Region's attractions offer plenty of options

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CAROLINA COAST

Carolina beaches provide family fun with a "down-home" feeling.

Charleston

Charleston will charm young and old. Just 137 miles from Augusta, it is affordable and convenient.

What to do:

Ghost and graveyard tours feature Charleston's most haunted areas and graveyards. Also offered are historical and scenic walking tours. Tours can be scheduled through www.bulldogtours.com.

Fort Sumter: Tours can be scheduled through www.spiritlinecruises.com. The 90-minute cruise passes the Battery, Fort Moultrie, Patriots Point and Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began. Tours leave Patriots Point and cost $15 for adults, $13 for senior citizens and $9 for kids.

Patriots Point is home to the World War II-era aircraft carrier the Yorktown. You can view planes from World War II and the Korea War on the hangar deck. Tour the ship for $15 for adults, $13 for seniors and military with ID, or $8 for ages 6-11.

The South Carolina Aquarium: This attraction is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Adult admission is $17,, senior admission is $16, school-age children are admitted for $10, and toddlers or younger are free.

Where to dine:

Crab Shacks has numerous locations in the area . They offer many seafood entrees and also offer "Crabby Hour" with drink specials from 4 to 7 p.m. Dinner typically costs about $20 per person.

Hank's Seafood Restaurant, 10 Hayne St., overlooks Charleston's Historic Market. This newly renovated restaurant offers a Charleston fish house feel with a saloon-style bar. Dinners are about $25 and up.

Hilton Head Island

Just 141 miles from Augusta, the island was voted as having one of the Top 10 family-friendly beaches in the country by MSN. What to do:

Hilton Head Island offers two outlet malls, just off the island, and a shopping mall featuring many name-brand stores on the island.

Adventure Cove, 18 Folly Field Road, is a miniature golf course and arcade. Fireworks end Tuesday evenings with a band through mid-August at Shelter Cove.

Bring your beach bike: A bike trail circles the island and leads to numerous points of interest. Take your family on a picnic to Pin ckney Island, where you will find many different types of wildlife.

Dolphin tours can be booked through www.dolphindiscoverieshiltonhead.com. A two-hour tour costs $40 for an adult and $30 for a child.

Where to dine: The best seafood on Hilton Head Island can be found at the Crazy Crab, 108 William Hilton Parkway. This restaurant features appetizing seafood, including the popular seafood bucket. Expect to spend about $25 per person.

Edisto Island

This hidden vacation spot is 131 miles from Augusta, tucked between Charleston and Hilton Head Island.

What to do:

Visit Drayton Hall, a former rice plantation, military headquarters, a site for strip mining and a country retreat. It is more than three centuries old and the only plantation house still standing on the Ashley River. See www.draytonhall.org.

The Edisto Island Serpentarium, 1374 Highway 174, is home to alligators, turtles, snakes and lizards. Admission is $10.95 for 13 and older, $8.95 for ages 6-12, $4.95 for ages 4-5, and ages 3 and younger are admitted free. See edistoserpentarium.com.

Where to dine:

Main's Market Cafe, 1084 Highway 174, serves home-style cooking ranging from collards to okra to tomato pie to meatballs. Main's also serves ribs, grilled and fried fish or chicken, and different types of wraps. A typical meal costs $10-$12.

The Plantation Grill, 24 Fairway Drive, serves a wide variety of food. It is known for its steaks, shrimp and grits, and other seafood. Expect to spend $20 each.

Myrtle Beach

Known as one of the more "party type" beaches, it's just 208 miles from Augusta and offers entertainment and fun to people of all ages .

What to do:

Ripley's Aquarium (ripleysaquarium.com) is home to a 750,000-gallon shark tank. Find yourself drifting on a 330-foot moving glide-path through the tank. This aquarium is at Broadway at the Beach, and is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Admission is $18.99 for adults, $9.99 for children and $3.99 for ages 2-5.

You can transform yourself into a NASCAR driver at the NASCAR SpeedPark (nascarspeedpark.com), which includes seven tracks, two NASCAR-theme miniature golf courses, NASCAR silicon motor speedway, children's rides, bumper boats and an arcade . An all-day wristband costs $32.

With more than 12 rides and other attractions, Myrtle Waves Water Park offers a great way to cool off after a day in the sun. A day pass costs $20 to $28, with lower rates after 3 p.m.

Rock all night at Hard Rock Park (hardrockpark.com). Its 11 classic rock-theme attractions include Led Zeppelin -The Ride. A day pass costs $50, but there's no charge for ages 3 and younger.

