Weekend Trips from Charleston

March 8, 2013 at 5:01 pm

While visitors to Charleston will find plenty to keep them busy, the city can also serves as a convenient base for trips to other popular destinations in the Southeast. Here are four popular destinations within a few hours’ drive of Charleston.

Least Terns, Alameda NAS CA

Horse cart in Savannah, Georgia

SAVANNAH, GA: Charleston and Savannah are only 100 miles apart, but each seaport is unique enough that visitors to either city find plenty of reasons to visit the other. They have much in common – centuries of history, fine restaurants, boutique shopping, low country cuisine, nearby beaches and ghost tours. But the “Hostess City of the South” was spared the destruction that engulfed much of the South during the Civil War, allowing more of its historical homes and estates to remain unharmed. Downtown Savannah has dozens of public squares featuring lush gardens framed by Spanish moss-draped live oaks. Paula Deen lives here, and visitors line up around the block to eat at her “The Lady & Sons” restaurant. The Savannah College of Art and Design adds a hip vibe, powering a youthful community that thrives on indie music venues and art film houses.

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World’s Largest Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia

ATLANTA, GA: The “hub of the New South” has added a thriving urban restaurant scene to its traditional attractions of upscale hotels, Six Flags amusement parks, professional sports teams, and non-stop nightlife at the renovated Underground Atlanta complex. Like Charleston 265 miles away, Atlanta was decimated by the Civil War. However, it has rebuilt itself as a truly international city, as confirmed when it hosted the 1996 Olympic Games. The Georgia Aquarium is the world’s largest, housing more than 120,000 animals — most notably the beluga whale. Tours are also available of such Atlanta icons as the CNN Studios, the World of Coca-Cola and the home where Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone with the Wind.

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Biltmore Estate Front Lawn in Asheville, North Carolina

ASHEVILLE, NC: This funky art colony in the Blue Ridge Mountains lures visitors with locally-owned galleries, distinctive restaurants, luxurious accommodations and diverse performance venues. Located 260 miles from Charleston, Asheville sits inside the Pisgah National Forest, where nature lovers enjoy spectacular wilderness scenery while hiking, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding and zip lining. The best known attraction here is the elegant Biltmore Home, America’s largest house with 250 rooms. Originally the family home of George Vanderbilt, the Biltmore Estate’s 8,000 acres include acres of gardens, 22 miles of hiking trailers, the Winery at Antler Hill Village, and an outdoor adventure center featuring Segway tours and leisurely paddles  on the French Broad River.

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Smoky Mountains

SMOKY MOUNTAINS, TN/NC: Drive another hour west of Asheville and you are in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, America’s visited park. Straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the park is known for its stunning mountain vistas, roaring streams, diverse ecosystems, and preservation of Southern Appalachian culture. The Appalachian Trail (the 2,000-mile pathway from Georgia to Maine) traverses the park. More than 800 miles of maintained trails allow visitors of all abilities to explore thundering waterfalls and quiet rustic forests. Native American culture is the focus in Cherokee, North Carolina, where the Eastern Band of the Cherokees offer museums, authentic crafts and Harrah’s Casino. Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, are home to the Dollywood amusement park and the area’s largest concentration of outlet shopping malls, while Gatlinburg (located inside the park’s borders) is a vibrant resort town that claims the invention of miniature golf.

Sprinkle in a few other nearby cities – like Augusta, Georgia, home of The Masters golf tournament, and Charlotte, North Carolina, which hosts the U.S. Whitewater Center – and you can find plenty of excursions  to expand on your Charleston experience.

If you are interested in visiting the Charleston, South Carolina area check out our Charleston Vacation Packages and start planning your next vacation!

Bobby L. Hickman is a freelance travel and business journalist based in Atlanta who specializes in the Southeast. His work has appeared in such publications as Southern Living, Georgia Trend, and TravelMuse.com. You can contact him through www.blhickman.com