other modalities to shoot through the roof in 2024.”
Though experts don’t have a clear consensus on the benefits of cold-water immersion, or ice baths, proponents say users may report improved mental and physical benefits, like sore-muscle relief or a boost in mood. Initial research on infrared saunas point to a variety of short- and long-term benefits, like helping with pain relief, promoting better sleep and fighting illnesses like the common cold.
14201 North Hayden Rd., Suite A2, Scottsdale
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