The Carolina Opry is home to some of the coast's finest musicians. Produced by Calvin Gilmore, the Opry offers two shows this summer including Good Vibrations, featuring hits from the 1960 s, '70 s and '80 s, and the original Carolina Opry show. Prices range from $17 to $50. Tickets may be purchased online at www.carolinaopry.com.

Where to dine:

The House of Blues and the Hard Rock Cafe are at Broadway at the Beach. Each will cost you $20-$25.

Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville is also at Broadway at the Beach. A meal will cost about $25 per person.

RESOURCES

For more information, visit:

www.hiltonheadisland.org

www.myrtlebeachareachamber.com

www.myrtlebeach.com

www.charlestonchamber.net

www.edistochamber.com

GEORGIA'S COAST

Georgia's beaches offer a diverse experience for weekend travelers. Spend the entire weekend at one of these costal cities or islands, or tackle a few at once, all on one tank of gas.

TYBEE ISLAND

Tybee's historic sites and beaches lie just 20 minutes east of Savannah. If you go, try:

The Tybee Island Lighthouse, built in 1732. The restored and rebuilt lighthouse marks the entrance into the Savannah River. Open every day except Tuesday.

Where: 30 Meddin Ave.

Cost: $6 adults, $5 ages 6 to 17, free for 5 and younger; (912) 786-5801

Tybee Island Marine Science Center. See baby alligators, sea rays, sea turtles and unique fish on exhibit.

Where: 1510 Strand St.

Cost: $4 adults, $3 children; (912) 786-5917

Fort Pulaski National Monument. Living history events every weekend. Throughout the week, see musket and soldier demonstrations or attend a guided tour through the fort.

Where: Between Savannah and Tybee Island on U.S. Highway 80 East

Cost: $3 for all visitors 16 or older; 15 and younger free; (912) 786-5787

Savannah

Just 122 miles from Augusta, Savannah offers an acclaimed historic district with more arts, parks, shopping and attractions than can fit in a single weekend. Be sure to include these stops for the quintessential Savannah experience.

Tour the city's architecture. Walk the Bull Street and Abercorn Street corridors to see nine of the city's 21 squares and Forsyth Park. Stop at Savannah Visitor Information Center at 301 Martin Luther King Blvd. for more information, or call (912) 944-0455.

Visit Telfair Museum of Art. The oldest art museum in the South houses more than 4,500 items in its permanent collection.

Where: 121 Barnard St.

Cost: $10 adults, $4 children ages 5 to 12, younger than 5 free; (912) 232-1177

Shop River Street. The eclectic shops along this cobblestone street sell a bit of everything.

The Golden Isles

Four barrier islands full of history and wildlife lie off the port city of Brunswick, about 200 miles from Augusta.

On St. Simons Island, try:

St. Simons Island Village, an eclectic shopping district and pier on the tip of the island.

St. Simons Lighthouse Museum and A.W. Jones Heritage Center. The 1872 lighthouse and cottage are the area's oldest structures. Climb 129 steps to the top, or tour the exhibits, which feature a permanent collection on the 2004 Sea Island G8 Summit.

Where: 101 12th St.

Cost: $6 adult, $3 children ages 6 to 12, 5 and younger free; (912) 638-4666

Maritime Center, in the circa 1936 U.S. Coast Guard Station. The museum, built to highlight the area's maritime and military history, includes several hands-on exhibits and an outdoor nature center.

Where: 4201 First St.

Cost: $6 adult, $3 ages 6 to 12, 5 and younger free. Ask for discount combination tickets if you're visiting both attractions ; (912) 638-4666

Search for "tree spirits." Many of the island's oak trees have been carved with faces to commemorate sailors lost at sea.

Where: Search trees along Demere Road at Skylane Drive, Redfern Village and Frederica Road.

On Little St. Simons Island, try:

Guided day tours, available year-round by reservation.

Where: 1000 Hampton Points Drive, accessible by boat from St. Simons' northern end

Cost: $75 per person for groups of two or more; (888) 733-5774

On Jekyll Island, try:

The Island History Center, which features presentations and artifacts from the island's history, and information on tours of the 200-acre historic district.

Where: 100 Stable Road

Cost: Island parking fee of $3; (912) 635-4036

Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Explore exhibits on sea turtle conservation, rehabilitation for sick animals and a turtle's life cycle from egg to adulthood.

