Riding through the foothills of the Blue Ridge scenic railway north of Atlanta, catching glimpses of state parks with mountain lakes and waterfalls, and slowing for small-town railroad crossings, is a relaxing beginning for a weekend getaway or fun daytrip. Some people like to stick to big cities, and in Atlanta, you have your pick of daytrips. Athens, Georgia, Asheville North Carolina, Charleston or Hilton Head, South Carolina, Chattanooga or Nashville, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Florida, Birmingham, Alabama or Savannah, Georgia, are just a few of the major hubs packed with fun things to do, and are only a road trip or train ride away from Atlanta. However, Amtrak’s Crescent is the only regularly scheduled train service to Atlanta and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountain area, but a convenient schedule makes a long weekend with two full days of sightseeing in a neighboring town easy.

Crescent Service

The Crescent operates between New York and New Orleans daily. Trains to points northeast of Atlanta depart a few minutes after 8 p.m., a perfect time for the best weekend getaway that begins on Friday evening. The trains depart the destinations early in the morning, so travelers should consider extending the weekend to Monday morning; trains pull into the Atlanta station near Main Street just after 8 a.m., leaving time to get to work. Trains have dining cars serving breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as cocktails, wine and beer. Bi-level trains have coach seating on both levels.

Gainesville, Georgia

Gainesville, less than an hour from Atlanta by train, hosted the 1996 Olympic rowing and kayaking competitions. Lake Sidney Lanier forms the northern and western boundaries of the city and the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains rise in the distance. Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club, the Olympic venue, has all kinds of fun outdoor activities like canoeing, kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals. The Amtrak station is in an industrial section of town, so you’ll need to grab a cab or rent a car for the weekend. Lake Lanier Islands Resort, 20 miles south of the Amtrak station, has a sandy driftwood beach, golf course, boutiques, spas and sailboat charters. Accommodations are in villas, standard rooms and campgrounds. Trains depart at 6:58 a.m. for Atlanta.

Toccoa, Georgia

Toccoa, in the heart of North Georgia’s northeast mountains about an hour and a half from Atlanta, makes a perfect home base for exploring Toccoa Falls, the Chattahoochee National Forest, Currahee Mountain and the Tugaloo River. The Simmons-Bond Inn Bed and Breakfast, a Queen Anne-style Victorian home built in 1903, is a perfect romantic getaway that is only a short walk from the Amtrak station in this little mountain town. Rooms at the inn, decorated with antiques, have private baths and modern amenities like Wi-Fi and televisions. Toccoa Falls is less than a mile away, and an antique mall is a short walk from the inn. The return train to Atlanta departs at 6:15 a.m.

Augusta, Georgia

Just a short train ride away from Atlanta, Augusta is Georgia’s second oldest city and has tons to offer. Explore the local botanical garden or spend an evening at one of the local breweries. Located on the Savannah River, riverwalk hiking trails are available all year round for those who love to be outside.

Greenville, South Carolina

Historic downtown Greenville is less than 2 miles from the city’s Amtrak station. The walkable downtown has art galleries, venues like the Peace Center for the Performing Arts, tons of civil war sites in the historic district, biking lanes, restaurants, an urban oasis – Falls Park on the Reedy and is brimming with southern charm. From May through September, vendors sell fresh fruits and vegetables at the Saturday Market, and live acts take the outdoor stage on the plaza at NOMA Square, a combination hotel/retail space on North Main. Park House, a downtown bed-and-breakfast, has four guest rooms and a one-bedroom, one-bath guest cottage perkect for your weekend trip. Trains depart Greenville for Atlanta at 5 a.m. for the approximately three-hour trip.

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Well known to many, Jekyll Island is on of the three golden isles located of the southern coast of Georgia. Along with St. Simons Island and Litte St. Simons Island, Jekyll makes a gorgeous and romantic weekend getaway for anyone in the area. Miles and miles of beautiful beaches are available to all, and the Jekyll Island Club Resort is an amazing hotel with top notch dining and a zip line course in the pool for kids.