The idyllic South Fulton hamlet of Serenbe was founded by foodies, so it’s no surprise it remains a popular destination for food lovers. Steve Nygren, who launched the Peasant restaurants in 1973, and his wife, Marie, whose mother owned and operated Mary Mac’s Tea Room, were the first homeowners here and turned their barn into a bed-and-breakfast before the 1996 Olympics. That B&B grew into the Inn at Serenbe, and Marie now runs its Farmhouse restaurant, which specializes in Southern cuisine using local ingredients—many grown on-site at Serenbe’s own organic farm.
The inn’s Southern Chef Series provides guests with an opportunity to cook side by side with local chefs such as Nathalie Dupree and Linton Hopkins. This month, Virginia Willis—noted cookbook author, former kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, and onetime executive producer for the Discovery Channel’s Epicurious—will host a session the weekend of October 17 and 18. Hugh Acheson and Jonathan St. Hilaire are coming soon.
For a more hands-off approach to dining, Serenbe also offers the Hil (farm-to-table American classics) and the Blue-Eyed Daisy Bakeshop. The Serenbe Institute for Art, Culture & the Environment—headed by former Woodruff Arts Center president Shelton Stanfill—brings symphony concerts, theater, and resident artists here to provide nonculinary creative opportunities. ($425 per person for Chef Series, includes overnight accommodations, from $169 per additional night, 770-463-2610, serenbeinn.com)
Lakeview at Fontana: Bryson City, North Carolina
You’ve got to love a spa that claims it’s “refreshingly less fitness-oriented,” especially when it’s also affordable and charmingly unpretentious. Lakeview at Fontana began life as a 1950s highway motel, and traces of its former identity remain. But its Mediterranean makeover—with window boxes of red geraniums, cozy gourmet coffeehouse, pristine bed linens, and cheerful service—makes it seem more like a European pensione than an American throwback.
Tucked into a hillside with a spectacular view of Fontana Lake and the Great Smoky Mountains, this secluded inn tends to serve both outdoor enthusiasts and those seeking a full-service spa retreat. Amenities such as yoga classes, hot stone massages, and complimentary afternoon wine and cheese ensure everyone relaxes. However, adventurers have mountain trails, the lake, and white-water rafting at the Nantahala Outdoor Center nearby—you can even ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad directly to NOC from Bryson City. (two-night spa packages from $365 per person, less expensive bed-and-breakfast rates available, 800-742-6492, lakeviewatfontana.com)
With its bustling town square, historic courthouse, and homespun shops, Dahlonega has always been a pleasant day trip from Atlanta. Quigley’s Rare Books & Antiques is a bibliophile’s nirvana of first editions and rare finds. The Dahlonega General Store offers simple pleasures such as marbles by the cup and five-cent cups of coffee. Kids can pan for gold at historic mines or visit a museum of the nation’s first gold rush, which started here in 1828. Holly Theatre, a restored 1946 theater, offers a wide variety of shows.
However, Dahlonega always lacked luxury accommodations. Montaluce Winery and Estates opened in 2007, making a small dent in that void. Overnight accommodations are available at a Tuscan-style cottage designed by Atlanta architect Bill Harrison. And visitors linger at Le Vigne restaurant, savoring its elegant contemporary decor and outlook over the vineyard, along with the first young vintages. (from $395 per night in October, 706-867-4060, montaluce.com)
Photo courtesy of Lakeview at Fontana Resort and Spa