Where: 214 Stable Road

Cost: $6 for adults, $4 for ages 4 to 12 and free for ages 3 and younger; (912) 635-4444

Cumberland Island

Georgia's largest barrier island, with more than 17 miles of beaches, lies 233 miles southeast of Augusta. Ferry access is restricted to allow a limited number of visitors each day. Reservations are recommended.

Where: Follow Georgia Highway 40 east off Interstate 95 to St. Marys to board the ferry.

Cost: $4 to enter island, free for children younger than 16. The ferry costs $17 for adults, $12 for 12 and younger and $15 for 65 and older; (912) 882-4336

Once on the island, try:

Dungeness Ruins, a four-story home built by the widow of Revolutionary War Gen. Nathanael Greene, who bought the land in 1783. Thomas Carnegie and his wife, Lucy, began building on the site in 1884, but the house burned down in 1959 and only the ruins remain.

First African Baptist Church in The Settlement, established in the 1890s for black workers. It was the site of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s wedding to Carolyn Bessette in 1996.

The great outdoors. More than 50 miles of hiking trails wind through Cumberland and provide opportunities for camping, fishing, hunting, star gazing, beach combing and bird and wildlife watching. Guided tours are offered.

Darien

This small coastal town boasts many historical activities and attractions.

If you go, try:

Fort King George, the first English fort built in Georgia. Tours of the museum and 1721 fort are available year-round. A three-story blockhouse offers views of the marshes of the Altamaha River delta. The fort is closed on Mondays.

Where: 1600 Wayne St., three miles east of Interstate 95 off exit 49.

Cost: $5 adults, $2.50 children, $4.50 seniors; (912) 437-4770

Butler Island Rice Plantation, one of the largest plantations in the South, first planted in the 1790s. The land is open to the public for picnicking, fishing and bird watching. The remains of the dikes and canals built by Dutch engineers can still be found in the plantation's fields.

Where: U.S. Highway 17, one mile south of Darien

Cost: Free; (912) 437-4192

Sapelo Island, a barrier island home to forests, salt marshes and sand dunes. Guides offer tours of the University of Georgia Marine Institute, Reynolds Mansion, 1820 lighthouse and the Hog Hammock community, which became home to freed slaves after the Civil War.

Where: Ferries depart from Meridian, eight miles northeast of Darien off Georgia Highway 99, Monday through Friday at 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., and Saturday at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Cost: $8 for guided tours on Wednesdays and Saturdays; (912) 437-3224

ATLANTA AREA

Atlanta History and Heritage

Atlanta is growing fast, but it's in no short supply of history. If you're unfamiliar with the area, one way to see it is through the Atlanta Preservation Center's Walking Tours . Tours for The Fox Theatre, Historic Downtown, Sweet Auburn/Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District, Frederick Law Olmsted's Druid Hills, Grant Park, Ansley Park and Historic Midtown cost $10 for adults, and $5 for seniors and students. Call the tour hot line at (404) 688-3350.

Visit the historically significant Sweet Auburn district, the center of black enterprise from the 1890s to the 1950s.

Historical sites line Auburn Avenue, and the district is home of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site , which includes his birthplace and Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he became ordained.

It also includes a visitor's center and the Center for Nonviolent Social Change Inc., the site of Dr. King's tomb.

Visits and parking are free, and the site is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will be open until 6 p.m. June 10 to Aug. 18. The park is at 450 Auburn Ave. N.E.

Gone With the Wind fans can visit the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum, which contains a preserved apartment and memorabilia from the movie and Mitchell's life. The house is open for tours Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays noon to 5 p.m. Adult tickets cost $12, a dults 65 or older and students can buy tickets for $9, ages 4-12 for $5, and 4 years or younger free. The museum is at 990 Peachtree St., (404) 249-7015.

Atlanta Nightlife

Atlanta comes alive at night, and things to do after dark are in no short supply.

If you're part of the college crowd, try Peachtree Tavern - you should feel right at home. Moondogs next door is your typical college bar: Tables and chairs are in high demand, but it's usually busy. Try an Atlanta-brewed SweetWater beer, which it has on tap, served in pint-size glasses around the wooden bar. Both are at 3179 Peachtree Road in Buckhead.

After work or on the weekends, many young, office-dwelling Atlanta residents head to Virginia-Highland. Many of the restaurants, such as Fontaine's Oyster House, 1026 N. Highland Ave., keep the bar open after eating hours, which means plenty of seats (inside and outside ) and higher expectations with your drink order.

