There are many perks to summertime in Atlanta, from the series of festivals that fill the season, to the proliferation of shirtless joggers glistening under the southern sun. But there’s also brutal heat and humidity without the relief of any waterfront within the metro area.
Despite its landlocked status, Atlanta is an afternoon’s drive from several of Georgia’s popular lakes, and just a little further away from two coasts that offer nearby getaways. Whether you’re looking to lounge on the oceanfront or hop away for a weekend in a different city, here are some of the best destinations that don’t necessarily require a plane ticket.
Travel time from Atlanta: 45-minute drive from Atlanta.
Drive-by Details: Less than an hour away from the concrete and congestion of Atlanta is Lake Lanier, the most popular body of water within the Georgia borders. With almost 60 square miles of water and 700 miles of shoreline, Lake Lanier attracts more than 7 million visitors per year for swimming, boating, jet skiing, waterfront dining and more. It’s close enough to Atlanta for a single-day trip, but the options for an overnight stay range from the ritzy Lanier Islands resort, to hotels and B&Bs, to rental cabins or camping sites.
LGBT Life: Anyone who thinks Georgia’s LGBT life ends at the I-285 perimeter has never been to Gay Cove at Lake Lanier. For a quarter-century, LGBT beachgoers have migrated to the middle section of the western border of the lake, where a fleet of boats flies the rainbow flag.
Two-Day Getaway To-Dos: Whether you’re feeling outdoorsy enough to go hiking and zip lining, shop along “The Nautical Mile” or nearby outlets, or enjoy a cool breeze on a lake cruise, there are endless possibilities to fill up a weekend itinerary.
Travel time from Atlanta: 3.5 to 4-hour drive.
Drive-by Details: Savannah combines an antebellum mystique with millennial hipness to offer one of the most charming experiences for a short getaway. If you’re looking for a more “destination” feel for your weekend, drive an additional half hour to neighboring Tybee Island.
As Georgia’s third largest city, Savannah is big enough to have a bustling LGBT scene, including nightclubs like Club One, as well as a gay bed-and-breakfast known as the Foley Inn in the heart of Savannah. The influx of tourists to Tybee Island makes it more welcoming to LGBT visitors than other parts of Georgia, and an emerging LGBT presence led one gay local to refer to it as “a smaller Key West.”
Two-Day Getaway To-Dos: Savannah is rich with historic destinations, ghost tours and of course the “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” industry, while the biggest day of the year in Tybee Island is its July 3rd Independence Day festival.
Travel time from Atlanta: 5-hour drive.
Drive-by Details: Charleston is remarkably similar to Savannah in its aura and
charm, while being infused with unique South Carolinian culture. Charleston is filled with architectural, quaint shopping and dining districts, and museums and galleries.
LGBT Life: The LGBT scene in Charleston is small but packs a mighty punch. The
nightlife options range from the drag shows at Pantheon, the dance floor at Deja Vu II, or a dive bar known as The Recovery Room, and Charleston is also home to the Lowcounty Highrollers, a lesbian roller derby league.
Two-Day Getaway To-Dos: Get a glimpse into Charleston’s one-of-a-kind influence on American culture with a tour of Fort Sumter or the Gullah culture.
Travel time from Atlanta: 5-hour drive.
Drive-by Details: Affectionately known as the “Redneck Riviera,” the Florida panhandle offers all of the leisure of coastal life without any of the pretense. Pensacola has long been one of the most popular destinations in this region, attracting college students, conservative families and plenty of LGBT beachgoers.
A bucket list event for any southern queer is Memorial Day weekend in Pensacola, when the city turns into a seaside strip of LGBT parties, people-watching and Spring Break-esque debauchery.
Two-Day Getaway To-Dos: Whether you go during Memorial Day or any other summer weekend, Pensacola is loaded with tourism attractions, from snorkeling or paddleboarding in Pensacola Bay, to enjoying the cozy chicness of the downtown retail district.
Travel time from Atlanta: 9.5 to 10-hour drive; 2-hour flight
Drive-by Details: For a more traditional taste of paradise, nothing beats the pulsating energy of Miami and Key West. The most diverse destination in the south, the tip of Florida has flavors to satisfy every taste.
Aside from the LGBT nightclubs that pepper South Beach, Miami also hosts Aqua Girl week for lesbians each May and a Memorial Day gathering for black and Latino gay men known as Sizzle, while the Key West summer calendar includes Key West Pride in June, and Key West Tropical Heat in August.
Two-Day Getaway To-Dos:
You likely won’t need any help finding ways to fill 48 hours in southern Florida, but be sure to indulge in the city’s ethnic cuisine and unique culture.
As you’re planning your summer travel, it’s worth a reminder that several southern states have recently shown that they’re not the most hospitable to LGBT residents and visitors. You might want to reconsider any vacations to states like North Carolina and Mississippi, especially since other destinations truly work to earn the LGBT tourism dollar especially since other destinations truly work to earn the LGBT tourism dollar.