Winter in Georgia: 10 Incredible Places to Add to Your Bucket List

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If you want to escape the long and cold winters that plague most of the United States, the beautiful state of Georgia is the perfect getaway, with historic cities, stretches of secluded beaches, and best of all, mild weather in even the coldest months. So whether you’re looking to soak up that southern charm or tackle some bucket list hiking trails, here’s 10 incredible places to visit during the winter in Georgia.

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Trees with Spanish moss in front of a historical mansion in Savannah, Georgia
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1. Blue Ridge

One of the best places to visit during the winter in Georgia is Blue Ridge, tucked away in the northern corner of the state. This quiet mountain town is home to a vibrant artistic community, the lush Chattahoochee National Forest, and an incredible craft beer scene. 

Log cabin surrounded by dead trees in winter in Blue Ridge, Georgia

During your visit, head to the town’s historic depot, built in 1905, and hop aboard the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, a train line that winds along the Toccoa River. This scenic ride is beloved all year round, thanks to its beautiful vintage coaches and the stunning surrounding landscape, but it becomes especially magical in the wintertime. From the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve, there’s actually a special one-hour trip, called the Holiday Express, complete with Christmas music and a reading of “The Night Before Christmas”, while enjoying a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

There’s plenty of other holiday fun to be had in Blue Ridge, including the “Light Up Blue Ridge” event, with an annual tree lighting ceremony and gingerbread contest. Alternatively, the Blue Ridge Community Theater puts on a holiday-themed production, like Scrooged: The Musical, almost every year. If Christmas plays aren’t your jam, this impressive theater runs year-round—and attending one of their shows is a great way to support Blue Ridge’s thriving art community.

Regardless of when in winter you’re visiting, it’s always nice to enjoy some stick-to-your-ribs comfort food at one of the town’s local restaurants, like the Southern Charm Restaurant. True to its name, you can fill up on family-style Southern classics—like biscuits, fresh out of the oven, with apple butter—to warm up against the brisk winter air.

Cabin amongst hills with dead trees in the winter in Blue Ridge, Georgia
  • How to get to Blue Ridge: Fly into the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, rent a car, and drive a little over an hour and a half east to Blue Ridge, Georgia. 
  • Where to stay at Blue Ridge: The Blue Ridge Inn Bed and Breakfast is a cozy Victorian mansion from the 1890s, offering homemade breakfast each morning and in-room spa services.

Recommended by Victoria of Southern Trippers 

2. Helen 

If you’re visiting during the winter in Georgia and looking to soak in some holiday cheer, there’s no better place to go than Helen. This Bavarian-themed town, tucked into the Appalachian Mountains, transforms into a gorgeous picture-perfect Christmas town each December. In fact, the Lifetime Network’s “A Taste of Christmas” was actually filmed in Helen – that’s how magical this little nook of Georgia is!

Bavarian-themed buildings in Helen, Georgia
Photo by sepavone of Deposit Photos

You can spend hours browsing around Helen’s charming downtown, with its Bavarian-themed buildings. For example, Lindenhaus Imports is known for its unique cuckoo clocks or the Christmas Shoppe is a fantastic place to stock up on handmade holiday decorations. After all that cardio you did shopping, grab a delicious German meal and Pilsner from the Hofbrauhaus Restaurant.

If you’re planning a weekend getaway as a couple, another popular activity to consider in Helen is wine tasting. There’s several wineries in the region, but Flyhawk Farm and Tasting Room, which serves up mulled wine for maximum wintertime coziness.

Given its location in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Helen tends to be on the cooler side in winter, with highs in the upper 40s and lows in the upper 20s. This just adds to the festive nature of the charming village—in fact, while white Christmases certainly aren’t guaranteed, it’s not unusual for Helen to be dusted with a sprinkling of snow!

People walking out of a store in Helen, Georgia
  • How to get to Helen: The town is easy to get to, given its proximity to Atlanta, just one and a half hours south. While there’s a handful of companies that you can book a shuttle with, it’ll be easiest to get to—and around—Helen with a rental car. Alternatively, you can join a tour that heads to Helen from Atlanta, such as this option that explores the wine country of Northern Georgia, with plenty of time to shop—and sip—in Helen. 
  • Where to stay in Helen: If you want to lean into the Bavarian theme, the Valhalla Resort Hotel mixes some of the cheeky charm of the town’s Bavarian theme with luxurious accommodations. Between rooms with balconies, overlooking the mountains, and an onsite restaurant and spa, this resort is the perfect place to cozy up after a day of exploring Helen.