If you're into pubs, try Hand in Hand, 752 N. Highland Ave., for a pint and a chance at scoring a seat on the large outside deck. Right next door, Neighbor's Pub, 752-C N. Highland Ave., is also a good bet.

Just down the street, Dark Horse Tavern & Grill, 816 N. Highland Ave., is another rock music-playing watering hole.

Sambuca, an upscale nighttime destination at 3102 Piedmont Road in Buckhead, has an after-dinner menu that includes dessert martinis and 17 kinds of Scotch; the wine list is also extensive.

If bars aren't your thing, try Starlight Six Drive-in Theaters, 2000 Moreland Ave. S.E., for new releases in an old-school way. Seven dollars buys you a ticket to a double feature, and it's $1 for ages 3-9. The movies start at 9 p.m., but gates open at 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 7 p.m. weekend nights.

Just for adults, stop by SweetWater Brewing Co., 195 Ottley Drive N.E., for a beer-tasting and tour of the brewery where the magic happens. Make sure it's Wednesday-Friday, when tours take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and last about 20 minutes. The gift shop is open Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on tour days from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Family activities

Atlanta is home to attractions all ages can enjoy.

Check out the beluga whales, otters and alligators at the Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker St. N.W. The aquarium offers separate sections, including Cold Water Quest (penguins ), Georgia Explorer, which has a petting pool, Ocean Voyager, a tunnel tank that surrounds a moving walkway, River Scout (otters ) and Tropical Diver, a multicolored fish display.

Cost: General admission is $26 for adults, $19.50 for children ages 3 to 12, and $21.50 for adults 55 or older. Tickets can be bought in advance at www.georgiaaquarium.org.

If you're hitting several of the big attractions in Atlanta, consider the Atlanta CityPass, which includes six for $69 for adults and $49 for children ages 3-12. It includes New World of Coca-Cola, The Georgia Aquarium, Inside CNN Atlanta Studio Tour, Zoo Atlanta, and a choice between the Fernbank Museum of Natural History or Atlanta Botanical Garden and a choice of The High Museum of Art or Atlanta History Center. You can buy it online at www.atlanta.net/citypass or at one of the participating attractions.

For free fun in the sun, Centennial Olympic Park, a development created for the 1996 Olympic Games, is a place children can enjoy for the playgrounds and water features, and adults can enjoy for the free music.

This summer, Music @ Noon, featuring local musicians playing R&B, jazz and reggae, will take place every Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 1 p.m., and the Wednesday WindDown will have live music in a variety of genres from 5:30 to 8 p.m., both held in the Southern Co. Amphitheater.

Fourth Saturday Fun Days will have free activities for children on June 28, with the theme Great Outdoors; July 26, with the theme It's About Sports; and Aug. 23, with the theme Games & Gadgets. You can have a full afternoon of fun, from noon to 4 p.m., that's easy on your wallet.

Shopping

Whether your style is quirky or classic, thrifty or high-end, you'll be able to find whatever you want to suit it.

Little Five Points and Virginia-Highland have clothes and wares from unique boutiques to quirky chains, such as Urban Outfitters. These areas also offer an eclectic atmosphere.

If you're looking for more upscale options, try Lenox Square, 3393 Peachtree Road N.E., or Phipps Plaza, 3500 Peachtree Road N.E.

CAROLINA HIGHLANDS

If you're wanting to get away from the crowds, this is for you. Here's a driving tour with easily accessible activities for weekend warriors who want to experience nature in relative comfort. You can complete it on one tank of gas in one day or stretch it out over a weekend.

Take Georgia Highway 28 north (Furys Ferry Road), which becomes South Carolina Highway 28 as it crosses the Savannah River. Proceed through Walhalla, S.C. (about six miles north on the right) to:

Stumphouse Mountain: You can go caving without going into a cave at this landmark. This National Forest Service site has a 1,607-foot-long tunnel into the mountain dug in the 19th century for a railroad that was never completed.

Issaqueena Falls: The 200-foot waterfall is accessible by a short walk on a path from the Stumphouse parking lot.

Proceed north on Highway 28 and then turn onto South Carolina Highway 107. You'll find:

Oconee State Park: This park is a jewel of the Depression-era WPA, a woodsy retreat with two lakes (one with a sandy swimming beach) for canoeing and fishing, hiking (there are six trails of varying degrees of strenuousness) and a mini-museum.

