Enjoy this article first published by me for CBS News! Best Holiday Escapes near Atlanta Thanks CBS News for all your local information!

Spa Level Spa Suite at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. This is my #1 U.S. Spa Suite Pick for your 2013 Bucket List! Shopping near here is amazing!

Spa Level Spa Suite at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. This is my #1 U.S. Spa Suite Pick for your 2013 Bucket List! Shopping near here is amazing!


We all love the holidays, but sometimes a break from all the hustle and bustle of the season is just what Santa ordered. Where can one take a break and get away for the day or a weekend close to Atlanta? Take a look at these holiday escapes. They are all special in their own way. When you return from your escape, your holiday spirit will be renewed and refreshed.

Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary
712 LG Griffin Road
Locust Grove, GA 30248
(770) 957-0888

For those who may want an exotic adventure for a local retreat, head to the local non-profit Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary. The visit could also act as a special gift to that animal lover on your holiday list. Visit the unlikely group of pals made up of a lion, a tiger and a bear that live in perfect harmony. This animal sanctuary is home to over 1,500 animals, so you can likely find your favorite animal during the visit. Also, check out the Animal Registry for the most special gifts of all which help aid and care for the animals who were once neglected and abused and who now call Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary their home.

Related: Getaway Guide: Weekend Trip to Pine Mountain

Blowing Rock, NC
Visitor Center
159 Chestnut St.
Blowing Rock, NC 28605
(828) 295-4636

This Blue Ridge Parkway mountain town moves at a much slower pace than Atlanta, so this makes it the perfect escape during the holiday season. Blowing Rock has been called the prettiest winter town by many. You can still find shopping here as in Atlanta, but also streams trickling through the forest and some frosty snow on the ground. Enjoy all of that without your typical holiday traffic. This pretty town is five hours from Atlanta, but so worth the trip. The scenery makes the time fly by. Blowing Rock offers many special events so be sure to check out its website before you visit. The famed Chetola’s Festival of Lights in ongoing from Thanksgiving through late January. Visit here for additional information on “The Prettiest Winter Town.”

Related: Getaway Guide: Weekend Trip Along Blue Ridge Parkway

Barnsley Gardens Resort
597 Barnsley Gardens Road
Adairsville, GA 30103
(877) 773-2447

Just a short drive north of Atlanta but a place that feels very far away is Barnsley Gardens. Relaxing here is perfected by the resort’s own Fairy Godmother that creates unique experiences to supply all types of visitors with pleasurable retreats. This resort, tucked away on 3,000 acres at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, can be described as a place for romantics, foodies, spa travel gals and families including your family pets. A great gift to pick up at Barnsley Gardens Resort is a book entitled “Barnsley Gardens at Woodlands” by Clent Coker. It describes a century and a wealth of adventure, romance and mystery surrounding the Barnsley’s tribulations.

Gaby’s by the Lake
1 Lake Oconee Trail
Greensboro, GA 30642
(706) 467-0600

Located on the shores of Lake Oconee is a true secret that only the most respected foodies know about. Gaby’s freshly made potato chips and vidalia onion dip are enough for some to make the 1.5-hour drive. During the summer, it is known for its view of the lake full of activity, but during the winter, you can be snug as a bug in a rug with Gaby’s unique heated enclosure that allows the views and the sounds of the outdoors to remain a part of your environment. Casual is fine here for your lunch or dinner dress. There is a sign as you enter that says “No shoes, no shirt, our pleasure.” This restaurant sits on the property that is also home to The Ritz-Carlton Lodge.

The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead Spa Level
3434 Peachtree Road N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30326
(404) 237-2700

For those that wish to save the drive, The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead Spa Level offers the perfect escape inside the city. This luxurious spa retreat places you in such a tranquil place that you will feel like you are miles away from the holiday rush. Experience solitude like you have never known with overnight accommodations on the same level as the spa. Get special perks available only to those on the spa level. While there, be sure to enjoy one of the seasonal spa treatments. This exclusive spa level is also home to the spa lounge and the spa boutique if you wish to do a little shopping.

Ava Roxanne Stritt is a Freelance Travel Writer and the editor of SpaTravelGal.com in Atlanta. She has more than 25,000 Twitter followers and additional others on her numerous platforms. Her areas of expertise include spa travel, luxury resorts, North American travel, Caribbean travel and travel in Britain. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.