Recommended by Couple Travel the World

Pssst… does celebrating the holidays in a Bavarian mountain town sound magical? Then you seriously have to check out Christmas in Leavenworth, a kitschy yet incredibly charming town in the Cascade mountains of Washington state that looks straight out of the Sound of Music and has Christmas celebrations on steroids!

3. Providence Canyon State Park

Enjoy the crisp weather of winter in Southwest Georgia with a hike through Providence Canyon State Park! 

Located between the teeny towns of Lumpkin and Omaha, this incredible natural wonder is actually the result of mismanaged agricultural run-off. What started as a 5-foot ditch has expanded to a 110-foot-deep canyon over the last 150 years, with pinkish orange walls dotted with lush greenery. Once considered for national park status, this area is now a beloved part of the Georgia State Park system.

Orange walls of a canyon in Providence Canyon State Park in Georgia

Plan a day or two to go hiking in Providence Canyon State Park. December, January, and February are perfect times to do so as the weather averages around 60° during the day, and bugs are nearly non-existent. Plus, this time of year is the park’s off-season, so you’ll likely have the place to yourself!

The park has over ten miles of hiking trails to explore. For example, the Canyon Loop Trail takes hikers down onto the canyon floor and back up again to the rim, offering two very different views of the landscape.

On the canyon rim floor, the towering walls are made of reddish-orange clay, making this area look more like Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah than somewhere in the rolling green farmland of southwest Georgia.

The canyon floor also has different side hikes into each of the nine small canyons. Check out at least one or two of these as each of the canyon areas has its own unique architecture.

Canyon walls in Providence Canyon State Park in Georgia

If you continue on the Canyon Loop Trail, you’ll hike through the park’s tranquil evergreen pine forest. A unique aspect of this trail is that a secluded corner of the forest actually hides several old cars from the 1950s left behind from former homesteaders.

  • How to get to Providence Canyon State Park: The park is quite remote in a rural part of Georgia near the Alabama-Georgia line, about two hours and 15 minutes south of Atlanta. You’ll need a rental car to navigate the backroads to this park as there is no public transportation nearby. 
  • Where to stay at Providence Canyon State Park: Unfortunately, Providence Canyon State Park does not have onsite accommodations. There are still a handful of accommodations nearby, like the Hampton Inn Eufaula, which offers incredibly clean rooms and nice amenities, like a fitness center.

Recommended by Natalie of Camping Kiddos

4. Savannah

If you’re looking for a winter getaway that includes plenty of historic mansions and delicious Southern-style food, look no further than Savannah, Georgia.

Tunnel of oak trees with Spanish moss in Savannah, Georgia

To kick off your exploration of the city, start in the city’s Historic District, which is a two square mile section of the city that’s jampacked with fascinating landmarks and entertainment options.

A few of the top places to explore here include the cobblestone streets of the aptly-named River Street, a bustling hub of galleries, pubs, and restaurants right next to the Savannah River, or the City Market, a four-block area of nineteen restored warehouses that offers all kinds of unique experiences, like taking a cocktail class at the American Prohibition Museum. If you want to pack in seeing as many sites as possible, consider joining a hop-on, hop-off tour, where you can explore over 100 points of interest around the city. 

For something a bit quirkier, consider diving into the city’s haunted side—after all, it’s been named as one of the most haunted cities in the United States, by everyone from USA Today to the Travel Channel. Take a historical ghost tour, like this candlelit one, where you can learn about the city’s sordid past, from its involvement in the Civil War to its yellow fever outbreak in 1820. 

Savannah is one of the best places to explore during the winter in Georgia—the beautiful Southern live oaks dotting its squares stay green and covered in Spanish moss throughout the cooler season. The weather is also lovely, with daily highs hovering in the mid-60s—perfect for strolling around its cobblestone streets!