Take South Carolina Highway 107, and continue north to take a right on a secondary road (Wigginton Road) to South Carolina Highway 130 (turn left), which becomes North Carolina Highway 281. Just across the state border on the right, you'll find:

Whitewater Falls: The upper falls is about 411 feet, and the lower falls adds another 400 feet drop. There is a wheelchair-accessible walkway from the parking lot to a view of the upper falls.

For more high mountain scenery, continue north on North Carolina 281, then turn right on U.S. Highway 64 east toward Brevard. It's time to head home. Turn right on U.S. Highway 178 south, then South Carolina Highway 8 to Easley. It's suppertime:

The Sparrow's Nest Restaurant: This Easley , S.C., eatery in a former schoolhouse is noted for its elegant but down-home take on Southern dining classics; 5-8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. See sparrowsnest.com.

From there, take Highway 8 south to U.S. Highway 29 south to Anderson, then take Highway 28 back to Augusta. It's about a 325-mile round trip.

SIDE TRIPS

Jockey Lot, Anderson: On any given Saturday or Sunday, you'll find 65 acres of stuff and 1,500 sellers at what's billed as the South's largest flea market. Be sure to check out the sweet potato chips.

Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays; www.jockeylot.com.

Directions: Take South Carolina Highway 28 to Anderson, then U.S. Highway 29 north toward Greenville. The Jockey Lot will be on your right, about five miles north of Anderson.

Caesar's Head State Park: This park offers a great mountain view off a granite outcropping and a short hike to Raven Cliff Falls.

Directions: It's off U.S. Highway 276 north of Greenville. Take. U.S. Highway 25 north from Augusta to Highway 276 in Greenville.

Table Rock Mountain State Park: This quiet park has a great little mountain lake for a paddle boat or canoe excursion. You can rent a boat at the lake.

Directions: It's off U.S. Highway 276 north. Turn left onto South Carolina Highway 11 north of Greenville and travel west to the park entrance. You can also access it off South Carolina Highway 8.

Downtown Greenville: A good mix of shops, dining and music in the restored and renovated downtown district.

Asheville

This western North Carolina city has it all: scenery, shopping, history and dining and entertainment. Here are some highlights:

Biltmore Estates: 1 Approach Road; see how the rich and famous enjoyed mountain getaways at the turn of the previous century at this massive, 250-room estate. Welcome center open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Nov. 2; biltmore.com; (800) 411-3812.

Thomas Wolfe Memorial: 52 N. Market St.; the author set his most famous work, Look Homeward Angel, at his mother's boarding house, which is now a museum. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sundays; wolfememorial.com; (828) 253-8304.

Western North Carolina Farmers Market: 570 Brevard Road off Interstate 26; fresh vegetables, a nursery, a restaurant and mountain crafts in one of the prettiest open-air market in the South. Open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through October; (828) 253-1691.

Getting to Asheville: Take the scenic trip north and the fast route back . Start out on U.S. Highway 25 north through Hendersonville, N.C., then take I-26 to Asheville. For the return trip, take I-26 East to Columbia, then I-20 West home.

Resources

South Carolina State Parks: www.southcarolinaparks.com

Oconee County: www.oconeesc.com

Asheville: www.exploreasheville.com

Greenville: www.greatergreenville.com

NORTH GEORGIA

In many ways, driving in the Georgia mountains is a lot like taking a highway into the past. The pace is slower, pleasures simpler and the air cleaner. Just a few hours from Augusta, the region boasts attractions massive, such as the Chattahoochee National Forest, and minor, such as the Mark of the Potter. It's a region where the daily grind involves still-operating gristmills, and the phrase "traffic is a bear" can be taken literally. Here are a few of the high points:

HABERSHAM VINEYARDS AND WINERY: Just south of the faux-Tyrolean village of Helen on Georgia Highway 75, the Habersham Vineyards and Winery is the centerpiece of the Nacoochee Village complex, which also includes restaurants, shopping and a mountain-town appropriate gristmill. Habersham produces wines ranging from premium products such as the award-winning Creekstone label to muscadine and fruit-based Southern Harvest bottles. The winery offers tours and tastings and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12:30 to 6 p.m. Sunday. See habershamwinery.com or call (706) 878-9463.

Bluegrass Music Express: An authentic live radio experience, the Bluegrass Music Express, at 57 Depot St. in Hartwell, is a once-a-week bluegrass jam broadcast in front of a live audience at 8 p.m. every Saturday. The event offers outstanding music and the opportunity to have the zealous fan s woo-hoo heard over the airways; it also is free. Call (706) 376-3551.