Sunset along River Street in Savannah, Georgia

If you want to take a break from all the walking, there are many award-winning restaurants in Savannah, including numerous establishments that have garnered coveted James Beard Awards. For example, consider visiting The Grey, Common Thread, or Bruchu’s Family Tradition.

How to get to Savannah: Savannah conveniently has its own international airport.

Where to stay in Savannah: The Marshall House is centrally located, so it makes a great starting point for your adventures. Built in 1851, it’s one of the oldest and most beautiful hotels in Savannah, and the staff exemplifies Southern hospitality.

Recommended by Erin of Savannah’s First-Timer’s Guide 

5. Valdosta

Known as the “Azalea City,” Valdosta is a small college town brimming with historic sites, outdoor activities, and shopping options.

It’s one of the prettiest towns in Georgia and a great wintertime destination because of its mild weather. The high temperatures hover in the 60s, so you can still enjoy the great outdoors without bundling up in heavy coats.

One of the best things to do in Valdosta is to visit the Lowndes County Historical Society and Museum. It was founded in 1967, and it houses memorabilia and artifacts that tell the story of Valdosta from its early days to the present.

Another fun historic site to visit is The Crescent at Valdosta Garden Center. Built in 1989, this gorgeous white house is Valdosta’s most famous landmark. Beautiful live oaks with Spanish moss surround it and it serves as a venue for weddings and other community events.

Valdosta’s quaint downtown area is also worth exploring with its quintessential Southern charm. It boasts a variety of antique shops, art galleries, and unique restaurants.

If you’re looking for outdoor things to do, the Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area is a great destination for birding and outdoor recreation. This 2600+ acre park is home to diverse wildlife, from wetlands and marshes to deer and turkey.

  • How to get to Valdosta: The easiest way to get to Valdosta is by flying into Tallahassee International Airport. From there, it’s a one and a half hour drive northeast.
  • Where to stay in Valdosta: The La Quinta in Valdosta has impeccably clean and modern rooms and free breakfast every morning.

Recommended by Disha of Disha Discovers

6. Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island is one of Georgia’s barrier islands and is part of the state’s Golden Isles. Historically, it was a wintertime escape destination for wealthy New Englanders, like the Rockefeller family. Luckily, though, the beautiful island is now accessible to everyone! 

This quaint island has stunning beaches, a historic golf course, and abundant wildlife. And winter is the perfect time to enjoy these features—with highs in the 60s and lows in the mid-40s, Jekyll Island offers the perfect escape from frigid wintertime temperatures.

Dead tree along Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia

There are plenty of amazing activities on Jekyll Island. A good place to start is the Mosaic Museum, where you’ll learn about its history, ranging from its original Native American inhabitants to the island’s heyday as a getaway for the ultra rich in the early 20th century.

Afterwards, stroll along Driftwood Beach, a stretch of sand that’s strewn with massive trees that have drifted ashore making the landscape other-worldly. Additionally, don’t miss the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the only facility in the state that’s dedicated to the rehabilitation and conservation of these beautiful creatures.

Baby sea turtle at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center in Jekyll Island, Georgia

Best of all, the island is easy to get around—at just seven miles long, it’s super bikeable. If you do need a car, you’ll need to pay a daily parking fee. 

  • How to get to Jekyll Island: The closest major airports are either in Savannah (one and a half hours north of the island) or Jacksonville, Florida (a little over an hour south).
  • Where to stay at Jekyll Island: Housed in a 19th century resort, the Jekyll Island Club Resort is the most beautiful property on the island, with an onsite restaurant that is housed in a Victorian clubhouse and beachfront views.

Recommended by Alanna from Periodic Adventures

7. Atlanta

No list about the top places to explore in Georgia would be complete without Atlanta, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the entire United States. 

Skyscrapers in downtown Atlanta, Georgia at sunset

Atlanta has a bevy of activities to celebrate the holidays. For example, head to the Atlanta Christkindl Market in the Buckhead Village District, which offers all of the charms of a traditional German market, like hearty food to warm you up and handmade gifts. Alternatively, for a memorable experience with kiddos, reserve a spot at the Afternoon Tea with Santa at the St. Regis, where you’ll get to enjoy holiday treats with tea; live Christmas music; and a visit from Santa, Mrs. Claus, and a prankster elf. 

Given Atlanta’s vibrant culture, the holiday celebrations don’t just stop at Christmas—for example, celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year Festival in January in Stone Mountain Park, where you can enjoy a parade with traditional dancers and lion costume teams. 

Beyond being one of the most festive cities in Georgia in the wintertime, Atlanta also enjoys moderate weather throughout the wintertime, with daily highs in the 50s and lows in mid-30s. While it’s not common, it’s also not unheard of for Atlanta to have a White Christmas—so be sure to bring some warm layers along!

Outside of winter festivities, one of the most popular activities in Atlanta is to stroll around the Beltline, a 22-mile walking loop that connects many of the city’s parks and has many cool public art installations along its path. To combine the Beltline with one of Atlanta’s other unique features, hit the section of the trail that traverses Ponce City Market, a historic section of the city with a variety of eclectic boutiques, local restaurants, and art galleries. 

Brick buildings in Ponce City Market in Atlanta, Georgia

Alternatively, spend your time learning about Atlanta’s pivotal role in the Civil Rights movement. For example, dive deep into Atlanta’s Black history and the Civil Rights movement on this small group tour, which will take you to the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. and the historic Civil Rights headquarters in Vine City. It’s clear how passionate and knowledgeable the guides are about the city and its connection with Black history.

  • How to get to Atlanta: The city is home to the busiest airport in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson International!

    Atlanta also has a fantastic public transit system, MARTA, with both trains and buses, so it’s one of the only places in Georgia you might not necessarily need to get a rental car.
  • Where to stay in Atlanta: The Candler Hotel was originally built by the founder of Coca Cola in the early 20th century—in fact, local legend holds that the secret recipe for the world’s most popular drink is still locked in the basement vault here! The hotel mixes historic charm—like the relief sculptures carved into the walls and Tiffany windows—with spacious and modern rooms and excellent proximity to some of the city’s most popular attractions. 

8. Dahlonega

Nestled in the foothills of the North Georgia mountains, Dahlonega has tons of historic appeal and small-town charm. Located about an hour’s drive north of Atlanta, this historic gem draws visitors in with its interesting history, unique shops, and great food.

Historic brick building in Dahlonega, Georgia
Photo by RobHainer of Deposit Photos

Although you can visit Dahlonega any time of year, it’s particularly festive in December, with its self-proclaimed “Old Fashioned Christmas” celebration. The historic buildings downtown are covered with glittering lights and there’s a number of events to enjoy throughout the months of November and December, from visits with Santa in the town square to holiday-themed productions, put on by the Holly Theater. 

Even if your visit is in January or February, you’ll still be able to enjoy Dahlonega, thanks to its unique indoor activities and mild temperatures.

One of the most fun things to do in Dahlonega is to learn all about its history as an old gold mining town. For example, head to the Dahlonega Gold Museum, to learn all about how the town was the site of the United States’ very first gold rush—a full two decades before the famed California Gold Rush! 

Afterwards, you can take a tour 200 feet underground at the Consolidated Gold Mine, which functioned as one of the first systemic underground mines on the east coast. While the mine has ceased operations for well over a century, you can tour the tunnels, learn about the lives of prospectors, and even pan for gold.

Cars parked near historic buildings in Dahlonega, Georgia

Make sure to budget some time to mosey around Dahlonega’s small yet charming downtown. Pop into the Dahlonega General Store, which makes you feel like you’re stepping back in time. They sell all kinds of goodies, including old-fashioned candies, vintage toys, artisanal foods and crafts, and unique souvenirs.

  • How to Get to Dahlonega: To get to the town, it’s a one and a half hour drive north of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Alternatively, it’s a two hour drive southeast of Chattanooga or two hours west of Greenville, South Carolina.
  • Where to Stay in Dahlonega: The Limelight Inn shines as one of the best accommodations in town, with most rooms offering a balcony with beautiful views of the surrounding forest and staff that goes above and beyond to make sure you’re having the best time.

Recommended by Lauren of Where the Wild Kids Wander

9. Brasstown Bald

If it’s outdoor adventures you’re after, consider heading to Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia.  