Chattahoochee National Forest: This expanse of scenic splendor is big. Really big. It covers nearly 750,000 acres, boasts 430 miles of trails, including the initial sections of the Appalachian Trail (which winds all the way to Maine) and an abundance of streams, waterfalls, wildlife and all those things Bambi taught you to expect from a forest but are rarely seen. As in most national forests, camping is available. The area is a popular destination for whitewater enthusiasts, who flock to the Chattooga River, made famous, or infamous, by the movie Deliverance. For more information on the Chattahoochee National Forest, visit www.fs.fed.us/conf/welcome.htm.

Tallulah Gorge State Park: Though not as famous as its Arizona counterpart, Tallulah Gorge is still a pretty grand canyon. It was cut by the Tallulah River, which, until the early 20th century, dropped into the gorge at the impressive Tallulah Falls. A hydroelectric project robbed the falls of much of its water and grandeur, but it remains a place of unparalleled beauty. For purists, the floodgates at the upstream dam are occasionally opened, allowing people to see the falls and river as they once were. Call (706) 754-7970 or see gastateparks.org.

Brasstown Bald: Rising to 4,784 feet, Brasstown Bald, rising near the blink-and-miss-'em towns of Young Harris and Hiawassee, is the highest point in Georgia. Altitude addicts who want even more lift are welcome to check out the tower atop the mountain. Views from the peak include a "cloud forest" in the mountains' shadow and, at night, one of the finest celestial scenes in the South. It's a star-gazer favorite.

Amicalola Falls: At 729 feet, Amicalola is another record-holder, the largest single-tier waterfall east of the Mississippi. Take that, Niagara! Situated just north of Dawsonville, the state park also features a first-rate lodge with rooms available for $75-$200, and cottages available for $80-$160. Call (706) 265-8888.

Babyland General Hospital: People either love the birthing zone for the mushy-faced Cabbage Patch Kids or are creeped out by the idea. Little girls usually fall into the former; their fathers, the latter. Babyland General Hospital is at 73 W. Underwood St. in Cleveland and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. Call (706) 865-2171.

Mark of the Potter: Situated in idyllic surroundings north of Clarkesville, Mark of the Potter is a clay haven housed in a historic grist mill. Four potters call the Mark home, but the rustic studio also represents and supports a score of like-minded artists in its gallery. The Mark of the Potter is at 9982 Highway 197 N. in Clarkesville and is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Call (706) 947-3440.

Unicoi State Park: Northeast of Helen, Unicoi is a small wonder perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who want to rough it or take it easy. Both camping and lodge stays are available, and Unicoi is within easy striking distance of Helen, Anna Ruby Falls (see below) and Smith Creek. Camping costs $14-24, cottages cost $99-$139 and rooms in the famous Unicoi lodge are $70-$130. For more information, call (706) 878-2201.

Anna Ruby Falls: Set on a federal reserve adjoining Unicoi State Park, this is actually a pair of falls, one a modest 50-footer and the other a 153-foot drop, which feed Unicoi Lake. This is a popular hiking spot, and the falls can be reached by a paved trail.

The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway: Running nearly every day (with the exception of Wednesday, the traditional choo-choo day of rest) through summer, the Blue Ridge Railway takes passengers on a 26-mile turn through Murphy Junction along the Toccoa River. The four-hour round trip from Blue Ridge makes stops in the mountain community once served by the century-old line. The railway also operates special excursions, including a Halloween trip in October and Santa journeys during the holiday season. Tickets cost $34.24 for adults, $28.89 for seniors and $17.12 for ages 2-12. Call (706) 632-9833 or go to www.brscenic.com.

REGIONAL CAMPING OPTIONS

Offset high gas prices by choosing alternative accommodations. There are many great state park camping locations in Georgia and South Carolina that are low in cost and high in activities. Check out the online sites for a park near home that you'd like to visit. For Georgia state parks, visit gastateparks.org, and for South Carolina, visit southcarolinaparks.com.

HUNTING ISLAND STATE PARK: 130 miles from Augusta in Beaufort, S.C., this park features 5,000 acres of marsh, maritime forest, saltwater lagoons and 4 miles of sandy beach. Campers can tent along the dunes and be steps away from the Atlantic Ocean. The park accommodates RVs, pop-ups and traditional campers. Among the highlights at the park is the 175-foot lighthouse, the only South Carolina lighthouse open to the public. Nightly site rates are $10 to $25, and reservations can be booked 11 months in advance at www.southcarolinaparks.com or by calling (866) 345-7275.


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