During the wintertime, visitors can enjoy the spectacular vistas here, away from the hustle and crowds of the busier seasons. In the cooler months, low-hanging clouds tend to drape over the peaks of the neighboring Blue Ridge Mountains, making the views even more dramatic.

Clouds along Brasstown Bald in Georgia

Plus, despite its elevation over 4,000 feet above sea level, Georgia’s milder temperatures still make a visit enjoyable in the wintertime, with daytime temperatures averaging in the mid 50s.  

You can earn bragging rights by climbing to the top of the mountain (did we mention it’s the highest in Georgia?!), along the moderately challenging 1.4-mile long Brasstown Bald Trail.  If you’re not up for tackling this steep hike, there’s also a shuttle that can alternately take guests to the summit.  

Once at the top, you will find an elevated, circular viewing platform with panoramic views, plus a mountaintop Visitor Center and museum!

Brasstown Bald is open daily from 10 AM – 5 PM.  Entrance fees are $8 per person. 

Clouds blanketing mountains in Brasstown Bald, Georgia

In the unusual event of snow or ice, the road leading to Brasstown Bald may be closed. In these circumstances, the trails still remain open, and those that still wish to hike Brasstown Bald can park outside the entrance gate, and walk into the park in order to hike.   

If you’re up for more trails after taking in the views at the summit, there’s plenty of other options nearby in the Blue Ridge Mountains, including Gurley Falls and the Wagon Train Trail.

  • How to Get to Brasstown Bald: Brasstown Bald is located about two hours northeast of Atlanta, off of Highway 180 in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
  • Where to Stay at Brasstown Bald: To relax after all that hiking, consider a luxurious stay at the Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa, with an indoor hot tub and onsite spa to relax those aching muscles.

Recommended by Kristen of Yonderlust Ramblings

10. St. Mary’s

If you’re looking to soak up some laid back vibes, consider heading to St. Mary’s, a sleepy town along the Georgia and Florida border. It’s a quiet village, full of Southern charm, with a historic downtown section and Victoria era buildings. 

Sunset over the water with a fishing boat from Cumberland Island, Georgia

Budget a few hours for strolling around the adorable downtown, stopping in some of the mom-and-pop restaurants for a bite to eat or checking out some of the cool antique stores and eclectic boutiques.

From St. Mary’s waterfront area, you can catch a ferry to Cumberland Island, a secluded barrier island, with largely unspoilt nature and just a few year-round residents. The ferry ride itself is an adventure, weaving through intercoastal areas and wetlands and past the Southern oaks, dripping with moss and wild ferns that dot the coastline. Beyond the lush landscape, there’s also a number of unique things to do on Cumberland Island, like exploring the Dungeness Ruins, a ruined mansion built by the famed Carnegie family, or spotting wildlife, like loggerhead turtles or feral horses.

Feral horse grazing along a dirt path in Cumberland Island, Georgia

After a full day exploring Cumberland Island, you take the ferry back to St. Mary’s and have a cocktail—like Georgia’s iconic drink-of-choice, the Scarlet O’Hara—along the waterfront. Locals Dockside is an excellent choice, with a patio right along the St. Mary’s River and impossibly fresh food. 

Located in southern Georgia, St. Mary’s enjoys reasonably warm weather in the winter, with daily highs in the mid-60s and lows in the mid-40s. Plus, in the wintertime, you’re likely to enjoy St. Mary’s—and all of its charm—without the summertime crowds.

Since you’re so close to the border, consider heading to any of the incredible places to visit during winter in Florida, like St. Augustine, which has a historic Christmas celebration, or Daytona Beach, home to the Daytona 500 in February.

  • How to get to St Mary’s: The closest major airport is Jacksonville, Florida, less than 40 minutes south of the town.
  • Where to stay in St. Mary’s: If you’re looking to soak up St. Mary’s historical charm, stay at the GoodBread House Bed and Breakfast. The manor from the 1870s has retained a lot of its old time-y character, with rooms offering clawfoot tubs and an elegant dining room, which hosts a daily social.

Recommended by Noel with Visit Spain and Mediterranean

There’s so much to see and do during the winter in Georgia, with seemingly endless charming towns to explore and adventures to be had. Do you have any questions about exploring the Peach State in the colder months? Let us know in the comments below! 

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